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New starter, 7 days in, do I still feed if no activity?

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

New starter, 7 days in, do I still feed if no activity?

Hello All!

I'm 7 days in on a new starter.  Building with a 70%/30% ratio of unbleached all purpose flour / 100% stone ground rye flour.  Had 2x growth days 2 & 3, days 4 & 5 I had minimal growth but had that strong, pungent, funky/cheesy smell and very thin consistency... so I believe I was heading in the right direction.  Now on day 7 smell is gone, starter has thickened up a little, no longer runny, so I think this is all good.  But, absolutely no activity/growth for the past 2 days.  For the first 4 days I was feeding 1:1:1 every 24 hours.  Last 3 days been feeding 1:1:1 every 12 hours.

Should I keep feeding even when I see no activity/growth or should I hold on feeding until I see activity/growth then pick up on feeding again?

(Note: The pic is after I fed this morning.  It looked identical before I fed.  The slight bit of liquid you see just around the edge of the starter is water, not hooch.  I washed the jar and forgot to totally dry it before adding starter back to the jar after this mornings feeding.)

I'm new to this...  looking for some guidance.

Thanks!

Sandy

"UPDATE" - For those finding this thread in the future I've pulled the "Starter Log" detail up here to the beginning so you don't have to wonder what the answer was to my issue.  Bottom line...  I had overfed my starter by feeding multiple times when no activity was visible.  This resulted in diluting my starting and looking as if my starter had failed.  With the help of many in this forum I stopping the feeding for several days... it finally woke up as the active bacteria and yeast quantities recovered.  Read full thread for some of the valuable discussion.

 

Starter Log:

Day 1

  • Started with 1:1 (25g:25g) 70/30 flour mix of unbleached all purpose/100% rye (stone ground) & filtered/de-chlorinated water.

Day 2

  • Just stirred in the morning, did not feed.  By 3PM starter doubled in volume (2X), by 9PM increased in volume to 2.5X (peak).

Day 3

  • 8AM the starter had fallen by 50% after peak.  A strong funky/cheesy smell had developed.  Consistency had thinned.  First feeding: 1:1:1 (20g:20g:20g)

Day 4

  • 8AM 30% growth overnight.  Bad smell getting much stronger.  Consistency much thinner.  Fed: 1:1:1 (16g:16g:16g)
  • 11PM 0% growth, Bad smell remains, consistency thinned even more, very pourable.  Fed: 1:1:1 (15g:15g:15g)

Day 5

  • 1PM 0% growth overnight and up to 1PM, bad smell remains but not as strong, not as thin as Day 4.  Fed: 1:1:1 (16g:16g:16g)

Note: This is where I believe I started to go wrong...  I continued feeding here and 3 more times when no activity was visible.  This diluted my starter.

Day 6

  • 8AM 0% growth, bad smell is almost gone, consistency getting thicker, Fed: 1:1:1 (16g:16g:16g)
  • 9PM 10% growth, bad smell gone, continues to thicken, have to help pour from jar, Fed: 1:1:1 (16g:16g:16g)

Day 7

  • 8AM 0% growth, smell of flour, maybe a hist of sour, consistency continues to thicken, Fed: 1:1:1 (16g:16g:16g)
  • 8PM 0% growth, no change in smell, decided not to feed due to multiple feedings without activity.  Thinking I may be diluting starter.

Day 8

  • 8AM 0% growth, no change in smell, consistency good, holds onto spatula.  Moved to controlled temp: 78-80 degrees.  Did not feed...  watching and waiting.
  • 9PM 0% growth, no change in smell, consistency good, now see about 5 VERY TINY bubbles on surface.  DId not feed... continuing to watch.
  • (Note: pulled 5.5g from this starter to a new jar, fed 1:2:2 (5.5g:11g:11g) as a test.  No activity here either.) 

Day 9

  • 7AM 0% growth, no activity, no change, no smell, no tiny bubbles, nothing.  Looks like a thick melted milk shake.
  • I stirred, did not feed, placed in 80 degree environment.  Will continue to watch and wait...  not giving up.  However, I did start a new starter :( so I guess I do have a little doubt.
  • 8PM 0% growth, no activity, a couple very small bubbles on surface, light sour smell is noticeable (hmmm...), consistency is good.
  • I just stirred again and left in oven targeting a 78º

Day 10

  • 7AM "IT'S ALIVE" 
  • woke up to about a 10% rise and several larger bubbles on the surface.  Light sour smell still there.  As I stirred starter it had a spongy consistency indicating CO2 had developed overnight.  I think I am back in business.
  • Did not feed, will continue to watch today, see what kind of activity develops, then will slowly pick up feeding and watching.
  • 12PM (noon) Peaked with 1.5x rise by noon.  Fed 2:1:1 (22g:11g:11g) to watch activity before going into overnight.
  • 9PM Peaked about 2x.  Fed: 1:1:1 (15g:15g:15g)  

Day 11

  • 5AM was at it's peak, but no drop, so left alone.  Pic of what it looked like at 5AM:

  • 7AM fell just a bit when I placed jar back down after peeking at it...  so decided to feed.  Fed: 1:1:1 (15g:15g:15g).

