The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fermentation length of wild yeast leaven question

ChefDanMar's picture

Fermentation length of wild yeast leaven question

Hello all,

I have been working with leaven raised breads for the past month with some varying results.  I hae been experimenting with different hydration amounts mostly, however inadvertently with fermentation times as well.  While I have many quesitons the one I would like to focus on now is when to feed my leaven.

  Is a 16 fermentation period for leaven too long? Even if it does not smell sour? 

  Should I try to cut that  time down? 

  I currently refrigerate my starter, which I have read leads to a favored amount of acetic (stronger sourness) acid production.  And therefore I use large 90/10 ratio at 166% hydration feedings of whole wheat flour for my leaven.  I try to bake every other day, but sometimes I don't have the ability too and on the weekends I can not feed the starter.  To refrigerate or not? 

 Will at starter fermented for 8 hours be more vigorous during bulk fermentation than one fermented for 16? 




cranbo's picture

Depending who you talk to, recommended leaven feedings when baking are 2 or 3 times per day. The more often you feed a leaven the faster it will rise.

If a 16 hour ferment is working fo you stick with it.

If your leaven produces fine results right from the fridge, stick with it. I keep mine at room temp for 1 day before baking.

ChefDanMar's picture


Thanks a lot for your response.  My breads have not had the large crumb size that I have been looking to achieve and quite frankly have been coming out somewhat dense.  Would a starter with not enough vigor be my issue here?  I'm thinking that if I start feeding as you recommended I might get the results I want.  Here's what I have now.  Levain

longhorn's picture

It seems pretty clear that your starter is puny. It also seems probable that it is past peak when you mix. 

There is a reason that many of the better bakers on this site like to prefeed their starter eight to 10 hours before making the levain when beginning with refrigerated starter. 

Since it appears you are starting with a weak starter, I would encourage you to feed it for several days - at least twice a day - before making your next batch of bread. Then you should be able to get much more robust results. (But your times will almost certainly be off and you will probably need to bake sooner if you are to avoid overproofing.

The answer to your 8/16 question is a function of the health of the starter. If it is near death it will be more robust after 16. If it is healthy it will be over the hill by 16.