Question on starter hydration


Hi all,


My wholewheat starter is already 19 days old. It can double its size after feeding and has fair bubbles under the surface. However, it doesn't has a layer of froth on top and seems to be not as 'active' as others described here (i.e. my starter could not be 'triple' or even more in size after feeding)


I did try to make a spelt sourdough with my wholewheat starter, but the result was bad; the bread was flat and dense. And, the recipe I followed was the 1-2-3 recipe (i.e. starter, water= 2x starter, flour = 3x starter and salt = 2% of flour)


Since I'm still in the testing phase, I tried to keep the waste as low as possible. I poured out most of the starter and fed the remaining starter (i.e. around 1 tablespoon) with equal weight of flour and water (i.e. 30-40g) everyday. And, the spelt sourdough I tried to make with 30g starter only.


I wonder if it's because I fed the starter with too small amount of flour and water, or I should increase its hydration (i.e. 110%) ?


My place here is almost in summer. The weather is around 22-28'C and may be getting hotter later on. I think I should keep my starter in fridge once I am sure it is 'active'. But now, it is still uncertain...





78 users have voted.


panfresca 2011 May 19

 I wouldn't worry too much about seeing froth. That can depend on the flour and the hydration. Your present 100% hydration should be reliable too, so probably no need to change anything there, though whole wheat flours do absorb more water, so it wouldn't hurt to up the hydration just a little and observe the results.

Your temperature is just right; 25° is pretty much ideal temp for starters and fermentation.

A couple of things to try: 

How often are you feeding? At this early stage, 12 hourly would be good, and a stir half way can only be good.

Maybe add a small amount of rye four and also possibly unbleached white bread flour. Rye particularly should give it a boost, and increasing the diversity of the yeast and enzyme population should give your starter muscles.

If you're worried about waste, very small starters work just fine, and you can "build" it up before you bake.


bettybetty 2011 May 19

Thank you so much for your advice, Kym!! I'll try to add some rye in the next feeding. Hope that I can bring some good news here next time! ^.^

panfresca 2011 May 20

Hi Betty

Thinking more about this, though the starter could be the problem, there are several other possible factors - sourdough is really a chain of events, and each one affects the others. 

You don't say anything about the other parts of the equation, so please forgive me if I'm going over known ground, but other reasons for flat, dense bread could be:

• The flour. I have only used spelt as a small proportion, so I'm not familiar with how it behaves. 

• Is the starter at its prime? Under- or over-ripe starter could do this. A healthy starter which "only" doubles can still produce good rise in the bread.

• Bulk fermentation - whether it's under- or over-fermented.

• Proving - again, whether under- or over-proved.


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