Fast forward... 7 days later...

Day 18 - First bake attempt...  could be better... but I'll take it. :)

  •  
Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

By now you should be feeding at a 1-2-2 ratio [starter-water-flour].  The goal is to grow a concentrated colony that has the strength of population to eat larger amounts of flour.  Once it's doubling or tripling consistently every 4-8 hours with 1-2-2 feedings, it's ready to make levain.  But it's helpful if this takes place in the mid-70s F.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

I can see going to a 1:2:2 if I have activity and see a peak and fall with my 1:1:1 feed.  But, if I'm not seeing any activity with my 1:1:1 feeding, why would I go to 1:2:2?  I would think this would just dilute any active yeast I may have to date.

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

I'm assuming there is activity if you have been doing regular feedings.  The fact is it would be very difficult to stop the yeast and bacteria from proliferating.  The risk is that you would kill it by leaving it on the counter unfed.  It will get nasty if you do that.  Otherwise, there's really no way to stop it from happening, as long as you use filtered water and feed/discard regularly.  Within 10-14 days you should be able to bake with it.

Here's what I used:

http://yumarama.com/968/starter-from-scratch-intro/

 

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Filomatic, I'll keep feeding and give it a few more days...  if nothing starts then I'll try 1:2:2.  

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks for the thought.  I'm giving it a try.  I took 5.5g of starter and added 11g of 70/30 starter flour mix and filtered/ de-chlorinated water.  I've placed it in 78 degree environment along with the original starter that I did not feed to see if I get any activity.  Will be interesting to watch.  Thanks again for your suggestion!  

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

As you know I am not convinced there was no activity.  There's usually a lot of activity, even if it's not so visible during the initial week--unless you're killing it with chlorine.  The yeast and bacteria are present everywhere, and they will prevail as long as the proper conditions exist, and those conditions are easily met.  I recall wondering if mine was really working at just this stage.  It isn't until the 1-2-2 feedings that the activity really becomes apparent, if memory serves.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Well...  based on what I was seeing I'm not sure what else to call it.  After feeding I would put rubber band to mark level.  12 hours, then 24 then next day... for the last 3 days there was no move on the level above the rubber band after each feeding.  There were also no bubbles on any kind in or on the surface of the starter.  Stirring would not decrease the level so no trapped bubbles.  That's why I used the term inactive.

Now, with all that said, I have not fed the starter for the last 36 hours.  It's been sitting between 78-80 degrees for the last 12 hours (prior it was on the counter with temps between 73-75).  Tonight I am starting to see just a few (less than 5) tiny bubbles, and I mean tiny, appearing on the surface.  So, I'm hoping this is an indicator that some activity is about to start again.  I'm really starting to thing I diluted my starter with feeding every 12 hours when there was no activity after that really smelly stage.  Will keep watching and hopefully I'll see some activity in the morning.

Also, I did take 5.5g of the starter, put in another jar and fed 1:2:2 (5.5g,11g,11g) just to see if that would do something.  So far no activity on that one either.

Thanks for your thoughts and recommendations, they are very much appreciated.  This has been very helpful.  Frustrating sometimes... but fun!

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

If there is no activity, don’t feed it. keep it warm and give it a stir.  Wait until it has shown good activity.  otherwise all you are doing is diluting the yeast with each feed and it will get weaker.  I would leaveit 24-48 hours without feeding and see what happens.  Feed it only when there are plenty of bubbles and it has risen.  maybe thicken it a little perhaps.  Patience is the key at this point.

good luck.  Abe is really good with starters - maybe he will comment too.

Leslie

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Leslie,  I agree with your approach.  As you stated, diluting the starter was my concern if I continued feeding without seeing activity...  I figured the longer I fed without activity would only delay seeing activity.  I think I will wait another 12 hours before feeding again...  see if I see anything.

Thanks!

Abe's picture
Abe

That's exactly what I would do. If no activity then what is being fed? Actually what was once a most trying stage of making a starter is now what I find the most fascinating. This is when one can take a break from all this feeding and just observe the starter "doing its thing". Keep it warm, give it a stir every 12 hours, instead of a feed, and see the starter come to life. It's also a lesson in patience which is very satisfying when it pays off.

Make sure the starter is around 75 - 78°F and look for signs of life, for example - the starter turning more like sponge and the aroma changes. Once you see signs of activity then you can begin the feeds again. Feed according the rhythm of the starter. If after a day or two more it begins getting very liquid give it a little more flour just to thicken it up. No need to discard. Then you wait again! Should the starter become more like sponge, but no big rise, then give it a modest feed - perhaps 2:1:1. Once you see it's responding well and getting stronger then increase your feeds accordingly - switch to 1:1:1 and then 1:2:2 etc. And so too with how often.

