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Starter Survey - Number Crunching & Summary

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Starter Survey - Number Crunching & Summary

Hi All,

I have played with the data and I have crunched the numbers.

The response was great and we received about 30 survey entries. That's surprising in just 1.5 days. There's clearly interest in this.

However, there are a LOT of variables. The more variables you have, the more entries you need to draw statistically relevant trends. At this point, we cannot draw those kinds of trends, i.e. if you have an active white starter fermenting at 78F, this is how long the majority of these starters take to peak. It would probably take hundreds of entries to get at a number that is meaningful for something of that nature.

That being said, we can summarize what folks are doing. Even on that front, there were some surprises (at least for me).

- I expected to see a lot more 100% rye starters

- The most common feeding time is AFTER peak. I knew the sour lovers were out there, but I didn't expect them to beat out the peakers.

- I was surprised to see how many people fed before peak. I know there's something to be said for youthfulness, but I would have thought the compromises on activity would have created problems.

Ultimately, I think the most interesting way to review this data is to look at it entry by entry and see what the individual Fresh Loafers are doing and how their starters are performing. In fact, I see people browsing the document constantly.

If you missed the survey, you can still take it and get access to the full details.

Survey: https://goo.gl/forms/J22p8cQYsXX65I133
Thread: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/54799/starter-survey-market-researcher-turns-bread-baker

*I had to take a few liberties, eg averaging temp entries, making assumptions about flours based upon descriptions, etc. 

.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Thanks, Amy. It gives us a collective peak into the methods used by others. 

What do you think about putting a refined version of your survey on YouTube? Wouldn’t the survey stay viable for a much longer time? As you said the forum topic burns out pretty fast. I am interested in the processes used by others.

Looks like you’re up late. I am in Central Time so I’m up early :-)

Dan

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I like where you're going with this and it's good to think about how to get more participation. Yes, links are possible on YouTube but they must be anchored by a video. I don't really see this having legs on YouTube. Since I'm not a famous YouTube (or social) personality, I don't have any reach. Which means the only people finding it are the people searching for keywords that I would plug in.

For this sort of thing you kind of have to go where the fish are biting. The SEO on the Fresh Loaf is actually really good. The site has a ton of authority, dynamic (changing) content, and every URL of a new post includes the subject keywords, which makes them highly searchable and discover-able by people on Google. (Golf clap for Floyd.)

Since nobody is really "looking" for a starter survey, I would have to do another post with a mind to keywords that I think people are searching for and could be relevant. I don't particularly want to exhaust people on this subject with yet another post at present. From here on out, it will be word of mouth.

For now, I'm quite contented about how things are.  I think the response is proportional to the interest and descending position.

But, like you, I get an itch for more. So, I am thinking about how to make it better, more widespread. I think the best thing to do right now is to let it ride and keep it open. We can come back in a year, when people's routines may have changed and there could be renewed interest, make it a better survey and a post optimized for search.

And yes, my toddler is an insomniac, so you'll find me making posts at odd hours of the night.

jimbtv's picture
jimbtv

Granted this is a pretty small survey but those who responded are typically those who offer advice to newcomers, and to each other, on this subject. To me this means the data source is rich in practical application samples. That's good.

My takeaway is this - lots of us do this starter thing differently and we still bake good bread. I do a dry starter with a rebuild weekly and others feed their starters once or twice a day. Some use purely white and others feed with flour variations. Some refrigerate and some do not.

To me this supports my original premise - there is no magic here. I think the process of originating a new starter has some very specific processes and temperature restrictions but once the starter has "legs", it will find stability in even the most abusive environment.

The message I give to newbees is, "This Is How I Manage MY STARTER." You will likely find many different (and successful) ways to do the same thing, using various ingredients and techniques.

One final point and something I mentioned earlier, once you set a maintenance pattern stick with it. This is not said to discourage experimentation, but if you want a consistent end product it is best achieved with consistent methods.

And BreadBabies, the final takeaway for me is that I never thought your original leavening issue was with your starter :-)

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Yes, there are so many ways to do this thing. If anything, this has taught me to just relax about my starter. Of course, when people are having difficulty and looking for directions to help troubleshoot, that isn't exactly helpful, but it does at least offer some perspective.

