The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

What happens if I feed by starter nothing but sugar and water?

tttt1010's picture

What happens if I feed by starter nothing but sugar and water?

I've always wondered why we need to feed flour to our starter if its only source of food is sugar. Why not just feed it sugar and water instead of flour and water? This way it will be cheaper to maintain and will take less space.

phaz's picture

Try it, see what happens, let us know. Enjoy! 

HeiHei29er's picture

You will continue to generate biomass as the bacteria reproduce and then die.  Eventually, you’ll need to discard to keep your population size under control.  Each time you discard, you’ll lose some of the flour substrate the bacteria and yeast grow on.  At some point, you’ll have a jar of bacterial sludge with no flour in it.  Have no idea what the population will consist of at that point, but that’s what will happen.

Ciarli's picture

microbes need flour and water to build their houses and to live in as new cultures otherwise they die.

maybe if you experiment with distilled water you can be the first to create the nitro starter liquid ready to be thrown into the flour!

gerhard's picture

water, basically what you are creating. I don’t think you can sustain yeast water over the long term.

mariana's picture

If you do that, tttt1010, you will have a lot of booze to drink. You will be making some sort of homemade alcoholic beverage, plain and simple. 

There are flourless methods of propagating starters with sugar and water, but in order to do that a special kind of sugar (dark brown, or molasses), or syrup (liquid malt extract) is necessary, like the ones beer makers use to feed their beer starters with 'sugar and water' only, no flour. Those flourless starters are perfectly fine to make sourdough bread with them and can be kept up to one month refrigerated without feeding, ready to be used in breadmaking at any moment, no refreshments are necessary. 

If you use plain water from the faucet and plain white sugar, then you will put pressure on your starter microbiota and it will shift towards those microbes that can survive only eating sugar and those salts that are found in tap water. The organisms that are adapted to life in flour/dough will be gone. 

Most bakers use flour and water to feed their starters to make sure that their microbes are adapted to life and work inside bread dough, since it's their goal. Our goal is bread, so we create conditions similar to those in bread. If we make breakfast pancakes with sourdough, we keep liquid starters. Or at least that is how it was during Gold Rush times.  If we make stiff bread dough, we keep stiff starters, to make sure that they visibly rise just like bread will rise, etc.