Once you can give your starter a healthy feed, it responds on cue and has no trouble bubbling up everytime within 6-8 hours it's ready. There's no difinitive "healthy feed" ratio, with the common advice being at least it's own weight in fresh flour, I think if your starter is performing well when being fed 1:5:5 it's good 'n healthy and ready for the first bake. But that's only my personal opinion.

Once your starter does wake up after this quiet period don't throw away the discard anymore. Refrigerate and save it up to use in other recipes and as back-up. Ideally though once your starter is ready you'll work out a method of maintenance where you won't need to discard anymore.

 

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

you are much better with the explanations than I am.  thank you.

Leslie

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Abe,  Thanks for the great info and recommendation.  This makes perfect sense to me.  I feel I was heading in the right direction when in days 3-5 of the new starter it got that really bad/funky/cheesy smell... then 3 days later that smell was gone and the started thickened up again with the 1:1:1 every 12 hour feedings.  I'm really starting to think I may have diluted my starter too much feeding without seeing activity.  I left it overnight without feeding again, still no activity, but I know temp was cool: 73.

I've moved it into a 78 degree controlled environment.  Will watch and wait...   

ifs201's picture
ifs201

Maybe try feeding 1:2:2? I had some issues when I was feeding my starter 1:1:1 in the beginning as it seemed to result in an underfed starter. 

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks for the thought.  I'm giving it a try.  I took 5.5g of starter and added 11g of 70/30 starter flour mix and filtered/ de-chlorinated water.  I've placed it in 78 degree environment along with the original starter that I did not feed to see if I get any activity.  Will be interesting to watch.  Thanks again for your suggestion!  

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

Two things for you:

1.  Are you using tap water?  If so, it is probably chlorinated.  I made that mistake once, and the chlorine completely killed a vigorous, active starter — and our water is not very heavily chlorinated.  I use distilled water, since I also use it in the coffee maker, but filtered water works just as well.

2.  That “cheesy” smell or a smell of acetone is not what you are after, but don’t worry, it will go away.  It simply indicates that you have the wrong bacteria working, which is normal when creating a new starter.  The good bacteria will eventually start making lactic acid, which will kill off the bad stuff.  Sometimes you might smell a vinegary odor; that’s acetic acid, which is okay, too.

When your starter is mature it should smell like yeast, with a slight acidic overtone.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Hello Capn Dub,  Thanks for the reply.  Yep, I agree and I am making sure water is de-chlorinated.  It is tap water, but it is filtered and I let sit on the counter for several days, uncovered, before using.  If I'm not mistaking this allows the chlorine to escape. What I do for fish so I don't kill them :)  I'm going to continue holding on feeding until I see some form of activity no matter how minimal.  I've moved to a more controlled 78 degree environment to see if that helps get things going again, on the counter temps were closer to 73, so hoping that will help.

Thanks again for your help!

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

Assuming your starter is stiff enough to trap the gas, here’s a simple trick to measure what it’s doing.

First, stir it down to release any gas that has formed, then feed it.  Now put a large rubber band around the container at the level of the starter.  Note the time.  Check it every two hours.  Compare the amount of increase, if any, to the original level.  If after eight hours there is no change, or very little, don’t bother feeding it; there is still plenty of starch present.  On the other hand, if it has doubled or more, you are almost there.  Feed it.

Mine more than doubles in four hours.  If yours does this, you have arrived.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Capn Dub for the input.  Yes, I've been doing the rubber band thing from day 1.  Day 2 & 3 I was getting nice 2x & 2.5x increases after feeding.  Then days 3, 4 & 5 I entered into that stage where it got really runny/thin and smelled really bad... funkey/cheesy smell... no real growth during this time.  Then days 5,6 & 7 the smell went away, starter thickened up, but no growth, no bubbles of any kind.  I was feeding 1:1:1 every 12 hours at this time.  I'm starting to think I diluted my starter during those 3 days.  Since yesterday I have not fed, but have been stirring every 12 hours (level is not different after stir so there was no trapped gas), it's been sitting in 78-80 degree range, and tonight I'm just starting to see just a couple tiny bubbles on the surface... so, hoping it's about to get going.  Will see tomorrow.  Thanks again for taking the time to provide some input, it is much appreciated. 

Old Baker's picture
Old Baker

What is the best/proper location to harvest microbes to kick off a SD starter?  The kitchen, out on the porch, the garage?  And how long should the container be left open for the initial inoculation before covering it?

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

The theory that the yeast spores come from the air was disproven decades ago.  In fact, they are present on the grain before it has even been harvested, and are passed on through the milling process to end up in the flour.  This makes sense, since where else could they exist in nature if it were not on the grain on which they depend for food?

clazar123's picture
clazar123

No inoculation needed and the yeasts aren't in the air. Your little yeasty beasties are on the surface of the grain when it is milled so everything you need is already in the flour. Starter made with whole grain flour-which has more of the outer coat where the yeasties live on the grain-is generally more active. so stir and wait.

