The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Is Only Rising 2x, I'm Looking for 3x or More

TwoCats's picture

Starter Is Only Rising 2x, I'm Looking for 3x or More

I have a pretty old starter (100% rye) that I've been using for years now. I usually keep it in the fridge when I'm not baking, but take it out and feed it once or twice (10g seed, 10g water, 10g rye) before a bake. It's been pretty happy because it's all rye.

It's not strongest of starters because it's rye, but it's been working.

I was looking through FullProofBaking's Instagram account and was inspired by the activity in her starter and her ratios (10% rye, 90% bread flour). I understand that higher bread-flour ratio will give me a stronger/more extensible starter.

I wanted to use her ratios for my starter, so I did it and noticed only about a 2x rise, even with three feeds a day at 1:2:2 (each feed at peak) at anywhere between 74–80ºF. I know that the more active the starter, the more open the bake.

How do I encourage my starter to get closer to 3x? I was thinking perhaps I should leave more opportunity for wild yeast to enter into the mix, but I'm not sure that's the right direction to take.

If this question has already been answered, please share the link!

BakersRoom's picture

Maybe feed it 1:5:5 or even less, like 1:8:8 for a few times.  It helps clean things up, and then when you go back to 1:2:2, you'll see more activity.  
Since you kept it 100% rye before now, theres a lot of bacteria that carries over in high innoculation feedings.  

TwoCats's picture

Will feed it a higher ratio dilute the seed too much?

DanAyo's picture

“I was looking through FullProofBaking's Instagram account and was inspired by the activity in her starter and her ratios (10% rye, 90% bread flour). I understand that higher bread-flour ratio will give me a stronger/more extensible starter.”

The bread flour supplies the gluten necessary to contain the gas in order for your starter to rise higher.


“I know that the more active the starter, the more open the bake.”

I used to belief like you, but I am no longer sure about that. My starter is kept on the counter and fed twice a day. I have seen it consistently quadruple, so I consider the starter very active. My breads consistently produce a nice moderately open honeycomb crumb, but try as I might extremely open crumb is a rare event for me.

Others on the forum are more knowledgable than I concerning the starter feeds and rise, so I’ll wait for their replies.

Good Luck


Oh! Kristen is a phemon, a super gifted baker.

BakersRoom's picture

Why do you think its such a rare event?  I've really been trying to nail this down.  

I see Maurizio, for example, always having a wild, open crumb with a small hole/bread size ratio.  
I'm not in love with this style, but I want to be able to make it if I want.  

I'm thinking it has a lot to do with how quick your starter is able to get activity going.  You see, as fermentation goes on, The big bubbles that form at first settle down into little bubbles.  Time and handling are the enemies of bubble size.  So, a vigorous, short bulk (3 hours) at a high temp (85) with a 12 or 15% innoculation by dough weight should produce those big bubbles.  Then, they need to be trapped as the dough stiffens in the fridge (42 degrees). 

I've been experimenting with this method and getting closer and closer to the kind of crumb I want.  I'll keep you posted, but what are some of your thoughts on what makes this type of crumb happen?

TwoCats's picture

To be honest, it really does seem like getting to the point of being able to achieve a consistent open crumb takes years of practice, at least based on observing the progress of those who've been chasing it. For instance, I was looking at Maurizio's loaves from a few years ago, and they were still a bit tight. If you look at his posts from 2015 or even 2016, his crumbs weren't as holey as they are today. I'm very curious about the ways in which he changed up his process to get his beautiful crumbs. I don't think he's really laid it out step by step (as Kristen at fullproofbaking has), has he?

I do believe that half of the trick, based on what I've read so far in Trevor Wilson's PDF, is how you handle and "read" the dough. I'm trying out the Rubaud method to see if I can coax a more-consistent open crumb. And the other half of the equation is a very happy and well-fed starter, of course.

Since posting this question on Friday, my starter has gotten to about 2.8x in growth after about 10 hours of hanging out at anywhere between 70–75º this weekend, so I'm happy!

I played around with a few feedings since Friday, and I discovered that feeding the starter at 1:3:3 (higher ratio as recommended by a poster here!) slightly after it collapses (from the rounded dome) helped with encouraging more activity. Before, I was feeding the starter when it reached the dome because I read that as "peak," but I'm finding that feeding the starter when it's a touch hungrier/after it collapses encourages more growth!

I have a new loaf going. I used the 2.8x starter to create the levain, used a younger levain (at about 2x, instead of 3x, as Kristen does), and timed the fold, lamination, and coil folds based on feel rather than time. I also pretty aggressively used the Rubaud mixing at the beginning. This is how how my bulk ferment is looking after the last coil fold and about 60 minutes before I'm read to shape. I'm cautiously hopeful:

I'll report back with the crumb shot!

Some thoughts about an open crumb in general: I'm not that interested in eating a piece of bread with huge, irregular holes, to be honest. I'm more interested in the lacey texture that allow jams and butter to sit atop toast. My interest in the open crumb is more about understanding how dough can be manipulated to create desired effects. I think a lot of people chase it for the same reason.

TwoCats's picture

I know it's definitely a combination of starter and how you handle the dough. I'm reading through Trevor Wilson's PDF right now to learn a bit more about how to achieve the open crumb!

Yes, Kristen is SUCH a talented baker. And she's very generous with how she shares her process. I really appreciate her work, and she has taught me so much in a short amount of time.

TwoCats's picture

Here's how the crumb turned out, if anyone's interested.

I'm not sure how to flip the orientation of the image here!

I think it could have been a tad looser (probably could've pushed the ferment a little longer), but I'm pretty happy with the result, in terms of my what I was expecting given how little practice I've had in deliberately creating an open crumb.

The only issue I did have with this bake was the sides of the loaf—they were a bit flat and did not have a ton of oven spring to them. Any ideas as to why? I'm thinking it had to do with shaping.