The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help with my 1st starter

thihal123's picture

Help with my 1st starter

It is almost 24 hours since I first started making my sourdough starter and I haven't done the first feeding because I don't know if the starter is fermenting. Thing is, on top of the mixture is a layer of pretty clear water. Is that normal? I have stirred this mixture a few times and each time, after a while, some of the water seems to begin separating.

I followed River Cottage Bread Book's method of starting a starter:

1 cup flour (I used King Arthur Whole Wheat)
1 cup warm water

Using an electric beater, I beat it for 10 minutes on fairly high speed. Then, I covered the mixture. It's sitting in a small crock pot with a glass lid.

Is it normal for this starter to have some clear water separate from the mixture after about 22 hours? My mixture/batter isn't very thick. Do I have to begin over?

nicodvb's picture

10 minutes of stirring is really unnecessary:) 1 minute is more than enough to incorporate air.

If water ooches use less water next time. It's harmless, but unesthetic. Keep on feeding the starter and remember that it needs more patience than flour! Persist and you will be rewarded.

thihal123's picture

Heh :) Yeah, I was wondering about the 10 minutes too, but that's what the book recommended. Heh :)

Marie-Claire's picture

Sometimes books do not possess entire truth ;-)

After 24 hours, it is normal that the starter be inert. The beginning of activity is usually seen after 2-3 days.  Il may be also 5 or 7 days, depending on the temperature.

Keep refreshing it every day with the same quantity of water and flour, (not more water than flour)  and you will see be born.

 Marie-Claire from France

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

It might be worth mentioning that if you place your starter somewhere warm, it will leap into activity a lot sooner than if it is somewhere cooler. If you can find a spot around, say, 75*-80* df, the yeast will oblige you very happily and very quickly!

Yes, when mixing or feeding your starter, a quick efficient stir with a spoon is all you need.

All at Sea

thihal123's picture

Thanks for the tip! Temperature won't be a problem here. I live in the South (North Carolina, specifically), and it's warm (actually hot) throughout the summer. Right now, it's 25°C (77°F) indoors.

I added a little more flour to make the starter a bit thicker, but I don't consider that just feeding yet because I don't see too much bubbles (unless when I stir the mixture). I'll check again this afternoon.

Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful tips!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

put it out of the way and try not to look at it for a day or two.  :)

thihal123's picture

LOL. Maybe that's exactly what I should do. I'll put it in the toaster oven and won't look at it AGAIN! Well, maybe I will tomrorow :)

pmccool's picture

For one cup of flour, I'd use 1/2 cup of water.  Actually, I'd use 100g of each (a bit less than the gram equivalent of 4 ounces).  That would give you a nice batter consistency, instead of being so thin that the flour separates from the mixture and settles to the bottom of the container.  It will also be better able to trap the bubbles and expand, which makes it easier for you to gauge how active it is.


Light_Work's picture

Hello to you all, I am new here and there did not seem to be any special page to start on.

I just made my first batch of starter with organic grapes. I am not really qualified to teach but I have been baking for a while, well, decades really and make gluten free stuff for my SO and whatever I want for myself,

There is a bagget at whole foods called a St. Germain. It is the toughest bread I have ever seen and I love it. I am sure it is a sour dough and the baker said it gets punched down for three days with out feeding before final rise.

This is what I want to learn to make. I look forward to the process and thank you all in advance.

erika_conn's picture

I usually keep my starter in the fridge.  No wonder it takes 2 days for the bread to rise.  So, room temperature is better, you say?

BTW, what do they mean when they talk about percentage hydration?  It all sounds so very complicated.

dabrownman's picture

keep their starters in the fridge.  But it shouldn't take 2 days for it to rise a loaf of bread.  If you build a levain by taking a small portion of it say 20 g and add equal weights of a small portion of water and flour to it every 4 hours 3 times you should have a very active starter in 12 hours that weighs around 200 g and able to rise a loaf of bread in 4-6 hours.  Add 20 g each of flour and water, 4 hours later add 30 g each of and 4 hours later add 40 g each.  If your original 20 g of starter is healthy, in 12 hours you are ready to make bread with 200 g of levain. 

Hydration is the percent of water to flour in the dough - fairly simple math.  If you have 300 grams of water and 400 grams of flour then you divide the water weight (300) by the flour weight (400) and the hydration is 75% .  The higher the hydration the more wet the dough is.

Bagesl may be as low as 50% hydration, ciabatta 85 and whole grain breads 100% - even though they many be more sticky then wet.

Hope this helps


Light_Work's picture

24 hours later IO looked and it has doubled and is bubbly. I started with 1 C each flour and water. How much should I feed it and should I take the grapes out?