Old Baker's picture
Old Baker

But I pose this interesting info about making Lambic beer.  Remember, beer is just liquid bread.  This sour beer is brewed in only a certain region of Belgium and is inoculated by a strain of yeast that only occurs there, in the air.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambic

Abe's picture
Abe

But the process is different enough for natural wild yeast to come from different sources.

It is my undertanding that the beer process is as follows (albeit this is very simplified)...

  • 1: Grains are malted to release sugars.
  • 2: The malted grains are then boiled with the addition of hops. This is now called "wort".
  • 3: It's then cooled and yeast is added to the wort . Or in the case of wild beer natural yeasts eventually take hold.
  • Once fermented the beer is born.

Once the grains have been through this process the natural yeasts present on them, which is what is present in sourdough starters, are inactive. So in the case of beer I think it needs to come from the atmosphere.

Long ago beer was very different to today. It was closer to a fermented porridge and probably was closer to how sourdough is fermented and the yeasts, I would have thought, came from the grain itself.

I'm no expert but have an interest in beer making however i've never tried my hand at it. Perhaps someone can chime in and confirm this.

Old Baker's picture
Old Baker

The sugars and microbes are washed from malted grain, then boiled.  Boiling would kill any microbes in the liquid.  In making modern beer, the desired yeast is added to the cooled liquid (wort).  In the case of Lambic beer, the wort is inoculated by airborne microbes.  So there must be microbes floating around in the air.  Lambic beer is still brewed today.

Abe's picture
Abe

And this is how wild yeast beers are made. But when it comes to sourdough starters the microbes are coming from the flour itself. I believe that naturally fermented beer takes quite a long time for the microbes to take up home and ferment the beer. In starters they are laready present. I've often wondered what the benefit might be to inoculate the beer with microbes from a starter. It'll be wild yeast coming from beers non liquid counterpart and quicker.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Just in case anyone is interested, thought I'd share what I've done and where I'm at:

  • I have not fed starter since last feeding 36 hours ago.
  • 12 hours ago starter was placed in temp controlled environment: 78-80 degrees.  (prior to this it was on my counter where temps varied 73 - 75 degrees.)
  • I took 5.5g of starter, placed in another jar, and fed 1:2:2 (5.5g:11g:11g) about 10 hours ago just as a test.  So now I have (2) starters going, the original and this new one as a test.
  • There has been no noticeable activity in either starter since that stage where it got really smelly and thin.  (It's no longer smelly or really thin... but no activity.)
  • Tonight I saw maybe 5 tiny, and I mean VERY TINY, bubbles on he surface of the original starter... maybe this is a sign something is about to happen... fingers crossed.

(Update: For brevity I moved the "Starter Log Detail" up to the opening thread.)

Abe's picture
Abe

Seems like your starter has been behaving as expected and nothing unexpected has occured to suggest something is wrong. Only thing I would have done differently is stopped feeding it after the 8am feed on day 6 (or perhaps earlier after the last feed on day 5). Your starter began to quieten down on day 4 and then came to a stop by that evening but the smell still persisted. While there was no growth after subsequent feeds the bad smell only disappeared by day 6 morning. So those days 5/6 it's very normal for a starter to go through a quiet period and here is when you need to slow down your feedings and allow your starter to dictate when the next feed should be. But you continued to feed twice more at 12 hourly intervals which will only slow things down. Your starter at this stage is sorting itself out. The mixture is becoming acidic to support the little critters that live in a starter. Continue to discard and feeding fresh flour will only slow this process down. It had enough fresh food, the smell had gone but you continued to discard and feed before the yeasts and bacteria had taken hold. This will raise the PH level of the starter which is trying to become acidic and you're throwing away all the critters you want to thrive in your starter.

"When you're in a hole, stop digging!" So many people when they come across the quiet stage increase the feeds to "wake up" the starter.

Keep it warm and continue to stir, instead of feed, every 12 hours. When it wakes up it might be slow at first and will need a nudge in the right direction but all you're doing is looking for signs of life. Usually I find that while it hasn't risen an awful lot (if at all) the mixture looks different to what was once just flour and water. Perhaps you'll see an abundance of small bubbles or when it comes to stirring it looks more sponge like. Then you coax it with a small feed and it should respond well after which you increase the feeds and how often.

 

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Abe,  your input and explanations are very helpful.  I was hopeful I would see signs of recovery this morning...  but bummer... no luck.  Absolutely nothing: no rise, no tiny bubbles, no smell... just looks like a thick melted milkshake.  But...  I'm not giving up on it.  Your comments give me hope :)  I will keep stirring and watching for signs of life then pick up again and feed based on activity and not just a schedule.  Think I'm going to change it's name to "Faith" or "Hope".

Now... to be 100% honest...  I did start a new starter this morning... just in case.  I named it: "Remember".

Question for you related to water.  I'm using tap water filtered through my refrigerator filter that was boiled the day before for coffee and was left sitting overnight.  It's my understanding Chlorine would dissipate through this process.  You think this is an ok process to follow for the water used in the starter?

