Fed vs Unfed Starter

(gwage) #1

Scenario: I feed my starter and it doubles in volume as planned. I put the starter into the fridge. At what point is the starter considered to be unfed? Within 12-24 hours? Inquiring minds…

(Leah) #2

@gwage, Since my starter lives in my refrigerator I tend to feed him once a week. I actually haven’t had any problems with him rising dough even if I find myself baking 3-4 days after I’ve fed him. Just my personal experience with my starter.


(Melissa) #3

I want to know the answer to this too :slight_smile: I have some theories based on observation and would love to hear other people’s thoughts.

I feed my starter, usually 1:1:1, then put a rubber band around the jar to mark the starting line and refrigerate.

After very varied amounts of time, it will have doubled or tripled in the fridge, but I don’t really know how the actual population of yeast and bacteria is doing – specifically if most of that growth was happening as the starter cooled, so I usually refeed at room temp before baking. My sense is that after 3 to 4 days in the fridge, the food is used up, and the bacterial and yeast populations begin to decline and hooch forms and the starter may even droop down a bit.

I did recently bake a decent loaf of bread with cold starter that had doubled days before (in the fridge) and then sat in stasis in my refrigerator – 4 days total I believe. I used two to three times my usual amount of starter. Normally what I would have done is refeed the whole jar, or pull a smaller amount to feed.

Random note: When my starter doesn’t double in the refrigerator, I let it sit at room temperature several hours to see if it grows as it warms up, because I imagine there is uneaten food since it didn’t double or triple.

(Paul) #4

These days, I am baking more or less once a week. I keep a tiny amount of starter in a single jar in the fridge; looking at it, I’d guess it’s about 3/4 of a cup. I feed it maybe every three weeks or so by discarding all but whatever sticks to the sides and bottom of the jar and putting in about 2/3 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water and then mixing well in the jar which then goes right back into the fridge (unless I plan to bake the next day in which case I’ll leave it out at room temperature for a few hours before putting it back in the fridge).

I assume it increases and then decreases in volume while living in the fridge, but I never see that happen. Whenever I look at it - which is when I am about to use it to bake some bread - it’s at the same height in the jar as when I fed it. It’s flat, not bubbling, apparently inactive. That’s what I would call “unfed” starter. These days, that’s all I use.

Creating a loaf of bread is – in my mind – the creation of a large batch of very ephemeral starter. I take about a teaspoon or so of the starter from the jar in the fridge (actual amount depends on how long I have time to let the dough proof) to inoculate each new loaf of bread with the yeast and bacteria I need for the loaf to rise and ferment the way I like it.

Saturday’s bake:

(Colette) #5

My starter is female, her name is Sophie and her date of birth is 11 October 2017. I made her from scratch with half whole wheat and half bread flour and equal part of filtered water. It was fun watching her get stronger. I put her in the fridge for one week after baking and I let her come to room temperature and do a first feeding, followed by a second feeding 12 hours apart before I use it for a recipe. My test for her readiness is putting a small amount of it in a glass filled with water: if it floats it is ready, if it sinks to the bottom it is not. This process takes between 7 and nine hours depending on the temperature in the house. I have not made a single loaf using commercial yeast since I have had Sophie because the taste is so much better with her in it. My bagels are also to die for. I finally bought a mill last month and it might be my imagination but knowing that the flour is freshly milled gives me so much more satisfaction.


(Stuart) #6

There as many ways to manage and use a starter as there are bakers. You just have to find out what works for you and your particular mix of bacteria and yeast.
My starter pretty much lives in the fridge except on baking day which is also when it gets fed. I should mention that It is at 70% hydration, It is taken out about an hour before mixing anything to allow it to warm somewhat. It is then used to do a build or preferment cositing of 50g starter 120g of the flours I’m using that day and 84g farely warm 95F water. This usually doubles in 3 hours or so and is then used to leaven the dough for the loaf. The starter is then fed using 40g old starter, 60g flour which is a combination of white whole wheat and AP in a 70/30 ratio or thereabouts, and 42g of the warm water. It goes right back in the fridge and doubles in a couple days ready for use again.
Good luck finding what works for you, and have fun doing it.

(caleb.poehler) #7

I virtually always use unfed starter for bread, thinking as peevee Paul does. But I’ve had some failures resulting in overly sticky and soupy dough after fermentation which clearly is a result of a disintegration of the dough’s gluten. This has me wondering if the old starter might be messing with the dough proteins in a bad way; whereas fed starter would mess with them in a good way. Just a theory.

Combined with the start of winter (needing stronger yeast for the cooler house) I plan on feeding the starter more than once a week, and, especially if I want a nicer loaf, make sure its fed and strong before I make bread.

(BinghamtonBaker) #8

I have never understood the difference either. Since I usually start with an overnight pre-fermentation of one part starter to one part each of water and flour, I don’t think it really matters. I do confess, however, that I use a bit of commercial instant dry yeast to augment the starter.