The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Room temperature starter with long feeding cycles

Darxus's picture

Room temperature starter with long feeding cycles

I mixed up my first starter a month and a half ago, using just whole wheat flour and well water.  I keep it at a low room temperature, about 60°F, and feed it about every 24 hours.  Is anybody else doing this, or possibly even longer feeding cycles without refridgeration?

I'm having a lot of difficulty reading it.  It's hard to tell if it has peaked or not.  It seems like this would be easier with faster moving starter on a 12 hour feeding cycle, but it doesn't seem worth feeding twice as often.  

A couple days ago I split my starter into two jars, feeding at slightly different ratios, in an attempt to get a better handle on what makes it happiest (using the starter from the more successful jar for future feedings).  

When I started my starter, I didn't get leuconostoc, so I'm really not worried about the good yeast + bacteria losing dominance in my culture.  In fact I've been meaning to try fermenting / leavening bread just from whole wheat flour + water, without adding starter / yeast.

I last fed both jars two nights ago, skipped last night because both had only risen about 25%.  This morning they had about doubled, so skipping last night was probably good.  Probably would have been good to feed this morning, but didn't have time.  And I think my last feeding ratio was good for a 24 hour cycle, but it took longer to peak this time because my previous feeding I think I fed too early, so I started with a smaller yeast population.  

I've been keeping my starter at 142% hydration, just to keep it liquid enough to easily measure its height.  100% whole wheat flour.

It seems like I should be able to feed my starter however infrequently I want, if I use a small enough ratio of starter to fresh flour + water.  Up to the limit of the amount of time it would take to peak if I used no starter, which might only be a couple days with this whole wheat flour.

I'm getting bread I'm very happy with - sour, open irregular crumb.  Just would like to achieve more consistent response from my starter, without feeding more often.  Wondering how hard it would be to build something to opticically measure the height of the starter and beep when it starts dropping :P

Oh, last feeding, 2011-01-04 (both seeded from A from previous feeding):

A: 9g starter, 39g water, 27g flour (roughly equivalent to 1:3.7:3.7)
B: 11g starter, 38g water, 26g flour (roughly equivalent to 1:3:3)

Previous feeding, 2011-1-03:

A: 7g starter, 40g water, 28g flour (roughly equivalent to 1:5:5)
B: 5g starter, 41g water, 29g flour (roughly equivalent to 1:7:7)

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

I always use my eyes!

I no longer maintain a seperate whole wheat culture, although I may give it a go again in the Spring when I start baking more again. I think your starter is too wet for whole wheat. Even with your winter house temps and long refresh cycle, I'd shoot for stiff 60%ish, as I always had better luck with firm whole wheat. To easy to get 'the smell' with a whole wheat batter.

Like the previous poster, I have a 100% Hydration white starter. It seems fine when ignored for a few days at room temp and always springs back to life on the first refresh cycle and seems '100% right' after a second cycle if neccessary. 

sournewb71's picture

I think the problem lies with the 142% hydration of your starter. With a hydration that high a lot of the gas the yeasts are making are going to escape and you won't see a rise.

I used to keep a 100% hydration WW starter but found it to be too stiff and hard to dissolve in water when making bread. I find 125% to be perfect. I feed at 1:5:4.