Lots of ways to raise a kid.  Lots of ways to raise a starter.  The difference of course being I don't plan to eat my kid later.

Actually, it became very clear that the problem was my starter. I was so persistent and so careful and attentive. This shows me that there are lots of ways to do this thing and with my consistency, it should have worked, but it didn't. As soon as I got a new starter, the problems disappeared. So, in that case, I just had a weak batch of microbes.

jimbtv's picture
jimbtv

Dang!!!

I thought I remembered your photos of both a pretty explosive starter and a relative dud. I will certainly take your word that it was the starter but after looking at all the different methods for maintenance, it really appeared that just about anything should work.

Send out the bat signal do D. Wink, send her a sample of the old starter, and let's get a real count on those lazy beasts.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

That's why it was so perplexing. But the same microbes that would raise that beautiful liquid starter to 4x wouldn't budge the stiff starter or a 75% hydration dough. So they were weak in the sense that they couldn't raise anything that wasn't 100% hydration.

I will eventually as'k Debra for her thoughts. But I have a few more tests to do and I want to give her the full picture. So, I am currently holding off.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

  "- I expected to see a lot more 100% rye starters."

I think this may be the last or a slow group to respond.  Rye starters seem to be the least fussy and like a good kid, why would one participate a survey on kids when theirs is doing just fine?  Just another point of view.  :)

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Yes, it could certainly be that. But based on the "are you happy with your starter" question, most people do seem to be very successful.

It could also be that the sample size is just too small to accurately reflect the number of rye starters. Or it could be that people who keep a rye starter also keep other starters and chose to answer for the non-rye starter. Nobody took the survey twice and I know many folks have multiple starters.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I used to keep a 100% rye starter at 100% hydration. My problem was that it grew too fast and I never got it to peak, then recede at 12 hrs. I am particular and I insisted on 2 feedings a day that were 12 hrs apart. With the starter above, I’d have to feed every 8 hrs. And knowing me, I’d be setting an alarm for 2:18 AM. hehehe

Now I have a steady 12 hr starter using 1:3:5 (s:w:f) using AP flour. I keep it at 76 degrees.

It is amazing what whole grain rye does to a starter. Truly steroids is an accurate comparison.

Dan

I’ve said it a lot, but I feel not enough - - - Thanks to everyone who have helped me. Your patience is appreciated.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Mini, I’ve never been able to get a 100% rye starter to time properly for 12 hr feedings. You may remember working with me on this very same problem a few weeks back.

I finally wet to 1:3:5 (5 to 1) with AP flour and it just starts to recede @ 12 hrs. My starter ate up the rye too fast. 

Can you feed twice a day with a 100% whole grain rye starter?

Dan

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a particular understanding to starters.  I'm not sure what that is.  

It is easy to get a rye starter on a 12 hour schedule.  You just have to play with the starter and the food amounts, temp and water.   You also have to know that if the starter is going flat at 8 hours and has fermented, and smells great, that is normal.  Don't feed for the next four hours and then feed when the starter is 12 hours along.  Once the starter has established itself and is predictable, a warm temp over 26°C can be too warm for maintenance.  Keeping it cooler through the fermentation would help give you more yeast.  It is rather easy to have too much bacteria in the culture.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I too found it strange (recalling your experiment) that regardless of your feeding quantities, etc., that you were unable to get your starter time to change.  I don't remember if that was 100% rye or not...I seem to recall it was partial rye.

I know you worked with Debra on that.  What exactly was the reason you were unable to extend the feeding times by manipulating the conditions?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

No matter what I tried I was unable to extend the rise past 8 hrs using whole rye. At the time of the experiment I was only focused on amount of rise. Since then I learned that feed to recede is the important indicator when maximizing for yeast. It seems rye does not have enough gluten to hold the gasses for any length of time after the rise has taken place. I also noticed that the bubble structure of a whole grain rye starter was very open and large. I attribute this to rye’s lack of gluten and the octane fuel it provides.

