The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

why can a starter not be "developed" en masse?

pjstock's picture

why can a starter not be "developed" en masse?

As I understand it (and as I have been doing it for the last few years) a Starter should be fed and developed in small steps.
take (for rexample) 5g of starter and add say 25g flour + 25g water.
then once that is active, rebuild it. i.e. discard some, then add another 25g+25G
repeat, repeat......

why though would a batch of starter behave differently if I started with say just 5g of starter  and then added.... I don't know 100g flour + 100g water immediately?
why would the 5g of starter not just slowly work it's way through the 200g of added "fuel" to become super active?

or would 200g of extra fuel just suffocate the little old 5g starter engine?

UVCat's picture

i think one reason not to do a single large feed of the type you describe is in order to maintain the acidity of the system. the acid produced by the bacteria in a sourdough culture is protective: it makes the environment hostile to bacteria (e.g., e coli) and fungi (e.g., molds) that you don’t want to have growing in the system. 

every time you feed your starter with fresh flour and water you dilute the acids and bring the pH way up. over time, as the bacteria metabolize and grow in number after the feeding, they produce acids and the pH falls.

a huge feed of the type you describe would create a longer stretch of time when the system would be “unprotected”, compared to a series of smaller feedings at shorter time intervals resulting in the same final amount of starter.

there was a great thread on here recently where folks were measuring the pH of their starters over time after a feed and posting their results. might be able to find that with a search?

hope this helps!


phaz's picture

Long as its ready by the time its used - what the heck. Enjoy!

mariana's picture

Usually, the goal is to accumulate good bacteria and yeast, so why would we discard 99-95% of them when "developing" a starter? Such approach is very inefficient, time consuming and will waste a lot of resources. 

That is why the most ancient recipes for starters are one step, no discards at all. Just mix flour and water and wait until the starter is ready, then use it in baking. More advanced methods refresh by feeding 1:(0.5) or 1:1. The starter will be ready for baking within hours or maybe in 2-3 days. This is the most efficient and time saving approach because we assume that your goal is to bake bread asap either for business or for eating it.

5:25:25 (feeding 1:10) or 5:50:50 are for starters that take weeks to develop while feeding them only once in a blue moon, once or twice a day in a warm environment. This method is for busy people who have no time to spare to feed the starter often.

Feeding it 1:40, i.e. 5:100:100 will make an unstable starter. Bakers know from experience that feeding 1:20 is the safety limit for whole grain starters. Any more diluted than that and extraneous microflora of the flour (fecal bacteria, gassy and stinky rotting odors, etc.) will thrive along with the desirable one.

MichaelLily's picture

Do whatever you want if your starter is vivacious and in a rhythm. I keep 3 bins of 6500 g starter ready to go at all times in the fridge. I feed back what I take out and ideally I have at least a couple hundred grams in the bin to feed. I’ve done it with next to nothing left in the bin and added 3000 water and 3000 flour, and I’ve done it adding 500 water and 500 flour to a bin with 5.5 kg starter already. I watch the starter and refrigerate when it gets bubbly enough to use. I do bake 6 days a week. We get very consistent results. Just from my experience. Been doing it this way for 7+ years.