The Fresh Loaf

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When should I feed my starter? Beginner here...

lynnmichael's picture
lynnmichael

When should I feed my starter? Beginner here...

Hi there, 


I'm an absolute novice, who inspired by "Tartine Bread," mixed up my first starter two weeks ago. I used the formula of equal parts lukewarm water to 50/50 mix of WW and AP flour. Although my starter bubbled now and then after daily a.m. feedings of equal parts water and 50/50, it never doubled in volume.


After some research, I whipped up a new batch of starter, this time using spring water instead of tap and loosely covered the glass jar with a plastic lid. After two days my starter has more than doubled in volume, looks robust and smells like cheese...a beautiful and welcome sight/smell after two weeks of, well, not much.


My question is: when do I feed my starter? Should I feed when it looks depleted/flat or right now, when it's frothy and robust? What would happen if I fed it now? Again, total beginner here and ANY advice is appreciated!


Thank you! 

jmcbride's picture
jmcbride

At room temperature I feed my starter once per day, at roughly the same of day. 


In the fridge, ~1 per week. 

rhodriharris's picture
rhodriharris

Hi, i made my first starter a month or so ago and yours sound similar to mine.  I was confused at first bu followed the starter tutorial on here for first three days which meant that once a day i discarded half and replaced with equal amounts of flour/water.  My starter appeared more active than the tutorial so on day four i let it double for the first time.  O.k. so you seem to be at this stage, youv'e fed your starter a few times and its getting active, the bacteria is partying and the yeast is just about stirring.  So now i went ahead and let it double.  A better way seems to be let it rise till it starts to fall back in on itself.  When it starts to fall (not when it has fallen) then you feed!  Keep to this feeding schedule till you get your own routine and voila. 


Your starter seems to be going well and the point of letting it rise till it starts to fall is that you know that all/most of the food in the flour has been consumed so it needs feeding again.


Hey though now i've had my starter a while i feed before it has fully risen or doubled and after it has completly fallen, depens when i get to the kitchen during the day but always feed once a day.  The starter has never had a problem and always risen bread, it's pretty hard to kill a starter and rule of thumb for me now is if i feed in the morning one day and not gona feed for long time i.e. next night i take just one teaspoon and add to about ten times the amount of flour and water.  Takes ages to double but always does so you can also feed your starter to suit your own time scale.


P.s. people say it takes one whole month at room temperature (no refrigerating) to develop a real sour starter but mine still raised bread after a week.


I use San Pelligro sparkling mineral water p.h. 7.5 and sometimes perrier p.h. 5.5.  San pelligro gives me best results

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


I used the formula of equal parts lukewarm water to 50/50 mix of WW and AP flour. Although my starter bubbled now and then after daily a.m. feedings of equal parts water and 50/50, it never doubled in volume.



Do you still have this starter?  If so, are you discarding before feeding?  Without knowing your room temperature and assuming 75°F or 23.8°C it would need to be fed twice a day after the first week. If you are feeding equal parts I hope you mean weights otherwise the starter is being starved and would easily explain the lack of activity.


If it is two week old right now (or new): remove just two tablespoons of the sour culture, and add twice as much water and then add flour to make a very thick paste.  (Discard the rest.)   Let it sit flattly squished and covered until it is rising and thining.  Then add more flour to thicken it up again (about a heaping tablespoon) and let it double.  (could take up to 24 hours)  Take note and if the starter is still domed and rising let it continue until it starts to fall.  Then stir it, remove a heaping teaspoon and add about 5 times the amount of water or a little bit more and add flour to thicken, cover and let rise.  It should be doubling easy in 12 hours.  Next time you feed, get serious and weigh the ingredients.  Save 20 g starter and feed it 60g water and 60g of your flour mixture (close to a 100% hydration starter.)  Time the rise and make notes. If your temps are cool, find a warmer place for your starter.


