The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter wars

SDbaker's picture

Starter wars

I've been reading about the various theories on importing a "foreign" starter to your home region and whether or not it will eventually be taken over by local yeast strains.  Does anyone have data from personal experiance?  I purchased the King Arther standard sourdough starter and the instructions included a note that it would eventually be populated by local strains.

 SD Baker

Jeffrey's picture

No, i don't think your local starter will take over your fancy imported one.  Do You really think that people would make such a big deal about a starter, that's not even stable enough to hold it's own with some common microbes that dwell in your rye.


Sorry, but if your common yeast can overtake your store bought stuff, then keep it.  More than likely, over time, you'll have a blend of the fancy stuff, and all sorts of little things that can sort of keep up.  Whatever happens in there, you're starter will change, it's just the way it works.


We've made a bunch of starters, and to be honest there's just not that much difference, we just keep getting, more "common" starter, maybe that's why people send off for levien.  Maybe after a couple hundred years, it's stable enough to hold it's own, and change is slower.


What i dream of, is a starter that's been kept over generations, and never dried up.  Some microbes don't do as well dried.


at least this is my humble opinion.




crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Hey SD Baker

This is a great question.  I have seen many different starters from different places for sale.  I have always held back because I did not want to pay for a starter that would possibly end up the same as my already established starter.  I made my starter from organic raisens that came from the Napa Valley.  I also made a starter off of my neighbors grapes here in Portland.  Both starters were so similar in every way I could not tell the difference.  I make feed and store my starters in a closed environment.  Exposure to outside yeasties is minimized this way.  Because of this I feel that the flour would be the main contributer to the "profile" of any given starter.  What i'm saying is if you live in Portland and have a real San Fran starter and feed it with flour from lets say Spokane or even Montana what kind of starter do you end up with in 6 months?  My feeling is you will end up with a Spokane or Montana starter.  I am hoping I am wrong on this.  I would like to hear more on this because I would love to be able to have a couple of different strains of yeast going to make bread with different flavors.  Have a great 4th all.

Da Crumb Bum     

JMonkey's picture

This has been a topic of hot debate in baking circles, but from what I've read, it seems that, so long as the starter is well maintained, it'll remain stable and not be taken over by other strains. If you let it go without feeding for a while, however, it may become vulnerable to takeover.

But I've only had direct experience with my own starters; I've never bought one or used one from some other locale.

ehanner's picture

I read just last night on on this very subject. One thing that seems to ring clear in my mind is that the LB that has been identified as something like Sanfransicanosus (I know I mangled that but I think it's pretty brash to name it after a place in a marketing scheme), exists only in bakeries. As far as I can determine there has never been a natural source discovered. I did read read somewhere that a scientist in Italy isolated the specific LB on the teeth of a child and also in the wheat but I can't confirm that.

Many professional bakers have been known to say that if you want to copy a bakers bread, worry not about his starter but rather discover what and how he feeds his starter. This seems to make sense but flies in the face of Dr Woods research and bank of starters from around the world. Woods claims to have unique starters from many regions and time periods and many customers have commented on the unique nature of one over another.

 In my own case, after being a sourdough baker for about a year now, I have tried 5 separate starters. One I created from scratch here in my kitchen and 4 obtained from others. They all made good bread but one is exceptional in terms of creating a nice mellow sour flavor. I have saved to the freezer all but the one exceptional strain which I use every day. That starter by the way came from a friend in the UK who got it from San Francisco. Go figure.



SDbaker's picture

..any food chem/bio masters students out there looking for a thesis topic?    : )

leemid's picture

and the SF starter is staying unique, as is the Oregon Trail starter. Those who have been discussing this issue here for the last few months have read of my initial experiences. I still make bread from both, the SF starter named Franco makes excellently sour bread with very much the same taste each time (and very much recognizable as SF sourdough), variations attributable to differing flour and other environmentals. Otis makes excellently mild, flavorful bread with superior rise and crumb. Franco seems to prefer a tighter crumb, but then I am making dryer bread with him. Side by side, same-recipe tests show that Franco is much wetter dough, all things being equal. But the starters aren't morphing into Frotto or Otanco or MudFlatSlim either.

Bottom line is no one cares enough to find the answers we all want, who has the money to fund the project. So you say poh-tay-toh, I say pah-tah-tah; let's call the whole thing off.

That's my story,


Jeffrey's picture

Maybe it's the blending of starters, that makes it unique.  Did fortyniners, think so much of sourdough that they shared it, thus blending many yeasts.  On the Oregon Trail, where they all depended on one another, for survival, share something simple like starter.  The Amish, made it customary, to pass around "Friendship Dough", which is one of the unique starters.


The granny starters, that are passed down for generations, have long been invaded with countless microbes.  Maybe that's what makes them what they are, numerous strains all living together, keeping it stable, so it doesn't, just get taken over by any Johnny come lately. 


oh well...