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bread lacks flavor -- starter too mild?

bread.on.beard's picture

bread lacks flavor -- starter too mild?

When I initially cultured my starter, I used the water from fermented raisins and white bread flour.  The bread I bake seems lacking in flavor, and is, also, not sour.  I have experimented to no end with different starter amounts (5% to 20% of recipe by weight), different temps, flour combinations, rising times, and techniques without much change in the end result.  The bread looks good with a crispy enough crust, open crumb, and great keeping quality, but the flavor is lacking.  I keep my 100% hydration starter in the fridge until I need it.  When it is time to use it, I let 10 grams warm up to at least room temp of 68 degrees, and begin feeding it 1:1:1.  It usually takes 3 to 4 feedings before it becomes active enough to use.  I have used rye flour, whole wheat flour, combinations of white, rye, and whole wheat flours to feed it, and have altered the temp from 80 degrees temperatures to 50 degrees.  I have used the starter at the beginning of its cycle, at its peak, and a few hours after it peaks and begins to recede, and all manner and types of variations to bring out more flavor and nothing seems to work.   I have a variety of coolers I use to lower or raise dough temps.   I have tried retarding the dough at fridge temps of 39 degrees, and in coolers at 50 degrees, from one day to four days, and warmed the dough to 85 degrees for the final rise, and so on.   



I am beginning to think it was a mistake to culture the starter using water from fermented raisins.  I suspect the dominant strains of yeast from the raisins resulted in a starter that is too mild, and my subsequent feedings haven't changed it, even when I feed it only rye flour.    Any opinion on this would be appreciated, otherwise, I am planning to culture a new starter using  just flour and water, or maybe the pineapple and rye method.  

Wheat Rules's picture
Wheat Rules

The flavor of your bread has more to do with the final rise than most other factors. According to Tartine Bread, it is possible to have no "sourdough" flavor with a 2 hour final rise, and an extremely sour flavor with a 4-5 hour rise  (assuming dough is 78-82 degrees) As long as your starter is active, I would not start over...just focus on the final rise time and temp.

breadbythecreek's picture

Lack of sourness is a classic yeast water characteristic. I'd use yeast water starter for sweet breads. If it's sour you want, go with the rye/pineapple starter, keep it in the refrigerator after it's established and keep it pretty thin - thick starters at warm temps are less sour than thin starters at cold temps. If anyone disagrees, please chime in.

GregS's picture

First of all, I'd recommend looking at Debra Wink's blog on this site. She's the originator of the pineapple juice starter idea and a microbiologist besides.

In my personal experience, the yeast in the starter seem to like moderately warm temperatures, while the lactic acid bacteria (which give the starter its sour taste) seem to multiply better when the starter is moderately cool. Your task is to balance the leavening strength of the yeast and the sour strength of the LAB. At any rate, go visit Debra's blog, you'll gain from it.

PatrickS's picture

The thing that has impacted the sourness of my bread the most is the time I make my leaven. If I make it up the night before I bake, I get a more sour loaf. If I leave it for only 5-6 hours I get a milder bread.

dabrownman's picture

Yeast water will never be sour and why folks keep it around when sour is not needed or wanted - YW is the perfect option for those baked goods,  It also cancels most of the sour if used in conjunction with a sourdough starter, which i do all the time to improve the keeping quality of the bread which SD brings to the party.  I haven't found YW able to impart as good a keeping quality has SD all by itself.

You want a sourdough culture that has Lab for the sour as well as yeast in it.  I've never tried to covert YW to a sourdough which might be possible but a SD starter is easy to make so why do it?  Having both SD and YW  is a great thing in my book especially for folks who don't like sour but want its keeping qualities, 

ElPanadero's picture

I too experimented with fermenting raisins in water purely for interest having read about it on that wonderful t'interweb.  After the water was lively and bubbly I started adding flour to it, thinking it could be made into a starter but it was very sweet smelling mixture and clearly was not a SD starter.  It is something else.  It might well have the ability to rise bread, it is after all some kind of ferment, but it isn't sourced or seeded from the wild yeasts in the flour.  As such it won't taste like a SD starter nor have the same characteristics.

