The Fresh Loaf

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(Another) Newbie trying to grow a sourdough starter - looking for feedback

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

(Another) Newbie trying to grow a sourdough starter - looking for feedback

Hi everyone!

I'm joining the growing ranks of people during quarantine who have become interested in growing a sourdough starter. I've read through a few discussions on this site that have been very helpful, but I'm looking for some guidance to see if I'm on the right track. I've learned that patience is the name of the game, but looking to get some opinions to make sure I'm not missing anything.

General things that have stayed the same during this experiment: water has been boiled/cooled before using and room temp is between 75-80. Below is the summary of what I've done so far (get prepared for a loooong summary):

Day 1 (started with KA starter guide)

8:00am // 113g wheat flour + 113g water

Day 2

24 hours after starting (morning of Day 2)

Starter had grown significantly in 24 hours, almost 2x in size. Did a feeding at 8:00am in a fresh jar with 113g starter + 113g (50/50 wheat + AP blend) + 113g water.

Throughout the day, had to stir the starter 3x due to significant expansion (I suspect from CO2/bacteria); stirred at 1:50pm, 4:50pm, and 8:30pm. Starter calmed down after the last stir.

Day 3

Starter had a layer of hooch and smelled awful when I checked in the AM. Did a feeding at 8:00am into a new jar of 60g starter + 60g (wheat/AP mix) + 60g water.

Second feeding at 7pm of 60g starter + 60g (wheat/AP mix) + 60g water. Starter had a layer of hooch and small bubbles on the surface prior to this feeding, texture seemed to get more liquidity as the day went on. Awful smell significantly lessened today.

Day 4

Based on what I read on this site, I didn't want to discard/overfeed while the yeast is developing. So I stirred and fed 1 tbsp flour mix at 7:20am and 6:40pm directly into the jar since the starter was liquidity (but had small bubbles). Smell seemed neutral - neither overly flour-y or sour.

Day 5

Stirred without feeding at 7:10am and 3:10pm. Starter had less hooch and seemed less liquidity and had lots of small bubbles on the surface. Smell also seemed more sour/tangy.

Fed 1 tbsp of flour mixture at 7:20pm to give it some food for the evening. Overall texture seems thicker and had less hooch.

Day 6

Today is day 6, and there was minimal change overnight. If anything, the number of bubbles seemed to decrease today. Texture seemed the same (not overly thick, but not runny) but there were less bubbles on the surface (see below). Stirred at 7:20am, no feeding.

**************

In summary, am I on the right track to keep stirring and waiting for more significant activity? After reading multiple forums on this site, I'm cautious of not discarding/feeding when the yeast hasn't fully developed. But I'm not sure if my starter actually does require more food, or if I'm still in the waiting period (UGH).

Any feedback or guidance would be appreciated.

Thanks!

 

 

phaz's picture
phaz

Yup, you're in the right track, everything normal so far. From the awful smell a couple days in to the decrease in activity at day 5 or 6. Next week you'll be trying it out in a loaf (it's usually within a week after the drop in activity that it's ready to try).

And - I'm glad to see your stirring it up. This is something I recommend doing to make sure a starter has the proper feed ratio to last however long you would like it to last till next feeding. I explained it in a post a short while back (couple weeks maybe) and I'll give a quick run down of the principle here.

A starter rises when it eats - and it won't when it can't. Too much food will dilute the starter over time making it weaker. Not enough food over time will cause a die off of our little friends (which throws the starter out of balance and make it too acidic - been a lot of this going around lately).

If a starter risers and falls, then you stir it (the bugs and fungus can't move around in their own - they spread outward via multiplication), and it rises again - it's got enough food to keep going.

If it doesn't rise again - there's no, or not enough food. Whatever the feed ratio was wasn't enough to last from the previous feed - and things then get ugly - quick. 

That's the basic premise behind stirring - and how you can use it to ensure a healthy vibrant starter. 

I am also happy to see no discard as I don't believe in it - at any time in the life of a starter - unless it's gotten out of balance and that's another story. By stirring to find the proper feed ratio, you shouldn't have to toss anything, and by building your starter up to the amount you need for a bake, there wouldn't be any reason to throw anything away (I hate waste - I absolutely despise wasting food of any kind).

