The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Does your starter perform better when...

butterflygrooves's picture

Does your starter perform better when...

You feed it a certain kind of four?  I am not a purist and don't feel like I need a white and wheat and rye and spelt and insert-other-flours-here starter for each type of sourdough I want to make.  No harm in feeding my white starter a little WW once in awhile.

I've been wondering though, do some starters perform better with certain types or brands of flour?

I used Gold Medal AP for my first starter and it took off like a rocket.  This time I used KA AP and it took a lot longer for it to get to the point where it bubbled up with what I call a frothy head, the very large bubbles it gets before it settles again.  Both were started with Gold Medal WW flour using the Pineapple Juice method.

Do you find that one flour works better than another in your starter(s)?

cranbo's picture

Among white flours, i haven't noticed a big difference when maintaining a white starter. 

I can't compare that to mixed starters (like WW + AP, or rye + AP), because I think they behave slightly different.


davidg618's picture

...for about two years with different flours. One I feed first clear flour, the other I feed bread flour. Both flours are King Arthur; I feed on the same schedule, maintain the same 100% hydration, and same 1:1:1 ratio every seven to ten days; they are kept side-by-side in the refrigerator. I build levains using essentially the same processes regardless of which seed starter I use, using the same well water and usually the same temperature (76°F).

For approximately the first six months after I split the orginal starter into to the two described, they performed equally well. However, as time went on the proofing times for the starter maintained with bread flour began to lag behind the same (or nearly so) lean sourdough breads made with the starter maintained with first clear flour. The difference in final proofing was approximately 1/2 hour, for breads that took up to 2 hours to proof with the faster levains. I've noticed no descernable difference in flavors.

Over the ensuing year-plus I've relied more and more on the first clear flour starter, but I've continued to maintain the bread flour fed starter. I've used it ocassionally when I wanted an all white flours loaf (that's why I originally split it), and to create Rye Sour levains which I don't maintain. It is a healthy and reasonably robust starter, but I'm considering abandoning it.

Originally, I fed the starter with first clear flour because I read, somewhere, it contained more of the trace nutrients needed to maintain a healthy seed starter. My results seem to support that claim, but what I've done is certainly no scientific study. Nonetheless, I'm going to continue to use the first clear flour for maintenence. Since the seed starter is generally less than 1% of the final levain weight--I build most levains with either the predominent flour in the formula, or the formula's flour mix--I don't think what I feed the seed starter matters in so far as flavor is concerned.

David G

jcking's picture

First clear flour has a higher ash content which is a benifit for starters. ( I won't go into scientific detail, see Bread Bakers Giuld forum at Yahoo if further explanation is required)


jcking's picture

The big difference is a 100% rye loaf. It requires a 100% rye starter to perform well. It will help to prevent the pancake effect. !00% Whole wheat loaves work better with starters with more whole wheat. Experiment for yourself to see what you find.


clazar123's picture

I use AP flour for all but my rye bread. If I am going to make a rye loaf, I will convert a small amount of starter to a rye starter for that bake. It does take fore-thought.LAtely, I have been making a rye flour pre-ferment the night before, using the AP fed starter and rye flour and water. That has worked rather well but I usually make a 30-40% rye-.I wonder if it would act differently with a higher percentage rye loaf?

 My AP fed starter works very well for any loaf I have made.Variations seem more to evolve around starter maintenance here. If I haven't maintained it, it doesn't work well. Imagine that.

I did notice that when I tried to maintain a whole wheat starter (built from my AP fed starter) that it was much hungrier than the AP fed starter. It was also more likely to go into an overwhelming enzyme reaction and just self-destruct into a liquified mass and take any loaf I dared to make with it. I could get it back to health with a lot of finagling and care but after the second or third attempt, I just went back to an AP fed starter. I never attempted to start a starter from whole wheat flour. Maybe that would make a healthier WW starter.