The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Converting Whole Wheat Starter to Bread Flour

AkitoTakagi's picture

Converting Whole Wheat Starter to Bread Flour

Hi all,

Finally my whole wheat starter is alive and it all thanks Debra Wink, I found out about the articles she wrote and it helped me a LOT. (I'll share the link below so that if you guys stumble upon this message and have the same problem making a new starter, you can check it out)

Actually what I wanted to make in the first place was white starter (fed with bread flour), and since I have too many failed attempts (like 8 failed attempts) and I read about the blog Debra wrote, I finally have success in making one starter with whole wheat.

Then I tried to split my whole wheat starter and fed it with combination of whole wheat + bread flour, eventually it failed to rise. At first I tried to feed it with combination of 50% whole wheat + 50% bread flour. It was active and still rose to double. As I gradually increased the bread flour % until it's all bread flour, it started to slow down and it ended up failing to rise eventually and had just very few tiny bubbles.


And I decided to split another new one (taken from my whole wheat one that I still keep and feed regularly). This time I decided to feed all bread flour at once without any gradual attempt. At first feeding with bread flour, it still rose to double but still slower compared to my whole wheat starter. And then 12 hours later, I discarded and fed it, and it did not rise at all after second feeding with bread flour, just few tiny bubbles.

I ended up with the same result (gradual transition with whole bread + bread flour and full bread flour, they have the same result). And the smell when it's on gradual transition is fine, a bit alcohol, fruity like banana, and mild sour smell. But when it finally stopped rising and just had few tiny bubbles, all those smell I describe was not there, just a bit maybe, just a hint of those smell if I sniffed it with all my senses, LOL.

Should I keep it going, feeding and discarding it? I don't wanna make a new starter from scratch since I already wasted too much flour, lol, (I have made 8 failed attempts in a row to make a starter) 

I suppose there's nothing wrong with the bread flour I use because I know some famous people on Instragram feed their starter with this bread flour. And the water is also fine since my whole wheat starter is alive and well. The temperature now is fine (recently it was too hot, and now season is changing and it's much cooler and quite nice), my starter is always 100% hydration, fed regularly at 12 hours feeding cycle.

Or do you think maybe my WW starter is too young to convert to white starter since it's just about 14 days since the yeast activated (not counting the smelly days and quiet days, 14 days is age since the yeast appeared)



My active whole wheat starter (from which I attempted to take some part and split into white starter) feed ratio is 1.2.2 and it doubles and peaks in about 10-12 hours.

Thank you.

phaz's picture

Start by doing a feed of 122 (adjust water for a wet dough like consistency), then just stir about every 12 hrs till it comes back (don't add anything, just stir. But, if at any point it loses structure and gets soupy, feed immediately. It'll get back to normal pretty quick and you'll discover what a proper feed schedule is as with different food it will most likely change. Enjoy!

AkitoTakagi's picture

Hi Phaz, thanks a lot. Finally it rises to 1.5x to my surprise now. I guess it's safe to say it's active now? So can I feed it regularly with 12 hours feeding cycle (or when it has peaked)? Or should I wait more before starting regular feed?

phaz's picture

Looks good. I would keep stirring every 12 hrs, and when it stops rising go back to regular feeding schedule - something like 122 daily. Enjoy!

AkitoTakagi's picture

Hi Phaz, I'd love to say thanks a lot! And I do wonder, is there any trick or secret behind this "stirring"? Because I'm so amazed, even after I stir it (not feeding it), it still rises and when compared to my other starter, this one with stirring rise faster than the other.

bakeyourownAU's picture

Hey Akito,

Peter Reinhart in his Bread Bakers Apprentice book states stiring traps wild yeast from the air. He goes on to say he's revived many starters just by stirring them constantly for 1 minute. 

Hope this helps :)

phaz's picture

There are no tricks no secrets, at least for one with the slightest bit of common sense, a good understanding of how things work, and plain simple logic. 

I've explained this in here before, and I'm sure more than once (but sometimes things get hard to find - which is not all that uncommon in forums like these), so here's the logic - which will give ya a better understanding of the process which you can combine with your common sense and properly maintain a starter. 

A starter of the proper consistency rises due to gas production which is a byproduct of consumption (bugs eat, they release gas - most common). Bugs aren't very mobile, they can't walk to the store and get more food, you gotta bring it to them. You do that by stirring. 

Logically - if there's something available to consume, gas is produced and we rise, nothing to eat - no rise. Nothing complicated, all simple logic.

Most folks follow some direction and run with it, not knowing if it's good or bad - but hey my starter is growing - it must be right - not entirely (I'm being kind there). While not entirely wrong it doesn't really tell ya if it's strong (more rise in less time = strong - no, it means stronger, there is a difference). 

Strong = high % of bugs in relation to the entire mass, higher the % stronger it is. How do we get that - supply enough food to keep it alive without adding so much the % drops and allowing the time necessary to grow and populate the mass (we are keeping a high%). This is what I call a proper fed ratio and schedule. And it's the thing I never hear about (and I've been here for something like 10 years).

All this leads to stirring - which essentially concentrates a starter by allowing the bugs to use all the available food to make more bugs thereby increasing the % in relation to the mass. See how that works.

So, feed and stir, when the food is gone, we don't get a rise, bugs will stop reproducing and die off, not what we want, but that's the point of highest concentration (close enough for this anyway). The proper feed is the amount of food needed to reach this point in a certain period of time.

