The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie:First starter is high achiever! what do I do?

Lehua's picture
Lehua

Newbie:First starter is high achiever! what do I do?

Started my first Tartine starter yesterday- and it took off! Doubled in volume and bubbling in 30 hours. When do I feed it? Doesn't fit any descriptions of any posts I've found. Tartine talks about feeding on day 3 or 4 when it is barely bubbling. Don't want to mess this up. do I feed now or wait till it starts to subside? My house is a consistent 72 - 75F.

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

First off: what does it smell like? Because that will tell us a LOT.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

instead of pineapple juice, the activity you are seeing is probably bacterial and that is perfectly normal.  As Stephanie notes, the active organisms in this phase often produce strong, even foul, odors.  That, too, is perfectly normal.  After a day or three of the present hyperactivity, it will probably go flat and still for 2-4 days.  This is where a lot of people assume that their starter has died and then throw it away.  It hasn't and you shouldn't.  It is simply that a less frothy, less stinky group of bacteria is now at work.  As each population flourishes and then dies, the acidity in the mixture gets ever stronger until it reaches a level that is hospitable to the yeast.  They have been there all along but not really able to do much of anything until conditions are acidic enough for them to flourish.  Once they do wake up, you will notice a new surge of bubble production and that the odor shifts to a pleasant fruity or winey note.

Keep following the feeding regimen that  you have selected and let nature take its course. 

Paul

Lehua's picture
Lehua

It smelled cheesy stinky with a layer of liquid on the bottom. Not knowing what to do I thought "what the heck", stirred it, took about a 20% portion to feed. I left the reminder to see what it would do. The fed part is showing a little activity and smells sweet. The old portion still smells cheesy stinky and is doing nothing. It's been 12 hours since I did that.

So I've departed from the norm.. Am I harboring wayward bacteria I don't want? Shall I let this newly fed one mature longer through the dormant stage you mention? Might the old one that has been stirred revive or have I killed it?

Thanks for the clear reply, PMcCool. Now I've a better understanding of the process I think I may have moved too soon before it became acidic. I'll continue with the fed one to see what it does and I think I'll start another and have patience with it. Meanwhile, will continue to see what develops with this. BTW- liking experiments, I'll probably end up with a counter of them. I'm also keeping a journal to record this for future reference. Love the vagaries!

Lehua's picture
Lehua

Should I be feeding it through the bacteria activity then dormancy stage before the yeast kick in? My common sense is saying no as I'll be feeding the bacteria and diluting the acid needed for the yeast. In other words, do I let it sit through this bacterial activity and the subsequent dormant period until I see the gentler yeast activity? Then start the 24 hour feed regime after that?

Thanks so much for your help!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

so I can't offer advice on that, other than to say follow Mr. Robertson's directions.

If you want to experiment with another approach that seems to work for just about everyone that has tried it, read about the Pineapple Juice Solution, by Deborah Wink.  The link will take you to Part 1.  There is a link at the bottom of that post to Part 2.  It is lengthy but extremely helpful for an understanding of what is going on in a starter.  Part 2 has a recommended regimen for beginning a new starter, based on the information presented in Part 1.  It is simple and much quicker than a water-based starter because it bypasses the first few days of stinky and/or comatose behavior.

Paul

Lehua's picture
Lehua

Will start it up tonight. Can't wait to try baking my first loaf.  If both of these starters work, I'll have two to work with until I'm sure one is working properly.

Linda

placebo's picture
placebo

It's a bit of a tradeoff. You want the bacteria to work at lowering the pH, so you want to make sure they have food. At the same time, feeding dilutes the mixture, causing the pH to rise and delaying the yeast from reactivating. I wonder how much food the bacteria actually consume. It may be that simply stirring the mixture to redistribute the food and bacteria would be enough, rather than adding more flour and water every day.

The first time I successfully made a starter, I only fed it after I saw activity. I didn't know about the gas-producing bacteria then, so after it rose on the second day, I fed it. Then it went dormant, and I would just give it a good stir every twelve hours instead of feeding it. Eventually, the yeast woke up, causing the starter to almost triple in volume. From then on, I fed it every twelve hours.