Starter issues - temperature and flour type


Hi all. I've been using a sourdough recipe that's fairly simple to follow: 50 g flour, 50 g water. The first feeding, I just added more, but ever since I've thrown out 100g of starter before feeding more. Using whole wheat flour, I was having great success - it was doubling in size between every feeding and smelled great.


Then, following the recipe's advice, I switched to unbleached, unbromated white flour after the fourth feeding. The recipe indicated that having fewer organisms in the flour would allow the culture I was growing to get stronger with less competition, but still have plenty of food to eat. It slowed down tremendously, until it stopped rising at all. However, it remained bubbly and sour-smelling. Wanting to make sure it wasn't dead, I switched it back to wheat flour last night and boom, doubled in size overnight without a problem.


I know you're supposed to keep it in a fairly warm place, but we can't afford to have our house any warmer than 60 degrees. I try to give it extra time, since it's slow, but the wheat flour rises without a problem. Does white flour starter need to be warmer?


I've looked through the other posts on here and people don't seem to have problems with white flour. I'm just wondering if anyone has an idea why my white flour starter won't rise at all.

116 users have voted.


joshuacronemeyer 2011 February 1

Without pictures or a better grasp of the problem I can only speculate.  Is the consistency of your white flour starter wetter than the wheat?  Very high hydration starters don't rise dramatically because there is little or no structure as the mixture approaches liquidity.  The gasses simply escape into the atmosphere rather than being trapped by the starter.  One possibility is that because wholemeal flours tend to absorb more water, the wholemeal starter is drier and more structured, thus allowing the gasses to contribute to the bulk of the starter rather than just escaping into the atmosphere.


If that is the case there is nothing at all wrong with using white flour in your starter.  There is no magic ratio of flour and water so the 50/50 your recipe suggests is a good starting point.  Usually if you are following a recipe, the recipe will specify some specific percentage of hydration for your starter, and different flours can hold different amounts of water, so it is likely you will have to do some experimenting on your own to really perfect your recipe.  good luck.

notabaker 2011 February 2

Not really able to take pictures, unfortunately, but sorry for lack of description. Yes, the white starter is much wetter than the wheat. I use 50g flour and 50g water, no matter which wheat I was using. I expected it to get thinner (recipe is very thorough), but was told to keep looking for the rise. Apparently you're right, it was fine and healthy, because one feeding on wheat (making it thicker than toothpaste) and it's rising like Old Faithful. I'm going to attempt to bake with this starter for the first time today - fingers crossed!

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LeadDog 2011 February 4

 I have had the same problem.  There are some starters that don't like having their food changed.  It will take them a while to get used to the new food.  My solution to this problem is I feed my starter a mix of all the flours I bake with and then it works well with any bread that I bake.  The flour I feed my starter is 50% white flour and the other 50% is made up of 5 different whole grain flours.

a.j.m's picture
a.j.m 2011 February 11

 I have had exactly the same experience.  I have a 2 year old whole-wheat-fed culture and I make 8lb of "brown" bread (40% whole wheat) per week for the family from it: it's delicious, all agree. But  I have tried numerous times to either (a) convert the culture to white flour, or (b) start a white-flour starter from scratch -- so that I can sometimes make white bread instead.  It always does exactly what you describe : slows down, stops (re)rising, and always goes from freshly-fed to sour and bubbly without rising more than a 1/4 or so .  I've tried this many, many times, varying temperature (60, 70, 80F), hydration (100% down to 50%), frequency of feeding (/6h, /8h, /12h, /24, /48), etc., and it's always the same; and the white bread from it doesn't rise very well, either.  Not awful, just not very good.


On the whole, I've rather given up on the idea of a starter that eats white flour, and when I want "white" bread I make a pre-ferment from my whole-wheat starter and just use less of it (so I get 20% whole wheat "white" bread).  But I would still love to know what conditions permit 100%-white flour sourdough.


molifemo 2011 February 14


For example,  for the first day of changing, refresh the starter with 10g of white flour and 40g of whole wheat flour and on the next feeding you can increase white flour to 20g or half and half ....and next  40g of white flour and 10 g of whole wheat flour ...then finally feed the starter with 50g of white flour . 



a.j.m's picture
a.j.m 2011 February 16

What I've tried that sort of thing, sometimes indeed on the advice of the experienced in this forum, what happens is that the first feeding works pretty well, but by the time we get to 100% ap flour, the culture returns to just-a-bit-bubbly, and if I make bread from it, with no whole-wheat at all, the bread is a disaster (slack, sour, dense, flat).


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