Smallest advisable inoculation for starter feeding?
Hi everyone. I'm new here and I want to start out by saying thanks for all the terrific information on this site. Thanks to you I am now sourdough-obsessed. lol. I wonder if all you sourdough experts could help me with a question I have.
I'm trying to figure out a feeding schedule and ratio for my 6-week-old starter that isn't too inconvenient for me or too unhealthy for the starter. I'd like to maintain a once-a-day feeding schedule at 75% hydration - once a day because that fits my schedule best, and 75% hydration because that's the level at which I feel I can best tell what shape my starter is in (I get a nice rise and fall at 75% - too thin and it doesn't rise, too thick and I'm afraid I won't be able to tell when it's overripe).
My question is, what is the smallest amount of starter I can get away with to inoculate my maintenance starter? In bwraith's blog post "Maintaining a 100% Hydration White Flour Starter," he says that he uses 5 grams of old starter to inoculate 20 grams of water and 25 grams of flour. Judging from the pictures of the bread he bakes, that seems to work just fine. But how much lower is it possible to go? 2 grams? 1 gram? 1/2 gram? At some point, if I remember correctly from biology 101 more years ago than I care to admit, the number of critters in the old starter will be so small that they might not contain whatever particular variant of yeast/bacteria that's responsible for making the starter taste like it does. As I rather like the taste of the bread I'm getting from my starter right now, I'd hate to inoculate with so small an amount that I risk having it change on me just because I used 1 gram of old starter instead of 4 or 5.
I'm no microbiologist, and I know some here are, so please correct me if I'm wrong about that. Or maybe there are so many zillions of organisms in a gram of starter that there's nothing to worry about. At any rate, has anyone tried using tiny amounts like 1 gram or even less for any length of time? If so, what were the results, both for the health and the distinctive flavor characteristics of the starter? I'm tempted to split my starter into several batches and compare the results doing 1/2, 1, and 2-gram inoculations for a week or so, but I don't know if I could sustain having to coddle 3 starters for that long.
Thanks in advance for any help.