The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Feeding ratio for starter? (1:2:2 seems to be killing it?)

Arthur's picture
Arthur

Feeding ratio for starter? (1:2:2 seems to be killing it?)

I have recently started growing my own first ever sourdough starter (not having baked a bread in my life before, hehehe). I started three at the same time, all with whole wheat bread flour: one with water, one with pineapple juice, and one with a liquid instant sourdough I got from Germany. In the end, the third one “won” (I keep the house pretty cold, and I think I simply gave up too quickly on #1 and #2). I now have two starters which are doing well: I have split #3 into #3a (whole wheat bread) and #3b (white flour, by feeding #3 with increasing amounts of white flour).

My favorite, #3b is now about a week old now. After 3 days of 2:1:1 (100 grams starter, 50 grams water, 50 grams flour), I started feeding is 1:1:1. That works well, and after about 8-12 hours it doubles. The starter stays inflated for hours! (is that normal?).

I read that I should now start feeding the starter a 1:2:2 ratio (so for example, 50 grams starter, 100 grams water, and 100 grams flour). It’s supposed to be healthy enough to bake when it’s able to double itself within 8 hours after a 1:2:2 feeding, right? And if it doesn’t, I should only feed it once per day until it can double itself within 8 hours at 1:2:2 feedings (which probably takes about a week)?

Sadly, now my starter only rises a little bit (not even by 1/2) after 12 hours. In fact, after 24 hours it still didn't rise more than that (the surface just had a lot of bubbles on it, and it seemed much more like batter than when I feed it 1:1:1), and I fed it again (at 1:2:2) because I was afraid I was killing it. So, what should I now do? Should I go back to 1:1:1 and feed it twice a day? (as noted before, with that feeding, it can double itself after about 8-12 hours at about 65 Fahrenheit, and stays inflated for quite a few hours — so much so that I don’t quite know when it is “fresh” to start baking with).

FYI: Although I wasn’t sure if it would rise, I baked my first ever sourdough no-knead loaf with this starter yesterday and it was awesome! After 18 hours it hadn't doubled in size but I went ahead anyway, and the final bread came out really nice (and very soury)

Ford's picture
Ford

I use starters with 100% hydration, i. e. equal weights of flour and water.  I feed with unbleached AP flour or with whole wheat flour and chlorine free water.  I feed my starters about once every two or three weeks and in the interval I store them in the refrigerator.

When I want to make bread, I remove a starter from the refrigerator and refresh it with the ratio of 1:1:1=starter:flour:water.  I let it sit at room temperature for about 12 to 18 hours and again feed it at the same ratio.  This sits over night and is ready for use the next day.

Other bakers use different regimens, but this works for me.

Ford

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Ford and I are close on regimens.   When my starter was young it was 1:1:1 twice a day.  Once it matured it was put in the fridge.  I feed it once a week.  To feed I take my starter from the fridge let it feed once with 1:1:1 let it set till double then pull my storage weight and feed 1:1:1 and put back in the fridge.  The stuff that is left over is for english muffins or pancakes.  or you can build it again and bake with it.

This works for me.

Arthur's picture
Arthur

Thanks for your replies! So what you're saying is basically to use 1:1:1 if that works, and ignore the "it's need to be able to double in under 8hours at a 1:2:2 ratio" rule? Will the starter still mature enough? I thought 1:2:2 is the standard for some reason...

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Do what works for you.  If you like the bread it makes, that is what counts.  :)

sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

Feeding starter ratios depend on a few things:

1)  Your schedule and when you want IT to be ready to fit your schedule.

- First off forget about how long it's supposed to take to double in size.  All starters are different, not everyone uses the same flour, nor does everyone keep their starter in the same environment, and lastly not everyone's starter is on the same feeding schedule or maturity.

  What you want to pay attention to is how long does it take for your starter to 'ripen'.  This is the point where it had inflated as much as its going to and starts collapsing and falling.  This is generally considered the time where you want to use your levain to make bread.  What you want to do is figure out what ratio will get you to this point at the time you want.  It could be 1:3:3, 1:4:4 up to 1:10:10.

2) Flavor profile.

