The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sudden surge in starter activity ?

claraonmars's picture

Sudden surge in starter activity ?

Hi everyone, this is my first time posting here, I just successfully built my starter a few months ago and it had been pretty consistent and predictable, until my most recent bake where it became super active, tripling in size in 9 hours after feeding. I was excited for the possibility of a nice open crumb but what I ended up with was dough that kept doubling in size even when it went into the refrigerator (5 C / 41 F) for retarding.  

Image shows the growth of the dough from inoculation till before it was baked. Last two images are before and after it went into the fridge. 

I was really surprised the dough grew so much in the fridge! Overall this loaf was not that bad, but it was definitely overproofed when it went into the oven:

Has anyone experienced this sudden increase in their starters before? 

Any tips or advice how/if I should recalibrate my feeding process or baking times?

Would appreciate any help!


My Current Process

At the moment I keep my starter in the fridge for most of the week, 2 days before baking, I do a 15g starter 37g AP flour, 13g rye flour and 50g water. Then I do my usual feeding of 7.5g mature starter, 37g all purpose flour, 13g rye flour and 50g water until I'm ready to bake. This usually takes 8 hours to reach its peak.

I do about 3 hour autolyse before I add the starter. Then a 3 hour bulk fermentation at room temperature (29 ~ 32 C / 84 ~ 89 F) before putting it in the refrigerator for 9.5 hours. On any other attempt, my dough barely increases in size in the refrigerator. 

This process is still WIP but it most recently yielded me this loaf:

phaz's picture

It's not unusual for a starter to change over time, especially a young one. If it was a water/flour only starter, I would say a couple months is about right for a truly well established, stable starter. Its time had come. A less likely, but possible, scenario would be another type of bacteria settling in, or trying to. No unusual colors or odors and it should be ok. It's hard to give exact numbers, but the more active the starter the faster things happen with the same ratio of ingredients, so it's best to watch the dough until you get the new timings down. Or reduce starter amount - if it now takes half the time it used to take, use half the amount of starter. 

claraonmars's picture

Oh I see, thank you for the response!

In your experience, would you say that this surge in activity will be a characteristic of my starter now? or does this usually happen for a short period before it kinda slows down again?

idaveindy's picture

If the behavior changed, then perhaps one or more inputs changed.

Did you change the brand or type of flour that you feed the starter?  Or that you used in the formula?

Whole grains, especially rye, ferment faster than white flour. So if you increased the percentage of rye or whole grain in the formula, that would definitely affect dough behavior and fermentation rate.

(Please excuse if you already knew that. But a lot of newcomers here don't realize that different flours behave/ferment differently.)

Even if the brand/type remained the same, did you start a new bag of anything?  New Bag -> new batch -> different harvest year -> different field/farm -> new yeast/LAB.

Did you change the type of water used? That can make a difference too.  

claraonmars's picture

Thanks for responding! I was using the same brand of flour and the same type of water. But I started a new pack of flour a few weeks ago. Maybe that might have contributed to it. Other than that I've kept my ratio of flours the same as before.