I've found that 99% of instruction on feeding is not very helpful as it does nothing to help keep a truly strong starter (ctrl+c, ctrl+v is a lot easier than actually learning and giving proper information). Well let's change that.

You want to feed every day, 3 days, a week, whatever - you throw in food and stir often.

If it's not growing by the end of the time period, not enough food which over time will cause issues (ugly ones at that).

If it's still growing - there's enough food to last, but is it to much? Too much over time will drop the %, and that weakens the starter.

So we stir again and observe.

Still rising - there's still food to consume. Not rising - bingo - that's what you want.

When there's a little rise at the end of a set period of time with a certain feed, you've got the ideal feed schedule and ratios.

The funny thing (at least I find it funny), is once you go through this and finally get it down - it'll change. But, as you can see, when it does change, it's easy to adjust.

Man, I though this was gonna be a lot shorter - and I haven't even had coffee yet! I better go hit some golf balls. Enjoy!

Oh - just noticed the post about the guy stirring and yeast from the air - while not entirely wrong, it close enough to disregard - what's actually happening is covered above. Enjoy again!

AkitoTakagi's picture

Hello Phaz, yes it's working fine, I stir and observe, it's going well now, thank you so so much!

I'd like to know about some things, since I cannot find any explanations out there (and I'm so curious)

- how long should a white starter normally rise? (is there any goal, like maybe after feeding it's supposed to rise tripled in 8 hours?)

- if there's any goal like that above, then by making my starter stronger (high% bugs to entire mass), how long should I need to take care of my starter daily to reach that point? (after it's strong enough then I can finally move to store it in the fridge)

- and this is the one that I've been wondering, I read about maximizing yeast over LAB (to make it rise even more and make it less sour), and it's suggested that we need to feed it often, but isn't this making the starter weaker (isn't it diluting the bugs even more with frequent refreshments just like you said before)

- my white starter seems to love 1.1.1 ratio for 24 hours feeding cycle. I give it a stir on 12 hours after feeding it. after 12 hours it only rises to double, and I stir it, and I check on 24 hours it rises to 1.8x, and then I refresh my starter by feeding it. my question, how come most white starter rise tripled or quadrupled in such sort amount of time (most video I've watched on YouTube and read on articles, they say it's doubled in 4 hours, and continue to peak to triple in 8-10 hours mark). Some say if you feed your starter more ratio like 1.3.3 even to 1.5.5 it will rise even higher, lol. Then I compare to my starter fed with 1.1.1 ratio and it's so slow, just doubles in 12 hours mark, I once feeding 1.2.2 and it slows even more. This confuses me, lol. (temperature is fine, ranging from 22 to 28 Celcius). Perhaps, does it have something to do with time? I mean mine is still pretty young, and maybe I need to wait until it's transitioned and stabilized so it can rise higher in less time with that much ratio (like 1.5.5)?

I'm sorry to ask you this many questions, I hope you don't mind my curiosity, lol. Because other than baking sourdough bread (that I want to try it so much and still not realized because I think my starter is not ready yet), I usually bake white loaf bread (asian, japanese type of bread), hokkaido bread, soft and sweet buns, cinnamon rolls. And I want to make them with starter (not commercial yeast) like most of my local famous social media bakers do, lol. They make levain the night before, and mix it with the rest of the ingredients the morning after, and they bulk ferment until double in just 4 hours, degas it, shape it, and final proof until double in about 4 hours. That's why I think most starter need to be able to rise triple in about 8-10 hours with more than 1.3.3 feed? I know that sourdough bread benefits comes from natural levain and long overnight fermentation time, but I want to apply starter to most white bread too that I can make it in a day within 8-10 hours like they do (simply to get hints of sourdough flavor, and its other benefits though it's not all because it's not fermented long enough like overnight). What do you think?

And thank you so much again.

phaz's picture

A bit to cover so here it goes

A white stated tends to rise less and take lonrgest than other flours. I like to say it takes as long as it needs to - whatever that is - lots of things make it different for different starters. 

Rising and stirring - look at it this way - 12 hrs it doubles - you stir it and it deflates  and collapses. Later it almost doubles again - so in 24 hrs, it actually rose somewhere around 400% - twice doubled. I'd day that was pretty good for this flour - it's strong, that was the goal.

Maximizing yeast/lab - well think about that - isn't that what we just did. We try to keep a maximum number of bugs - not favoring one over the other.

How long do we keep this up before cold storage - once everything is consistent with the schedule, it's ready. Just gotta remember - cold slows things down a lot, so a normal feed can last a week. 

Videos, what others say to do - whatever else. Well, j suppose the way to look at it is - you've tried them I take it - and your here seeking guidance on an issue - and it appears the issue had been resolved - and even better, you've got the real deal story - no bs. I don't earn a couple tenths of a cent for each post that gets read (or for how long it takes to read it hehe youtube). This is what we do I like to say, I can't help it - and I really can't put up with bs!

Using starter instead of yeast. Well, thus is what I found - the flavor of sourdough (let's say the tang as that's what most consider the flavor to be) doesn't go with everything. Do experiment, but don't be surprised if things don't end up tasting "right". I won't do certain breads with starter - others loved it, but I didn't. 

Last thing as your last paragraph mentioned others and what they did with their stuff in their homes. Doesn't matter. And I'll go back to the start of this long post - it takes as long as it needs to with your stuff. Enjoy!

icantbakeatall's picture

Edit: nevermind.