I didn't want this to be long - but here we are - you're looking good - Enjoy!

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

So given that I'm on day 6 of stirring and waiting, how will I know when I should proceed? And more importantly, HOW should I proceed? I haven't seen any rising at all since Day 2, so it's not clear to me when I should be ready to move to feeding the starter (vs just giving it a little flour to thicken up).

I essentially haven't done a proper feeding since the evening of Day 3, so it's unclear to me how I'll know if something has "changed" or if the starter is ready to move to regular feedings.

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

When I created my starter (Randolph), he also had a very runny consistency.  I was tempted to add flour in order to thicken it, but I resisted the urge.  Sometime during the second week (or possibly early into the third week), however, the mix thickened itself.  My suspicion is that once the lactic acid producing bacteria and wild yeasts reached a point of equilibrium, the acidity of the mix was no longer having as much adverse effect on gluten formation.  Once that happened, I started seeing Randolph rise, rather than just producing bubbles on top of the mix.  To be fair, this all happened before I learned about in-between-feedings stirring, so I have to think the process would have gone much quicker if I had known then what I know now. 

As for stirring, I also advocate for doing it to strengthen the yeast population.  With that being said, I also think that there’s a point at which stirring can be overdone, and that it’s still beneficial to replenish the available food source.  Especially during the early times when you aren’t getting any rise, it can be difficult to tell when your food source is depleted, so too many back-to-back stirrings can potentially be holding your starter back.  I would consider doing only two stirrings before doing a proper feeding.

 

Something that I would highly recommend is to greatly reduce the size of the starter you’re keeping.  You will achieve the same concentration of yeasts/bacteria with 10g of flour as you can with 113g.  Once it’s healthy, it can be easily be scaled up when needed for a bake.  And with the smaller quantity, the idea of discarding a portion of it hurts a lot less.  

Also on the topic of discard, once it’s a healthy starter there’s no reason why “discard” has to mean “throw away”.  I keep a container of discard in the fridge.  Periodically it gets used for sourdough biscuits or sourdough buttermilk waffles (which have been a tremendous hit with Mrs Immortal and all the little Immortals).  Plus, with just one feeding that discard becomes more starter if I need it (it also makes for a nice back-up, in the unfortunate event that something bad happens to Randolph).

 

You are on the right track, and it sounds like you have a very good grasp on the concepts that govern sourdough starters.  Your patience will be rewarded!

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

Thanks for the feedback! May I ask, what did you do with your starter leading up to the point (2-3 weeks later!) in which you saw the starter thickening? Did you just stir without feeding, or a mix of stirring and feeding on separate days? I assume that at that point, you were not feeding daily? 

I am resisting the urge to stir too often. For the past two days, I've been doing it twice a day roughly 12 hrs apart. I still haven't quite got the hang of when I should feed since it feels like there's a lot of conflicting info. I'm particularly confused by blogs out there that essentially say discard/feed daily, or when you see hooch appearing. The only reason I didn't continue the daily discard/feed cycle is because I happened to stumble on this blog.

And yes, I very quickly stopped following the KA starter recipe that called for 113g starter + feedings. I would say that my total starter is currently around 80g (+ some extra flour I put in over the last 2 days to thicken).

Like I said in my above comment, I'm having a bit of decision paralysis on what I should do next. The starter smells fine (not changing noticeably or bad odor, etc), surface has some bubbles, and overall consistency appears to be slooooowly thickening. So should I just stir and sit tight, or do a small (2:1:1) feeding? And am I looking for a rise in the starter to know that it's doing well or moving in the right direction? 

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

When I first started, I was doing a 1:1:1 feeding every day, with no stirring in between.  Around the time that I started seeing bubbles on a regular basis, I switched to two feedings (again 1:1:1) per day.  (All of this was before I knew about stirring in between feedings, so I am sure I could have had a much healthier starter much sooner than I did.). Once I started seeing a change in the texture (which happened literally overnight) I started seeing it rise, but it was kinda lack-luster.  Slow to rise, and not much volume.  Once I figured out to give it a stir in between feedings (technically, I replaced the second feeding of the day with a stir), I started seeing faster and stronger rises after feedings.  What was happening was that by skipping a discard and instead giving a stir, I was allowing the yeasts to increase in population density, which in turn meant for carrying over a larger inoculation to the next feeding.  Before too long, my starter was so prolific that I was faced with a new choice: feed it four times a day or change it’s feeding ratio.


