The Fresh Loaf

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Beginner taking on wild yeast starter: am I on the right track?

bakingbadly's picture

Beginner taking on wild yeast starter: am I on the right track?

Hello sourdough enthusisasts! I need your help!

For the first time, I'm attempting to cultivate wild yeast as a sourdough starter. However, it's been 8 days since its inception, and my starter is beginning to behave abnormally, at least from my perspective.

Using the "pineapple juice method" described by Debra Wink, I am now in the phase of feeding my starter AP flour (technically speaking, type 55 flour). However, in the past two days, a thin layer of clear liquid had appeared--hooch, I believe.

On the first day of the hooch's appearance, I fed my starter at the ratio of 1:1:1 (prior to that, 2:1:1). On the next day, the hooch appeared again, so yesterday night I increased the feeding ratio to 1:2:2.

I had checked my starter this morning and... it was less lively. No hooch, a few bubbles were atop and none when viewed from the side of my plastic jar, but it didn't increase in volume--it actually decreased in volume! I noticed, additionally, that the starter smelled slightly less fruity and tasted less tangy. Although, the sourness wasn't strong to begin with--very faint--but I still noticed that the tang was a tad weaker.

Unsure of what to do, I chose not to feed the starter that morning, stirred it up, and left it covered with a cloth.

Other relevant details:

Frequency of feeding: twice a day. (I cannot feed my starter more often than that as I work during the day and sometimes early evening.)

Temperature range: 28C to 30C (I cannot reduce this temperature without using an air conditioner. I live in Cambodia, a sometimes very hot and humid country.)

My question: Am I on the right track? And should I consider anything when raising my starter in very warm conditions?

Thank you in advance. Any help will be greatly appreciated. 

flank steak's picture
flank steak

Hello there! I would say, try and slow down the rate your starter ferments--I have heard it been said that a stiff starter @ a 50% hydration is slower to ferment than a more liquid starter. You gave the ratios, but I wasn't completely sure what each of the numbers stood for, so I am just assuming that you are feeding an equal weight of flour and water to your bit of saved starter. I believe that so called hooch on top your SD means that it is hungry, so it seems to me that all the yeastys are eating much to quickly for your time schedule. Hopefully this helps some-- I am a pretty young baker myself and have been using sourdough exclusively for a only about a year now, I am sure some more seasoned bakers around here will give better advice! I do enjoy your blog by the way :)

bakingbadly's picture

Thank you! Glad to hear somebody enjoys my blog. :)

The ratios I've provided are Starter : Mineral Water : Flour, particularly in the later feeding stages. Yesterday night I switched my flour from type 55 flour to whole wheat flour to thicken my liquid starter, which progressively became more watery after each passing day. I was adamently set on keeping my starter at 100% hydration, but... I don't think I can keep up with the yeast. They're too hungry!

Thanks again for your suggestions!



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but you have to feed it more food.  Try reducing your starter to 10g and feed it 25g water and 50g flour for the next 12 hrs feed.  It will be more like a dough and see how long it takes to peak and collapse.   If it does inside of 12 hours, repeat.  If not wait until you can feed it again(like the last time) and use less flour, maybe 40g with the following feed.   (10g starter:25g water: 40g flour)

Might want to put a string or rubber-band on the cloth to keep bugs out.  Insects like the stuff.   :)

bakingbadly's picture

Thank you, Mini Oven! I will do as you've instructed.

I'd also like to mention that prior to beginning my starter, I had read some of your comments on troubleshooting misbehaving starters. (That's why I had increased the feeding ratio after seeing the hooch.)

Thank you for your wonderful tips! You're a lifesaver--for starters, that is. ;)

highwaymanco's picture

is it possible that bacteria has taken over that little starter world

and outnumber the wild yeasts so over whelmingly that the yeasts are left with too little food and are producing alcohol much earlier than expected ???

I am new to this bakery science stuff and very interested in these threads

(my apologies for the question on top of your question bakingbadly)

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... but in bakingbadly's case, the yeast is definitely running out of food well before it gets its next feed. At those temperatures quoted by bakingbadly - 28*-30* C - yeastie beasties are on speed - they will be very active and will wolf through food.

If you want to keep undesirable bacteria out of your starter, then you should :

1. Use squeaky clean pots and utensils,
2. Cover the container to stop contaminants sneaking in,
3. Use healthy flour and fresh water, and -
4. Spoil those little blighters especially during that first week, with regular feeds of sufficient quantities of flour such that they don't go all weak and wobbly trying to survive on starvation measures.

(I also swear by keeping new starters somewhere warm for the first week, too. If you can arrange temps somewhere in the 25*-30* C range, they'll be off like a rocket).

All at Sea

highwaymanco's picture

Thanks for the answer "all at sea"... very informative !!!

FlourChild's picture

In addition to Mini's feed ratios, if  you are still finding your starter is hungry in warm temps, try 1/16 tsp salt, even up to 1/8 tsp salt.  I also like keeping my starter at those ratios, 10g seed: 25g water: 45g flour.