The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter too thick?

Deleted's picture

Starter too thick?

First let me say this is a great site and I've found allot of useful information. I've got a week old starter that to my untrained eye seems to be doing well thanks to what I've read here.


This leads me to my current question, is my starter too thick? I've read about how there are different levels of hydration and while I'd like to move to a 67% starter for it's versatility I'm currently trying to mature a 100% starter first as not to rush things.  From my reading the starter should be a thick batter consistency but mine seems to be more of a cookie dough consistency. I can form a ball with it, if I make an impression it will remain, and it pulls together from the sides of a container. It's a week old now and I'm feeding it a 1:2:2 mix with no problems getting a rise. The starter starts rising and doubles at the 4hr mark, triples if not close to by ~20hrs, then starts to fall between the 20-24hr mark but it doesn't fall much.


(each square on the jar is ~2cm)

This is 24 hours at room temperature after the last feeding. I think things look ok, there are allot of bubbles and I can get it to double in the suggested 4-6 hour mark. I'm using rye flour for my mix at a ratio of 100g (~1/2 cup) starter : 200g rye flour (~2 cups) : 200g water (~1 cup) every 24 hours. 


This is what I'm guessing and would love some confirmation;

  • Because it can double within the 4-6hr mark is it nice and healthy

  • Because it still rises and doesn't collapse much after 24 hours there is enough food for my starter during this time

  • Although it seems thick (I can hold a spoon full on it's side and it doesn't go anywhere) it is normal for a 100% starter

  • The scent should smell like wine (pleasantly but reminds me of wine)

If anyone has any input or advice I'd be grateful. Who knows, it may help answer some remaining questions by some other reader as well. I'm looking forward to using this starter next week and hope all is going well with it. Thanks in advance.
pmccool's picture

Yes, I would say that it is thriving, based on your observations.  Since you note that it begins to fall somewhere between the 20 and 24 hour mark, you could switch to a twice-daily feeding regimen if you like.  You could also cut way down on the quantities being used, if wastage is a concern for you.  Using your present 1:2:2 ratio, you could use 25g starter, 50g flour and 50g water, for instance.

Since you are using rye flour, and a whole rye flour from appearances, that accounts for the doughiness that you see.  Whole rye can absorb a lot of water, compared to a typical AP flour.  If you start feeding your starter a blend of whole rye and AP. or even all AP, you will notice that your present 100% hydration will be soupier.  There's no magic about a specific hydration level (although some characteristics do vary with hydration levels), so maintain it at whatever hydration is convenient for you.

I like the winey/fruity fragrance of a rye starter, too!


Deleted's picture

Dropping the amount would be welcome but wouldn't that dilute the flavour of the starter? I'm going to need a ~400g starter, before cutting/feeding, for daily baking when it's at the two week mark. Wouldn't going from a small starter and then quadrupling it negate the second week of the starter prep? This is all really new to me and I'm just trying to understand it. I thought the first week was to get the starter to an equalisation and the second week to develop a flavour profile. Wouldn't going from a small batch to a large batch water down the flavour profile? I guess the starter is too new at the two week mark to really have a flavour profile yet. Maybe I missed something and the real reason why I've read to wait until the starter is 10-14 days old is to have a stable starter and not the flavour profile. Gotta love this point when you have more questions than answers, so much to learn!


Maybe my starter is ready for baking then. I can't wait to get my first loaf out of the oven!

copyu's picture

...especially for a young starter. I think you should start baking with it, as soon as you have time. You said you want to do a levain, so go for it—time will do wonders for your bread's flavor!

Remember that you could add a few enzymes...diastatic malt powder, or liquid; just a tiny pinch, about the size of a rice-grain, or less, to guarantee some yeast action in the levain. A very little goes a long way!

If you're worried about sour flavor, there is no rule against putting 1-3 tablespoons of natural yoghurt into your water vessel when measuring the total weight of your liquid for making the final dough...

It looks as if you're doing everything right, so far. Good luck with the first loaf! 

Sincere best wishes,


PS: Don't forget to cut off a golf-ball-sized piece of your final dough! You will be glad to have it for the second levain, if the first one is brilliant! Best, copyu

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And the discard from reducing down to a smaller starter, could make a loaf from the look of things.   Rye is wonderful stuff and you will see that in a week's time.  50g can easily make 250 g of starter in a 12 hour period.  No need to start big now.  Flavor aging happens as it ferments be it 30g or 300g, having more starter does not mean more flavor.  Both amounts will develop at the same speed so cut down on material and discard by keeping things small.

With a fresh made rye starter, I like to add roasted walnuts to the first dough, sort of rounds out the loaf flavors better until the starter has a little age.  Just a tip.  I think if you use a recipe (with this discard) with the starter weight and flour weight equal, you'll have best results and not have to wait too long for the rise.   Rye flour is very sticky stuff and doesn't like to let go of spoons, bowl, or your fingers.  Whatever dough you mix the starter into, will also be quite sticky so play along and don't fight it by mixing in flour until it doesn't stick.  Use a little water to prevent sticking and re-wet your hands when needed. 

Don't overwork the dough if there is a good amount of rye in it!  A whole new concept if you're used to kneading with wheat flour and not with water.  My favorite rye tools are water and my sturdy silicone spatula.  Don't expect rye to act like wheat.  Many compare it to mixing concrete or making mud pies.  You got that experience mixing up the starter.   :)