Does this starter look healthy at room temp?
I’ve been growing my starter for about 3 weeks and I’m struggling a bit regarding the temperature and growth. We get fairly cold winters, plus we live in a drafty basement suite so I don’t know if I’m keeping it at an ideal temperature. Our thermostat says 69F but I’m pretty sure its at least a couple of degrees colder in the kitchen. It seems strong enough; currently I’m feeding it 2 times a day at a 1:5:5 (15g starter, 75g water, 50g AP flour, 25g rye). When I keep it in the oven with the light on, it grows fantastically and peaks within 4-5 hours - more than doubling in size. When I keep it on my counter, it grows significantly slower.
Below are pictures all taken today; first feed was at 8am and the lines show the growth by 2pm. During this time I kept it in the oven with the light on. By 2pm, the starter had already peaked and shrank slightly (as seen in top down photo). I used my instant digital thermometer and it said it was 99F. At 2pm, I fed it and kept it on my counter. By 8pm, it barely grew at all, although it still looked lively (again, top down photo provided). This time the starter temp came to 78F.
The difference in two 6 hour periods, with all other factors being the exact same, simply due to temperature is very obvious. Is this normal or do I have a weak starter? And is there a way to get it to grow more quickly at room temperature?
You could skip a feeding tonight to let it catch up, then try feeding 1:2:2 in the morning for 12 hours @ 69F. It will take longer for those big feeds to mature at the lower temps. See how it does, then reassess. Otherwise, your starter looks good and strong to me :)
The plan is to leave it till tomorrow morning and see how it fares. I know lower temp = slower growth, but curious to see if the difference should be this significant.
I’ll experiment with smaller ratios to see how that affects the growth time. f it turns out that 1:5:5 at 69F = once daily feeding I’d be pleased with that. Everyone seems to say a healthy starter needs to peak at 3-4 hours at room temp so I feel antsy when mine falls behind. Glad to know it looks good, though! Thank you for your positive feedback :)
Could I use a larger ratio for daily maintenance and switch to a smaller one when I want to bake, so it’ll be ready faster? Say it’s 9am and the starter has peaked overnight but isn’t optimal for baking - could I feed it with a small ratio, pop it in the oven and use it in 3-4 hours to make a leaven, then feed it again at a higher ratio?
Wait and see what it does before deciding if a bigger feed is warranted. Starters should be optimized on an individual basis and reassessed continuously.
Your oven gets a bit warm, but you could just as easily leave it at RT and give an even smaller feed. 2 or 3 parts starter to 1 each flour and water will probably get you there in 4 hours. It doesn't have to be warm, but maybe 1:1:1 if it is.
Experiment with changing it up and keep notes on how fast it ripens at different ratios and temperatures.