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Week-old starter behavior questions

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tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

Week-old starter behavior questions

Hi all,

After exhausting myself reading and researching, I have jumped in to the sourdough starter world. I have a few questions about how I'm progressing. Please advise if you see anything in my terminology or technique that needs correction - I will gratefully take any criticisms!

I started a 100% hydration starter with whole-grain organic spelt and filtered water 5 days ago. I am keeping it in a glass jar with a wire bale lid, with the gasket removed so the lid justs rests on top, not sealed. It is at cool room temp, house temp averages about 68 degrees. Until yesterday, I was seeing good bubbling. I was doing a daily routine of removing and discarding all but 50gm, adding in 50gm warm water and 50gm spelt flour.

Last night, when it was time to do the discard/feed, I noticed a layer of amber liquid on top. Assumed this was hooch instead of liquid separation, mixed it back in and carried on with the feeding. Checked it this morning, again with the layer of amber liquid. Some bubbling still occuring, but no increase in volume yet. I mixed, discarded and fed again this morning at about 12 hours.

There is a sour but not unpleasant smell. It's been about an hour since the feed this morning and I'm already seeing bubbling.

Questions:

a)  Does this sound like I am on the right track?

b) Am I correct in figuring that the starter is just asking for twice-daily feeds at this stage?

c) Would it be helpful to increase the feed, to a 1:2:2, or even more? (I'd like a daily-feed routine to get this starter established, my end-goal is to keep the starter in the fridge during the week, and do once-a-week baking.)

d) Am I stunting it's grwoth by not having given it a name yet?

In case it's a factor, I chose spelt because it was the only whole-grain/organic I could get at the time other than rye, and I had a traumatic stomach-flu episode once that involved rye-bread croutons, so there's a bit of a mental block against rye going on. Nothing more than that.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I am hoping to become part of the community here and appreciate any help.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or even 1:2:3  (s:w:f)  

You can always split the feeding and race one starter with 1:1:1  and another with 1:2:2 and compare them.  

Are you sticking with a spelt starter?  If not, slowly introduce wheat into the starter food.  Start with a small amout and increase all purpose wheat (decrease spelt) with each feeding until it is only wheat.  

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

I am going to try a 1:2:2 and see how that goes. ( I am juggling this and a three-year-old, plus I have one of those German Friendship cake starters going too -  that's about all I need to be dealing with at once!)

I was not intending to keep it a spelt starter - I was planning on a slow transition to a wheat starter, I had just read that whole grain spelt or rye were good for getting things going.

Is the cool room temp ok?

 

 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I started a 100% hydration starter with whole-grain organic spelt and filtered water 5 days ago... Until yesterday, I was seeing good bubbling.

The initial bubbling was caused by bacterial growth. That it has stopped shows progress.

Checked it this morning, again with the layer of amber liquid.

The flour solids sink in a liquid starter when there isn't enough bubbling action to keep them mixed throughout. That will change when the yeast get going. The amber color is likely from pigments that have leached out of the flour. No problem there.

Some bubbling still occuring, but no increase in volume yet. I mixed, discarded and fed again this morning at about 12 hours.

Until it starts increasing again in volume (or at least bubbling more energetically---it may not increase in volume if it is very liquid), it's best to limit feeding to once a day.

There is a sour but not unpleasant smell. It's been about an hour since the feed this morning and I'm already seeing bubbling.

Questions:

a) Does this sound like I am on the right track?

Too early to say.

b) Am I correct in figuring that the starter is just asking for twice-daily feeds at this stage?

See my comments above.

c) Would it be helpful to increase the feed, to a 1:2:2, or even more? (I'd like a daily-feed routine to get this starter established, my end-goal is to keep the starter in the fridge during the week, and do once-a-week baking.)

Not until there is expansion.

d) Am I stunting it's grwoth by not having given it a name yet?

: )

In case it's a factor, I chose spelt because it was the only whole-grain/organic I could get at the time

It doesn't need to be organic to work. Spelt is fine.

You're almost there,
dw

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

Thank you so much for your insights. I will persevere and update on progress. This is going to be an exercise in patience, isn't it?

 

GregS's picture
GregS

As my teenager would say: "OMG, Debra Wink is posting!!!!!

Sorry for the in joke, tacosandbeer, but Debra is my maximum guru on starters. If you haven't yet, search on her name  in this forum and you will find exceptionally good information. Her pineapple juice starter procedure has led many rookies (like me) out of the woods.

I haven't seen posts from Debra in recent months, so that's why I'm excited to see her linking again.

GregS

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

My DH thought I'd complete lost my marbles when I started reading and yelled "I got a reply from Debra Wink!!!!"