If a SD starter is what you are looking for, then as DA suggess, just go make one.  It's very easy and only takes a few days. 


Joyofgluten's picture

What % of salt are you using? If it's on the low side you could try increasing it a bit.

bread.on.beard's picture

Thank you all for responding.  I have tried  final proofings of 4 to 6 hours with various temps up to 85 degrees.  I have fed my starter, and put it in the fridge overnight before using the next day.  I increased the salt from 2 to 2.5 to 3%.  Unless there is something I overlooked, the last culprit standing is the starter itself.  It has been through several feeding cycles of rye only for the last twenty feedings or so.  I use 10 grams of starter and add 10 grams of water and 10 grams of rye until it peaks.  I then discard 20 grams, and start over for usually three feedings.  I end up with 30 grams of active starter that gets fed 30 grams of water and 30 grams of rye.  I use 80 grams of starter for the mix and keep 10 grams out to use for the next mix which gets refrigerated.  I have also tried old dough a few times  like a pre-ferment with more or less the same results.  The bread is OK, but I think it should have more flavor and more sour.  I've made yeasted bread that had more flavor than what I'm getting now.  I was hoping to find a way to "convert" my starter into something that would give me better results, but I'm thinking I should just start another stater using pineapple juice and rye a la Debra Wink.  In the meantime, I will keep adjusting what I do per all of these suggestions and keep trying.   Thanks again.

ElPanadero's picture

" I was hoping to find a way to "convert" my starter into something that would give me better results, but I'm thinking I should just start another stater using pineapple juice and rye a la Debra Wink. "

I think this is the right way forward.  I think what a few are saying here is that what you have there is not a "starter" as such.  It is something else seeded from the yeasts in raisins.   It will only take a few days to get going with a great new starter.  Begin with wheat or rye for the quickest creation cycle and once you have that starter lively and healthy use a little of it to seed a white AP starter (assuming you want both).  GL

mwilson's picture

If it can raise bread it's a starter. 

The most abundant yeast in rye is S.cerevisiae same as the raisins! So why start over?

No matter how you start a starter it will always eventually become an "SD starter". Maintenance dictates it.

To start over is always a step backwards.


ElPanadero's picture

Hi Michael.  In responding to this let me first say I have great respect for your knowledge, experience and all the great recipes and insight you have contributed here.  So I am not going to attempt to disagree with any of the literal points you have made.  I will learn from your greater experience.

What I will say is that my heart sinks every time this issue of naming conventions and general semantics rears its head. I can't really see how in any practicable or meaningful sense it is helpful to newbie bread makers to have such a plethora of terminologies for what is effectively the same thing.  When all is said and done, people the world over are creating and maintaining cultures of yeast and lactobacilli.  Those cultures can be based on yeasts from grains, or fruits, or vegetables or plants or humans.  They will each have different characteristics, flavours, colours and no doubt will respond differently to various stimuli like temperature or the addition of other substances into the mix.  If, generally speaking, the yeast in all these things is the same (and I'm not sure that's entirely true reading some sources), I still believe there are other elements to the cultures that exhibit their own characteristics.  Thus, mix water with say raisins or apples or plums and you will inevitably end up with a rather sweet smelling and tasting culture.  Make a culture from wheat/rye grains and you will get something neutral or sour (which depends, as we know, on the temperatures and proportions of flour and water used to feed it which affect the balances of yeasts and LABs in the culture).

In bread making terms bakers add flour and water (and other things) to these cultures to effect their "Art".  This doesn't really change the fact that they are all using cultures of yeast and lactobacilli at ground level.  Despite this the world of bread making seems to have evolved an entire dictionary of terminology to define a seemingly neverending set of permutations of the mix of these yeast/LAB cultures with flour and water in differing proportions.   Why? I ask myself.   Is it really in any way helpful or beneficial to use all of those terms?

Your statement "If it can raise bread it's a starter" is a case in point.