My starter is 1:3:5 using KA AP Flour. I t is kept at 76 degrees in a proofer. Since it is fed twice a day the size is kept very small. 5 starter + 15 water + 25 AP flour. I learned that if the starter is is a little sluggish just increase the starter by 1 or 2 grams. I keep the “official” ratio @ 1:3:5. I return to my target, 5 grams of starter as soon as possible. At my rate of feed a 5 lb. bag of flour will last 45 days.

For quite some time I was feeding my rye starter every 12 hrs. Even though for 4 of those hours it had fallen drastically. My breads where very sour (I liked that). The rise was good.  But I wanted to understand my starter better and also maximize the yeast population. With Debra’s help my starter is now under my control as far as feed to recede timing.

My next endeavor is controlling the degree of sourness.

Dan

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

but when it got to the "When does it peak part", I really have no idea. I keep my starter in the fridge until I want to bake with it. I feed mine at  1:1:1 every twelve hours for a couple of days and then I give it 1:1.8:1.4 feeding without throwing any starter away at any time in the process. That last feeding triples in 4 hours at room temp. I had no idea on how to show that in your survey.

As well, the 1:1:1 feedings are done with either whole rye or whole wheat flour and the last feeding is done with 1/5 whole rye or wheat and 4/5 unbleached flour. You are going to ask how the heck I came up with this mess. It is a combo of the NFNM starter and Forkish's 80% levain.

After reading Trevor's book, I am experimenting with feeding 1:2:2 for a couple of days and will try to do a 1:4:5 feeding for the last feed that goes into the dough. Change is good right? ?

Bread1965's picture
Bread1965

I've been feeding Charlie 1:4:4 this week .. i'm on a 12 hour feeding cycle.. I had been doing 1:2:2 for a long time, but I realize now (thanks to Trevor) that the time window is too long for an active starter only getting 1:2:2.  With 1:4:4 I notice Charlie to be much sweeter smelling. (and I don't prefer a sharp tang in my bread so this works for me).. I'm also keeping him in a warm cupboard above a heating vent given it's negative twenty something in Toronto this week.. so it's also a play on warm spot levain.. I'm going to bake with him tomorrow for the first time and will be curious to see how he behaves under the new feeding routine.. PS. I tried 1:3:3 too, but think 1:4:4 suits the 12 hour window better.. Let's see..

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

So, seeing what Trevor was doing based on the survey got me thinking along those same lines.  Let us know how it works out for you.

Bread1965's picture
Bread1965

In November/December I experimented using bread flour versus AP to feed my starter. I found my AP fed starter (1:2:2) performed better. It rose more fully to a tripple and more consistently than my stater fed with bread flour. I don't know why. But it is what it is.. so I've been feeding with AP only. And that's going to be my way going forward until something changes. Unbleached of course.

I found that 1:3:3 was good. But that I was catching the stater post peak more often than not. Not by much, but enough to notice it started to fall. So I switched to 1:4:4 and found that I could, 12 hours later, catch it before the fall and probably a bit before peak. I think this is best. I see little downside to using the starter just before it peaks. It seems to maintain that level for longer than I would have thought (not timed, but that's my perception).

So my advice is if I'm going for 12 hour feeds (even with the starter in a warm spot of around 78-80 degrees) that 1:4:4 seems optimal with the AP unbleached I'm using. I could go 1:3:3 if I want it to have a bit of a slight sour tang.

Hope that helps.. bake happy!

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

In the last few days, I've settled into a 1:4:4 while maintaining at 78F. My starter is all white flour, but it is malted, so, it goes a little more quickly. Right now I'm at about an 8 hour peak, but it holds the peak for a while. I'm actually finding that I can feed it at 12 hours and it works out just fine for raising bread.  SF Bay Area here, so I like it sour anyway.  I may dial down the temperature a little bit so it's more like 10 hours, but I expect that might decrease the sour. I suppose I could go 1:5:5, but mannnnn....feels like a lot of flour down the drain.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Amy, you said. “ I suppose I could go 1:5:5, but mannnnn....feels like a lot of flour down the drain.”