In regards to feeding ratios, in my opinion it’s best to stick with 1:1:1 until your starter is very active and healthy.  If you carry over too much starter (example: 2:1:1) you are not providing enough food, which will weaken the yeast population.  If you feed too much flour/water (example 1:5:5), you are essentially diluting your yeast’s population density, which (in the beginning) will weaken and slow your starter.  Of course, there is an exception to that rule, which is that once your starter is strong and healthy, it will be able to handle having the yeast’s population density pruned back a little bit.  At this point, changing your ratio to something like 1:3:3, 1:5:5, or 1:10:10 won’t hurt anything, it will only change how long it takes for the starter to peak.  In this way, one can alter feeding ratios to suit one’s schedule.  It’s also at this point, when the starter has become strong and viable, that you can alter it’s feeding schedule by refrigerating it, with no harm done.

As for the discard, in the first week I actually discarded it, seeing as that it was of little use due to not-so-pleasant bacteria (this was also before I knew to keep the starter small, so not discarding it would have made for very unwieldy amounts of starter).  After that, any discard got used for biscuits, which were nothing to write home about in the beginning (but have improved over time).  Now I save my discard for Sourdough Buttermilk Waffles, which have been a huge hit on Saturday mornings.

 

So, having given the long answer to your question, here is the short answer:  do a 1:1:1 feeding.  After 12 hours, give it a stir.  After 12 hours, do another 1:1:1 feeding, and so on.  The most important thing you can do for your starter in the beginning is pay attention to it.  If you start noticing a change in texture, or in how long any bubbling activity lasts, then it’s time to consider changing either the schedule or the ratio.  I’m confident that you’re on the right track, and should be seeing some results soon (or at least sooner than the 3 1/2 weeks it took me).  

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

It's really helpful for me to learn the specifics of what worked/didn't work for you. I just stirred my starter (no feeding) and it was MUCH thicker than it was this AM, so I think I am on the right track. Thanks for the waffle recipe, I'm looking forward to getting to the stage of having too much discard to worry about!

One benefit of working from home is that I get to babysit my starter...although I probably should have picked a different hobby as patience is not my strong suit. I may ping you again later this week depending on how it goes!

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

Lol. I can relate to the patience thing.  I normally have the patience of a saint, but sourdough starter tested even me!  

I am glad to hear that you noticed a difference in texture today.  That does kinda indicate to me that something’s changing.  And of course, any issues you may have, feel free to drop me a line, or better yet start a post (there are a large number of users here who have varying levels of expertise with any issue you can imagine, and some that you can’t!)

 

Keep in mind that with the dizzying number of variables that encompass the subject of sourdough, there will be a triple-dizzying number of opinions on how to deal with issues that may arise (and oddly, only about 42 of those opinions will be actively incorrect).  What this boils down to is that while you may receive all the advice in the world, ultimately only you will be able to decide, based on sight, smell, taste, and feel, the best direction to take your starter.  Only you will be able to determine if one thing works better for your starter than another.  You’ll find that once your starter is strong and active, you’d have to try pretty hard to actually kill it, so don’t be afraid of a little bit of good old fashioned trial & error.  So long as you don’t forget that you put your starter in the oven to stay warm before you hit the button to pre-heat the oven, there’s really no real wrong way to do it.

 

(For the record:  forgetting your starter is in the oven, and then pre-heating the oven, actually IS the wrong way to do it.  😂)

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

Stirred this morning and the texture felt more thick than yesterday (kind of like a milkshake) but still no rise :( But like you said, I'm working on practicing my patience even if it's kiiiiiiiiiiiilling me.

