The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie looking for a starter mentor <3

nicamot's picture
nicamot

Newbie looking for a starter mentor <3

Hi!

 

I hope you are all staying safe and sane.

I made a starter about a month ago with organic whole wheat flour at 100% hydration, with 45g of flour and 45g of water. After the first week(ish, maybe 9 days), when it was rising to about double, I put the discard (roughly 1/2 of the volume) into a new container (both containers are plastic, does this matter?) and I have been feeding both once a day, with unbleached, unbromated King Arthur AP flour since then. They were suuuuper runny, like I could pour the discard into the sink and it would just go away, I didn't have to rinse it or dissolve it, it would slip right from the spatula, I didn't have to wipe it. It had bitty bubbles and smelled yeasty but it wasn't really doubling in volume.

In the last week, I started adding 5g more of flour than water and it has a little more body, the bubbles are a little bigger, especially when I stir it, I see bigger bubble structure inside, but it's still pretty runny. It's watery but stretchy. If I tried to scoop a spoonful to see if it floats it couldn't hold its shape on a spoon at all, though.

Is that normal? should I keep going? change something?

Also, when can I put them in the fridge and feed them less often? and if I need to use, let's say, 250g of starter, do I need to feed it little by little until I get to more than 250g so I don't use it all, or how does it actually work?

 

Sorry, I'm excited about having something grow from nothing but I'm pretty ignorant of the process.

I look forward to hearing back from someone! thank you for your help! :)

 

<blockquote class="imgur-embed-pub" lang="en" data-id="a/g6ibaez"  ><a href="//imgur.com/a/g6ibaez">runny sourdough starter</a></blockquote><script async src="//s.imgur.com/min/embed.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

link to imgur, in case the embed doesn't work

The Almighty Loaf's picture
The Almighty Loaf

Welcome to sourdough baking! I'm sure you'll find a lot of great, knowledgable people on this site who are willing to help you whenever you need it.

Though I am a bit confused; what's your inoculation percentage for your starter? 1 part starter to 1 part flour? Less than that? You only seemed to specify volume, which isn't too helpful since it doesn't provide a ratio by weight. If your innoculation is 1:1, the recommended upper limit, then a once a day feeding probably isn't enough. To only feed your starter once a day at room temperature, you'll probably need to reduce the innoculation to 1 part starter to 6+ parts flour. Alternatively, you could just feed your starter more often; a 1:1 ratio starter will likely need 3 feedings a day, which is really annoying, so I'd say a 1: 4-5 ratio starter is better since it only needs a twice a day feeding. If your house is colder at room temperature, you might be able to bump it up to a 1: 2-3 ratio.

Also, how does it smell? Does it smell like alcohol? That'd be a clear sign that your starter is hungry and needs a higher flour ratio too.

nicamot's picture
nicamot

Hello!

Thank you so much for your reply!

Some of these terms are new for me, so I hope I'm giving you the information you're asking me for.

The exact numbers are: I'm leaving 65g of starter and adding 35g of flour and 30g of water every day, once a day. For the larger container, I'm leaving 85g of starter and adding 45g of flour and 40g of water. Neither of them smell like alcohol, they smell nice and bready/yeasty - it's not a bad smell at all. The small one sometimes has a liiiitle bit of hooch on top but even then it doesn't smell very alcohol-y and I just stir it in, before discarding what I'm discarding.

I would prefer to not have to feed my starter more than twice a day, if that's an option. 

I have a lot more questions, but I think it'll be easier to address one at a time so I don't get confused hahaha so I'll just leave it here for now.

Thanks again!

Õunake's picture
Õunake

Your feeding ratios are essentially 2:1:1 so that's 2 parts starter, 1 part flour, 1 part water. A ratio of 1:1:1 would be all equal weights, for example 50g/50g/50g and a ratio of 1:2:2 would be 50g/100g/100g, etc.

Your current feeding ratio is too low and the fact that you're a month into it makes that even lower in a way because typically you should be well into twice a day feeds with at least a 1:2:2 ratio by now. Usually you start with 1:1:1 and then increase the ratio (that is, increase the flour and water added), especially now in the summer when themperatures are higher and the yeasts eat through their meals at a faster rate. The fact that your starters are developing hooch is another sign of hunger and a note to you to feed them more food or do it more frequently. It's best not to let them fall and sit hungry for too long before another feeding is due but if yours are developing hooch then I'm guessing they go quite a while after reaching max height before you feed them again. I would increase your feeding ratio to 1:1:1 for a few feedings and then up it to 1:2:2 as they adjust.

 

 

nicamot's picture
nicamot

oh wow, turns out I am exceptionally bad at math! hahaha

Ok, I'm going to start doing 1:1:1 twice a day, today. How many feedings should I do before moving onto 1:2:2?

What is the least amount of starter I can work with when the ratios of the feeding start getting larger? like, could I do 15g:15g:15g and then 10g:20g:20g? also, can I use what I discard right away or do I need to do anything more to it before I can use it?

Thank you so much for spelling it out hahah I am very embarrassed but also very thankful for your help and patience. :)

 

Õunake's picture
Õunake

I would like to preface this by saying that I'm quite new to sourdough starters and baking myself so don't take what I say as some gospel or anything, feel free to gather opinions and make your own decisions because at the end of the day no one knows your starter better than you. However, what I've learned from my own experience is that even though starters are known to be resilient they can also be temperamental and sensitive, especially when young. That's really the only reason why I'm suggesting upping your feeding bit by bit instead of going from where you're at now to something like 1:4:4 all in one go. I'd do 2-3 feeds at 1:1:1 then move to 1:2:2 and see how your starter is doing to decide whether to up the ratio some more or a lot more if you want to try to feed once a day or place it in the fridge for far less frequent feedings.

The smallest amount of starter you can work with is really limited by your kitchen scale. They tend to be more inaccurate when you go really low, like below 5g (assuming a scale that uses 1g increments). So I wouldn't really go lower than that. Something like 10g or 15g is perfectly fine. 

With a month-old starter you can use your discards in recipes right away. I also suggest collecting them into a container you keep in the fridge because you won't want to be cooking discard recipes twice a day every day and the discards will keep just fine in the fridge and you can just take the amount you need when you need and keep the rest for another time. :)

phaz's picture
phaz

Wow, a video of the starter getting stirred and showing consistency - I wish everyone did this - it always tells me a lot. And from the first post - a note on that later - I'd have to say you should be feeding more, probably a lot more. The flours you're using usually create strong starters, and a strong starter is usually a hungry one. Something amount the lines of 122 (sfw) would be a start. Then you should monitor and adjust as needed (changes need to be tested and adjusted, there will be a settling in period). 

Consistency - thicken it up. That thickness can tell you a lot about how a starter is doing. I like them to be thick enough so it doesn't pour (not even close to pouring - that thin is usually a bad sign). Right now just add flour and stir , it should be thick enough where it won't have any kind of flow. I use a butter knife and if I scoop some out with it it just hangs there not even moving. Keep it like that - whatever ratio it takes. You'll also find it rising more and bubbles will be more noticeable.

Posting - please do ask questions - whatever it's about, well, as long as it's bread related, or close. I love to read them and will always try to help. More questions are gooder questions, lots of questions in 1 post can get a little confusing (at least for an old(er) gent who hits hundreds of golf balls every day. If folks could like number them it would be great. I bet answers would also be a bit less confusing. Anyway, thicken it up, give more food (food lasts longer when it's thick), send results, and keep asking. Enjoy!