We’re always adjusting our starter by increasing the amount of flour. So, from 1:4:4 to 1:5:5. Lately I’ve discovered that for me, it is easier to tweak the starter (seed culture) weight just a little. Especially for minor temporary tweaks. So, in the case of 1:4:4 or let’s say 5:20:20 - you could tweak it to 4:20:20. That would take you from 4 to 1 up to 5 to 1. And it would require no more flour. Also if you mark your jar, the same marks would still apply, since your only changing from 44 grams to 45. Note; I keep my starter small when feeding daily.

Just a thought.

Dan

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Right now, I feed 1:4:4 with 20 grams of seed.  Anything less and it feels like there's barely any starter. So, I guess I fear that too little seed is prone to small measurement errors and that maybe some of the weight ends up stuck to the sides.

How low do you go? I haven't really tried keeping 15 or 10 at this point.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I mix 1:3:5. So, 5:15:25. 45 grams in total. I am anal about my measurements, so I don’t worry about irregular ratios. As I mentioned in another post if the starter is a little slow (temporary temperature variances) and my feed to recede is less tha 12 hrs. I may increase the seed by 1 or 2 grams and/or use warm water. But I still keep the 15 water and 25 flour. It just makes things easier for me.

I cant stand waste. I’d feel the same way if I had Bill Gates money. I hate throwing away the leftovers from this small amount. 

The starter is a tiny bit smaller than a golf ball. If I where to put it in cold storage I would increase it slightly.

Dan

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

This scale is great for very light weight measurements.  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EPO9M2Y/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

It is good for things like salt, yeast, starter, etc.. You can weigh salt, yeast, etc. in a very small container and then add to the larger mixing bowl. That way if you pour out too much salt you can remove it from the tiny container instead of loosing it in the large mixing bowl.

The larger digital scale is used for the heavier weights.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

You really just have to pick the part of your process that represents it being most awake and ready for bake. So, that's probably the final build.  You could just take it with that in mind. If you don't know when it peaks, just guess. We all have to do a little approximation for these sorts of answers.

Yes, change is good! 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

All things considered equal (that includes feeding amounts) only works when daytime and nighttime temps are the same.  

If the starter temperature drops in the night, then the starter will take longer to reach peak and logically should be fed less flour at night, fed sooner (making a 10/14 hr schedule) or skip the night feeding and feed before the warm period of the day. The water could also be warmed before a night feed or water amount increased.  There are so many ways to manipulate starter timing.  

I tend to evaluate the current conditions and then feed my culture for my desired end result, both the starter or a build toward bread dough.  That may mean my actual maint. schedule reads inconstant on paper but my starter is happily perking along and preforming well for me under many conditions.  So to repeat, my starter yeasts stay pretty much predictable although temp, feeding schedule and feed amounts vary.  (This is advanced starter manipulation folks and is great training for trouble shooting.)

Temperatures play such a big role and a few degrees can make such a time difference.  

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

As you often do Mini, you make a good point. “Temperature differences between day and night can vary enough to change the timing of the feeds”. I hadn’t thought of that. At this time I’m using a proofer, but I don’t expect to keep this up forever. Right now I feed 1:3:5. Since I don’t like throwing away a lot of flour I mix 5:15:25. Even with the proofer I suspect the temps vary slightly. At night when it is cooler I increase the starter seed by maybe 2 grams. Or I may use warm the water. For slight changes to keep the 12 hr feeding I find raising or lowering the seed the easiest way to go. That way the flour and water stay the same.

A while back I posted a problem I had with increasing the starter feed times. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/54661/im-desperate-learn-why-my-starter-will-not-rise-past-8-hours Try as I may I couldn’t get the rise to go past 8 hours. It would decline at About 9 hrs. What I discovered was that the high percentage of home ground rye and/or home ground wheat berries caused the starter to grow too aggressively to make the target 12 hr feed. Once I removed them from the mix I was able to control the timing very well. With my particular starter if I wanted to use a whole grain I would do so very sparingly. Maybe 5:15:22 AP flour + 3 whole rye.

I learned from Debra that if you want maximum lift (yeast) you can’t have maximum tang (sour). So now I cater to rise and feed at 12hrs when the starter just starters to recede (fall).

I want sour bread. So I plan (haven’t done it yet) to use my sweet starter to build the Levain maturing to the point where it just recedes. But I hope to get the sour through longer ferment and/or higher ferment temperatures. Hoping this will work as planned.

