The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Changes in Fermentation Times

BlueMag's picture
BlueMag

Changes in Fermentation Times

Hello Everyone,

I'm writing to see if anyone has found changes in flour brands have affected fermentation times.  Over the past week I've noticed my fermentation times have increased by 3 - 4 hours.  I recently bought a new brand of whole wheat flour that I suspect may be the reason.  It's the only change to the process I can think of.

I ferment at a constant 78^f - 80^f.  Usually I can set my watch by my levain's "float test" at 4 hours.  If not the flour change, does anyone have any idea why my fermentation time would suddenly nearly double?    

 

Breadifornia's picture
Breadifornia

I have experienced changes based on different flours types, but not by 3-4 hours.  Maybe try letting your levain go for longer? I've noticed that not all levains that past the float test are equally as active.  Letting yours go for longer might make it more active.  Just a thought. 

BlueMag's picture
BlueMag

Thanks Breadifornia!  Fellow Californian here

I should mention I taste and smell for ripeness as well and it's definitely not where it normally is.  It's also affecting the bulk time too.

I feel asleep during the bulk rise of my last batch.  Upon waking up 4 hours past my normal fermentation time, I was surprised to find that the dough had not fallen and the final loaves had only a slightly higher acidic taste.  

The flour in question is Gold Medal's Wheat - a Laxa.  

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

I have to snicker every time I read the name of that flour.

It being a coarser grind, larger particle size, than KA whole wheat, I wonder if that could be a cause of slower fermentation.

I've never actually seen it. Is it as gritty as, say, semolina, or corn meal?

--

Other ideas.... could your starter have changed?   What about water?  Did that change?  If using tap water, did you check with the water company to see if they changed the amount of chlorine or chloramine?

--

If you increase the Wheatalaxa's autolyse (without levain, that is) to 60 minutes, to give the larger particles time to hydrate does that allow the bulk ferment to happen in the normal amount of time?

BlueMag's picture
BlueMag

Yeah it's a really silly name.  I'd wouldn't say that it's as gritty as semolina, but the bran is in a larger flaked form like you'd buy in bulk on it's own.  Although the large flakes look pretty great in the finished loaves.   

I was thinking about it all last night and there are 2 things that I thought of later.   You touched on the first with the water. I have been using tap water recently so this morning I fed it with straight KAF AP and bottled water and boom, back to the 4 hour cycle.  

I also forgot to save some starter from a batch last week so I started with some 2 week old discard I keep for waffles and emergencies.  I gave it 4 feedings to strengthen it but I'm thinking the tap water and the older starter never really got back up to snuff.  (It eventually fermented fully and made beautiful loaves but it really threw my production for a loop.  Plus I had to finish proofing at room temp for 1.5 hours out of the fridge after a 8 hour stint in the fridge.) 

So later this afternoon I experimented with 2 different flour blends with tap and bottled water for 4 separate ferments and found that all 4 fermented at the 4 - 5 hour mark.  I think I'll stick with bottled water for the levain ferment and see if the bulk behaves too.   

Thanks for the suggestions. I didn't know I could contact the water company, that's a great call. 

Plus I love the idea of an autolyse before a fermentation.  Definitely going to play with that.  I used to make this oat bran loaf.  I filled the levain with the bran for a really great flavor and I think the bran extra soak time gave a better rise in the oven.      Thanks again!

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

I had originally assumed from the original post that you were talking about bulk fermentation of your dough. And just now realized you were talking about your starter.

Yeah, I learned early on to always use bottled water for starter.  And it's so cheap, I use it for the dough, too.  

$3.00 for 24 bottles (500 ml each bottle) of spring water.

$2.65 for 24 bottles (500 ml) of "purified water". 

The bottled spring water seems to allow faster fermentstion than the bottled purified water.

--

I still have yet to experiment with tap water after having it sit out to evaporate chlorine.

BlueMag's picture
BlueMag

Thanks for working that out with me.  I fed my starter again this morning with our sparkletts drinking water and had great results.  

Working on a few batches of dough now for a bake tomorrow.  So far the dough, is fermenting right on schedule! 

andykg's picture
andykg

any changes from organic to non organic flour?

BlueMag's picture
BlueMag

No.  I was using KAF whole wheat flour but switched to the General Mills in order to buy in bulk.