-  The more often you feed your starter, or refresh it, the milder the starter and bread will be.  Some people purposely feed their starter every 4 or 8 hours to keep their starter more yeast balanced than bacteria balanced to keep their breads/bakeries less sour to no sour at all.  The longer you let your starter ripen the more bacteria balanced it will be and generally will produce a more sour bread.  There is a lot of experimenting you will have to do to figure out what works for you.  What's most important is trying to stay on a consistant feeding schedule, hydration and ratio to get consistant results.  Have fun!

Arthur's picture
Arthur

Okay, I think I understand your comments. The problem is that now my starter doesn't do much of anything anymore. Last night I fed it at 1:1:1 (which always worked before), but now, in the morning, it doesn't seem to have changed much at all. Perhaps a little bit bigger, but not much. Only one or two bubbles on top. It smells... sweet sour alcoholic -- sort of the same as a few days ago when it was rising well 8-12 hours after feeding. Help, what do I do now to get it back??

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Don't give up.  Keep feeding it 1:1:1  and give it a few days to recover.  It only takes a few of those litter buggers to start a whole new colony.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

A liquid starter such as yours may or may not rise significantly; most likely not. Why? Because it's liquid enough for the CO₂ to percolate to the surface, and because the other (major) by-product of fermentation is alcohol, which is liquid itself and is hygroscopic, absorbing water from the air. Concern yourself with whether it's been actively bubbling. The ripe starter will show a little bit of collapse.

When you feed, stir the refreshed starter vigorously to work some air into the mix.  In brewing, this is called rousing the wort. Its purpose is to allow the yeast to propagate aerobically at the beginning, giving it a good start.

cheers,

gary

Arthur's picture
Arthur

Okay I will. Every 12 hours right, regardless of growth?

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Yes that  is correct.  Keep us updated.    But don't fear if your starter does bite the dust I'll bet all kinds of people will  offer you some of their starter.  Myself included.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I mean you started it from a package of sourdough from Germany.  I've gotten similar results and had it up and baking bread in 38 hours so I believe you are not dealing with a beginning starter.  Your starter is quite balanced and by feeding it 1:1:1 it is making a lot of lacto beasties and the sourness of it is keeping the yeast production low.  Sournewb71 is pointing you in the right direction.  If the starter tastes like wet flour, just let it stand and give it time.  If sour, add more flour.  A little warmth with help the yeast population.

Do this:  Take a teaspoon of starter and place into various small drinking glasses and add different amounts of water and flour.  I would guess that a 1:5:5 would be a good place to start and also a 1:1:1 for comparison.  Also a 1:2:2 and once mixed and marked, cover with plastic foil and race the three to see what happens.  

65°F is rather cool and will slow down yeast a lot.  No need to chill the starter in the fridge with your house, just up the ratios and move to a warm spot when you want to build a starter for baking.

 

Arthur's picture
Arthur

Well, I'm not too sure whether I have a mature starter -- I did start it with a package from Germany, but the packaging was unclear as to whether it was a true starter or just some kind of sour dough -ish liquid yeast. I just thought what the heck and gave it a try - turns out, that batch performed best out of the original three. Note that at abou 65-70 F, it did take me about 5 days of nursing until it started rising dependably every 12 hours with a 2:1:1 ratio (after that I switched to 1:1:1 for about 4 days, and baked the first loaf with it).

 

This morning I split it the current "lagging" starter into 2:1:1 and 1:1:1 versions. Tonight I'll split one again and keep that on 1:2:2 and/or 1:5:5, and keep feeding all of them every 12 hours (7:30AM and 7:30PM) and see what happens...

Arthur's picture
Arthur

Okay, so here's the update:

Both of them don't seem to be doing well: no rise at all, and almost a yoghurty substance instead of the hungry sourdough starter I've seen before. Both of them smell awful. Like old yoghurt (not a soury yoghurty smell, but a definitely "I'm beginning to rot" smell) mixed with, I don't know, used socks? Do these symptoms fit with the problem and your diagnosis?

PS. I have friends over this weekend and wanted to bake a loaf and sourdough pizza. *Luckily* I'd put a portion of my original 5 day old starter in the fridge and it seems to be surviving well. It's hungry, so I took out some and fed it. It had a nice alcoholic and somewhat sour smell and looked like normal starter. So that's my "if all else fails I can always go on with that batch" starter -- let's see how that one survives the night...