Benito's picture
Benito

Don't give up.  When I was working on my first starter I gave up too early.  I started a second one using the same flour and after a week I was feeling down about its chances, so I started a third starter with rye.  The rye went crazy and worked super well and at the same time more or less my second starter also took off.  My first one probably would have worked as well if I hadn't given up on it after only 1 week.  Now I have two active starters being fed the same thing.  Interestingly they do have different smells so I have kept both.  I'm still trying to figure how they differ in terms of leavening bread and flavour.

Benny

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Benny,  appreciate the encouragement.  I'm going to stay with this one...  I have to see where it goes. :)

Abe's picture
Abe

Who's going to give in first. You or your starter?

I use tap water which has been boiled and cooled. Although I have used straight from the tap and it's worked just fine. By all means begin a new starter on the side but often, just when you're about to quit, the starter surprises you.

Enjoy the break from your stubborn starter.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Abe for the confirmation on water.  I'll continue using my boiled/cooled water I heat for coffee.

Not giving in yet...  will see if I can outlast a stubborn starter. :)

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Abe, I didn’t read through all of the post. Maybe What I am about to suggest has already been mentioned.

Would you agree that it would be beneficial to use 100% whole grain rye in the very near future for feedings when they become warranted? My thinking is; at this stage the starter can use all the microbes it can get.

It seems probable that the PH of this starter has been lowered and is conducive to taking off. What would happen if 1 part old starter + 1 part water + 1 part whole rye was used to create a new or renewed starter? Or maybe even 2 parts old starter? What do y’all think?

IMO, this starter and almost any starter can be revived. It may or may not be worth it, but it cam be done.

Just a few thoughts.

Danny

Abe's picture
Abe

Once this starter hit the quiet stage the best bet is to stop feeding it. It's already been overfed at the critical stage when one should be slowing down the feeds. Basically all the work has been done and the starter just needs to do its thing. Once it wakes up then by all means choosing whole rye would be a good idea, providing that's what sdamer69 wants.

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

awesome Abe - so glad you joined in. There is always something that can be learnt in such a thread. thanks Abe

Leslie

Abe's picture
Abe

Because when it comes to making one for the first time we've all been there. Making a starter is more about following ones nose than a recipe but if one hasn't made a starter before then how does one judge when to feed and how much to feed? Been a long time but remember this quiet stage well when I first made mine and how fustrating it can be. I had my teachers on this site telling me "feed now" or "Just stir" or "Increase the feed" etc. Not really knowing what I was doing or why they guided me through it. That's when I took a step back and actually thought I was being over technical about  following a recipe for making a starter and not really using logic as why I was doing a feed and when. That's when I realised there is no recipe, the starter makes itself and we're just there to feed it when it needs it. Now unless something has gone majorly wrong like a starter has been cooked, sometimes in a cold country one can get over zealous trying to warm up a starter and I cooked one on the radiator, or the water has stuff in it which does inhibit growth (although I think this isn't as common as we think it is) it will turn into a starter.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Even if SDamer wants a white starter he could feed whole rye to get it up and running, then switch to whatever flour desired.

But you are right, don’t feed the starter until it shows signs of activity. It seems over dilution caused the problem.

If the starter doesn’t jump start in due time (it probably will) a small portion of the original starter could be used as a medium for a new one. This is an idea that I have never used, so there is no experience involved in the suggestion. What is your opinion? What do you think?

Abe's picture
Abe

How would it act as a medium? Wouldn't adding adding some of this starter into a fresh batch just be the same as continuing to feed this starter?

You're right Dan, no harm in once this wakes up (hopefully) to continue with whole rye until strong and later on it can be converted into whatever type SDamer wants.

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

You hit the nail on the head, Abe.  People fret about the proportions of flour and water in their starter mix, but they invariably leave one out — patience, 500 kilograms of it, replenished frequently.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

I agree with the suggestion above to give it a stir. Do this a few times a day if possible. Debra Wink's pineapple juice method always works for me (have done it several times). It looks like you fed too early at some point. The initial rise might not have been from the good beasties, and is the reason Debra uses pineapple juice at the beginning. It will happen eventually, but you have some good advice above. You can always feed less(like 2:1:1) and watch to see if you need to feed it before the 12 hours is up.

BTW, it could be the picture, but it looks like you have some clear liquid on top of the starter. This is a clear indication that it is starving. Since it is hungry with no real activity, stirring will redistribute food and get things going. To me, it seems like your bacteria colony is strong, but yeast is lacking.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Maverick!  I appreciate the continued encouragement!  Will stir and keep waiting :)

Abe's picture
Abe

and it works a treat. I believe Mini Oven and Dabrownman are to be thanked for bringing our attention to this method but not sure where the method came from. It's very simple:

A 60% hydrated, 100% whole wheat, golf sized dough ball immersed in bread flour inside a brown paper bag. Leave in a warm spot for about 5-6 days. By which time it'll have a very tough outerlayer which you cut open and scoop out the goop that has formed inside. Feed this "goop" with fresh flour and water and viola a starter is born.

