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Levains, yeast waters, and mothers, oh my!

SeasideJess's picture

Levains, yeast waters, and mothers, oh my!

The lineup from left to right:

1:2:2 levain of ryestarter & wheatflour & water, sitting on top of a  1:2:2 starter refresh of ryestarter & ryeflour & water

1:1 levain build of wheatberry-honey yeast water & wheatflour, sitting on top of the wheatberry-honey yeast water

1:1 levain build of apple yeast water & wheatflour  sitting on top of the apple yeast water

All flours are freshly milled 100% whole grain.


Scootsmcgreggor's picture

Super awesome!

Benito's picture

You’ve been and are going to be very busy Jess.

barriehiebread's picture

I love the apple water idea!  I used blueberries for mine and as Benito said; you'll be very busy.

Have a great day,


DanAyo's picture

Jess, let us know how the berry starter worked for you. 

mine was a complete success! It was converted to a typical starter + water + flour starter yesterday and it rising very well. It was a simple operation to build the liquid starter using whole rye berries.

SeasideJess's picture

I consider the rye sourdough to be the control in this experiment. It typically doubles in 3 to 4 hours and is a nice vigorous reliable starter that can raise bread. 


1:2:2 levain build of ryestarter & wheatflour & water. This build doubled in 3 hours.

1:1 levain build of wheatberry-honey yeast water & wheatflour. This build doubled in 4 hours. 

1:1 levain build of apple yeast water & wheatflour. This build showed no activity after 4 hours, had just begun to show activity after 6 hours, and had doubled overnight when I looked again, after about 19 hours.


The rye levain has a pleasing, fresh, tangy scent that reminds me of sour apples.

The wheatberry-honey yeastwater levain smells of honey.

The apple yeastwater levain smells of sweet apples.


SeasideJess's picture

Since the idea of this experiment was to try to develop an easier, quicker method to create a sourdough starter (sourdough mother) I decided to feed these levain builds as if they were sourdough starters, hoping that would encourage the lactic acid bacteria to develop more and start creating that more sour flavor profile. 

I decided to focus on the wheat berry/honey ferment, and try to convert that to a sourdough.

I took the wheatberry-honey yeastwater/wheatflour ferment, divided it, and fed one with rye and filtered water, and one with wheat and filtered water. I fed each of them at 1:1:1. 

After 3 hours, they had each doubled. 

I then took the wheat-flour build and used it to inoculate a small test dough, at 20% levain. 

The rye flour build, I refreshed at 1:2:2. 4.5 hours in it is close to double in volume. It smells sweet, earthy, and not at all sour. 

The leftover levains all got added to a whole-wheat dough, along with random bits of extra flour. It was roughly 900 grams of flour and it got at least a 30% inoculation, if not more. But at least they're all fresh and low acid, so hopefully it won't get proteolytic before it rises.

I sort of wish I threw in the apple yeastwater levain too because I don't have a use for it. I could give it some rye flour refreshes to see if it turns into a sourdough but I think it's going into the discards bucket. 


There is no evidence so far that the wheat berry and honey yeast water can be converted into a sourdough starter, but it seems happy so far as a poolish. 

DanAyo's picture

Yes, why are you saying that the wheat berry liquid starter can’t be converted to a SD starter? Mine is doing fine after converted to a typical four starter.

SeasideJess's picture

I mean, it seems more like a poolish that's gone funky. The bread rises but it's just not quite the right scent profile. And that off scent is detectable in the bread, though only by me.

I'm not saying yours isn't sourdough!

I just meant no evidence has come yet from my version of the experiment.

DanAyo's picture

Jess, SD in respect to LAB. The LAB population may not be matured yet, but it should be there. I was concerned about using honey because it has an acidic PH. If the starter’s PH get ps too low the LAB will not multiply. I fed mine honey and it smells acidic and taste tangy.

If you keep feeding your whole berry starter that has been converted to flour, it should become sour.

All of the above is theory, there is little experience that I am aware of in this area.

I appreciate your experimentation and posting the results.


SeasideJess's picture

I took the wheatberry-honey yeastwater/wheatflour ferment and fed it with with rye at 1:1:1. 

After 3 hours, it had doubled. 

I then refreshed it at 1:2:2 with wholemeal rye flour plain water. After 4.5 hours it had close to doubled in volume. It smelled sweet, earthy, and not at all sour. 

I continued to refresh it at 1:2:2 twice a day for another day. It is continuing to double in around 4 hours and by the 3rd refresh it has started smelling like a fairly typical sourdough starter, with a mildly sour/yeasty scent. However there is an undercurrant of something a little funky, reminiscent of Japanese bran pickle.

SeasideJess's picture

I refreshed the starter again this morning and tasted the bread I made from it yesterday. The bread is ok although a bit salty (bad math) and a tiny hint funky.

The starter really doesn't smell that great to me. The funk is off-putting. I don't want to make more bread with it. It just doesn't have the pleasing, fresh, sour-apple smell of my traditional rye starter. I don't even want to add it to my discard bucket.

So I decided to make a new mother with what's left of the yeast water, which now smells quite sharp. Maybe I will get a more pleasing result from a later-stage water ferment.  

I did the build as before, 1:1.

Half wheatberry-and-honey yeast water, half fresh-milled rye flour.