The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pouring Off

jonesiegal's picture

Pouring Off

I was reading another post and think I may have figured out the problem with my starter.  When pouring off some of the starter, Do you mix back in the part that rises then pour off?  What exactly does "pouring off" mean?  I am thinking I might be pouring my healty yeast down the drain and not keeping the "good stuff" for my bread.

ehanner's picture

I'm not exactly sure if I understand your question but I'll take a stab at it non the less.

As you feed your new starter every 12 hours, if you didn't dump or pour off most of it at feeding time you would soon have a gallon or more, when a few Tablespoons will do. When I feed my starter, I first remove the amount I need to inoculate my levain or pre ferment for the bread I will be baking. This usually means I take about a full Tablespoon out (40 grams) and mix it into the dough or pre ferment. Then I pour or scrape all but a large Tablespoon of the remaining starter from my storage crock. You can save that amount for another use like pancakes or what ever. It's important to cut down the old starter to a small amount so the new food (flour) you feed it will represent AT LEAST a doubling of the amount of the old starter.

In practical terms, this is what I do.
After discarding I have about a large Tablespoon of starter in the bowl/crock. To this I add 80 grams of water and mix well to dissolve into a slurry. To the slurry, I add 100 grams of AP flour and combine well. The resultant starter is called a firm starter as it is 80% hydration. Many people use a 100% hydration which is equal amounts of water and flour by weight. I like the firm version because there is more food available and it is more forgiving if I should miss a feeding or be late getting to it. This is more than you asked for but it's all on topic. Good luck.


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Pouring off is sometimes explained as discarding the clear liquid found at the top of a starter. This can happen when a starter has been underfed but it's not a terminal condition. I consider the condition to be indicative of the food supply for the sourdough yeast to be near or at exhaustion level.

The fix is simple. First, feed more often, especially if the starter is kept at room temperature but it can also happen when the starter is kept in the refrigerator for an extended period. Second, change the hydration level of your starter to a lower level. In other words, the thicker or more dense the starter, the slower the action of the yeast.  An Italian biga, a preferment, is often around 60% hydration, and has worked for Italian bakers for years in a warmer Mediterranean climate.

If you don't bake on a daily basis, a lower hydration starter kept in a refrigerator will work just as well for you as it does for me. Again, this subject is well covered in the archived threads of the Forum. Don't be afraid to do some research and ask any further questions you may have.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

How old is your starter and how is it maintained?  

Tell more about the problem...  What is the problem?  Lack of flavour?  No rise?

If your starter is several weeks old or older, then something is a miss if hooch is developing on top of the starter.  It needs more food!  It is my experience that the yeasts settle to the bottom of a liquid starter after the food has run out and hooch/alcohol/waste products rises to the top actually protecting the starter from invasion.   The hooch can be used for flavour but the starter may also not be up to its prime working levels when hooch exists.