The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

166% Hydration Starter

tnjoann's picture

166% Hydration Starter

I activated a dry starter from Friends of Carl on Jan 6.  It is doing nicely and easily more than doubles in 3 hours, and I am learning to bake sourdough bread with it.  I have made English Muffin Sourdough, First Loaf, Basic White, and Black Canyon Sourdough.  There is so much for me to learn, at first it was overwhelming but little by little I am getting it.

I want to make Raisin Walnut Cranberry and I need 166% starter for it.  I posted about making a 166 % starter here and thought I understood.

My 100% starter continues to do well and double easily in 3 hours but my 166% starter is not doubling ever.  I am feeding it about every 12 hours, keeping it in a warm place (77-79f) using only spring water bottled

I started with 100g of my 100% starter added 33g water to change it to 166%

Fed with 50 flour and 83 water (fdg1)

weighed at 260g fed with 130g flour and 215g water(fdg2)

discarded all but 100g fed with 100g flour and 166g water (Mini mentioned these amounts in my other thread)(fdg3)

discarded all but 100g fed with 100g flour and 166g water ratio (fdg4)

discard all but 100 starter and fed with 100g f and 166 g water(fdg 5)

It still isn't doubling here is what it looks like 2 hours after last feeding the jar on the right is the 166% and the jar on the left is my 100%.  As you can see it isn't rising much still.



First Question Am I doing this right?














dabrownman's picture

to double.  I'm guessing co2 that normally gets trapped in the 100% making it double is just passing through the much thinner 166% and going through to the surface as bubbles and popping.  Very normal.

Rocketcaver's picture

Correct.  166% starter won't ever double or rise much at all because it's just too thin.   It takes some getting used to.  In your photo you can see bubbles along the edges.  It's fine.



tnjoann's picture

Oh Thank You to both of you!  I just couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong....... I just assumed it would double...  I am thrilled to hear it is ok.  Now to build it up and make that cranberry, raisin, walnut bread...... hmmm maybe I should wait till we eat most of what I made yesterday since there are only 2 of us :)


I love this forum!

Isand66's picture

Next if you want you cn convert the recipe to use a100% starter.  There is a tool on her site to do this or you can figure it out on your own.

tnjoann's picture

So if a recipe calls for 100 grams of 166% starter and I have 100 g of 100% can I just add 66 g water more than the recipe calls for, use the 100% starter and have the same thing?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

it takes a few days to convert.  The first feeding drastically slows the starter timing down and you have to wait for the starter to ferment before feeding it again.

One of the reasons that 100% is so popular is that we can write about it easier.  It is easier to "read" and tell how far the fermentation has progressed using expansion as a guide.  With a 166% the starter will not rise much and the smell and size of bubbles is much more difficult to describe.  It is harder to know when the starter culture is concentrated enough to use in a recipe.  This often leads to starters going well over their peak and necessitates using extra added yeast to raise the dough or make up for unpredictable lag time.  

If you have plenty of time and have no trouble "reading" a high hydration starter, then by all means do it.  It does however require a larger sourdough jar and more often than not, a larger amount of inoculation starter where "cupfuls" are removed to bake and "cupfuls" returned as flour & water to stir in and feed.   

hanseata's picture

of a 166% hydration starter?


tnjoann's picture

Hanseata  I am a newbie, just starting to learn sourdough.  For me at this point the  benefit I see is that it is the hydration called for in the recipe I want to use.  I notice a lot of recipes call for either 100% starter or 166% starter.

 I am sure someone more experienced will come along and share the true benefits of it. 

ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

Liquid sourdoughs only have one real advantage:  they are pumpable.  This is the reason they are used by the industrial-baking sector.  If wheat-based, they are usually used more as a natural dough improver than a main leavening agent.  Liquid rye sourdoughs (often referred to, stupidly, as type II) are a completely different issue altogether.  There are many machines used by bakers in countries that tend to make type II, rye-based sourdoughs (say, Germany) that can stir and control the batter's temperature.  These machines were later adopted by French bakers for maintaining wheat-versions.  The idea of levain liquide was popularised within artisan- and home-baking circles by Kayser's 100% Pain, and even later by Robertson's Tartine Bread.

I personally do not like or recommend maintaining a starter in these conditions, for too many reasons to name.  But I do recommend using these sorts of hydrations in the leaven-building stages.

nicodvb's picture

on this subject if you like, I think the matter is very interesting. I moved away from very liquid wheat starters myself for practical reasons, but I don't have a solid theoric formation.

linder's picture

For ease of maintenance, I guess, a 166% starter is fed  1:1 by volume not by weight.  It can be easier for some folks to keep a starter this way.  So feeding 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour (ie. equal volumes) will yield the 166% hydration.  At least this is what is mentioned on the Northwest Sourdough website. 

"There are two different common ways of feeding a sourdough starter - volume measurements or weighed ingredients. For volume measurements you use a 1:1 ratio of flour to water for feeding your starter. This can be one cup of flour to one cup of water or 1/2 cup of flour to 1/2 cup water etc. This will produce a hydration level of approximately 166%."

I don't think there is any other real advantage that I can think of off hand.


tnjoann's picture

So from all I am learning about the different hydrations it sounds like I would be just as well off to keep one 100% hydration starter and add 66% water to the amount of starter called for in a 166% starter recipe.  Whew that seems much easier, less flour and half the work  as compared to keeping and feeding 2 starters on my counter, one at 100% and one at 166%. 

hanseata's picture

Thanks, Ars Pistorica, for the detailed information.

I wonder why we artisan home bakers should try to copy methods developed for commercial bakeries in order to make their mass production more cost effective.

Ye olde Karin