It'll still need some feeding to make it stronger but it'll just go from strength to strength. No feeding, discarding, day-in, day-out, every 12 to 24 hours etc. It makes itself while you wait.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Day10 7AM: "IT'S ALIVE"

  • Woke up to about a 10% rise and several larger bubbles on the surface.  Light sour smell still there.  As I stirred starter it had a spongy consistency indicating CO2 had developed overnight.  I think I am back in business.
  • Did not feed, will continue to watch today, see what kind of activity develops, then will slowly pick up feeding and watching.

My other starter that was started from this starter and fed at a ratio of 1:2:2 is still not showing activity.  So, I believe this confirms I had overfed and therefore diluted my starter doing those 1:1:1 feedings every 12 hours when it was not showing much activity.

All - Thanks for the great input, discussion, and encouragement to stay with it and give it time.  Special call out to Abe, Leslieruf & Capn Dub for staying engaged with me while I worked through this. This is the fun part of picking up a new hobby... the learning.  I learned a LOT with the help from all of you, in a much shorter time, with less frustration.  Hopefully others will gain some insights from this thread as well.

Thanks again all! 

Benito's picture
Benito

Congrats, your persistence has paid off, this will be the start of a new learning experience that has a lot of great payoffs.  I'm still new to sourdough but I've found it so rewarding and the crowd here is so helpful.

Benny

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Benny, Thanks for your encouragement as well.  I've been impressed with the willingness and time those in this forum are willing to invest to help another new baker out.  Hopefully I will one day be able to return the help.  Blessings to you!  

Abe's picture
Abe

It is very satisfying when this happens. Your patience has paid off. You'll be making some lovely sourdough bread soon enough. Now you'll need to strengthen it with feeds. Start off modestly and see how it reacts and increase the feeds + frequency accordingly allowing your starter to dictate how much and how often. Once your starter can peak within 6-8 hours with a healthy feed you can try your first recipe.

Looking forward to your bakes.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Abe, I so appreciate your help.  Your explanations and encouragement kept me from throwing out and starting over.  Had I done that I would have missed this opportunity to experience and learn.

So here's my go forward thinking...  is this reasonable?

  • I'm going to watch, not stir or feed, and wait for what looks like a peak today... I already have close to 1X growth... has not peaked yet.
  • Once peaked, I'll discard and feed 1:1:1 and watch for time it takes to reach the next peak.  (If this takes me overnight, then I expect I'll see a peak & fall... indicating starter ran out of food during the night.) 
  • If peaks take longer than 6-8 hours I'll keep feeding 1:1:1.  However, once I start hitting peaks in the 6-8 hours range I'll bump up feed, 1:2:2 and start timing again...  I'll keep this cycle up, adjusting feed ratio until I reach 2x to 3x volume growth and peak in the about 6-8 hour target.

Does this sound reasonable?  Any adjustments or additional recommendation you can make?

Abe's picture
Abe

By getting through this stage you would have already gained some knowledge about starters to follow your nose. So while you have laid out a plan don't forget to put into plan what you have learned already.

While your plan is good and sound I will only say that once they get over the quiet stage it's like a monster waking up. Get ready for it to go from strength to strength quite quickly. On the one hand you want to proceed with caution which is expected after a long quiet stage however now that it's awake you don't wish to starve it.

since it hasn't been fed for a while and it's now woken up I would have given it a treat and fed it 2:1:1 or a modest feed just to keep it happy without upsetting the balance. If it responds well then 1:1:1. If after a couple of feeds 1:1:1 is no issue then 1:2:2 etc. It might act like a creature that's been in hybernation and wake up starving in which case it could flip and eat through the feed very quickly. What you're looking for is strength and predicatbility!

I don't think you can do too much wrong now as long as you're reading the starter ok.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Perfect!  Thanks Abe, I will move forward with caution.  I'm retired so can watch closely.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

I took your suggestion and fed 2:1:1 ratio at noon today.  That feeding took it to about 9pm tonight then it started to drop.  So, I fed 1:1:1 at 9PM and will see how it does through the night.  Hoping the 1:1:1 will get me through the night without a major drop.

Abe's picture
Abe

But don't be too worried about not always being able to catch it just on time. It's not going to peak then run out of food immediately. There will still be plenty of life in it yet before that happens. If you find it has peaked and fallen then you'll know to up the feeds. Don't throw away any of the discard anymore. Save it up as back-up and to use in other recipes.

Are we going to be treated to a photo of your newly born starter in action?

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Abe!  I totally didn't think about sharing a pic...  thanks for the nudge.  Just updated the opening thread entry log and added Day 11 with Pic.  Thanks!

P.S. You may wonder about the vertical rubber bands...  I just put those around the jar running top to bottom because I don't have a lid ring I can loosely put on to allow airflow.  Rubber bands give me a little air gap. 

Abe's picture
Abe

..."A Starter"

A couple more good feeds and you're ready to bake. So which recipe do you have your eye on?

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

I'm thinking about trying this open crumb sourdough from YouTube channel "Full Proof Baking" How to make a basic Open Crumb Sourdough  I'm open to others.