I have scoured these posts and those of a few other websites as well, for weeks, and I already have a great respect for your knowledge and willingness to share, Debra. At the risk of sounding like GregS's teenager, Thanks for noticing me!! ;)

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

I have continuing with once-daily 1:1:1 feeds and have been seeing good bubbles, slight (<20%) expansion and no other changes.  No more problems with liquid separation. This morning, I noticed that my starter is below the mark I made on the jar last night, so some deflation, but it seemed more bubbly throughout, instead of just bubbles on top. I also noticed the entire inner rim of the jar was covered with fuzzy mold. (Like what you'd see on an old loaf.) Surface of the starter was mold-free. (edit - smell is a sour-beer, yeasty smell, not offensive.)

I wiped away the mold just enough to get past it with a spoon and pulled out enough starter to carry on with this morning's feed. The jar is getting a good soak and a scrub.

Ideas? Suggestions? Nothing to worry about? Thanks!

 

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

nothing to worry about  

just keep on doing what you're doing

you wiil notice a little more rise each feed

:)

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

OK, I will just work around the mold if I see it again, clean it away and push on. I appreciate the encouragement! 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the same size.  Soaking and cleaning them up between feeds.     Once the starter is more advanced, mold will not be so common.  If you like you could lightly swab the inside edge that attracts mold with a few drops of vinegar before you put starter into it.   That should keep mould away for a few days before you need to "clean the cage"  as I like to call it.   :)

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

Alive!!!  I didn't quite get doubling today, but it's close!! I am so excited. Also, because I have horrible food-waste issues, can't stand the discard at feeding time, and can't resist experimentation, I took some of the discard two days ago and did a 1:2:2, which actually seems to be increasing it's volume even better than the 1:1:1 original. I think I've created a bit of a monster. 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

if your starter is 50g, reduce to just 20g to feed.     A 1:2:2 feed gets twice as much food as a 1:1:1; if the yeasts can handle it, they have the potential to rise twice as much in the same time period.

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

Thanks! I have been taking it down to about 25gm, after I realized how fast I was going through flour. I hope I'll be at a point soon where I can start using it and let it sleep in the fridge during the week.

When can I start weaning it off the spelt?

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

Still feeding two versions of the original starter, starter A is 1:1:1, starter B is 1:2:2, I have been weaning off spelt flour to unbleached AP by 25% per 24 hrs. 

I am seeing doubling in about 12 hrs. Room temp is cool, top of the fridge is just a drafty area of the kitchen. I use my oven too much for that to be a storage area. I think the 1:2:2 seems more active. This morning before feeds, they both had a bit of a harsh smell, and they taste positively SOUR, like straight lemon juice. It's not a pleasant smell or taste. 

I am willing to ditch one of the starters and just concentrate on the other, how do I decide?

Do I need to rig up something to keep the starter's enviroment a little warmer?  

What else do I need to do to get these starters in shape to use? Thanks!

 

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and combine them, then when you feed, you will get the best of both.  The one most adapted to you will take over.  

Doubling is ok but you want to know how long it takes to peak after being fed and fall in on itself.  Then after it falls, reduce and feed.  But feed it 1:2:2 or even more flour...  1:2:3 to a soft dough if you are only feeding once a day.  Sounds like it's going thru the flour feed.  :)

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

I left both of them in the microwave today, just to keep a draft-free enviroment after feeding. I know they both doubled, peaked and fell in about 7 hours. 

At that point, I got a clean jar, took a sample of each and combined them,  and did a 1:2:3 feed as you suggested. Back in the safety of the microwave, it will be about 11 hours by the time I wake up in the morning to check on it. It is already rising well 2 hours post-feed.

I just want to make bread already!

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and see how it holds up.  :)

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

the 1:2:3 (starter:water:flour = that's a 66%, right? Please tell me I'm right - my head is spinning from all the reading I've been doing!) seems to be happy in my cool kitchen, looks like the rise-fall took about 14 - 16 hours at 68-69 degrees. I know that's a bit slow, but that is fine with me, so is it a problem? It just means I need to know how long that rise-fall takes for when I start using it?

I have a few days coming up with very little on my schedule, so I am ready to give a loaf a try! Progress report to follow... thanks so much for the help!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Let's see  2 divided by 3 equals 0.666 and multiply by 100 gives 66%  Right!

Which means if you have tested 1:2:3 with your starter and it takes 14-16 hrs to peak,  your total wet dough time will also be about that; roughly from mixing up the dough to baking.  The outside parameters.  Surely we won't push a dough that far but, you can certainly wait (sleep) about 8 hrs before you start to stretch and fold the dough to give it shape.  Which means if you could mix up the dough in the evening and let it stand overnight at 68°F and start folding in the morning.  That way you have lots of time to observe and fold the dough as it is rising.  

Good night!  :)