The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Young Starter vs Mature Starter

kap1492's picture

Young Starter vs Mature Starter

I just finished reading Tartine bread book and very excited to get started. This will be my first ever attempt and creating a SD starter, so I have a few general questions so I will lump them into this topic. The book discusses briefly the topic of mature and young starters. Correct men if I am wrong but eventually over time a young starter that is used and fed regularly will develop characteristics of a mature starter? Does this mean that a young starter has a mild flavor profile and a mature starter a sharper profile? If the latter is true, and say I am aiming for a young but developed starter's flavor do you have to keep starting a new starter from scratch in order to maintain the desired flavor profile? Is there a way to tone down a mature starter that has a sharp profile to a milder taste and vise versa? One more question about the initial starter steps in regards to the Tartine method. The book says to allow the starter to sit for 2-3 days or longer depending on how well the fermentation is progressing. During this period, should I agitate/stir the starter to prevent mold? I am like a little kid who can't wait and always needs to know "are we there yet".

Fred Rickson's picture
Fred Rickson

You either have the correct organisms or not.  That is really not a function of "young" or "mature."  Once you do have a good starter, if your build is short, say 24 hours as in a commercial endeavor, you need a high concentration of organisms for acid and flavor in a hurry.  If you stretch your build over time, the organisms will multiply on their own and so the starter age is not as important as long as you have the correct yeast and bacteria to work with.  If you develop a bad starter, young or mature will not will not work.

 Hope this is to your point.
kap1492's picture

So I just checked my starter just short of 24hrs and I noticed 1/8 of an inch liquid is covering the top. Does this matter or am I being paranoid?

pmccool's picture

While I don't have the Tartine book and therefore don't know Robertson's method for getting a starter up and running, there are usually two inferences to draw when a starter has a layer of liquid on top.  One is that the amount of water is greater than the amount of starter (amounts measured in weight) which allows the flour to settle to the bottom and leave a layer of liquid at the top.  The other is that the starter organisms have consumed the available food and need to be fed again with more flour.

In the first case, adding more flour will give the mixture a thicker texture and keep the flour in suspension.  In the second case, adding more flour will give the bacteria and yeasts the food they need.  


jcking's picture

See Mini's point? "but I sloshed it around a couple of times a day." Yeast don't have legs or wings, they can't move. At the start there are very few of them. Once they've fed on the surrounding food, they stop growing and become cannibalistic (producing alcohol). Stirring up the soup will give them access to more food and they will grow (a chopstick works well). Stirring also affects the bad bacteria that need the surface air to grow. So stirring can be a win-win.


baybakin's picture

I'm noting that your starter looks like it is a very high hydration, perhaps as high as 166% or so.  Chad keeps his around 100% hydration (although I remember him saying in the book this is slightly variable).  Are you weighing ingredients to make sure you are using an equal amount (by weight) of flour and water in your feedings? I've never gotten hooch on top of a starter at 100% hydration, but have gotten it at 150%+

kap1492's picture

I am feeding the mix of WW/AP flour 150g and 150g of water. Since the book was very vague, I searched tartine starter on the web and found this website.

The only reason I used these measurements is because I like to have an exact amount of what I am adding. Two reasons I guess, on being that since this is the first time going at it and I don't want to mess it up. Second is I am the kind of person that likes to be precise. To cut down on the total amount, I am going to add 30g of flour mix and 30g of water to 2 oz of the starter. We will see.