Thanks for the words of encouragement, I will keep plugging away. And don't worry, it's so hot here that I refuse to turn on the oven right now for ANY reason!!

phaz's picture
phaz

The lull as I call it can last a week or 2. What you look for is signs of activity - bubbling, rising. If you see little signs of activity there's only a need for a little food, and when you see lots of activity there's a need for more food. It the starter is maintaining a runny consistency it may need food. But that's if you start thick (which is highly recommended - consistency can be a sign of things). Give it something like a 50% hydration feed to thicken it up and see if you notice more activity (little bubbles get bigger when it's thicker). You can better judge what to do as far a feeding this way.

You're about at the point where it may explode, literally. You're gonna wake up one morning and it'll be like the movie the Blob - it may be everywhere. Enjoy!

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

I just stirred the starter and it was definitely much thicker in consistency than it was this morning. I'm hoping that I'll see a little rise tomorrow as it hasn't done that since the initial feeding on Day 2. Fingers crossed that it does explode :) Thanks!

phaz's picture
phaz

I just noticed (I'm a little slow sometimes) you're using ww flour - you're experiencing what usually happens with a white flour starter - from the big activity and stench a couple days in to nothing happening for about a week. You mentioned using ka guide or something like that - they have a white ww flour (basically a finer ground ww) - by chance are ya using that?

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

Haha no worries, I wrote a LOT so there was quite a bit to digest. Flour was hard to come by in my area for a long time, so I snagged a random bag of whole wheat (not KA brand, doesn't specifically say white ww) from Target. That's what I used to initiate my starter, but the few feedings I've done, I've done a mix of WW + AP flour.

I think I'm likely in the quiet period as I've noticed the texture thickening over the last 36 hours. But the waiting is killing me and I really just want to see any sort of rise activity haha. Still stirring, and waiting...

phaz's picture
phaz

If you're game, try adding in a little oatmeal - like a teaspoon - see what happens.

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

That would imply that I have oatmeal...haha :)

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Try not, do! 

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Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

Is it possible that my starter is underfed even if no hooch has developed?

I am essentially on the 3rd day of stirring and watching -- the last time I fed my starter was 1 tbsp of flour on Monday evening 7/27 since it was liquidy but not rising. I have not discarded since then, just stirred twice a day 12 hrs apart. Smell is fine, consistency is thick but not sponge like at all (more like a milkshake), room temp is between 75-80. The only discernible difference is that there seems to be LESS bubbles today than last night. The bubbles are also getting smaller so I'm having to zoom in to see them on the photo more clearly.

Overall, I'm on Day 9 today and it just feels like I've been stirring and waiting forever...I am literally holding my breath for any sort of rise/activity, but I also want to make sure I'm not slowly killing it or doing something wrong?

phaz's picture
phaz

Sometimes they just don't take. I've had 3 or 4 over the years that just wouldn't get going - it happens.

But at this point I would take a little (like 20g) and mix it with 100g flour and 50g water (use a butter knife to stir, consistency should be thick enough where it doesn't run off the knife). See if it'll show more signs of life in a day or 2. 2 weeks is usually my limit with a starter. If it doesn't take off in that time it most likely won't and you're about there. 

If his doesn't fly you can try the ineapple thing (add a little pineapple juice at the start to create a slightly acidic environment), or you can even buy starter ready to go. Of course it's more fun when you create it yourself, but ya don't have to.

Let us know what happens!

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

Good idea, I'll play around with it over the next 48 hours and report back if anything exciting happens haha. I'm really trying to resist buying ready-made starter, but I'm pretty stubborn and may try again. What else do I have to do during quarantine :)

phaz's picture
phaz

I've never used one, but I hear good things. Google Friends of Carl - I think they are still kicking, and an interesting story on a starter that goes back like 200yrs. - and free.

Search this site for - Pineapple Juice Solution - and check out her posts on this. I've never done it but also hear good things (it's been around for a long long time). Enjoy!

Breadifornia's picture
Breadifornia

If you do go back to the drawing board, you may also want to try making yeast water first.  (basically dried fruit--raisins, dates--in sweetened water for a few days until the fruit is fizzing with bubbles).  Then do equal parts of this water and flour, with subsequent 1:1 (fresh water: flour) feedings for a day or two, until you see the starter is active.  It's a very reliable method. This is a good intro video to making yeast water: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8jbrE-BB9U Good luck!

