The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My Timid Tartine Starter

Kimperfect's picture

My Timid Tartine Starter

Began a wild yeast starter via Tartine method two weeks ago. I feed it every 24 hrs. At first, nothing, except water would separate toward end of feeding cycle. It took a week before I saw bubbles. Next, I began to note a small rise that took about 12 hours before starting to collapse. Now it rises in about 6-8 hours, but I'm still only getting a 50% rise. There's still a little tang in the starter right after feeding, more than I would like.

Conditions: I live in Portland, OR. It's cool right now with high humidity. Our house is appx. 60-65 degrees, so I keep it in the oven with the light on. It's appx. 70 degrees in the oven. Feeding 1/2 c. Bob's Red Mill wheat/ KA white mix and lukewarm filtered water into 1/4 c. of starter every 24 hours. It's definitely active, but I can't get it to rise past 50% and it absolutely does not pass the float test. It's in a glass Weck jar with a glass lid, so it can breathe a bit. 

Q: How do I get it to double?

Q: How warm an environment can the starter handle? 

Thanks in advance.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a very wet starter.  If the feeding is half a cup of flour with half a cup of water then the starter is very thin and gas bubbles break on the surface instead of rising and lifting the batter starter.  All you have to do is feed one fourth cup of water after skipping the water in the next feeding. You might want to reduce the amount of starter you're feeding to 1/8 cup after seeing how the reduction in water works out.  

Then again, having a liquid starter in cool room temps has its advantages. It just doesn't rise high like thicker starters and one uses a little more of it in the recipe while reducing the water in the dough recipe.  Forget about the float test, no biggie. Go by aromas, taste and effervescent action. 

When feeding equal weights of food to a starter, flour weighs half as much as water.  So when approximating a 100% hydration starter (without scales) feed half as much water to flour when using volume cups.  With some flours, a 100% hydration feeding can still be too wet and not rise much so go by feel and how long it takes the starter to feed, be active and slow down in activity.  Temp, amount of flour, type of flour and amt of water all affect the fermenting time and can be played with or tweaked to fit your baking schedule.  

Kimperfect's picture

Thanks, Mini. I was thinking about less water this morning before I refreshed, so your suggestions are totally in line with what I was beginning to suspect. I reread the section in Tartine about building the starter and nowhere did it say the starter had to double. 

Gonna try the water first, but I think you make another good point about reducing starter, since I still have a little too much acidity in my fresh starter. And yes, I think it's time to get the scale out and start using weight as my measurement. In short, there are lots of variables to play with! I appreciate you sharing your good thoughts.

jey13's picture

Don’t listen to those that say “triple height” or “must pass the float test.” In truth, if you get plenty of bubbles and some rise, you’ve won the game. I actually had my starter “fail” me last week by barely rising at all (temps were cool). But it did rise a little past the rubber band marker, and it did have plenty of bubbles. I put it into the bread and low-and-behold, by the first stretch I was seeing bubbles in the dough—a sure sign things are going well. The dough proofed just fine and I got an awesome loaf all puffed up and delicious.

That said, keep in mind a starter rises best if it’s not too thin and not too thick. Too thin and there’s nothing for the bubbles to “lift.” Too thick and it’s too heavy for the bubbles to lift. 

I myself use grams. 1:1:1 meaning if you have 20g starter add in 20g flour and 20 g water. This is likely what you’re making now with your ½ C flour and ¼ C water. In tune with mini oven’s advice, up the flour a little to, say 1:3:2 (20g Starter, 60g flour, 40 to 45g water) and you might see more rise.  

OR you might see the same old 50% because that is what your starter does. That’s its personal best when it’s there in the jar. When it comes down to it, the only question that matters is if it can make good puffed-up bread. If it can, then 50% is perfect. :-D


Kimperfect's picture

Very interesting, perhaps it's just a matter of getting comfortable with my starter. It is predictable at this point and that is something. Both you and Mini Oven suggested using weight for starter building, so I'm going to switch (I thought I just needed to use weight measurements when making the dough). 

My big takeaway from your post is this: Stop being afraid of your starter! At some point, I'm going to try making a loaf and the results, whatever they are, will inform my next attempt. And the world will continue to spin on its axis. Many thanks.