Experiment Time - comparing whole grain starter feeds
A couple of months back my starter fed whole red fife became very sluggish again. As I did when this first happened I fed it whole rye for several days and got it active again. However, in the hopes of keeping it healthy and active I decided to keep it on a whole rye diet and couldn’t be happier. Where I couldn’t make a good white flour levain now I can get a 3.5-4 x rise with a white levain.
So what is it about rye that makes it such an ideal flour to feed starter? Well one thing is that it has more amylase in it than other flours, at least that is my understanding. There are other factors but keeping this one factor in mind I decided to see if I could make whole red fife a more potent feed for starter by boosting its amylase and devised this small experiment.
I will compare three mini levains, each started with 5 g of starter, 1:2:2.
The first one will be fed 10 g of whole rye. The second one 10 g whole red fife and 2% diastatic malt. Finally the third one 10 g whole red fife.
I then monitored their growth at 72-74ºF room temperature and found the following. After 6 hours the rye levain had grown 2.47 x, while the red fife with diastatic malt levain had grown 2.6 x and had lost its dome, while the red fife had grown 2.24x. I rechecked the rye levain and it had grown to 2.59x at 6.5 hours and was still domed. At this point it was getting very late so I stopped the experiment.
I think that this experiment confirms that one of the factors that makes rye a great food for starters is the fact that it has more amylase than other flours. The greater concentrations of amylase makes more food available for the microbes in our starters than in other flours and is one factor in why rye is such a great flour for feeding starters.
By adding diastatic malt at 2% to whole red fife, I was able to get a greater rise from a feed with red fife than feeding just red fife alone. In fact, I was able to get a similar 2.6x rise in 6 hours where it took the rye 6.5 hours to reach that rise. However, the both red fife levains peaked while the rye was still rising. Therefore, unsurprisingly there are other factors at play that make rye such a great flour to feed our starters beyond just its amylase concentrations.