The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter suddenly weaker

Aloftus's picture
Aloftus

Starter suddenly weaker

Hi everyone - 

I took the advice of some forum members from my last post and split off a 125% hydration starter into a 100% one. I ended up keeping the 100% one as it flourished immediately. 

Things were going well and it looked to be on track to try out this weekend (more than doubling in 12 hours). I was feeding it twice a day, 100g starter: 100g flour: 100g water, with my flour being a half-and-half mix of KA all-purpose and KA whole wheat.

However, I’ve been struggling to keep up with consistent 12 hour feedings (I’m a graduate student and have a long commute, so on class days I’m out of the house for 14+ hours). A few days ago, I also decided to try to keep the overall amount of starter smaller (still 1:1:1, but with 50g instead of 100). 

It hasn’t really been doubling since (granted, it’s only been like 2 days). It’s still bubbly and has a nice tangy, yeasty smell to it. No hooch on top. I tried a 1:2:2 feeding this morning and will be home in time to do a second feeding tonight. Am I on the right track or am I jacking this up? 

Thanks everyone! 

Anne Ng's picture
Anne Ng

Maybe you can post a picture of your starter so we can see the bubbles/consistency, etc. Is it possible that you used chlorinated water or the water temp is too high? (I've done it once when I just used all hot water for something else and then without noticing that my tap is on hot water, fill my glass full of 60C water. Luckily I caught it before pouring it into my starter. )

My starter is getting kinda slow these days too. But I kept it in the fridge for weeks and only fed it to build a levain on a weekly bases. Yesterday I decided to take it out and keep it in room temp. It's doubling in about 6 hrs but in the past it usually triple, if not more, in the same amount of time. And it has a very strong vinegar smell, so strong that it would burn the inside of my nose. I don't know if that's the reason that makes it slow or not. I'll keep feeding it until it gets really active. 

Good luck with your starter! 

Aloftus's picture
Aloftus

I will when I’m home tonight! Thank you for the advice. I have been using tap water, and frankly I’m not sure about the chlorine content. I’ll switch to bottled to eliminate that variable. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Anne, your starter may have become overly acidic. I suggest you take off a small amount of your starter and feed it 1:4:4 a few times. May sure you don’t let it recede too much. If the starter super high in acids it will not be super strong in yeast. And vice versa. Keep the original and new going just in case.

Anne Ng's picture
Anne Ng

Hi Dan, thanks a lot for your advice! Last night I split about a tablespoon into another glass and fed it 1:3:3 (I realized that the glass would be too small to feed 1:4:4).

This morning the old starter fed 1:1:1 went almost triple, and smelt less acidic. So I think it's on the right track. 

Interestingly, the newer one did not reach the doubling line (went to about 1.8x its original height, and the top surface is concave, so I guess it's falling? ). I thought with such a high ratio of fresh flour it would keep rising for a longer time than my old one. And it smelt very yeasty. Which is something I really want cuz my dad did not like overly acidic bread! I'm taking some out today to make a loaf. Hope it raise well! 

Thanks again! Your advice has always been helpful!

tarheel_loafer's picture
tarheel_loafer

Sounds like it's working great. At 1:1:1 it will burn through the new flour pretty quickly, so reducing the starter % should help. My starter didn't really hit its stride until about two weeks in. I feed once a day, about 1:4:4 and only do 50g of flour, then make a preferment the night before I bake. My tap water is chlorinated like most city water, but if you leave it overnight on the counter it will off-gas the chlorine. I keep a pitcher on the counter next to the sink and use it for coffee and bread. 

The best way to see if it's ready to bake is to make a preferment. If it can pass the float test in 5-6 hours, it'll probably make a decent loaf. 

Now, if for purely scientific reasons you want to see it grow like crazy, split it and feed some 100% white flour instead of the 50/50 white/wheat mix, then check back in a few hours. White flour is basically yeast candy, mine will push the cover off its jar :).  I actually did it so I could get max yeast growth and dehydrate some as a backup, but it was fun to see regardless.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

What does it look like before you feed it? I know you say it doubles, but has it begun to fall? Has it fallen a little or a lot? Starters can stay at peak for quite some time before falling. I wouldn't feed it before it starts to fall or you will start to dilute it too much. As to the schedule, the simple solution (without refrigeration) is to feed a higher ratio in the morning and less at night.

Out  of curiosity, what is the room temperature during the day and during the night (if different)?

Aloftus's picture
Aloftus

II think I might try the higher ratio in the AM and less at night!  As of right now it’s doubled and doesn’t appear to be falling yet - it’s been about 6.5 hours. 

 

I keep it in my oven - for one, I have two nosy cats and a Mastiff whose head reaches the counter, so I think it would get destroyed if I left it out. THe temperature in my house can also be inconsistent. I need an oven thermometer, but I’d venture that the temperature with the light on is 80 degrees F or so. 

I’ll see if it’s fallen or not when I get home. I didn’t realize I could dilute it - thank you very much for the advice. 

Maverick's picture
Maverick

I would turn off the light in the  oven. No need for it to be that warm. Glad to hear it is doing better. I keep mine in a cabinet for fear of my animals destroying it (plus to keep it away from drafts). Try to  see how long it is before it starts to fall (you will see a "high water mark" on the container). Keep us updated.

Aloftus's picture
Aloftus

Update: I’ve been badgering my poor husband all day to send me pictures while I’m at work. It has doubled, if not more, in about 6.5 hours. All appears better!!