Here's a pic 90min after 1:1:1 feed this morning:

Abe's picture
Abe

I think Dan has that recipe in mind for our next community bake. Looks like a great bread and something to get practicing with.

You should start increasing the feeds which will help further strengthen your starter and you won't have to feed it as often.

Great looking starter you have there but please be aware it'll further stabalise, mature and improve over the coming weeks and the first few bakes might not come out perfect. But it'll be tasty and the fruits of your hard work so it'll be the best thing you've tasted. You'll also have to learn how to judge the dough when it's ready and how quickly/slow your starter works etc. That'll only come with practice.

Congrats again! And enjoy your sourdough journey.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Good to know on further stabilizing.  I guess now the next stage of fun begins...  I appreciate your help, you are very good at helping and encouraging others.  Hopefully some day I'll be able to contribute and pay back the help. 

If you ever get into Fly Fishing or FPV Drone building/flying, just ping message me.  Those are some of my other hobbies and I have a bit more experience there.  This baking thing is new.  I'm enjoying retirement if you can't tell. :)

Take care and thanks again. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Should I ever do so i'll be in touch. till then i'll be looking out for your bakes :)

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Seven days later... first bake.  I'll take it for a first bake. :)  Thanks again for all your help!

Maverick's picture
Maverick

It is always exciting when your starter starts coming to life. You will be able to bake with it soon, but once active I recommend keeping it on the counter with twice daily feedings for a couple weeks before considering refrigeration (if you plan on doing that at all.

If you want to favor the yeast (which is my recommendation), then try to catch it just as it begins to fall (it will sit at peak for a bit before starting to fall). Eventually you will learn how much to feed to get this to happen at the 12 hour mark (or whatever schedule you want to keep). If you keep your house cooler (or warmer) at night, remember to adjust for that. If this is the case, you might have to feed different amounts in the morning and at night. If you ever find that it is falling too early, you can always give it a stir and let it go until you are ready to feed it. Just try to get it before it completely falls if you can.

Remember to share your experience while baking with this starter. FWIW, one of my favorite sourdough breads is this one (which is just Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough adjusted for 100% starter) that gets 15% of the flour from the pre-ferment/starter and has a total hydration of 65%:

http://www.wildyeastblog.com/my-new-favorite-sourdough/

The 'more sour' version is pretty good too:
www.wildyeastblog.com/more-sour-sourdough/

Another one I always recommend is the 1:2:3 sourdough method (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/9346/123-easy-formula-sourdough-bread). This is 1 part starter : 2 parts water : 3 parts flour, plus 2% salt. I use 2% of total flour including the flour in the starter, but it isn't much different to use 2% of the dry flour alone. It makes it 1.7% salt, which is about 1.6 grams difference per kilo. Here is an example:

90g starter (at 100% hydration)
180g water
270g flour
6.3g salt (I round this to 6 or 7g)

Total weight: 546.3g
Final hydration: 71.4%

Flour from pre-ferment: 14.3%

The beauty of this one is that it is so easy to remember, adjust, and convert to different measurements, etc. Just take the total amount you want and divide by 6, then round down to the nearest 5g. For instance, if you want a 1 lb (~455g) loaf, you can use 2.5oz (~75g) of starter... Need a kilo? Use 165g of starter. Or you can just dump in however much starter you want and easily calculate the rest.

Good luck.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Maverick, that was going to be my next topic to dig into...  how long to keep on counter, how to feed, in prep for fridge.  That was VERY helpful.  Also, thanks for the sour recipe.

So... since you mentioned storing in fridge...  I think it would benefit others new to sourdough starters to share comments and thoughts around just when you place your starter into the fridge and how you wake it up.  I have the following questions I'll put in that thread:

  • When do you place your starter into the fridge?  Immediately after a feeding? At some point along the way to a peak?  At peak?
  • When you pull your starter from the fridge, do you pull it ALL out and let it warm and start feeding again?  Or, do you pull only what you need to build the levain you will use for your baking?
  • How do you "Wake Up" a starter from the fridge?

There may be a thread out there on that...  I'll look.  If not a good one I may start that one.

Thanks again for all your help!

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

yes, it is a great way to maintain your starter but imho, it needs to be kept on the bench for another couple of weeks.  Mine lives in the fridge and I refresh it monthly but others refresh weekly, fortnightly, monthly or even longer periods.  Search for ‘no muss no fuss’ - a brilliant thread by dabrownman.

Glad your starter has come to life,  happy baking

Leslie

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Thanks Leslie, I will definitely make sure to allow it to mature for a while on the counter before moving to fridge for storage. It's going to get interesting. I fed 2:1:1 at noon today because it rose about 1.5X since about 9am and Abe provided some insights that a 2:1:1 feeding now that it's active to give it a nudge may be a good first step. By 9pm tonight it had rose about 1.5x again and then dropped just a little. So, I fed it 1:1:1, I'm hoping it will make it through the night.

