The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Differences between starters (flour types)

xdanielgs's picture

Differences between starters (flour types)

Hello! I am new to sourdough baking! I've have already successfully baked my first loaf. Thank you for all the tips I've read in this amazing website. 

I have question for the experts.

I trying to cultivate two types of sourdough starters. One made of whole grain and the other made of white flour only. 

My question is: the whole grain sourdough starter seems to be more active and bubbly than the while flour one (as seen in the picture).

Is that normal? 

Thanks, and happy baking to you all! 

Archizoom's picture

I'm far from an expert but I believe whole wheat flour is more nutritious for the little microorganisms living in your starter, plus it absorbs more water resulting in a thicker consistency which helps to trap the gas released by said microorganisms

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

The yeast and bacteria that you are looking for live on the grain in the field and end up in the flour.  The whole grain flour contains the bran, which is the outside coating on the wheat kernel.  Thus, the whole grain flour is likely to contain the spores, which are stuck to the bran.  The white flour will contain spores, too, but probably fewer.

xdanielgs's picture

Thanks for the reply.... But, will the all-white-flour starter work as a leavening agent?

jey13's picture

All white will certainly work. There’s many a video out there where the starter used is pure white and the bread made from it beautiful. BUT! was explained, white starter isn’t as naturally thick as whole grain. So you need to adjust the ratios. Add more flour than water  (example: 1:2:1 ratio with double the flour to starter and water). The bubbles will show up better in a thicker starter, it will rise higher, and you’ll be able to tell if it’s ready to make bread—foamy, bubbly, rising-falling etc. If it’s thin, well, the bubbles simply show up on the top and it’s harder to tell if it’s ready. 

Try to get it to the consistency of a thick yogurt. 

xdanielgs's picture

Thanks for this tip! Will certainly try that out. Indeed, the white-flour-starter does feel thiner and little watery if I feed with the 1:1:1 ratio. I will reduce the amount of water in the feeding and see what happens. Thanks. 

Brotaniker's picture

White flour totally didn't work for me.

I tried it and after a few days it developed a strong, sorry, vomit smell. And I mean strong! You open the lid for a moment and the whole house stank. Seriously.

I read this this could happen and as long as there is no mood it's fine, but I couldn't get over that smell and I discharged it.

2nd try was with whole-wheat flour and that worked right away. That was then, meanwhile I use only the flour. It has a very mild fruity sour smell and works perfectly for me.

For white breads (Baguettes, Brötchen) i only use a small teaspoon in a starter dough to keep the color light.



Anne Ng's picture
Anne Ng

This is interesting because I started mine with whole wheat flour and it still smelt very bad for 2 days so I added grape juice (hand squeezed lol) as liquid for feeding. It turned into a pleasant, sweet smell within 1 day and on day 6 it was smelling nice and vinegary. 

Some people on this site kindly told me that it didn't need the grape juice to get over the Leuc phase, but for me the juice worked like a charm. So I think that stinky phase can happen in any kind of flour. 

Now I'm feeding it with half whole wheat and half white. And because I don't want to waste flour I do not refresh before use. I just take it out of the fridge, feed it 1:4:4, wait for it to double (usually takes 4hrs at 29C/84F) and go ahead and use it as the levain. But I have never had a levain that has such big bubbles like the photos in this post. I now mainly make sandwich loafs (which is preferred in our house), but I really wish they were more airy and soft. 

I know this may be a bit off-topic for this post, but is there any who can let me know if it's okay to use the starter when it only doubles (after fed 1:4:4)? If I left it alone it may triple or grow even higher. 

I'm currently using a short, high temperature fermentation to get loafs that are less sour. 

xdanielgs's picture

I usually get even bigger bubbles.... but not on the while-only starter, that's my concern.