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Almost 2 Week Old Starter Help

lofi's picture

Almost 2 Week Old Starter Help

Hi all,

First post here and I'm in desperate need of help.

I started a sourdough starter 12 days ago and my starter does not rise much at all.

I was initially following the instructions at The Perfect Loaf. I started by feeding it 100 g organic light rye along with 125 g water at 80 degrees F and carrying over 75 g of the original starter once a day until day 4 when I started feeding it twice a day in the same amounts.

Unfortunately my starter doesn't rise much. For the past 5 days I've been feeding it twice a day as follows,

50 g unbleached AP Flour 

50 g organic whole wheat flour

100 g water at 80 degrees F

75-100 g of the original starter

I still only get a rise equivalent to at most 3/4 of the original volume of the starter after feeding although I do get a lot of vigorous bubbles. I keep my starter in the oven with the oven light on, it maintains a temperature in the oven around 85-89 degrees F. Also the water I use to feed the starter is filtered. I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong or if I just need to give it more time, but I created a starter last year using the same instructions and it did not give me nearly as much trouble (unfortunately that starter died : [ ). I'm pretty sure it's supposed to rise way more than this.

The image with elastic bands indicates the starting and maximum height of my starter.

I would really appreciate any advice, thank you!

Lower Elastic Band - Starting Height

Upper Elastic Band - Maximum Rise Height

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

tip... feed it more it may rise more.  

How long does it take to peak?  

Try a smaller amount of starter, say 20g and feed it 80g flour and enough water to make a soft paste or dough.

Interesring name for a starter.

lofi's picture


Thanks I'll definitely try that tonight, makes sense. Will hopefully post back with good results. I can't remember accurately but I think it usually takes 3-4 hours to peak? I'll keep better track next time I feed.

Haha the starter's name is actually "Rose II" (pun intended and II because I accidentally killed the first one), Bulkbarn is just the company that made the jar : )

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

50% whole wheat
12 hours

Yeast aren't supported by your regimen.
Something needs to give :-)

Doc.Dough's picture

1:1:1 and 12 hrs at 30°C will initially have a relatively high acidity when you refresh, and thus when you feed it you need to add enough flour and water to partially neutralize the acid and get the post-refresh pH above about 5 (>6 is better).  Not doing so sets you up for the LAB to stop replicating (at about pH3.5) before they have replaced the initial population and the LAB population density goes down a little bit with each refresh which produces less acid for the next round.  If you do this for very long, you lose enough of the LAB that you don't have enough to initiate a batch of sourdough.  Mini Oven has coached more people than I can count about feeding at 5:10:15 to recover a failing starter, and I subscribe to that practice for recovery even though I advocate feeding at a ratio of at least 1:x:x where 2<x<20 [minimum 2 for the reason stated; maximum 20 to assure that you suppress the potential contaminants in your flour - which is not sterile].  Just my $0.02 worth.

OldLoaf's picture

would regulary using a 1:4:4 ratio help with the problem you described?  My starter is very health and I would like to keep it that way.


Doc.Dough's picture

I use a weather/seasonally adjusted X:13:15 refresh ratio where X=6 in the winter and as low as 1 in the heat of the summer (to the extent that SoCal has summer heat).  Though lately I have been using a thermostatically controlled water bath at 29°C and X=~4 to get a very predictable 12hrs to the point where it has lost 2% of the weight of the added flour (which if the numbers are in grams turns out to be about 300mg).  The weight loss is observing the CO2 lost to fermentation and is always approximate just because I have to thump it to get it to degas before I weigh it.  Time to reach that point is a better gauge of activity than volume increase and also works across all hydration levels while giving an excellent basis for comparing multiple starters refreshed in parallel.  The method was developed to measure the maturity of levain that was being mixed at 230% hydration where it does not increase in volume and bubble activity doesn't work either.

Heikjo's picture

Edit: Question moved to a new topic here:

Thank you, Mini Oven.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

this is a two week old starter thread.  Please be careful not to sidetrack.   

Doc.Dough's picture

TTA dilution is linear, pH dilution is dependent on the constituents. If you have allowed the buildup of a lot of acid (high TTA) a 1:4:4 refresh will make a big difference but may not get you all the way to where you want to go, so plan on a few cycles to get things back in the box.

mikedilger's picture

This is fascinating, I love this!

I knew that the pH must get low to start a starter initially, but I didn't know that it could go above 6 after a starter is well established without the starter risking infection. This is good news.  My research on Larraburu turned up possibly (very much still a hypothesis) huge dilutions in the sponge (1:100:200 s:w:f) and I've been wondering about that a lot.  This data point helps.

There is also a big difference between pH and TTA.  I new TTA would dilute substantially, but I was never sure how much pH is affected when you feed (I've never tested it).

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

 I'm practically preaching to watch it!   Must have focused on the water temp. Anyway... The temp for growing starters can vary but all in the range from 75° to 80°F   78° being about the best for yeast when trying not to encourage bacteria at the same time.  An initial warm period is good on the first day to encourage rapid growth of bacteria and their chain of events but left at that warm temp, they take over just like Doc said and can suppress yeast growth.  He explains it so nicely.   

Hope you have your recipe handy when the starter peaks.  It should quadruple so put a bowl under it.  Make sure you feed enough flour to generously cover the recipe.  The little bit left over gets a generous feeding and should taste like wet flour just after feeding.  

lofi's picture

Hello again,

Thank you for all your detailed comments and thoughts, much appreciated.

So I fed my starter again, this time I fed as follows,

20 g starter

40 g APF 

40 g Whole Wheat

60-80 g water at 80 F (Can't remember exactly, I was focusing on the consistency of the starter)

So I got the starter to go a bit more than double in size, picture below. I think it would have risen much more, but unfortunately I was in a hurry to get to class and left it without any sort of cover so when I came back after 3 hrs the top was all dry and it hadn't risen. When I put the top back on and moved the dry part around a bit, it started rising again. It took around 6 hours to peak. I will try feeding it as suggested again and hopefully post back with success. 

I also left the oven door slightly open so it maintains a temperature of 79 F as per your advice. Thanks.