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

Are you discarding any of the starter before feeding it?  I would think you are, otherwise you'd have to keep the starters in 50 gallon drums after a while.  :)

I believe waste products build up and there needs to be a purge.

FF

Arthur's picture
Arthur

Of course :).

With the 2:1:1 (S:W:F) I discard all but 100 grams, then use 100:50:50. With the 1:1:1 I discard and then use 50:50:50 grams.

sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

If you look in the container the starter is in and see bubbles in it, then there is activity going on and that's good.  You say that in the morning it doesn't look like it has done anything with a few bubbles, well that maybe true or you may have missed the activity!  When you start or revive a new starter it will gradually become more efficient at eating its food and reproducing itself.  What you might have happening here is that your starter is rising and collapsing during the night while you're sleeping.

As mini-oven stated you should try feeding the starter differently for now.  I'd try the recommendation of 1:2:2 and 1:5:5.  Use whole wheat flour, as it gives it more food for your starter.  If you have rye flour laying around, substitute some of the whole wheat for rye, as starters really love rye flour.  Lastly you haven't mentioned what kind of water you are using to feed your starter with.  I hope you are using filtered or bottled spring/distilled water.  Tap water contains chlorine and other nasties that your starter will not like.  If you don't want to buy bottles, look at Wal-Mart for the ZeroWater pitcher system.  I use that to feed my starters.

 

Good luck!

 

 

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Along with the advice above, try stirring the starter a few times during the day. It really helps to wake things up.

Arthur's picture
Arthur

There was no change this morning, so I took your advice to heart and now have a 1:2:2 starter and a 1:5:5 starter. To keep things manageable, I decided to not continue the 1:1:1 or 2:1:1.

So the setup right now is, for the healthy ones: (A) whole wheat 1:1:1 in fridge; (B) 80% white, 20% rye 1:1:1 in fridge; (C) 80% white, 20% rye 1:1:1 on counter

For the unhealthy ones: (D) 60% white, 40% rye 1:2:2; and (E) 60% white, 40% rye 1:5:5.

I must say that unhealthy ones almost seem too much trouble to continue, given that I have to throw some much good flour away every 12 hours. For the 1:5:5 I use 25g:125g:125g = 275 grams in total, so every 12 hours I throw away 275-25 = 250 gram of unhealthy starter. Seems such a waste, given that I also have healthy ones left. I guess I'll stick it out for at least two more days, and see what happens.

PS. I use tap water. I live in the Netherlands, and we don't have chlorine in the tap water. And I live in a place where the water is really high quality. Moreover, the other healthy starters have also been fed with this water from day 1 (or from day 5 or so, after a couple of days of pineapple juice), and they don't seem to mind.

sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

As long as you have had success using your tap water with other starters, then continue to do so.

You are definitely going through a lot of flour!  I'm confused as to how many starters you are trying to maintain.  Unless you are running a bakery, you really don't need all the deviations of flour.  I'd recommend feeding all your starters 100% Whole Wheat.  If you want to make a white loaf or rye loaf, take some of your healthy active starter and feed it the white flour or rye flour in a seperate jar, just for your loaf.  I find it redundant to keep a seperate white/whole wheat/rye starter for the same starter.  Also you can use even smaller refreshments than 25g.  I use 5g to refresh my starter!  

You shouldn't be automatically feeding your starters every 12 hours with those higher ratios.  Make sure your starter is actually doubling/tripling/quadrupling and falling before you feed it.  At 100% hydration your starter should rise and collapse with certainty.  If anything I would be favoring longer refreshments right now and make sure that the bacteria are keeping the environment free from bad bacteria.

How's the starter smelling now?  Can you see bubbles throughout?  Do you see foam on top?  What does it smell like?  After you mix it (before you feed it) what does it taste like?  Is there any acidity to it?  If you taste your starter and it doesn't have any kind of acidity to it, I would leave it sit for some more time before feeding it.

P.S.  You are keeping these 'unhealthy' starters out on the counter and not in the fridge right?  

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I will tell from my experience keeping different starters using different flour makes a huge difference.  Just inoculating using one starter truly is not the same. 