For 1000s of years the term "leavening" has been used to refer to any substance that will raise a dough.  Thus for me, a sourdough starter, baker's yeast, baking powder etc are all types of leavening.  By your terminology, baker's yeast and sourdough starter would both be deemed "starter"  I'm not looking for any rights or wrongs here, but rather am looking at what is helpful and what is not helpful to baking newbies.  It does seem somewhat of a minefield.  I mean depending on what proportion of flour and water you mix into a quantity of culture, and depending what country a recipe is from,  you could be looking at a Poolish, a Sponge, a Biga, a Pre-ferment, a starter, a sourdough starter and so on.   If you mix enough flour and water to some culture and throw in a little salt you then basically have a dough to bake with, but if you now take a small piece of that dough to save and use in the next bake, well that's called "natural leaven" !   It was "dough" a minute ago, but now it's natural leaven!

I flicked through just one glossary of terms for all this and was staggered at the plethora of terminology usage there.  Take a look at some of the definitions (with my comments in [ ]'s):

"Natural Leaven - a piece of final dough saved from one bake to the next. It differs from a starter only in that it is saved after the final dough has been mixed and therefore contains salt."

[Hmmm so without the salt it would be a starter!  I'll remember that]

"Levain - a French word for a natural leaven mixed to a dough-like consistency. A levain is made by adding flour and water or just flour to a "Chef".

[Hang on! First it says "natural leaven" IS dough so by definition it must have a dough-like consistency already surely? So how do you mix natural leaven (dough) to a dough-like consistency to make Levain??. . . and what the hell is a Chef?]

"Chef - A French word for a natural leaven starter which is retained and used from bake to bake. Sometimes it refers to a piece of old dough saved off for the next bake, sometimes to a starter in its first stage" 

[ OMG ! So we have "natural leaven - a piece of dough saved from one bake to the next" and we also have "natural leaven starter - which is retained and used from bake to bake".   This sounds like 2 names for the same thing doesn't it?   But earlier it said that natural leaven only differs from starter because of the included salt.  So is the Chef  "old dough" a piece of dough with no salt?  If so, when is a dough not a dough.  What do you call dough with salt and dough without salt?    Yep this is all really helpful to newbies . .!!]

"Poolish - A French term for a sponge, a mixture of commercial bakers yeast, water and flour."

[ok, so this is specifically bakers yeast mixed with flour and water to a wet mix, but hang on, isn't baker's yeast just another starter according to Michael's definition as it is something that raises bread?  So why do we need one name for yeast mixed with flour and water and (presumably) another name for sourdough starter mixed with flour and water?]

and so it goes on,  you get the point I'm sure.

Don't get me wrong here.  I appreciate that the world of bread baking has evolved for 1000s of years across differing continents and cultures and each by tradition has given different names to things.  What frustrates many people is the fact that we can't seem to arrive at a simple small set of clear and consistent definitions that are widely accepted in the world of bread baking in regards to these cultures and their use.

Going back to the OP here.  It was clearly stated/inferred that the poster wanted a sour tasting culture for raising breads.  I suggest therefore that starting from a ferment of raisins and water was perhaps an inefficient way to achieve that end.  Excess time would then have to be expended in feeding that culture with flour and water to the point where the sweet characteristics of the raisin water were effectively overridden and neutralised by the normal flour/water microbial action.  In the end yes, you probably eventually end up with the sour starter/culture that was the original aim. 

For me that process is like wanting to add some red and white paint together to make a pink paint, but putting a spoon of blue paint in from the outset and then having to keep adding more and more white and red paint to the mix until the blue is effectively so miniscule as to be not there at all.   Why not just take red and white paint from the outset ? 

As for where the OP now finds him/herself, with that bucket of paint with blue in it, is it easier to start from scratch (a process that will only take 3-4 days) or easier to keep diluting/feeding until the "raisiny" elements disappear?   I can't actually answer that because in all honestly, I'm not a microbiologist and I can't say what was in that original raisin water OVER AND ABOVE the yeasts and LABs that came across.  What is it that gives the water it's colour, its very sweet smell, its very sweet taste?  How long does it take to remove those elements from the culture through constant feeding of flour and water?  I bow to someone elses knowledge on such matters.  For myself, i'd just start up from scratch, it's fun, it's easy, it's quick, and I will know exactly what I have in my jar.



mwilson's picture

I completely understand your disheartenment with the issue of naming conventions and how these varied terms can be confusing to someone new to the world of baking. I know, I get peeved at how the American use of the word "biga" doesn't represent what most Italian professionals would consider a "biga". But that's the reality of things and I appreciate that you understand why things are so. It's just an unescapable consequence of learning from each other.