Thanks again for your help and recommendations.

jey13's picture
jey13

I'd like to recommend dehydrating some of that starter a day or so before you finally refrigerate it. It's pretty simple. You take the discard from a good rise and instead of getting rid of it, you pour it out on a big sheet of parchment paper. Spread it out with an offset spatula or knife. Cover with another sheet of parchment and press down gently, spreading it out between the layers even further and thinner. 

Leave out for about 48 hours. When completely dry, remove the top parchment and break up all those dry pieces so they fit in a jar. Alternately, you can put them in a food processor and turn them into a grainy powder, then into a jar. Label and put on your pantry shelf for...well, they've found dried starter (sic) from Egyptian times. 

Likewise, you can freeze some starter as ice cubes.

I know a lot of links have been thrown your way. Here's another. He outlines how to refrigerate, freeze and dehydrate starter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_hR43eMgug

Note: he recommends feeding the starter before refrigerating. I used to do this, but I found it made the starter very sluggish to wake up. So, now I put the starter in the fridge after it's risen, no food added, and let it wake up hungry. That's one of those things you'll have to find out—whether your starter needs a snack for its week in the fridge, or whether it doesn't. 

Back to dehydrated/frozen starter: why do you want to freeze/dehydrate starter? Because (1) if anything (heaven forbid) should go wrong with your starter, you can recreate it faster from the dehydrated/frozen, and not have to start from scratch again. (2) The dehydrated starter can be mailed to friends and family. I recently send some of mine to a friend in England. Pretty cool. 

As for my refrigeration experience, the benefit isn't only in skipping daily feedings, but also being able to keep minimal amounts. I keep a mere 50g in the fridge—takes up no room at all. Here's a video of the ultimate aim of refrigerating a starter, which is "no waste." Take out the jar, add as much flour and water as needed to create levain for bread, use it, put back minimal amount in refrigerator, repeat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj6YpNCUYYQ

I, alas, can't do that with my starter. It's super sleepy when it comes out of the fridge and I need to wake it up with a couple of feedings to restore it to full power. So, I take it out a day early. Feeding #1 (a simple 1:1:1 light breakfast), then six hours later (that's how long it wants to rise and fall), feeding #2 1:4:4 power meal. Then, 6-8 hours after that, right before I go to bed, I can make the Levain: 1:8:8—a big meal that the starter can munch on it through the night. In the morning, it's ready to make bread dough.

In a nutshell, your bread making schedule is a big part of when you take out your refrigerated starter. So, the first time you do it, take it out a day or two before you mean to make bread and see whether it pops right back to life or needs a few meals before it's ready to go. You might be lucky and be able to get away with the scrapings method. Or, like me, you might need to coax it back to life. ;-)

 

 

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

I learned the hard way— keep reinforcements in reserve.  I killed a starter that I had nursed for twenty years br absentmindedly using hot water, then I compounded the error by using chlorinated tap water a couple of years later.    Started another another about the same time the OP started his; had some of the same problems he did, but I am proud to say that tomorrow is baking day!  The new starter has been baptized “Hecliff”.  The first thing I’ll do this evening, however, is dehydrate a bit of him and put him in some small containers, about one gram each, so that if I mess up again I can can easily call in reinforcements.  All it takes to recover is add one of the containers to a quarter cup of flour and water, and two days later I back to where I left off.

Anyway, as I said, tomorrow is baking day, and Hecliff is on duty.

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

I learned the hard way— keep reinforcements in reserve.  I killed a starter that I had nursed for twenty years but absentmindedly killed using hot water, then I compounded the error by using chlorinated tap water a couple of years later.    Started another another about the same time the OP started his; had some of the same problems he did, but I am proud to say that tomorrow is baking day!  The new starter has been baptized “Hecliff”.  The first thing I’ll do this evening, however, is dehydrate a bit of him and put him in some small containers, about one gram each, so that if I mess up again I can can easily call in reinforcements.  All it takes to recover is add one of the containers to a quarter cup of flour and water, and two days later I’m back to where left off.

Anyway, as I said, tomorrow is baking day, and Hecliff is on duty.

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

My wife started preheating the oven not realizing I had my starter in there...  it was close.  I just happened to hear the beeps when she was punching in the temp setting.  Learned another lesson...  put a note on the oven door.  That would not have been good after working through all this. :(

sdamer59's picture
sdamer59

Hello Jay13, thanks for that info and recommendation.  I had seen a couple articles on dehydrating a starter but totally forgot about that.  I will definitely make sure to dehydrate some before storing in fridge.  Also, thanks for the info on feeding before or after storing in fridge, that helps a lot.

Appreciate the info!  Thanks!

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I lost a starter only once to a preheating oven but I also learned that the TOP of the stove is almost as bad for cooking cultures. I was staying at my daughter's house and had brought my starter with me. Her oven had outflow vents on the front of the control panel behind the burners. I had a starter there when I turned the oven on to preheat never realizing how hot the outflow area became. Dead as a door nail.

I now use the microwave with the door a little open so the light bulb stays on for a little heat-it is still an incandescent. I'll figure something else out when I eventually have a microwave with an LED.