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

Thanks for the suggestion. If I have to start over, I was thinking of trying the pineapple method since it seems to have been mentioned multiple times on other threads. Fingers crossed though, there seems to have been some changes over the last 24 hours!

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

It’s not only possible, it’s extremely likely!  You have to feed the starter, or it won’t work.  The stirring trick is meant to be an addition to a feeding schedule, not a replacement for one.

 

These “lull” days that pass, after the bacteria bloom on day 2-3 but before the thickening and subsequent yeast rise, may look like nothing is happening, but there is actually quite a lot going on.  Bacteria are doing their thing, and creating the acidic environment that yeasts need to survive.  While these bacteria don’t show any visible signs that they are active, they most certainly are active anyway.  And they also most certainly need to eat.  The bacteria are consuming the available food sources, and without replenishing those food sources, the food will eventually run out (In the case of your “3rd day of just stirring” starter, that probably happened two days ago).

I can stir a pot of boiling water until I’m blue in the face, but if I don’t ever put anything else in it, it ain’t never gonna be chicken soup!

 

Even in a strong healthy starter, too many stirrings in between feedings (and by that, I mean a stirring instead of a feeding, after a starter has peaked) will eventually harm all of the microorganisms’ population density.

  • Discard
  • FEED
  • Stir
  • Repeat
Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

Ooops, I didn't realize I should've been feeding more! I thought I was waiting for signs that the starter was hungry (rising/peaking or a layer of hooch).

I also realized I got my days mixed up, so I had actually fed it yesterday. When I just went to stir the starter, I saw that it had risen VERY slightly above the rubber band, and it's the first time I can see bubbles developing along the side of the jar. There are now minimal bubbles on the surface; smells good.

07/30 AM: Fed 1:1:1 with 30g starter + 30g flour + 30g water

07/30 PM: Stirred, no feeding

07/31 AM: Fed 1:1:1 with 30g starter + 30g flour + 30g water

07/31 PM: Stirred, no feeding

So now the million dollar question: how do I get the starter to rise more - should I stick to once a day feedings or move to 2x a day? I also don't know how to tell the starter is hungry if it's not rising or developing hooch...

I am encouraged by the bubbles in the starter (not just the top). So hopefully this means I'm continuing on the right track (post starter starvation haha).

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

Now we’re cookin’!  The bubbles along the side are a fantastic sign, they show that you’ve got some action going on in there!  

At this point, I would stick to the schedule you mentioned (am feed / pm stir), and the 1:1:1 ratio.  I believe you’re right on the edge of seeing some strong growth.  Now that you are seeing some rise above the level of the rubber band, you’ll want to start paying attention to when it peaks.  Since we’re still trying, at this point, to beef up the population density of the yeasts, you will want to do your feedings / stirrings as close to peak time as possible, if not slightly before.  Once the starter is rising a reliable amount, in a reliable amount of time, then you can start tweaking feed ratios (to adjust when peak times happen) and/or feed timings (to adjust the mellowness or sourness of your dough).

 

If you have one of the smaller (half-pint?) sized Mason jars, you can drop down to only carrying over 10g of starter, if you want to discard less with each feeding (so it would be 10g starter : 10g water : 10g flour).  Makes it a lot more manageable in between bakes, and can be easily scaled up when needed.

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

Been a few days since I've given a status update, but here's what we've got this morning (pics below).

I've been watching my starter over the weekend and a 1:1:1 feeding on Friday seemed to still be very tacky. So I fed my starter on Saturday and Sunday mornings with 30g starter + 40g flour + 40g water. It's definitely rising a little bit more with the higher amount of food/water, but I have a few questions.

1) It's taking FOREVER for it to rise, we're talking a 12+ hr incubation time to get this level of rise - does this mean that my starter is still working to acclimate itself to feedings?

2) I am feeding it a mix of whole wheat and AP flour (50/50). Should I go to a higher % of AP flour, or stay the course?

3) In the PM, I am stirring (not feeding). I can tell through the stirring that there's a decent amount of gas/bubbles in the starter, but the texture is not as "sponge" like or thick as I would expect. The smell over the last few days has also been more acidic? Not super unpleasant, but not exactly sourdough/tang. Should I be concerned with the smell or texture at this point?