With my definition of "starter" I am essentially saying that the terms "pre-ferment" and "starter" are synonymous. And pre-ferments can be and are, seeded with any living biological leavening organisms. I am trying to make the point that a sourdough culture no matter how they are started always end up being something completely different in terms of micro-flora. What gets us there, well continuous propagation of course. The type of sourdough that most of us, home bakers and bakeries keep are classified as type 1 cultures. Read more here...

I'm curious to know how you would define the meaning of the word "starter" in this context?

I admit that my input was in no way useful to the OP but I guess my point stems from the fact that there will be LAB in the starter. And if there's LAB, there is lactic acid. Ramp up the lactic acid and you've got sour. Technique is always key.

I see no point in trying to define a starter by it's micro-flora since there are varied relationships of yeast and bacteria, including S.cerevisiae and facultative bacteria. The flora isn't stable unless the maintenance is consistent. Sourdough is a lot more diverse than most people think.



ElPanadero's picture

Michael, thanks for that link.  It's useful to see how someone else has chosen to classify different states of sourdough cultures.

As for you question:

"how you would define the meaning of the word "starter" in this context?"

I will attempt to make some kind of coherent answer here (though I can't guarantee I won't tie myself in knots here lol).

To my logical and simplistic way of thinking, it would seem to me that something only deserves an individual name if it is of any useful significance.  For example,  we call the ovoid thing that a chicken produces . . . an egg !  We do that to distinguish it from other things in life.    Now if some eggs are much larger than others we do not see that as a reason to provide a new name.  It is still an egg so we describe it as a large egg.  Similarly with my previous "cup of tea" example, we do not find it useful or meaningful to classify with separate names the different states of a cup of tea with differing amounts of either milk, sugar or indeed tea (why is the Python 4 Yorkshireman sketch popping into my mind at this point ?!).   So, we don't say a "Ding Tea" is a cup of tea with one sugar and a "Dang tea" with 2 sugars etc  What a nonsense that would be and imagine the number of permutations we would need. So we keep it simple and say a "Milky tea" or "sugary tea" or "tea with 2 sugars" etc because that description inherently tells us something about the individual mix or state of the tea.

So when I consider cultures of yeast and LABs I feel much the same.  The level of flour or water to me are largely irrelevant to the fact that it is still a culture so I see no useful purpose in calling a culture with X amount of flour and Y amount of water a "Poolish" and a culture with Y flour and X water a "Biga".  That's just 2 permutations in an infinite number of flour / water mixes and neither name describes in any sense what the thing is.  If I put 20 differently mixed cultures in separate tubs in a fridge and asked someone to go fetch the Poolish, I think they'd be somewhat stumped.  Like the cup of tea then , my personal preference would be to talk in terms of a wet of dry mix (pre-ferment?) and leave the recipe to state the specific quantities that are needed. 

Now, back to only naming things that are significant,   It would seem to me that the world of wild yeast bread baking is hugely well established.  So, whilst there are a plethora of differing leavening / raising agents out there (bakers yeast, baking powder, yeast waters, etc) the world of wild yeast breads (inc sourdoughs) is big enough to deserve a specific name for the raising agent it uses.  That name ought not to be confused with anything else imo and its use should therefore be universal.  This world uses specifically a culture of flour and water that is maintained or propagated to varying degrees of sourness.  It needs a consistent name and like the cup of tea, the various states of that "thing" should be described in terms of those states.   Personally I call it "starter" or "wild yeast starter".  I would talk about the various states of it as mild starter, medium starter, sour starter, wet starter, dry starter and so on.

Others I know like to be more sourdough specific and call it "sourdough starter" but going back to the cup of tea, if the culture is ostensibly flour and water then it is the same thing regardless of what you use it for.  We don't talk about white loaf yeast and baguette yeast and bagel yeast.  Yeast is yeast regardless of what you use it for.  So adjusting the level of sourness in a flour/water starter doesn't change what it is, which is a symbiotic culture of wild yeasts and LABs.  A starter is a starter, what you use it for, how you maintain it is up to you.

