The Fresh Loaf

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Starter Percentage

Kogaku's picture

Starter Percentage

I have a starter that has been fed 1:4:4 consistently. I’m guessing this is not what is called a 100% starter. What would it be called and how do I alter the ratio to create say, a 65% starter or levain?



barryvabeach's picture

Kogaku, sorry, starter lingo can be confusing.  When you refresh, you add starter , water, and flour.  A 100% starter means that there are equal weights of water and flour in the starter.  65% means that the weight of the water in the starter is 65% of the flour.    

Those percentages are mostly unrelated to the feeding ratio - so you are using 1 part starter, 4 parts water, 4 parts flour.  Assuming you are measuring by weight, then you are using a 100% starter - since the water and flour weights are equal.   Note that there are calculators to let you convert from one hydration to another - though if you are willing to do a number of refreshes, you won't need a calculator -  it will work out.  For example, if you wanted to convert to 65% starter,  you could add 10 grams of starter, 26 grams of water, and 40 grams of flour  ( I kept your starter to flour ratio at 1 to 4, and just multiplied the flour part by .65 to get the water part)  At this refresh, you would not be at 65 % hydration, because the 10 grams of starter had 5 grams of water and 5 grams of flour,  you would be at 68%.  The next time you refreshed using 10 grams of starter, 26 grams of water, and 40 grams of flour, you would be closer to 65%, since the starter you are using for the refresh was at 68% rather than 100%.  I didn't check the math, but by the next refresh, you should be at 65% or close enough.  

Justanoldguy's picture

Live dangerously - go with 66.66666%. As Barry pointed out if your feeds have been equal weights of flour and water that would be a 100% hydration starter. If that's the case getting to 66% is easy. To 10g of 100% starter add 40g of flour and 25g of water. This will give you a ratio of 45g of flour to 30g of water - a 66% percent hydration. What's 1% to a yeast? They have no fingers and therefore are best described as 'mathless'. Besides, with a big feeding like that they'll be ready to take a nap - kinda like people heading for the couch after a big Thanksgiving dinner and too sleepy to count even if they did have fingers. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

When you lower the hydration, it may take a little bit longer to peak the starter so watch it and don't use it too soon. It may take much longer than you anticipate.  It's not really a nap but a lag time but there will be more yeast per gram than in a thinner starter when it is ready.  

Kogaku's picture

Who said sourdough isn’t rocket science?? What a great place to come for answers! You guys are great to respond so quickly. And the humor is such a nice touch. 



alfanso's picture

Expectations of what a build's results will be vary widely based on the hydration level as well as the type of flour, or flour mix used.  This is exclusive of the ambient temperature.  One should not assume that these variables will yield similar results.  A little over a month ago I posted a comparison of a few different levain builds to demonstrate that.  Unscientific, but the results make an undeniable statement about expectations and knowledge going in.