At this point, I am planning to continue to feed 1x per day in the morning, and stir in the evenings. My impression is that my starter is still not very strong given it's slow rise, but I'm not sure how to troubleshoot it to help it become more active.

phaz's picture
phaz
  1.  Not so much getting used to the food as low numbers of bugs, which will get better in time (once it starts it tends to go quick).
  2. Stick with it, once it's mature (consistent rising of 2x minimum and consistent time) you can work in a change in food.
  3. Smell is about right, it'll change as it matures - and as food gets used up a starter tends to get thinner, this is normal. And here's another reason for a thick started - when you notice it's thinning down, something is up, like maybe not enough food to last between feedings. Thickness also has a direct relationship to rising - thicker leans towards higher rising and longer to fall.

As it's starting to take off, keep an eye on it as little by little it'll need more food. Thicken it up a little and watch for it getting soupy, if it does, increase food. Enjoy!

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

I agree with Phaz:  it’s getting close, but still needs more time to further strengthen.  One of the big mistakes many of us made (myself included) was thinking we had to constantly be messing with it.  Thinking that all it needed to take right off was to tweak just one little thing (and when that didn’t work by the next day, to tweak something else).  What many of us discovered (the hard way) was that after clean water and proper temperature the most important things for a new-born starter are patience and stability.  It’s easier for wild yeasts to become a dominant force in their environment when that environment isn’t constantly changing.  Knowing that didn’t keep me from trying to tweak it, and I think that my starter took longer than it needed to because of that.

 

So, to answer your questions:

1). As Phaz mentioned, right now it’s more a case of your starter is still working on improving the yeast’s population density.  As the population density continues to increase, you will start to see higher rises (more yeast cells creating more gases) and faster rises (more yeast cells depleting the food source at a faster pace). 

2). Keep feeding it what you are currently feeding it.  The whole wheat provides your yeast cells an extra burst of nutrition.  In addition to that, this early in the yeast’s development the whole wheat provides a boost to the yeast’s population density.  As the starter matures, the whole wheat will have less of an impact on the population of the yeasts, so can be eventually reduced or even left out.  Think of it this way:  in the beginning, your starter is a vast empty wasteland.  As shipments of supplies arrive, they bring little yeastie immigrants with them, and these little colonists set up shop and start to live their lives and start families in this wild new frontier.  The supply trains continue to bring new settlers, so all of the little frontier towns get bigger.  Periodically, a stirring comes along, and our little settlers pack up and move out into the wild countryside, and start new little towns. Eventually, our wild frontier becomes a fully settled country, and the new immigrants that arrive with each supply shipment are greatly outnumbered by the native birthrate of yeasts whose families have been in Starterslovakia for generations.  Once their ability to maintain their population density is fully met by the native birthrate, it’s no longer necessary that the supply shipments bring more yeasts along for the ride.

 

3). My experience was that the consistency of the starter became thicker (or maybe a better term would be more glutenous?  Like a light, bubbly marshmallow cream...) on its own, and my assumption was that it had something to do with the acidity of the mix and how that affected gluten formation.  Phaz does have an excellent point, that right after a feeding, a starter might feel stiffer, but as the yeasts consume the starches in the flour, the starter will become thinner.  This thinning usually seems to occur after the starter has peaked.  I don’t think that it would hurt anything at this point to add a little bit more flour to thicken things up, but I also don’t think it would hurt anything to not do that.  Adding more flour will increase the time before peaking, so it might be more to your benefit to hold off on doing that until your peak times are faster than they currently are.  I think that the smell/texture you’re describing are perfectly in line for where you are in your starter’s development.

 

So my recommendation would be to follow your plan to stay the course with your feeding schedule, and your yeast’s strength will build on its own (and probably better/faster than if you fiddle with things!).

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

Thanks so much to you and Phaz for your continued engagement. The smell definitely threw me for a loop, especially since it was fine for quite a few days, so I appreciate your feedback.