So MY definition of "starter" is any flour and water based culture of yeasts and LABs, simple as that.

When someone takes a fruit or vegetable and ferments that in water I think the end product deserves its own name.  I'm happy for that to be called Yeast Water for example or Fruit Yeast, Veg Yeast, anything of that nature.  If you start mixing that with flour and water then from the outset you still have something different to what I call a "starter" and it doesn't seem helpful to me to try to call it "starter" and confuse it with the established flour-water culture used in the world of wild yeast baking.  It has different properties, characteristics, smells and tastes to wild yeast starter which are undeniable. 

So overall my preferred naming conventions would be:

Leavening - ANY substance that can be used to raise a dough

Starter - A core maintained leavening culture made specifically from flour and water and containing wild yeasts and LABs

Wild Yeast Starter - same as Starter

Yeast Water - A leavening agent made from the fermentation of fruits, vegetables, plants or herbs in water

(N.B.  I see no purpose in assigning any name to a yeast water that is in the process of being converted into a starter)

Pre-Ferment - Any mix of flour and water and leavening agent used for the purpose of fermentation over a period of time to add flavour and other characteristics to a final dough.

I would make a further note here on pre-ferments.  I find terms like "sponges", "poolishs", "bigas" next to useless as not one of these terms describes adequately what is needed for a given recipe.  If I asked a baking apprentice to go make me a sponge how would they know what quanities of flour and water to use?  Same for a Poolish or Biga.  The same would apply if I just asked that person to make me a cup of tea.  How would they know whether or not to put milk and / or sugar in it ?   What I'm really asking the apprentice is "make me a pre-ferment with X amount of flour, Y amount of water and Z amount of leavening agent".   Calling it a sponge seems to me to have no useful benefit that I can determine (happy to be enlightened here).  If it describes a wet mix rather than a dry mix then simply call it a wet pre-ferment !   The term sponge brings nothing to the party.

Well once again I have rambled on for far too long here.   Regardless of my personal preferences, we are sadly stuck in a world that has already determined a wide range of confusing and largely unnecessary terminology.  It is what it is, but at least talking it all through like this helps to bring some level of clarity.




mwilson's picture

That's why we don't use baker's yeast, grape skins, raisins, currants, potato water, cabbage leaves, cumin or any of that other stuff.

Speak for yourself. Who exactly are you reffering to when you say "we"?!


This is a new one to me. Do you have a citation?

I have read hundreds of scientific journals. Just google it. Where do you think S.cerevisiae comes from?


A package of Fleischmann's yeast can raise bread, so by your reasoning it would qualify as a "starter".

Of course, with the caveat that it be primed first, ie. "started" and so therefore be a "starter". Pre-ferments are commonly referred to as starters. The meaning of words are defind by popular usage!

dosco's picture

I have what I think is a "good" starter, and I'm happy with the flavor of  my breads, but I have noted that most of my bread isn't very sour.

I'm not particularly worried about that issue, however I've read some things that appear to be contrary. One statement on this thread ... "starters with 100% hydration tend to be more sour" is in conflict with other statements that "stiff levain = more sour" (for example this TFL thread as well as Reinhart's BBA). I personally like making stiff starter because it's easier to see when it has "doubled in volume."

With regards to "flavor" I was under the impression that "long and cold fermentation = good flavor." I always cold ferment by placing my final dough in the refrigerator for 1, 2, 3 or even 4 days, and I've noted the flavor of my bread is quite nice. Other people to whom I've given my bread have also commented on the 'excellent flavor.' YMMV.



Antilope's picture

I use my starter like a poolish or biga, but it has more flavor, because the starter is older than a 24-hour biga or poolish. I use starter to flavor French bread. When I make French bread, I use extra sourdough starter as Old dough (pâte fermentée) to add flavor (an aged, yeasty flavor, not sour). It doesn't add a sour taste due to the short rise, I add baker's yeast to the recipe (developing sour taste with my starter usually requires long rise in or out of the fridge). This works out great, because I don't want the French bread to be sour. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to peaking is a rather quick cycle.  You may be giving the yeast too much advantage.  How about feeding the starter rye  1:10:10 and then let the starter peak & fall, peak and fall,  leave it alone for a day.  Time enough to let the bacteria grow in the starter.  Make 'em work, first to lower pH and then later beef up their numbers.  Then try using some in a recipe.

