feed frenzy


Hi all

my 1st post on here, i've been lurking for a while - and just want to say thanks to you all for such great reading and as a source of inspiration for my baking its been awesome and an incredible resource

i have a question on feeding times for starters

I currently work - and have been having a great success for my weekend baking by doing the following

i have a mother starter that lives in the fridge (named Steve the starter)

whom i feed once a week - i take out 400g of starter - feed him 150 grams of flour - 250ml of water and stir him up and but him back in the fridge 

(yes he's a mother - and he's names Steve - yes)

with the 400g of starter i take out  (usually tuesday or wednesday) 

i then feed this starter on the counter in the kitchen 60grams of flour 60ml of water every evening (wed/thurs) till friday when i make dough on friday night

the above system has worked well for me and i am producing loaves of many varieties that make people smile - and me likewise 

so here's my question - 

as you can see i only feed my starter enough to help activate it (well thats what it feels like)

what i would like to know is how much can i feed it and in what period would expect it turn the feed into active starter at room tempreture

i ask this because i would like to scale up my bread production to may be 3 batches a week with more loaves per batch (demand is good)

so scheduling my of starter regeneration needs to scale up - but i am aware that my current system works on my small scale for 2-3 loaves in a weekend

your help is much appreciated 




333 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2012 September 24

Hello Fergus,

You don't say how long it takes your bench levain to reach its maximum activity (peak volume before falling back).  Basically feeding at or before that time will keep things developing at pretty much maximum pace.  If you leave it longer than that dormancy sets in and a new 'induction' time is required to get going again.

I also notice that your mother Steve, seems to be at 167% hydration but then when preparing your levain you are feeding at 100% hydration.  When you make your dough you have about 400g of levain that I imagine goes with 1-1.5kg of flour (and extra water) to make your dough.

I think you could just as easily take 200g from Steve and feed with 100g flour and 100g water to end up at the same place in maybe 12hrs (or overnight).  Also I don't think Steve would mind being raided three times a week from his spot in the fridge though perhaps if your were going to be doing it more regularly then you might as well leave him on the bench.  Depending on what your ambient is, even at only three times a week he might be just a comfortable on the bench.

Hope this helps and makes sense.


elwoodburgers 2012 September 24



thanks very much for the feed back - great advice

I keep Steve in that 167% hydration because that recipe i followed - the starter was actually made for me by my lovely girlfriend - and i was handed the care instructions which i follow

the 100% hyrdation is the experiment that i have evolved on the bench - which works well - i have a few children of Steve that i am growing at the same pace as Steve - so I may take a big portion from these and sit it on the bench and see what happens - to keep Steve stable that is

when its at its maximum activity - is hard to say - i've not been that watchful - just consistent with feeding regime - but idid excellerate things this weekend by leaving it in the sun for a bit as i did two batches between thursday and sunday. I'll pay attention to this now see if my feeding regime is falling in the right cycle

i was wondering what is the minimum ratio of starter you can start with. is it 2:1:1 like you suggest for 12 hour turn around in your reply ?


thanks again for you response



farinam's picture
farinam 2012 September 24

Hi Fergus,

I keep my Magnet (new name - sticks to the fridge) at 100% hydration.  For a typical bake, the night before, I take 90g and feed with 45g flour and 45g water to double the mass and maintain the starter consist.  Magnet also gets 45/45 and goes back into the fridge.  In the morning, I make the dough, develop and bulk ferment over 3-4 hours, shape and prove as required.  The time depends on the temperature.

I have also done it over a slightly longer time frame starting with only a couple of grams of Magnet and doing three builds over 16 hrs (0, 8, 16) to have the required levain ready by 24h.  You can also use this method to change the hydration of your starter.  I wrote about it in an earlier blog and there is a spreadsheet that you can download to do the calculations.

So really, there is probably no pat answer.  I have heard of bakers just leaving the scrapings of their levain in the tub and adding flour and water to get the levain going for the next day's bake.

There are a couple of factors that will influence the result (assuming constant temperature to take that factor out).  If the culture is dormant, then there will be an 'induction' period when things will be slow until the beasties wake up to the fact that there is a new supply of food (read flour) available. If there is a small quantity of culture in a large volume of food, it should take longer for the food to be consumed though probably not a great deal longer with the exponential increase in numbers with time that goes on.  On the other hand, if there is a large quantity of culture and a small amount of food, then the burst of activity is likely to be fairly short followed by a relapse to dormancy.

I suggested the 1:1 culture to total feed on the basis that is what I regularly do.  As an aside, a fairly common recipe for dough using a 100% levain is known as the 1:2:3 for one part levain, 2 parts water and 3 parts flour (plus of course, salt).

So fundamentally, as with so many things in this activity, whatever works for you is correct.

Keep on bakin'


elwoodburgers 2012 September 24

great Farinam


thanks very much for the insights

onwards and upwards

may your dough rise to meet you and the wind at your back always be your own ;)

many thanks


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