The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How often to feed starter

kwonders's picture
kwonders

How often to feed starter

I am on day 17, I feed my starter once a day. In 12 hours it expands to a solid double if not more and is just begining to collapse. At 24 hours it is back to just above original volume. My problem is that it would be very difficult for me to fit a second feeding into my busy day. My starter at this point is 1 prt. starter, 2 prts. flour and 2 prts. water. I intend to mature this starter for a month or so, then into the refrigerator. At that point I will start to think about actually making bread with it, but right now I am focusing on making a good starter.

My question is what am I sacrificing by only feeding my starter once a day instead of more often.

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

When I had to restart my levain after throwing it away (an indicator of what sort of person is writing this, perhaps) I pretty much stuck to the 8 hr feeding schedule I use for the mature culture, and although the changes in the mixture were more in texture than in volume initially, it was ready to bake with in under a week. 

To me, you're 1:2:2 ratio and 12 hour double says that your culture isn't very healthy, or that your house is freaking cold! We've got the heat off in spite of the recent cold snap here and it's about 58-60 in here. My batch starter for sourdough from last night is mixed 1:7.2:10 (S:F:W) and probably quadrupled in 9 hrs.

Do you bake with commercial yeast as well? DIY gets the short end of the stick. Preferments can do a lot for flavor and are easier to fit in to a busy life.

Coopers Bakehouse's picture
Coopers Bakehouse

"To me, you're 1:2:2 ratio and 12 hour double says that your culture isn't very healthy"

I'm interested in this comment.  This sounds healthy to me, lots of yeast (wild) activity and a clear pattern of rise and fall?  Sounds like it would already have enough oomph to raise a good loaf?

Cheers,

Francis

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

12 hrs sounds sluggish to me, especially considering the small amount of flour relative to the starter. I would look for a healthy culture to be more active in less time, but that's just based on my experience.

kwonders's picture
kwonders

Thanks so much for your comments. This is my first attempt at making Sourdoug Starters. I am self taught from simply what I could glean from the Internet, on how to create a sourdough starter, and I truly don't know what I am doing yet. Also It is my nature to focus on understanding the starter prior to moving forward to learn about actually making bread with the starters. So I am focusing on learning how to do that right now, not concerning myself with the bread yet.

I have only just been brave enough to come into this forum and ask questions from all of you. So anything anyone offers is of true value to me.

Based on your comments and others, mainly what you said about "especially considering the small amount of flour relative to that starter" I have considered that possibly my ratio is off. And I am not afraid to experiment, so at this this evenings feeding, (and yes I am now feeding twice a day) based on your comment, I changed from:

50 grams starter

100 grams water

100 grams flour

TO

25 grams starter

100 grams water

100 grams flour

I will see what happens. I have absolutely no idea of what ratio I should be using. The one I was using was based on what I just guessed was what I was supposed to do.

 

Thanks again for your guidance

K.

 

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

I think the 1:4:4 ratio will work much better with your schedule. If you can manage to feed it every 12 hours instead of every 24, it should be bomber - if you halve your amounts you won't be using any more flour. Even if you stick with once per day, I bet you'll be fine.

kwonders's picture
kwonders

You were right when you said my starter sounded sluggish, I think. But its a mystery to me. Let me explain. First remember this is my 1st starter so I have no reference point. I originally used the pineapple juice method to make a single starter using Debra Wink's method. During that time I was using 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 Rye for my flour. After about a week I was seeing it double between daily feedings, so I thought cool, it's working. So at that point I had the idea to make 3 different starters, one All purpose, one Whole Wheat, one Rye. So I basically started my regiment of 1-2-2 feeding once a day; so I took 50 grams original starter, 100 grams water, and 100 grams of the particular flour for that starter and made three different starters. I stated all this in my previous posts. I just wanted to set the background for you before I get to my mystery which I am hoping you can help me understand.

So after about 2 weeks of once a day feeding of 1-2-2 as you know I came on this web site and started to finally ask some questions and it is at that point that you stated that I might get better results if I went to a twice a day feeding of 1-4-4. So I did that, but I made a beginners mistake, and this is the beginning of the mystery....I took my recipe of 50 grams, 100 grams, and 100 grams and didn't think to halve it, instead I doubled the water and flour, took them from 100 grams to 200 grams each.

