The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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afrika's picture



indiesicle's picture

is used to build the final leaven. A 'ripe starter' usually refers to a culture that has completely run through its cycle after feeding (doubled or tripled, fallen completely, and smells of vinegar). Depending on your specific conditions the timing may vary. But following the books instructions and having a 100% hydration starter rising and falling predictably it should be quite ripe if feed a 20% inoculation and kept at 70-ish degrees in roughly 12 hrs. This is the case with my counter starter at least. This 'ripe starter' is then used to build a leaven which is ready for the final dough when it has risen by 20-30% (young leaven). This could take a varying amount of time depending on % of inoculation (ripe starter seed). If you use 5% of 'ripe starter' as is recommended in the formula, and keep it at 65F it should take around 4 to 8 hrs. But if you use 20% inoculation and keep it at 72F it will be much shorter (1.5 - 4 hrs.). My personal starter, if feed a 5% seed and kept at 65F, takes around 7-9 hours to reach the young leaven stage. But if I feed it a 20% seed and leave it at room temperature (74F) it reaches the young leaven stage in around 2 hours. I imagine, from the video you're referring to, that the latter is closer to what he is getting at.  Hope this helps.

afrika's picture

Perfect explanation. Thank you for taking the time.

indiesicle's picture

Glad I could help. It is a bit confusing. Hope I didn't make it more so.

leavenguy's picture

May I ask a question? The 'seed' you mention is, in fact, the starter? Also, you imply that it makes a difference at what point in its cycle you use the starter to make your leaven. Can you please confirm that.

Many thanks..

indiesicle's picture

The 'seed' is from a ripe, in this case, mother starter. The Tartine formula 'implies' this as I unfortunately can't take credit for said method. I can only confirm that it works for me in my personal surroundings. And yes, in my own trial and error, if I use my starter to build my leaven before it's run completely through its cycle it will be very sluggish and never seems to get my leaven strong enough to raise my bread to my liking. *Probably due to low yeast concentrations at this early stage which may be exacerbated by essentially another feeding.

*This last statement is complete speculation on my part and should not be misconstrued as fact or as part of the Tartine methodology.

My 100% starter is maintained on my counter at 72°F – 76°F and is fed a 15% inoculation or 'seed' in 12 hour intervals (8 a.m, 8 p.m.) Standard starter maintenance. This has changed slightly since my initial post on this subject.

Mother Starter:

- 15g ripe mother starter ('seed') (15%)

- 50g 78°F water

- 50g 50/50 flour mix (KABF/ KA100%WW)


12 hr. leaven build for 2 loaves:

- 6g ripe (12 hrs. old) mother starter ('seed') (2%)

- 150g 80°F water

- 150g KABF (straight white flour seems to give me a sweeter leaven for some reason.)

- Approx. 12 hrs. at 65°F or until it has risen by 30-ish %.

* A close approximation of the Tartine method tailored to my specific time constraints and my starters predictability.

* Tartine method recommends 1 TBSP. ripe starter (20g) which is 5% of 200g w + 200g f for 2 loaves for 20% of final dough. And a 6-8 hr. or over-night ferment at 65°F.

* Note: I use 30% of young leaven in my final doughs as opposed to the recommended 20% in the book.


2 hr. leaven build for 2 loaves :

- 60g ripe (12 hrs. old) mother starter (20%)

- 150g 80°F water

- 150g KABF

- Approx. 2 hrs. at 72°F – 76°F or until it has risen by 20-30-ish %. I just taste it until the 'floury' taste is gone and there is a note of sweet.

This is just what I have found to work for me. The two hour leaven build is, as I stated above, probably what Mr. Robertson is getting at in the video. I obviously don't know this to be fact but it's the only way I can explain a 1.5 to 2 hour leaven build to reproduce the bread he is speaking of.

- Just my take.

samf526's picture

Thanks for this detailed write up.  I still have a few questions though,  mainly about yours and/or Chad's percentages for seeding the leaven.

In the book he says to keep 20% of the starter and refresh it with equal parts flour and water....but i haven't read explicitly what percentage of the NEW batch the starter is supposed to be.  In your example, you say you use a 15% seed -- but this 15% of the water+flour total (whereas typical baker's percentage is just the percentage of flour weight). Do you think this is chad's intention too?   I'm just not sure if i should be seeding my levain with 20% of flour weight or 20% of total weight (or, as he says in the book, 20% of the original starter).


indiesicle's picture

Mr. Robertson says to use 1 tablespoon of ripe starter for 200 g. flour and 200 g. water. 1 tablespoon is roughly 20 g. and that figures to be 5% of the total weight or 2.5% of the flour weight (he expresses this as 5%). So by that deduction he figures the seed to the total weight not just the flour weight. Maybe it's just easier to express that small amount of seed to the total. If you were to do it by the flour weight it would just go faster as it would be double the seed amount but not a problem at all. Just use it young to stick to the recommendations in the book. These are not concrete amounts as you may have different timing needs or particular flavor you're personally looking for which are all affected by amounts, time, and temperature. The way I do it has changed a lot because I do it every day at the bakery. What I do now is use 1:1:1 ( ie. 100g seed/ 100g. water/ 100g. flour) with 78F water and use it after 1.5 to 2 hrs. It works great for me and my flavor and timing needs. It's really all up to you and what you're looking for. Just a side note: I've never liked the 65F degree ambient temperature  he recommends because for me it really seems to keep my yeast populations and final bread volume low. I'm by no means a seasoned professional so I'm sure it works for him but I just never could make it work and that was a big reason for my early frustration with the process. Regular room temp works for me.

-Hope this helps :)

Llama's picture

Thank you for this info.  It is amazing that this level of detail is so hard for a beginner to locate.  I've been maintaining a 4oz starter that seems very healthy and I had no clue how to built that into a 300g starter to make a loaf of the SF Sourdough in the recipe section of the handbook (JMonkey's recipe).  


Your post is now printed out and in my kitchen drawer.   I will now time things to see how quickly my starter doubles in size, when it stops growing, and when it gets back down to its original size so I know the life cycle from freshly fed, to doubled, to "ripe."  When I have time, I'll take some pictures every 20 minutes and make a blog post about this just to have a reminder of the timing involved in the process.

mareblu's picture

Still a bit confused.  You discuss using starter too early but what about using a starter about 1-2 weeks old that has been stored in the refrigerator?  May this be used to make a levain (whether at 5% or 20%) with no perceptible effects in the final loaf?  If the levain still passes the float test, wouldn't this indicate that it is not necessary to "restart" or feed the starter before using it to make the levain?  Thank you so much!