The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rye starter died on the 5th day

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Rye starter died on the 5th day

Hi everyone,
few days ago I started the process of making my own rye starter and everything was going well, nicely bubbly and triple volume...until the fifth day (after 12hours) when my starter didn't show any sign of life and it lost some of the beer aroma that it was developing.
Is it dead?

Here the process

DAY 1
• 20 gr rye flour
• 20 gr water (from the bottle)
• 1/3 tsp honey

- Mixed everything in a clean jar with a clean spoon.
- Put a loose lid on it.
- Let it rest for 24 hours in the cupboard.

———————————

DAY 2-3-4-5
• 20 gr rye flour
• 20 gr water (from the bottle)

- Added the above ingredients directly into the jar with the starter.
- Mixed every time with a clean spoon.
- Put a loose lid on it.
- Let it rest for 24 hours in the cupboard.

Here some factors I suspect might be the reason of the death.

DAY 3
I moved the jar into a different cabinet, but the day after the starter was nice and bubbly.

DAY 4
The starter grew so much that it started to collapse.
I opened a pack of dried chilli peppers that I stored in the same cabinet.
I was opening the cabinet more often.
I changed the brand of the water.

 

What I am asking you guys now is...is there any hope that it is still alive? Is there something I can do to bring it back to life? Or should I contact a funeral parlour?


Thank you for your help :-)

 

 

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Quiet on day 5 is perfectly normal. Time for you to put your feet up and take a break. Keep warm and give it a stir once a day otherwise don't feed till it begins to show signs of life again.

Your starter may not look like its doing much but things are happening. The PH level will lower (it's becoming acidic) to support all the critters that live in a starter. Feeding it too much too soon at this stage only delays this process. Keeping it warm and slowing down your feeds will speed it up. Once the yeasts and bacteria take hold then they will need feeding again. Slowly at first and as it gains in strength then you increase your feeds to match.

You're right on track.

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Thank you for your reassuring answer Abe, I will follow your advice.
The only question I have is: how long should I wait before diagnosing the biological death in case there will be no reaction? 

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Bad bacteria take the upper hand by way of contamination.

You keep it too warm and kill off the good bacteria and yeasts (I highly doubt you can do this by-mistake but I once tried to speed mine up by putting it on the radiator and cooked it).

You completely neglect it for too long.

Then it will turn into a starter. You will have to practice patience and it might take two or three days but don't worry. Even if it begins to smell a bit not to worry. Over the next day or two just keep warm and stir once a day. When it shows a little activity then give it a small feed then wait again. At this stage it doesn't need feeding any more than every 24 hours. Once it gets stronger and quicker then you can increase the feeds and up it to every 12 hours.

Should your starter go quiet for a few days, it begins to get liquidy and/or it gets a bit smelly then you can give it a small feed even if it's not showing any signs of life yet. Just add a teaspoon or two of flour, to thicken it up, and give it a good stir then wait a little while longer.

Patience is the game.

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Dear Abe thank you so much for being so detailed in your answer.
Ok then, to sum-up I will do the followings:

• For the next 2-3 days I will not feed it, but I will only keep it warm-ish and stir it once per day.

• Once I see the first sign of activity I will give it a small feed (20gr rye flour+ 20gr water?) every 24hrs.

• If after 3 days the starter doesn't show any sign of life / it becomes liquid / it becomes smelly I will give it a small feed (1-2 tsp of rye flour, no water) and I will wait a bit longer.

Did I understand correctly?

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

see how it fares over the next few days and report back with an update.

Just to be sure... have you been discarding at all e.g. keeping 20g of starter and feeding 20g water + 20g flour, or have you just kept feeding it 20g water + 20g flour everyday?

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

I didn't discard any starter (until this morning), during these days I've been adding flour and water (20g water + 20g rye flour) on the whole amount of starter. And it worked fine...until today.

So this morning I took 30gr of starter (and kept the rest in its jar) and I added 25gr of rye flour + 25gr of water.