Well since I use 1 quart mason jars it was immediately evident to me that this was too much material for my jars, if it ever did start to quadruple, it would overflow my jars, besides at this rate I would go through way too much flour each day. And at that time you pointed out the obvious, don't double, instead I should simply halve my starter amount.

Please bear with me I am almost to the mystery. Ok, so stupidly I double the amounts, and 12 hours later, all three have expanded maybe 2.5 times. I thought ok, that is a little better than what I had been seeing, they just need to continue to be fed twice a day, at my new ratio of 1-4-4 and they will eventually build up to quadrupling. Remember I have no experience at this.

So on my second feeding of 1-4-4, I decided to halve my original recipe instead of doubling it, so at that second feeding I took 25 grams of each starter and added 100 grams of water and 100 grams of each respective flour to their respective starters.

Now note, I took 25 grams of the starters that I had added 200 grams of water and flour to, which in my humble opinion what I actually did by doubling then halving in one day, was to effectively dilute my starters. Because 12 hours later all three starters had barely doubled, and my All Purpose starter had not expanded at all. It was then that I realized what I had done, that I had diluted my starters. So here is the mystery....

So since my Rye starter still had risen almost to double, and it was always my strongest riser of the three, to try and revive my AP starter I took about 50 grams of the Rye starter and mixed it into the AP starter without doing anything else to the AP starter. I did not feed it anything else other than add the Rye starter to it. This gave me approximately 1 cup total of the AP starter in the 1 quart mason jar. I did then feed the Whole Wheat and Rye starters with the 25 grams of starter, 100 grams of water and respective flours. 

So this morning is 12 hours later, the Whole Wheat and All Purpose starters had their normal lackluster double expansion, But Oh My God the All Purpose starter had OVERFLOWED my 4 cup mason jar. I always keep the lids on loose, it had kicked off the lid and overflowed the jar. There also was no evidence of gluten, the AP starter had always exhibited a huge amount of gluten in it. This was almost all air, very liquid and HUGE!

So there it is, sorry it took so many words to explain it, but I am dying to know why putting a small amount of the Rye starter into the AP starter cause it to finally realize the quadruple expansion that everyone says is what you are after with a healthy starter. And it didn't build up to it, it happened immediately the first time, and quickly too, in four hours it was double in 8 it was out of the jar and all over the table the jar was sitting on.

So I added 25 grams of this AP starter to the Whole Wheat and 25 grams of the AP starter to the Rye starter hoping to see the same results. I did nothing else, I did not feed them anything other then to give them 25 grams of the AP starter. That was less than two hours ago when I did that, and Oh My God, the Whole Wheat and Rye starters have taken off.... they are all but double in less than two hours. Geez, I am soooo confused as to how to proceed now.

So do you have any idea what is actually going on here?

 

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

In short, you had one active starter, the rye, and two jars of flour mixed with water. When you added the rye 'seed' to the AP it had plenty of 'raw' flour and went bonkers.

I no longer keep a white flour culture. My recipes have moved away from using one for several reasons. I can barely remember to take the 5 minutes to maintain two cultures, much less a third. I was only using my white flour culture for one bread and I've started using rye culture instead.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

The answer is simple... You are sacrificing activity!

Generally speaking the more often you feed the more active it becomes.

Michael

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I have done all sourdough and all  commercial yeast but time didn't permit me to be a purist.  I now do a sourdough preferment and add commercial yeast in smaller amounts to the final dough. I get the best of both worlds-great flavor and faster rise.

Preferment:

1 c AP flour/1 cup water/about 2 tbsp active starter

Mix and let sit overnight in a covered container.

Next day, mix into a recipe that has about 3-4 additional cups of whatever flour. I then use 1/2tsp-1/1/2 tsp instant yeast (depending on how many hours I want to spend on breadmaking).I use less if there is an overnight retard involved.

I often use an overnight retard in the refrigerator to develop flavor and allow the dough to ferment/rise while I sleep. Mix dough up in the evening,sit for about 1 hour,put in refrig in covered container. Take out next day:finish rise to double-shape-proof-bake.

Very general principles here.