Here's wishing you a long lag time before the yeast push up the starter!

bread.on.beard's picture

First of all , I would like to thank everyone for responding.  I have started a new starter using pineapple juice and water.

Mini Oven, what you suggest is interesting.  This is something I have NOT done.   For the last twenty or so feedings, I have used exclusively rye, and fed the starter 1:1:1.  Nothing much changed.  

To clarify, are you saying I should feed the starter with rye 1:10:10 how many times?  Would I discard 90% with subsequent feedings?  For example, if I start with, say,  2 grams of starter; feed it 20 grams of rye and 20 grams of water, and let it peak, and then let it fall?  Would I then remove all but  2 grams and repeat once?  And then leave it out for a day to "work?"

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

then let it get good and over ripe, no discarding, no additional feeding, just let it rise and fall and ferment for at least 24 hrs.  How ever long it takes.  I suggest documenting it too.  Don't be eager to feed, watch.

Then when thoroughly fermented and good and beery, remove a sample to continue to use as a starter.  The rest 90% use in a recipe that you are familiar with.   Also see if that baked bread loaf gets more sour over days...  first day compared to second day and then third day, etc.  Is it more flavourful on the third day as compared to the first?

bread.on.beard's picture

Mini Oven, I did as you suggested.  I have a scale that is graduated to tenths of grams, so I can accurately weigh small amounts.   I weighed out 3 grams of my "old" starter and fed it 30 grams of rye and 30 grams of water. I'll let it significantly ripen before using.  Any other suggestions?  Temp?  

I usually retard my dough for one to four days, so this will take awhile. I'm planning to use the same recipe of my last bake, so I should notice any changes.  I usually scale things way down as I cook for myself, and experiment a lot with small batches.  My latest bake routine includes retarding the dough either in the fridge at 39F, or in a cooler at 50F for one to four days, so this will take awhile.  

Meanwhile, my pineapple juice / rye starter is now on day two.

Thank you

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I don't like to go under 5g.  10g or more is typical.  Make enough for your recipe while you're at it.  Use this as the first build.  What temp do you normally use to incubate starters and also the new one?   I incubate mine at about 23 or 24°C  or 74°F.  

your welcome.

bread.on.beard's picture

It's been 24 hours at 72F since I mixed the 3 grams of "old" starter with 30 grams of rye and 30 grams of water.  It is thick, hasn't risen much, but there are gas bubbles forming.    Right now it tastes mildly tangy and smells mildly "cheesy." I'm thinking I should give it more time before I do anything with it.  I may move it to a cooler 50F spot as I may not be able to get at it for another 12 hours or so.  Or, is 36 hours at 72F not asking too much of it?  

The "new" starter just got fed its third helping of pineapple juice and rye flour and tastes like pineapple juice.   

jcking's picture

This is a reply that J Hamelman posted on the Bread Bakers Guild of America, Yahoo Group.



"Why do some bakers prefer to maintain a liquid levain culture and others a firm levain? On the face of it, I'd say it's mostly about personal preference--some bakers prefer the ease of mixing a firm ball of dough, while others find mixing a batter consistency starter easier. As for all that science about acetic acid developing more favorably in firm environments and lactic acid in looser ones, that's all good and true, but it's ultimately up to the baker to determine the flavor of the bread. For instance, what if I kept only a liquid levain culture and wanted to make a bread on the acetic side, but didn't want to convert to a firm levain? I could do a few things to encourage more sour flavor: I could preferment a higher proportion of the overall flour, I could extend the bulk fermentation somewhat, and of course the easiest way would be to retard the shaped loaves overnight. All of these would encourage more acidity in the final loaves. Treating things in the opposite manner would give milder results. Aren't we lucky that after all we are the ones who determine the bread's outcome by our cumulative series of engagements with the dough?

