The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

dead starter?

  • Pin It
latanante's picture
latanante

dead starter?

I have looked at the other dead starter threads but could not find any that were like mine...

So i had a very nice starter, but after some neglect i think its dead. I leave mine on the counter and feed it everyday (usually) 1:2:2. but when i went to feed it the other day (i go back to 1:1:1) if i missed a day or two and monitor the rise and whatnot. it didnt do anything... no rise, no bubbles nada... i left the light on (my house is cold and so is the weather) so that it would get some heat but nothing again... i decide to feed it 1:1:1 again just in case... with heat and still nothing.... so today i sprinkled a bit of sugar thinking that it would at least stimulate some kind of activity but i have still nothing...

I really dont want to restart from scratch... and would like to save print pickle...

Ideas anyone?  

 

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

Throw it away. Use the spoon or whatever tool you used to dump the old stuff to mix 100 to 250 grams of flour plus equal H20.

The spoon will inoculate the new batch.

Leave out, do not refrigerate unless you are in a hot climate. Give it whatever time it needs. If it is at 80 degrees you will be good faster than if it is at 55 degrees. Watch the time and the temp.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

which slows down starters A LOT.  Before you do anything (it is better to skip a feed than feed it in winter) Taste it and describe the best you can.  

If it tastes like weak or like wet flour, wait it out and give it time.  Change winter feedings to include more starter (2:1:1)  than flour until warmer, also diluting with more water may help the fermentation but doing so tends to change recipes.  Then use more starter in the recipes and less added water.  

If you need to boost yeast production.  Take a bag of the starter, press out air, close with head room for expansion and slip it into your pocket for a day to keep warm.  Let the gas out from time to time.  Return the starter to the rest and allow to peak.

latanante's picture
latanante

so it tastes like weak flour, i did a 2:1:1 to get rid of the sugar and start fresh. I wrapped it in a blanket and put it under stove lights. I used luke warm water.

this morning i woke up and it was -30 outside not the norm for this time a year and our house is at 15C. ill keep it warm and see what happens

thank you both

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I heard there was a solar flair a few days ago and ...  you got great weather to view them!  Take your camera!  

I'm afraid the starter is now overfed.  Keep it warm and stop feeding for a few days.  You are back to square one: Making a starter unless you have some older starter still around or a back up starter.    

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

hahahahaha microwave it when you want to see some activity. bring the dough and in your case because u live in antarctica!  the starter up to 80 degrees you are baking bread inside a refrigeratror.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  The Yukon is a lot colder.  (There is a trick to use the microwave to proof... search the archives under Microwave instructions for proofing.)  Chicago is windy but balmy in comparison.  It is summer in Antarctica right now and in a few days, fall. (Always wondered what fell there in fall.)   

Most prefer just to heat some water in a mug and push it to the back of the MW and then set the starter inside to get warm and close the door.  No nuking the starter.  I prefer to just tuck it into a vest pocket, closer to me to keep warm.  Passive biological heat, karma, love and k-energy, at least during the day.  At night stop the growth or tuck into a Styrofoam box with jars of luke warm water.  Always good to have a thermometer nearby to help prevent overheating the starter.   

latanante's picture
latanante

ill watch for the northen lights before going to bed. I will keep it warm for a few days and see what happens... Ill bring it to work tomorow and see what it does..

 

Thanks.. ill also get a styrofoam box from work for nighttime

 

latanante's picture
latanante

so i brought him to work the other day and left him by the hot press thing... and he got a little bubbly.. no growth noted. Then i took a cooler home with me and put in hot water. That night he rose and fell.. Fed him the next day and back in the coooler... didnt do much during the day and got home, put more hot water in and in the evening he rose and this morning he was still rising... so i will check on him tonight...

 

thank you so much, hes more smelly he might just make it :)

 

 

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

no nuking the stater well you better figure something else out cause we going to cite you  for cruelty to yeast cells, no trick my friend you put it in the microwave and what one minute or in your case who knows cause it could be 98.6 what are you doing your starter is enough for a bisquit you keeping it in your codpiece, I have no idea what you are up to but it aint baking bread my brutha.

