The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Increasing the Potency of a Starter

Kneads_Love's picture

Increasing the Potency of a Starter

Hi TFLers,

I have recently transitioned from “starting a starter” to “maintaining a starter.” There is lots of good info on the site about feeding cycles, hydration, and ratios, but I have not yet found an answer to the following question…

Does maintaining a starter on the counter (room temperature; 100% hydration; 1:4:5 ratio; 12 hour feeding cycle) for a few extra days (or weeks) allow for a more potent, flavorful starter?

In your answers, please think cost/benefit.: More effort, increase costs (flour, water, washing dishes, etc) vs possible increase in Potency (rise strength, flavor, etc.)


Now that I have had a functional starter for a day or so, should I immediately put it in the fridge and maintain it that way? (Assume that I am only baking once every week or so.)



jcking's picture

Your next goal should be to stabilize your starter, it will still develop on it's own over the next few weeks. The ideal would be to have a storage starter with a balance of wild yeast and bacteria. Developing a more flavorful/sour loaf should be done as a part of your storage starter is built and there are many ways to do this. Trying to maintain a sour storage starter will compromise the leavening/yeast ability. If your not baking every day move on to refrigeration in a few days.


Doc.Dough's picture

The lab rats maintain starter in 100mg quantities, and I find that to be too small to reliably replicate. At winter-time temperatures (kitchen in low 60's at night and low 70's during the day) a once daily feeding at 2:14:14 (starter, water, flour) grams works very well.  Summer feedings go to ~12hr between feedings at the higher temperatures (mid 70's at night, about 80 during the day) but maintain the same ratios. Summer feedings consume ~1 oz of flour per day or 2 lb/month.  If you bake once a week this might be 10% of your flour consumption, but you probably use that much bench flour.

The difference in activity between room temperature feeding and refrigerated starter is less of an issue than the extra effort required to prep for refrigeration and then feed twice before use which consumes 2.5 days out of the week if you look at it that way, and it requires thinking ahead a little more.  When I feed in the evening I ask myself if I am going to bake the following day and if the answer is yes, use the 24g of residual starter (after removing 2g to start the next cycle) to initiate a batch of starter which will be ready mid-day the next day.  The new batch is 24:230:230 to make a ~1400 g of dough and is easily doubled (or quadrupled if you must) by starting a little earlier and making bread a little later, or running the build at a little higher temperature (75°F instead of 70°F).

I think you could come up with a refrigerated starter process that is close, but it would need to fall into your normal schedule and that is left as an exercise for the student.

baybakin's picture

I don't know if it's been mentioned, but a 1:4:5 ratio would not be a 100% hydration starter, but either 80% or 125%, depending on which is flour and which is water.

I keep my starter on the countertop nearly exclusivly, feeding once a day.  I keep a small amount, however, approximatly 70g total in jar, and I feed it approximatly 1:3:3, the waste is saved in a container (in the fridge) until enough accumlates for pancakes/crackers/scones/biscuits, so I never throw out any.

I676's picture

I take it you're doing sourdough for pleasure and not business? If so, I echo the call for relaxation. It's relatively easy to keep a starter going. But I find controlling a starter's biology and flavor profile with any consistency calls for more work than I--a rank amateur--am inclined to put into it.

If for business, then please disregard my inept mutterings.