Dan

 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

The more I review the starter survey results and consider my own experience, the more I realize that volume peak of a starter is just a reference point. It's not necessarily the best way to maximize yeast/rise. There are so many properties of flour, and of course, how stiff the dough is, how much we mixed it up that are going to alter how much gas a starter can trap or how long it takes to fall. I think what we need to do is find that reference point and learn how our particular starter behaves and what other cues to look for in determining when to feed it, based of course on our particular goals.

In my quest of troubleshooting my starter, I became very obsessed with feeding it at exactly volume peak in order to maximize lift that I had blinders on for any other cues.

I'm starting to wonder if my last starter was really under-yeasted because it held peak for a very long time, which would mean that it was also underfed. I don't think 1:1:1 three times a day was enough food for a starter with 40% whole grain, (although it was held at 68F, fairly cold).  I never let it go past barely receding, but it held its max height for a long time.

Now...who was telling me that my starter was underfed???  Oh, yeah....it was you. :-)

What threw me is that it was apparently enough yeast to raise a very loose starter, but not more. And the few feeds I did at 1:4:4 to try and fix it before trying again probably weren't enough to really whip it into shape yet. Maybe if I had done that longer, it would have eventually conditioned it to raise bread.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Debra finally got through to me. And I can assure you it wasn’t easy ;-) I know you know this Amy but I write it because it may benefit others. I’m no authority, so anyone correct me where I err. Hopefully Debra checks this out. We act on what we believe, but it is all important to believe the truth. If I’m wrong I want to know. My motto in life is, “inquiring minds want to know”.

Like Amy I was caught up on the amount of rise. Rise is not the ultimate indicator of strength. I’m talking here about the starter’s ability to raise bread. You can’t compare the rise of AP flour with the rise of a mixture of high gluten flour and whole grain rye. One is gasoline and the other is jet fuel. The ability of a mixture to hold gases (gluten) for an extended period of time will cause that starter to grow very high. But another starter may have a larger and stronger population of yeast and not rise nearly as high, if the gluten is not developed or as strong. Hydration also comes into play.

I learned that for maximum yeast (lifting power), the starter should complete it’s rise, then remain at the high water mark, and then finally START to RECEDE. It is at this point when the population of yeast has been maximized. If you plan to feed twice a day at equal intervals the “feed to recede” period should be targeted for 12 hrs.

Sour is another story...

I really hope I communicated this properly. Everything I wrote above was taught to me by a bunch of great Fresh Loafers. If I continue to follow the advice of you guys I may become proficient at starters, levains, autolysing, mixing, kneading, folding, slapping, shaping, SCORING, and baking. That’s all I ask of you ;-)

Thanks, Dan

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

I have been using my starter way too soon then. Time to get serious and see how my starter really functions and waste some flour in the meantime. ?

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I’m going to PM Debra and ask her to take a look.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

deleted. (got my threads confused.)

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I'm a faithful Wink disciple, as you know. I don't think any of that contradicts what she says...but I am a mere student.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Let me address a point of confusion about the survey that came up recently.

The survey essentially has three parts. a). understanding your goals.  b) understanding your maintenance routine. c). understanding how your routine affects the activity of your yeast.

The first area is important because not everybody maintains their starter for maximum rise. Since you cannot maximize both sour and rise at the same time, there is a give and take here. Hence the "goal" question.

The second area varies widely. There are infinite ways to maintain your starter. That's part of what makes this whole universe interesting. The majority of people who have taken the survey park their starters in the fridge. Some retard in a wine fridge. Those who bake a lot keep it at room temperature. That's absolutely fine and expected. The more varied the maintenance, the more interesting.

The third part is about comparing yeast activity levels. Most (not all) people who retard will take their starter out of the fridge at some point either to refresh or build a levain. This gives us an opportunity to compare notes at similar (albeit not identical) temperatures. It's okay if you don't normally bring your starter to peak or feed it at "room" temperature or CARE whether it doubles or triples. We're asking for these things in order to compare activity notes, not because we believe your routine necessarily hinges on such things.