The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Wholemeal Starter

ronb's picture

Wholemeal Starter

I am trying to make a wholewheat starter. For the past 6 days I have added 30 grams of wholemwheat brown flower plus 30 grams of water @ 20c. I am keeping it in an old ice cream box which is sitting outdoors where the temp is 3c at the moment.

It has started to bubble up and develope little holes in the surface. Its depth is about one and a quarter inches.

I have never tried this before so haven't a clue what I am doing! If the starter is successful, how much of it would I use to make a medium sized loaf and should the quantity of starter I have thus far (if it works!!!) big enough, or should it be considerable bigger please?

Best wishes,


pmccool's picture

Hello, ronb, and welcome to TFL.

The yeasts and bacteria that constitute an active starter like the same kind of climate that you do.  If you keep them in the range of 20-30C, they'll be a lot happier than they will at 3C, so bring them inside where it's warm.  The yeasts just about shut down entirely below 5C.

At the warmer temperatures, they will be much more active (although that may be hard to tell in an infant starter).  You may need to feed it twice a day, rather than once a day.

In terms of baker's math, you have a starter that is at 100% hydration.  In other words, equal weights of flour and water.  That's fine.  Starters can be maintained in a range of hydration levels.  I would suggest that you change your strategy for the next few days, as follows: put 15g of your starter in a clean, clear container.  The container should be larger enough to allow the just-fed starter to triple in volume.  Although it makes no difference to the starter, you will find it easier to see what is happening if the container is taller than it is wide.  Add 30g each of water and flour.  Stir.  Cover the container loosely so that bugs don't get in and so that the starter doesn't dry out.  Check on the starter's activity every hour or two (you may want to use a marker or tape to indicate the starter's expansion at various observations).  When it doubles in volume (you will see that it is full of bubbles from top to bottom), stir it down, then repeat the 15/30/30 refreshment.  If it doesn't double in volume within 24 hours, do the 15/30/30 refreshment anyway. 

There is nothing magical about the method recommended above.  There are a few things to notice, though.  First, it keeps the quantity of starter (15g at the beginning of each feeding) that you are dealing with manageably small and economical.  Second, it guarantees that the organisms in your starter are receiving adequate food (a given weight of starter is provided with twice its weight of new flour to consume).  Third, your hydration level is being maintained, since equal weights of flour and water are being used in each refreshment.  Fourth, because the container is clear, you can see what is happening inside your starter.

Meanwhile, read The Pineapple Juice Solution, parts 1 and 2.  You can find it with the Search tool located at the upper left-hand corner of the page.  Just type in "pineapple juice solution" (not including the "") and click on Search.  It will provide you with an excellent understanding of what is actually going on inside the starter.

If it helps, think of your starter as a miniature garden or farm, not some mystic wizardry.  It consists of living organisms.  You want the things that those organisms supply.  They, in turn, depend on you to maintain a healthy environment and a steady supply of food.  Easy enough, right?

Best of luck getting things up and running.  Once your starter stabilizes, you can focus on your other questions.  Or, if you are impatient, use the Search tool some more.  You will find the questions and answers have already been covered a number of times.