JimmySting's picture
JimmySting

I am having a similar issue. My house is rather cold, but I keep my starter in my bedroom where I use an extra space heater which will bring up the temp to around 72 deg F. I have forgotten the starter on my (much colder) kitchen counter some mornings and have noticed it starting to get really weak. 

I'm curious to try leaving more starter during feedings. Normally I've been doing 1:2:2 (with whole wheat flour) at feedings every 12 hours. Are you guys saying this can be too much flour/water during the colder months?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Yes.   If you notice your starter slowing down in winter, it means you need to increase the starter amount to be fed or decrease the amount of food so that the starter can reach the same stage of fermentation before using it.  If you notice it slow now, skip a feeding to let the starter recover.  If that seems to work out, shift to feeding every 24 hours or change the amounts upping starter or decreasing food to keep with a 12 hr schedule.  Respond to starter activity and stay flexible.  :)

The best way to find out if it is over or under fed is to taste it.  If you taste what you think is a ripe starter and it tastes closer to just wet flour, it is over fed, give it time to ferment.  Let it peak and start to fall back before feeding again.  Better to err on the side of over-ripe than under-ripe.  

I just saw on the other thread that this is a new starter.  Does mean you should be keeping it warmer than an established starter.  between 75 and 80°F for best results.  If the room remains 72° it is better you feed after peaking  1:1:1 to peak ferment under 12 hrs.  24 hr feedings would encourage a very slow starter at this stage.  

JimmySting's picture
JimmySting

Thanks for the input!

Unfortunately my house won't be getting to the ideal temperatures that you mentioned (75-80 deg F, heat is expensive). I will try to change up the feeding times and let it ferment a little longer. I will decrease the food a bit (keeping more starter) and stick to a 12 hr feed to see if I get better results.

I think I might be constantly feeding an under-riped starter. I will taste to get a feel for this.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The easiest warm spot to find is on your person.  I have this armless vest with lots of pockets I wear often during winter and when it's chilly, it is so easy for me to place some starter into a zipper bag and press the air out putting the starter in one of the pockets.  My body keeps the starter warm and happy during the day.   I burp it if I need to and if I'm worried about bag integrity, slip it inside a second bag.  It works wonderfully!  At night it sits on the counter in a bowl.  Feed before you wear it around and not before the cool phase at night.  The night works like retardation.  Later when the starter is stronger and producing more yeast, just leave out on the counter top.

latanante's picture
latanante

So I tried to keep it warm and feeding it only when it finished peeking and coming down (which has only happened twice this week) I try to keep it warm In a styrophome container and in the microwave (as an insulator not nuking it...)

im really at a loss... Should I just start over ? It hasn't done anything in two days even with being warm...

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

because the starter creatures will be more active.  Give them more food to thicken them up and see if you now get more rise from them.

Try a 1:10:10 feeding   and a smaller 1:5:5 feeding.   And see how long they take to peak.  The 1:10:10 should take between 8 and 12 hrs.  

The 1:5:5 less time, chill an hour after the peak and keep for a back up starter.  Take a break from feeding  

Take the peaking 1:10:10 about an hour after peaking and make bread from it.  Save 15g to feed 1:5:5 keeping it warm after feeding for 8 to 12 hrs and then on the counter unheated at night (or however you work out the schedule.)  Refresh every 24 hrs.  for about a week.   Use accumulated starter discards for baking.   So the pattern is: feed 1:5:5 > warm 8 to 12 hrs > cold 12 to 16 hrs ---> repeat every 24 hrs.

Now to wean the starter off the added heat: 

If your kitchen stays at 15°C you might want to put the ripe starter (165g) on the counter (after the week of feeding) and let it cool to room temp.  Then go to a 2:1:1 feeding without discarding  (165g +85 +85) watching the starter.  That gives you about 330g of starter on the counter top in a big jar.  When it is ripe (peaked)  and you want to bake, feed this starter the amount of flour and water you need 24 hrs before you plan to mix your dough.  If the starter is not progressing 8 hrs prior to the time you want to mix your dough, warm up the starter in the cooler with warm water approx. 30°C to get it to ferment and peak.  Remove Starter from the cooler's warmth.  Remove what you need for the recipe and return the jar to the counter.  At 15 °C it should be fine for a few days before you build for the next bake.  