At the peak of the rise, when the top seems to flatten out and starts to indent to sink, use 120g of the starter (leaving 20g to feed) to make a dough.  Now make a 1-2-3 ratio sourdough  with 240g water and about 360g flour and 7.5g salt (1.8%).  The rising time should be about the same as those you recorded with the starter only a tad slower due to the salt.  The 1-2-3 guide can be found all over the place but originally HERE.  or click: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/9346/123-easy-formula-sourdough-bread


For the tartine recipe take the 20g of ripe starter and combine with 20g of water and then add enough flour to make a stiff levain as in the recipe.  Roll in flour to judge expansion easier.  Time this starter.  If no expansion or floating is occuring after 12 hours, then let it mature (go sour and soft) and then make up another levain using some of this starter.  Time it and then repeat these firm feedings until the levain is meeting expectations, continue with the recipe.


Good luck

lynnmichael's picture
lynnmichael

Do you still have this starter?  If so, are you discarding before feeding?  Without knowing your room temperature and assuming 75°F or 23.8°C it would need to be fed twice a day after the first week. If you are feeding equal parts I hope you mean weights otherwise the starter is being starved and would easily explain the lack of activity.


 


I do still have this starter, however, I ceased feeding it and it sits in a glass jar with plastic lid. I did begin a new starter using spring water (instead of tap) and 50/50 and placed in a warm spot (the very top shelf of one of the highest kitchen cabinets.)


This new starter looked great, had doubled in volume by the second day and was still robust and ripe-smelling on the third day. It hadn't yet fallen but not knowing how next to proceed or if I should wait until the starter looked totally inactive (i.e., half it's size), I discarded about 80% of it and weighed what I was taking out. (about 140 grams total)


Next, I replaced that 140 grams of weight with equal parts water and 50/50, mixed it up by hand with the little bit of starter and let it rest. I checked on the starter now and then and it never rose. This morning, there are a few bubbles but it never doubled in size, so it seems like it's inactive, right?


Did I feed the starter at the wrong time? (i.e. when it was still frothy, doubled in size and robust?) I feel like my starter to food ratio must be off even though I'm following the Tartine instructions which only mention that you should feed your starter equal amounts of water and flour but do not tell you how much b/c the whole process is rather forgiving...


Are my feeding proportions off? Adding too much flour or water? With a new starter, should I have let it sit for two days? Time-wise, am I waiting too long to feed? Very confused. 


 


In the meantime, I"m going to try to revive the first starter per the suggestions. One question: I initially used tap water but read that it's a retardant. Because I used that at the beginning, did that spell doom for the starter - meaning using spring water isn't going to make a difference...?


Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer my questions. Really do appreciate it!




 


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and give it 8 hours.  A little rise is a good thing,  it doesn't necessarily have to double but the fact that it is trying is good.  When the food is dramatically increased as you did with the 70 g feeding, the pH shoots up and the culture needs a little more time to adjust.  Bacteria get busy eating and sink the pH so the yeasts are comfortable.  As the food runs out, the pH falls more causing the yeasts slow down.   Anyway.  If you stir the starter, you may notice that it gets thinner as time goes by.  You may also notice a sponge like structure under the surface that breaks as you stir it.  These are signs of active fermentation.  Right now I would thicken it with just adding some flour and see what happens.  When it rises and seems to stop, take some of the starter, about 20g and feed it 40g water and 40g flour.  Then let it sit covered, mark the level and wait.


I know all these amounts tend to confuse but the idea is to feed the starter enough without overfeeding to get the bacteria and yeasts to get their reproduction in order and produce gas.  The higher proportion of fresh flour to starter, the longer the feeding will take.  We don't want to give it less flour than the weight of the starter itself.  So lets just be patient and watch it.  Do you know the exact temperature of your starter?  Warmer temps will spead up the fermentation, cooler temps will slow it down.  Our job is to guess when the food is used up and to maintain the yeast's food supply.   Simple right? Not so easy when starting out but you'll get the hang of it soon. 


One thing I'm trying to figure out is if the rapid growth you experienced is bacterial or yeast.  Because you are using water and not unsweetened pineapple juice with a lower pH, I tend to think the starter had rapid bacterial growth and not yeast.  This would mean that the feeds should not be too big while waiting for the yeasts to catch up.  Have you read Debra Wink's blog entries?  Here's one for starters:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2