On the other point.  If your starter is in distress  feeding it 1:1:1 every 12 hours in a sense is diluting out what is making your starter ill in the first place and gives the beasties a cleaner and happier growing environment.  There is also a way of washing your starter if it's in real bad shape.

So I think Arthur needs to pick just one way and give it time...more then 12 minutes to see if there are improvements.  Starters are like children...they need consistency.

Grenage's picture
Grenage

It's clear from the wide range of 'what works for me's on this forum, that it really depends on your starter, the temperature, and the flour.  I feed mine once per day, somewhere between 1800 and 2400, with a ratio of 1:2:2.  If I plan to start a bake and need some active starter that evening, I discard nothing, feed at 1800, and take what I need at 2200-2300.  The starter will generally have doubled in that time.

My conditions are:

16-19C
White 11% flour
tap water

Consistency is one of my indicators, aside from taste tang and smell.  An agressive starter will literally break down the flour to a kind of soup, if you leave it a couple of days; I regard that as a little too long, but it only needs an extra couple of hours to get back to normal.

DaveW's picture
DaveW

I noticed you were using whole wheat flour.  Most starters will not work that well in JUST whole wheat. (Sourdough International has one that does but I did not care for slow recovery after refridgeration) So I always use white unbleached flour for the sarter and add the whole wheat when making the actual loaf.

I started with a ration (using imperial units) of 1/4 cup starter, 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water (equal volumes as opposed to equal weights) which gives about 160% hydration.  It was suggested in the 1969 Field and Stream article that introduced me to sourdough and "Sourdough Jack" Mabee's cookbook.

 

I have always had good success with that.   And if you see the bubbles, there is something there working.  Keep at it and it should be fine.

Edited to add: I also use ONLY distilled water in the starter proper. At least here, there is enough clorine in the tap water to kill an elephant.

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Dave W,

I have a whole wheat starter that is now a few years old.  It does just fine in 100% whole wheat.  I started it in W/W and have kept it that way ever since.  so it grew up in the W/W hood and has learned to survive and thrive.  You will not match the flavor that my W/W starter produces by inoculating with a white starter.  Same goes for my rye.  Sorry but I disagree with your statement.

DaveW's picture
DaveW

Did you capture it wild in w/w?

That may explain why it works well.  The other starters I have tried have all "grew up" in white flour.

Ed Wood of SI has written in one of his books that he had trouble with most of the cultures he has going 100% w/w.

sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

DaveW,

I don't know which starters from SourDo you are referring to, but I have the Italian and Austria starter from there both being fed 100% stone ground whole wheat.  No issues whatsoever.  If anything a starter should like WW more than straight white flour as it provides more food to the bacteria/yeast.

Grenage's picture
Grenage

I started my starter on WW, and it was painfully lethargic for a week, until I added white flour - then it went nuclear.  While I don't know how many strains/flour/other factors were at work, I suspect that the starter would react differently to WW now than it did back then.  Many people here seem to have perfectly healthy WW starters.

DaveW's picture
DaveW

 DaveW,

I don't know which starters from SourDo you are referring to, but I have the Italian and Austria starter from there both being fed 100% stone ground whole wheat.  No issues whatsoever.  If anything a starter should like WW more than straight white flour as it provides more food to the bacteria/yeast.

Sourdo's South African is the one that works with the WW, and on their site they say it is the ONLY one they know of that works better with WW than white flour.  Logically it would seem that all would work better in WW but apparently not so.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I started mine with whole wheat and have had no problem maintaining it with whole wheat, although I have recently begun adding some whole rye and it seems to like that mixture even better.  The fineness of the grind  seems to make a difference.  When I started the culture I only ground the grain to a coarse meal, reasoning that I wanted to minimize damage to the organisms growing on the grain.  After the culture was established I continued feeding it meal, but after a private discussion with another member here I tried feeding it flour instead.  It seemed to prefer that, probably because the starch was more readily available in the finer grind.  I would not, therefore, be surprised if feeding an established culture some commercially-ground fully refined flour encouraged more rapid growth.  It is a purer source of starch than whole grain flour.  I plan to continue to use my home-ground whole grain flours to feed my sourdough culture, however, since I don't use any other kind in my cooking.  *smile*

sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

DaveW,

I guess this is just another area I disgaree with Ed Wood.  His non-WW starters are thriving in the WW I'm feeding them ;).