If this is not working for you, another method is to use the chilled 1:5:5 starter in the fridge.  Remove 20g starter (put the jar of starter back into the fridge) and feed the 20g  on a ratio  of   1:10:10  keeping it warm (26 °C) until it peaks, then use in a recipe.   Each time you bake, inoculate flour and water and keep it warm to peak.   When you get low on Chilled Mother starter, make some more and depending on when you need it for baking let it rise anywhere from 1/3 to close to peaking, chill.  One third rise will be ready to use in a few days and up to 3 weeks.   A fully risen (first peak) starter can be used right away or chilled and used up to one and a half weeks.   

The great thing about baked bread in a 15°C kitchen is that it doesn't tend to dry out.  You can leave the bread on the bread board with the cut side down and that is enough.

If you want to shift to higher hydration starters for their advantage in fermenting a little bit faster in cooler weather, add more water to your starter and use more starter in your recipes.  Liquid starters will not rise as high as the bubbles rise and break sooner but it is an neat area to experiment.  Read more in the site archives under liquid starters.  Some are 2:2:1 (s:w:f) or 200% hydration.  This is closer to the old traditional volume starter of:  at least one-two cups starter to one cup flour and one cup water (190% hydration approx.) remove one cup of what is needed and replace with one each of water and flour.  Some separation may occure near the top due to the weight of flour.  Starter activity should be stirring the starter so if you see early separation, stir or taste the starter to check on fermentation activity.   Let the starter ferment longer before adding food if starter is mild.  

 

For example a convienient  1:2:3 (s:w:f) sourdough recipe would be changed to read  1.5 :1.5 :3  roughly with a 200% hydration starter.

Starter   (w/f)                Water       Flour      (s:w:f)        increase          weight                       

100g   (50g/50g)          200g        300g       (1:2:3)          x 100            600g dough        

200g   (100g/100g)     400g         600g      (1:2:3)          x 200          1200g dough

150g   (100g/50g)        150g         300g       (1.5:1.5:3)    x 100           600g dough          

300g   (200g/100g)     300g        600g       (1.5:1.5:3)    x 200         1200g dough     

 

 

AdelK's picture
AdelK

I've recently had the same problem as you but I persisted. My starter has now come back to life. I'll show you two pictures before and after I adopted the advice of Mini Oven. I left the jar in my room for 12 hours on both occasions.

Before (normal purge and normal feed)

After (extensive purging of old starter with normal feed)

The difference here is obvious. What I did for the second picture was to take out 2/3rd of the starter (a lot more than I normally would) and fed it with the usual amount of rye and water. I think what it does is to dilute the acid that the bacteria has over-produced when the starter was neglected. That gives the yeast a chance to spring back into action.

Hope this is of some help. Someone has mentioned before that old sourdough starter desn't necessarily taste lots better than new ones but for me there's almost a sentimental value to my Francis the starter because it was the first one ever owned.

Good luck!

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

You need Warmth =70-80 degrees. At 85 degrees you can feed it 100% every what 8 hours. When its real foamy it's about to get hungry. The glass jar is working but is not quite hungry. I look at the top of whatever vessel I'm using, when its getting tiny bubbles in the middle of a foaming cauldron it's a little overdue to be fed.
You are banking time when you over feed the starter --its no waste, it is time in a bottle. To release the genie, expose to warmth.

AdelK's picture
AdelK

By foamy do you mean the appearance of the top layer as you take the lid off and look down into it or  the amount of bubbles visible on the sies of the jar?

 

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

Foamy as in if you take a spoonful of it and drop it in water it will float. That is the benchmark from the Tartine book and it is a good gauge.  

JimmySting's picture
JimmySting

Thanks for input!

I reduced feeding quantity to 1:1:1 as suggested and let did my best to keep my bedroom warm.

Starter has shown a really big bounce back. It's been more than doubling after each feed and smells great.

Question: Is there a point to switch back to a 1:2:2 feed?