The Fresh Loaf

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DIFFERENT TYPES OF STARTERS -Interesting Experiments

OneLoafMan's picture

DIFFERENT TYPES OF STARTERS -Interesting Experiments

Other than making bread I love to play around with my starters and see how different conditions effect its performance.
I have found out something quite interesting about my starters...

I have raised two completely different starters that are different enough that you can tell which one is which even blindfolded. Both Starters are a few months old now and quite stable. I was very careful not to cross contaminate flours in the first month until the starters stabilized.

Starter 1: Originating, purely from rye
-This starter will not rise if I feed it purely flour, it will only become very bubbly.
-Even if I feed it pure flour for more than a week it does not change this characteristics.
-Starter only double in size when fed some rye.
-It generally takes 10-12 hours to double.
-The starter will always smell pungent like vinegar regardless of what I feed it.
-Resulting loaf is very flavorful and sour, but very difficult to get ideal structure, due to thinner margins of error.

Starter 2: Originating, Purely from wheat
 -Starter will still rise if fed purely rye but takes 10 hours approx. The rise is noticeable but does not completely double.
-If fed pure rye for more than a week, it still maintains its distinct characteristics.
-When I feed this starter flour it will double in size in 6-8 hours.
-The starter always has a yeasty ripe fruit type smell mixed with an alcoholic smell regardless of what i feed it.
-The bread it makes generally is less flavorful but with a nicer shape, matrix and texture. I am convinced that this starter is not capable of make a loaf that is as flavorful as the rye starter

When I make two loaves under the exact same conditions but with different starters the loaves come out completely different. You can tell which one is which immediately.

Has anyone who has done something similar experienced similar results? I would love to hear about it

Got-to-Baguette-Up's picture


It sounds like the one that you made with pure rye has a higher bacterial load, because rye is a much 'dirtier' flour as far as that goes.  

Even when you feed it white or whatever, that heavy bacterial culture has stabilized and remains.  As such, your dough is always more sluggish, taking longer, and giving you 'thinner margins of error', though really its just that this starter is less effective so it can't aid the bread structure as much. 

Personally, I would just use starter #2 and try to get sour flavor another way.  

Either way, thanks for your thoughts. 

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I haven't done anything quite as specific as you, nor have I tracked the differences over time, but I'm not surprised at the results given all the different kinds of bacteria and yeasts that colonize starters. Thanks for documenting this.

I use one of Hamelman's recipes (beer bread) that takes a stiff rye starter AND a liquid bread flour starter. One for flavour, one for rise. Try that!

pul's picture

Try mixing both starters and see what you get. Perhaps build two different levains to use in the same loaf.

gillpugh's picture

Depending on what bread taste I'm trying to achieve, I sometimes use two starters, and keep both on the go.

a white one, which is 80 hydration and is fermented low and dry as per Daneyo.  This starter is milky, yogurt smelling but is full of yeast but not much LAB, it has great lifting power.

chocolate levan, as per Vanessa Kimball book, which has a lovely sour notes, is fermented with a bit of cacao powder and raw cane sugar

i usually add 20% extra levan than the recipe asked for, I don't notice any jump with the bulk rise time.   

Im not sure if using two is just phsicalogical, but it's fun too, like blending fine wines!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and at what temperatures?   Exact weights would be helpful.

They sound underfed to me...  high bacteria count...