So now I have two jars:
- one with the original starter (fed without discarding anything) 
- one with the new starter (fed in the proportion 30g starter + 25g rye flour + 25g water)

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

But feed the same amount everyday then each feed is a smaller ratio.

That is fine for the first few days. It actually encourages the ph level to lower. So you've taken off 30g and given it a healthier feed. Now leave it alone till you notice a change. Keep them going side by side and see how they both fare. 

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Great, today I learnt something new... and it is just the beginning!.
I will keep you posted (maybe by adding pictures too).

Thanks for your consultation :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that slowed the chain of events down.  Bacteria killer that one if true honey.  Great for yeast water in small amounts, lousy for sourdough starters.  Rye flour is fine all by itself.  :).  

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Oh wow, I actually thought that honey could have helped and instead...never trust honey, never! ;-)

It is weird because at the beginning it looked like everything was fine, on the 4th day the yeast was even triple volume and full of bubbles...Ahh I have to learn so much about sourdough chemistry.

Let's see how it goes in the next days. Fingers crossed!

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

UPDATE

Today still no changes to the starter, as adviced I added a bit of rye flour and water and mixed everything, I'll keep you posted.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

what are the temperatures?  (Culture, room, and resting spot). Location and season might also be helpful.

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

As I'm in the same city. London, UK. Hasn't been too warm here and nights are cold. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

better be watching those temps then and they could be slowing things down. Gotta get up to 24°C at least or count two or three days as one.  If following a "day"plan.  

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

It's just 8°C (night time). It's a shame because two months ago it was hovering at 28-30°C. A perfect time to make a starter. 

When I made my first starter in these temps it took two weeks. Unless one can find a good way to keep a warm even temperature. 

Day time it's really up and down. One day 19°C and then next 12°C. But temps aren't close enough to 24°C.

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Actually yes it is a bit cold lately, I keep the jar in a kitchen cupboard and the temperature is around 18°C.

Should I wrap the jar with a scarf or maybe there are better ways to keep it warm? My oven unfortunately doesn't have the bulb (it is broken).

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

On top of the fridge. It's surprisingly warm there. Or do you have an airing cupboard?

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

On top of the fridge seems a good idea Abe, should I keep it covered with something to avoid the light? 

 

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

TBH I've never had this issue , so never given it much thought, but I do believe that it should be kept out of direct sunlight. Other then that you don't need to be concerned.

Be aware that cooler temps will mean your starter will take a long time and test your patience. Persevere! Keep it warm and it'll speed up. On top of the fridge is an ideal temperature. So give it a good stir (they don't need oxygen but the critters like it) and try on top of the fridge.

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Always super kind, thank you Abe and thanks also to everyone is helping me in this topic :)

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Bubbles

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

There's life in your starter. It's waking up. 

24 hours after the last feed try another feed of 2:1:1. 

E.g. 40g starter + 20g water + 20g flour. 

Keeping warm on top of the fridge. 

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Yayyy! Ok I fed it last time yesterday evening, so I will feed it again as per your instruction. I will keep you posted with pictures :)

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Looks even better on a bigger screen. I think you're over the worst. If by tomorrow morning, 12 hours after this feed, it looks like this or better then go onto a 1:1:1 feed - 35g starter + 35g water + 35g flour. 

If it's still a tad slow then wait till 24 hours after this feed and see hows it's doing. If you do have to wait 24 hours before you see anything and it has the same activity then feed 2:1:1 again. 

Should it slow down again then wait, stir and keep warm. 

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

This morning (after 12 hrs) the starter looked nicely bubbly and almost doubled, here the picture.

I will feed it on the ratio 1:1:1 as suggested... I feel so grateful for your kind help :)

Bubbles doubled

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

It's getting nice and active and it's being kept warm. Keep the discard in the fridge from now on. Don't throw it out. It can be used as back up or in other recipes.  

When can you check up on it through the day?