I'll admit, I am a bit frustrated since the starter seems to have regressed overnight. Is it normal for the starter to be so temperamental and unpredictable? I've been feeding on the 24 hr cycle (feeding in the AM as it works better for my schedule), stirring at the 12 hr mark in the evenings. I was seeing an okay rise (not great/fast) but this morning there was no rise and much less bubbles on the surface and almost none on the sides. 

I fed again this morning, and I see some bubbles developing on the side/top so it's not dead (despite the smell and unpredictable behavior). I guess the best I can do now is to continue and see if the starter begins to become more consistent and predictable -- I feel like it's acting like a toddler and throwing a fit for no apparent reason!

I'm almost tempted to start a second starter using the pineapple method just to see if I get more consistent results...

phaz's picture
phaz

I mentioned above to keep an eye on it - check out the bottom of my post.

If there's no rise after a stir, there's no food. The note mentioned above will tell ya why. Fortunately it's good news - you'll be baking bread soon.

Pineapple juice thing - go for it. All it really takes is a couple minutes to mix some flour and juice and one way or the other (or both ways) you'll have a starter to play with. If it works the way it should (according to what I've heard over the years) both could be ready to use about the same time - a week or so. Enjoy!

Mgoblue's picture
Mgoblue

I think it's hard for me to tell if it's hungry because it takes the starter SO LONG to rise. The few days where it did rise, it definitely felt like 12-18 hrs had lapsed...

And yes, I might start a pineapple juice based starter this weekend if I can't get this little starter to behave more consistently. My patience is definitely wearing thin!! :)

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

When I reached that point of exasperation with Randolph (and yes, it did seem like he was acting like a toddler!) I started an all rye & pineapple juice starter (Mortimer) to go along with him.  Maybe Randolph realized that he wasn’t as irreplaceable as he thought he was, because by the time Mortimer was viable, so was Randolph.

 

Now...  As Phaz mentions, not getting a second rise is a sign that our yeasts’s population density has reached a point where, when you do a feeding, the microorganisms are able to saturate the mix well enough that they can consume all of the food source without needing to be stirred around.  We can still increase how thoroughly we can get yeasts to saturate the mix, though, and this is how we change the length of time it takes your starter to peak.

 At this point, you will probably want to look at increasing the ratio of your feeds.  You can do this by either adding more flour & water, or by carrying over less starter (or some mix of both of those options).  So if you’ve been doing 1:1:1, try going to 1:2:2.  (So, if you’ve been doing 15g:15g:15g:, you can accomplish the change to 1:2:2 by switching to 15g:30g:30g, or 10g:20g:20g.

 

At the same time, it may be a benefit to you to add a little bit more flour for the next feeding or three.  So possibly 1:2:2.5, or maybe 1:2:3?  This should help you be able to see any rise better, but it decreases the starter’s hydration.  After a few feedings like these, switch back to the 1:2:2 ratio to bring your starter’s hydration, over time, back up to 100%.

 

Eventually, the ratio you settle upon will determine (and be determined by) your schedule.  Once your starter is healthy and active, you’ll be able to tweak things to bring your feedings in line with how quickly you want your starter to peak.

phaz's picture
phaz

It'll pick up, this isn't what I'd call s quick starting starter, but it's showing signs of life and that's a good thing. 

When to feed - really, whenever you want. As long as it has enough food to last between it's good. How much that is depends on your particular starter - all starters are not the same - and your schedule. To really determine ratios I use stirring. If I want to feed every day, I throw in x amount of food and wait a day. I then stir it. If it doesn't rise it rises less or slower, x wasn't enough food to last the day and we need to increase. If it still rises like normal (whatever that happens to be for your starter) there's still food available and we need to stir and observe. If it keeps rising well, it still has food and however much we gave it last time was too much. 

This is a lot easier to do with a mature starter as it's more consistent, but the same holds true when trying to get a starter going. I think I mentioned about keeping a thick starter (almost dough like) and this can also be used to tell if out needs food - as food is used up things will get thinner - if you see your normally thick starter getting thin, it's running out of food. 

If I already mentioned this in this thread - disregard! I'm tired. I remember going through this a few times but can't remember exactly where! And if I didn't - Enjoy!