MANNA's picture
MANNA

You should feed every 12 hours. I used to feed mine every 24 hrs and it worked good for me, cold up here in the NE USA. I would keep it in the fridge and take it out every week and move to a fresh container and feed. Then when I wanted to bake instead of ditching half during its weekly feeding I would use that to build my leavian to bake. King Arthur has a good tutorial on sourdough starters plus there are many here.

Grenage's picture
Grenage

I feed mine once a day, and it will generally double in 4 hours or under.  I find it curious that is varies so frequently, but suspect that the so much is checked away in some folk's 12-hour feedings, the bacteria counts are just not as dense.

kwonders's picture
kwonders

Obviously I am new to this and am trying to learn as I go. I used Debra Wink's method for the creation of my starters. Once they became active I created 3 seperate starters by feeding one with All Purpose flour, one with Whole Wheat flour and one with Rye flour. I beleive they are quite healthy, my room that i keep them in is typically in the mid 70's and I use qrt. glass mason jars so I can see the amount of activity (gas bubbles) which is extensive. The Rye starter is the fastest riser, it will begin to rise within 30 minutes, the whole wheat will begin to rise after that and the AP will begin to rise after the Whole Wheat one. They all will expand to nearly 3/4 of the jar. So maybe I mispoke earlier when I said they doubled in 12 hours, more like maybe 3 times expansion. Certainly not 4 times, it would overflow the jar if it did that. 

I use the following recipe for feeding my starters and since I am self taught and new to this would appreciate any advice on adjustment to what I am doing.

Starter = 50 grams

Flour = 100 grams

Water for the AP = 100 grams, Whole Wheat = 125 grams, Rye = 125 grams( I use a little more water in the whole grain flours to make it easier for me to mix)

I feed my starters every morning before work, I clean my jars every time, heat my water to tepid, place my starters in a very warm room, for the day, and when I come home from work 9 or more hours later they are just begining to colapse. The rise line is nearly 3/4 the way up the jars, the amount of gas in the starters is extensive. By the next morning they are back to just above where they started and I do the whole thing over again.

I would like it if you could tell me how to do this better, of am i on the right track, do I need to increase to a 1-1-1, (I do not understand "1:7.2:10 (S:F:W) " from post above. what is the extra data bit?) I would like to know more on what the poster meant by "Sacrificing Activity", please expond on that. Are you saying that I should feed at the point when the starters are just beginning to colaps? In other words keeping the starters in a state of expansion for the majority of the day, rather than what is happening now is that it is in a state of expansion for 12 hours and then in a state of colapsing for 12 hours. Would love to hear more on that topic.

I want a mature properly developed starter when I go to only once a week feedings in a month or so. And I realize I have no experience so I thought this would be a good place to get some feed back from people who do, on what I am doing and how to do it better.

 

Thanks in advance

 

Salilah's picture
Salilah

Just a thought - one thing you could try is feeding the same amounts, but use cold water and a cooler room, so the activity might take longer?  Then you could move to feeding once a day?

Not sure it matters too much though, it sounds like you have pretty healthy starters - why not try baking with them?

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I'll let the others follow up with what they meant in their other posts.

Specific to your question "Are you saying that I should feed at the point when the starters are just beginning to collapse?", the answer is a hearty "Yes".  That is the point when the yeast and bacteria populations are at optimum levels.  By feeding again then, you go from strength to strength, rather than waiting for populations to crash along with the expansion.

Paul

kwonders's picture
kwonders

Thank you so much, I really didn't want to hear that I needed to find the time to introduce a 2nd feeding into my daily regiment, but in my heart I knew it was logical. You put it so clearly when you said;

"That is the point when the yeast and bacteria populations are at optimum levels.  By feeding again then, you go from strength to strength, rather than waiting for populations to crash along with the expansion."

So if my goal is to produce a "mature" starter, and mature = most amount of "yesties" and accompanying bacteria per cubic inch of starter possible, than the way to achieve that is to keep these little guys constantly multiplying until you reach a point where you feel that you've gotten the most your particular environment will support. At that point you can put it into the refrigerator and pull it out to refresh once a week. It is at that point I will try my first attempt to make bread. I will make sure to feed it a few times first before making bread. I just want to get a mature starter first. I just wasn't sure how to do that.