My best,
Jeffrey Hamelman, Certified Master Baker, BBGA YAHOO group, 2/2011

Janetcook's picture

If I am reading your opening statement correctly your only use of raisin yeast water is at the beginning of starting up your starter.  I assume that you are then using regular water and flour for subsequent builds.  If this is indeed true then your starter would indeed start out very mild and sweet but then, over time, would morph into a sd starter on its diet of regular water and flour.  The yeasties and beasties in the flour taking over with time.  What grows is what is being encouraged to grow.  If no more raisin water is used those critters soon die off and the flavor etc. of you starter should change.

I maintain a starter that I started with flour, raisins, water and a bit of yogurt.  Once life was established it has been kept 'alive' on a diet of YW and freshly milled whole grain flour.  I use YW to keep my whole grain starter on the mild side on purpose.  If I were to drop the YW and use regular water during builds its whole 'personality' would change within a day or two.  I know this because I have done it when I want a tang in a lean loaf.  To revert it back to a 'sweet' starter I simply resume using YW as the liquid for my feedings.

Based on what you wrote about how frequently you were feeding your starter, 'every 3-4 hours'  I would imagine the lack of sour is due to the frequency of your builds.  Yeast adjust and begin to reproduce much more quickly after a build than do LABS so a frequent feeding schedule actuarially promotes a milder starter because the yeast have the advantage.

I see that you have gone ahead and started a new starter so I am curious to see if you can indeed create a sourer starter keeping your 'new' starter on the exact same feeding regime you had your original starter on.  That is continue to feed it in the same proportions and on the same time table to keep all things equal except that your new starter was created in a different way.

Fun project :)

Good Luck,


ElPanadero's picture

Janet you said:

"If no more raisin water is used those critters soon die off and the flavor etc. of you starter should change"

I'd be interested to know and understand :

a) Just how soon is "soon"?  How long does it take to fully irradicate all of the former raisiny properties?

b) What are those "critters" that produce the unique raisiny characteristics?  Are they yeasts, bacteria or something else?

Perhaps someone has previously experimented with all this and can enlighten us.


Janetcook's picture


A man by the name of RonRay wrote extensively on yeast water several years ago and what he has left HERE is very comprehensive. I am sure you will find all that you are looking for and more on the subject of YW and how it behaves.  It is an excellent piece of work and one I refer back to often because it is full of so much good information. 

In his writing he refers to Debra Wink's material.  

These 2 individuals have a far greater understanding than I will ever have so I leave you to sit with them.  I think you will enjoy yourself.

Please feel free to ask questions again if you can't find what you are looking for in Ron's masterpiece.  I trust his words to answer your questions far more than I trust what I may say because of his ability to grasp and understand what he was doing in his kitchen.  

Take Care,



DavidEF's picture

Just to add some fuel to this fire, here is a link I found by searching the terms what is the predominant yeast rye sourdough using Google search.

An excerpt from the bottom of the first page reads:

"The most frequently isolated yeast species from rye and wheat sourdoughs are Saccharomyces cerevisiae which are able to ferment glucose, galactose, maltose and raffinose, but not lactose."

adri's picture

Inside the species s.cerevisiae there are subspecies. That behave differently.
Some get along very well in this symbiotic relationship with lactobacilii, some not.

One example is that some brewers yeast doesn't work well feeding form flour.

In Germany there is a "Grandma's rule" (not my grandma, I just read it somewhere): First it has to become sour, then comes the yeast. Earlier bubbles don't count. This is no scientific fact but I can imagine that not all yeasts survive well in the milieu (¿environment?) the lactobacilli set up. This is good as it protects the symbiosis from other germs.

On the other hand I heard of people destroying their starter by adding baker's yeast. I don't know why, but maybe the baker's yeast is too greedy an will not allow the other micro-organisms to get enough food? They reported that their starter never got sour again.


bread.on.beard's picture

I'm in the middle of working on a new pineapple juice and rye starter, and attempting to modify the old starter with a 1:10:10 feeding of rye and water as suggested by Mini Oven.  I plan to test them both out when they're ready, but it will be awhile as I usually retard the dough for a few days.  

I appreciate all of the responses and suggestions and will be checking for more.  This is a wonderful forum.