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Aww... if it survives I will name it after you Abe :) I will be able to check it out in the late afternoon, should I feed it again this evening(after 12 hrs), or maybe tomorrow morning(after 24 hrs)?

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

I'm thinking it will just get stronger now. It's had a 1:1:1 feed and it's being kept at a good temperature. You might find it'll peak and begin to fall within 12 hours. Look for the signs like mark on the jar where the starter reached.

Check it late afternoon and see how it's doing. If it looks like it has peaked and fallen then feed again but this time 1:2:2 - 20g starter + 40g water + 40g flour.

If it looks like this and it's still going strong then wait the full 12 hours and give it a 1:2:2 feed.

If it is showing some activity but it's still a bit sluggish then wait 12 hours and repeat the 1:1:1 feed.

If no activity then just stir and skip a feed (but I don't think this will be the case). Just make sure if it looks like there's been no activity it might mean it's peaked and fallen but there will be bubbles covering the surface.

I will be most honoured :)

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Good morning Abe, the starter looks great.

Yesterday evening it was like this, and I fed it 1:2:2

This morning even better, should I feed it again 1:2:2?

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Good Morning Giorgella. Starter looks great. Let's increase the feed. 

1:5:5 and keep discard in the fridge.  

10g starter + 50g water + 50g flour. And if within 12 hours it's as impressive then you can start to think about your first bake. 

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Ueeee I'm so excited! Ok this morning it will get a champion's breakfast ;)

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Recipe:

  • 500g bread flour
  • 325g water
  • 10g salt
  • 5g dried yeast

Recipe using discard:

  • 450g bread flour
  • 275g water
  • 10g salt
  • 2.5g dried yeast
  • 100g discard @ 100% hydration

I don't think anything too fancy just yet so we'll leave out all the extra steps and go straight into the final dough...

1: in a bowl mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, yeast)

2: make a well in the dry ingredients, add the water and starter

3: break up the starter in the water and slowly mix in the dry ingredients until the dough is formed

4: knead till full gluten formation (about 8-10 minutes)

5: cover the bowl and leave to rise till doubled

6: pre-shape and bench rest for 20 minutes

7: shape and final proof till ready (just under doubled about 40 minutes but watch the dough)

8: bake

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

Ok I fed it with the ratio 1:5:5 (what a greedy starter!) but now I have another question: since my plan is to bake a rye/wheat bread, should I feed the starter with a mix of rye and white wheat flour

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

When your starter is up and running you only need to keep a little at any one time. Say about 80-100g and it'll live in the fridge. When it comes to baking take a little off and build an off-shoot starter - a levain - but this time you'll build it with the recipe in mind. So your starter might be all rye at 100% hydration but the levain might be 50:50 rye and bread flour at 80% hydration, for example. So your starter is where you store the yeasts and bacteria but not necessarily built for the recipe you're following and the levain will be a purposefully built starter geared for the recipe. This way you can use one starter for many different types of bread and you don't have to keep feeding your starter everyday.

When your starter runs low, take it out of the fridge give it some TLC and return it to the fridge. Easy maintenance.

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

I like your way to explain, it is always very clear and with no room for misunderstanding :)

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

This evening the started grew very well again :)

I put it in the fridge now (I didn't feed or stirred it) and Im planning to use it on Saturday, thank you Abe for your support till now, you've been very kind and patient.

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Best if luck and looking forward to your bakes. 

Giorgella's picture
Giorgella

And thanks to the super kind Abe I finally made my first sourdough loaf :-D

Thank you Abe, your support gave me faith in sourdough (after failed 5 attempt to make it!)

Ok I cheated a bit because other than wheat and rye I also used vital gluten (please forgive me...I'm a beginner!) but the result surprised me! My husband loves it too :-)

Thank you thank you thank you grazie!

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Hard work and patience pays off. Lovely colour, crust and crumb. 

A successful bake all round. I'm sure we'll be seeing plenty more.

Enjoy!