I will start a 12 hour feeding regiment tonight.

 

Thank you all.

So here are some pictures of my starters at different stages that I have taken over that past few days. Feeding schedule of these pictures is every 24 hours. I would be very interested the opinion of those on this site as to if these starters look anywhere near like they should;

mwilson's picture
mwilson

About activity.

Activity = The rate of rise.

A starter that doubles in 6hrs indicates higher yeast population than a starter thats doubles in 12hrs.

With regards to your definition of "mature"; keeping conditions are the factors which determine the yeast population/viability and in turn the rate of rise ie. Activity.

 

Michael

kwonders's picture
kwonders

Thank you so much Michael, I have so much to learn.

Your definition of activity = rate of rise simplifies it for me and I understand.

I am very much seeking some clarification as to what defines a mature starter, I know that starters can be used after just a week, and mature is subjective, yet as I seek to define it, I am hoping to understand how to tell when my starter is as "mature" as it is going to get. That sounds naive even to me. I imagine that "mature" is ongoing. I just want to get to the point that I have done everything I can to develop a good, viable starter and then put it in the fridge, and make bread with it once or twice a month. I know I need to feed it at least once a week after it goes into the fridge, and at least three days of feeding before I make bread. I hope that fundamental plan is viable, not really sure. Mostly I am not sure how to tell when I have done everything I can to make a viable starter.

Having said that, I would like it very much if you could help me understand what exactly you mean by "keeping conditions" and how one goes about doing that.

 

I am sure these are very beginner questions and I applaud your patience and efforts to help me in advance.

 

Thanks for your efforts thus far, I have learned allot today just from all your comments.

 

 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

keeping conditions is my terminology and I use it to mean all aspects of how the starter is kept, feed schedule, feed ratio, temperature and food supply (flour properties) - they all matter.

As you discovered and as Paul clarified giving the yeast a regular food supply will help keep the starter healthy. Mature could be said to be the point just before the yeasts run out of food with that occurring on a regular interval.

Specific to your case there is that approx 12hr period where the yeast have no food and are going to sleep (death phase), this will incur a greater lag phase (time taken for starter to get fully active) when you feed again.

There is nothing wrong with entering the death phase if it's part of the schedule but it's worth noting, the longer the death phase the longer the lag phase. 

Michael

kwonders's picture
kwonders

Very cool. So if I feed twice a day for a few more weeks, at what point can I put my starter to sleep in the fridge, drop back to once a week feeding, and then when I want to make bread 1-2 a month pull it out and feed it for 2-3 days before I use it to bake. How long do I have to feed every day?

mwilson's picture
mwilson

When your starter's activity repeatedly meets your schedule you can then consider it viable for refrigeration on the next feed. It will be up to you to decide if this is the case.

Apologies if I'm being purposely vague, but your experience will teach you. I am just a guide.

Michael
PS. Any other questions are welcome. 

kwonders's picture
kwonders

I don't find your answers vague. Your statement "when activity meets schedule" makes perfect sence to me. I appreciate very much your guidance and the time you took to give it. The last two feedings were at 12 hour intervals. I am looking forward to seeing if in time, say a week or so of 12 hour feedings,  the resulting rise I see becomes greater than it has been in the past.

 

Again, thank you all

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Irrespective of what your feeding ratio is (1:2:2 or 1:10:10 for example) the volume increase from mixing to maturity will be approximately double to triple.  When it starts to fall back, feed it again.  The feeding ratio does affect the ratio of lactobacillus to yeast in the long term, but with a particular feeding ratio, the time to double will be dependent only on the maturity (LAB/yeast numeric density) of the starter and the temperature during growth. I keep my starter in 5 oz plastic cups and mix 2g of starter with 12 - 15 g water and the same amount of flour.  It gets fed once or twice daily depending on the temperature.  It is not terribly sensitive to being left for a whole 24 hrs between feedings.  When I want to make a batch of bread I increase the starter by feeding it before I go to bed (taking out 2g and adding the 15g of water and flour) and use the remainder (typically 24-26g) with 240g of water and 240g of flour (1:10:10) as the basis for a ~1500g batch of bread the next day. I think it is a matter of finding a rhythm that works for you, your kitchen, and your schedule.