The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Using Fresh Ground Flour in SD Starter seems to kill the starter, Help!

syllymom's picture

Using Fresh Ground Flour in SD Starter seems to kill the starter, Help!

Still learning with fresh ground flour so here is my new question.  It seems that when I feed my SD starter with fresh ground flour it seems to kill the starter.  I can save the starter by refreshing with store bought flour.  But the fresh ground flour looks like it the water and flour seperate and it just is not the same.  Any ideas?  It looks like when you are starting a new starter and in the early stage you get that layer of liquid at the bottom.... you the bad stuff.



Rosalie's picture

I, also, am no expert.  But I do use fresh-ground flour exclusively.

I think that the separation is normal, and that you can just stir it back in.

Are you baking with it?  How is that working?


lolo's picture

I also have a starter that's fed only 100% fresh ground hard red winter wheat.  I baked my first loaf last night; it rose well and had an amazing crumb, but it wasn't sour at all.  I'm making a second loaf today, hoping that a longer rise will help develop the flavor more.

Like everyone else said, I'm not an expert, but I do know that my starter is happy with fresh ground flour.   

parousia's picture


i have the exact same thing happening to my SD starter. 

-found adding fresh ground(hard white spring wheat - wheat montana) to a starter of unbleached King Arthur kills the starter.

-have begun a starter involving only fresh ground, however it is fickle.  once there was a small amount of rise, neglected it a bit, and it died.

so i just now checked the starter. it smells like apple juice.  this is unlike anything that has happened before, but it does not yet have the rising capability that a white flour starter would even shortly after the first few doublings.

also, i use a yogurt maker to ensure a steady warm, sometimes hot environment, as if South Carolina was not hot enough already.

don't give up.



Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

There are lots of issues with sourdough starters, and focusing on one of them can be self-defeating.  I've fed my starters with home ground hard red winter wheat and had no problems.  Mostly.


However, whole grains have more ash/mineral content and can thus buffer the acidity of the starter more effectively than a starter fed on refined flours.  This means if you don't feed your starter often enough, a starter fed on whole grain flour (whether home ground or store bought) will become far more acidic than a starter fed on white flour.  And as a result, it will be more difficult to revive and use such a starter.


You mentioned hooch.  In general that suggests to me the starter wasn't fed enough, often enough, or both.  I find when a starter is at a hydration much higher than 100% it will be too thin, not have enough food for the starter in it, and burn through the food very quickly.  I suggest to beginners that about 100% hydration is where you want to be.  With starters at more than 100% hydration, we often see hooch layers that are not on the top of the starter.


Also, a starter at room temperature needs to be fed, in my opinion, at least twice a day, with each feeding being enough to double it's size.  Feedings not only give the starter food, they also dilute the acidity of the starter.  When a starter gets too acidic, it's very hard on the starter.

So.... I don't thnk the issue is that you are using home ground flour.  I suspect that's more than likely just one issue.




syllymom's picture

Makes sense about the starter needing more flour or more frequent refreshing.  I will do that.

I did bake a loaf of bread with the starter and much to my surprise it worked.

Here is my starter that looks so sad, but perhaps its just hooch... even though its in the middle and not top.

Here is the bread that it make

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

That's a nice looking loaf.  I can only hope it tastes as good as it looks.


On the topic of home ground flour, I find that if you don't take some extra steps, the breads wind up being blander than I like.  Peter Reinhart's last book has some excellent techniques (which are not new techniques, though he does put some interesting spins on old technuques) for making the bread taste better.


Sourdough helps, of course, as does putting a good bit of the flour through an autolyse process.  He salts his autolyse and lets it work for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature.  The salt tends to slow the enzymatic action to keep the autolyse from going too far.


Also, the hooch in the center usually happens, in my experience, when the starter is wetter.  If you mix 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water the starter is between  160 and 240% hydration, depending on how the cups are filled.  WAY beyond the 100% hydration that I find works better for most sourdough beginners.