Author Topic: Problem with Starter's - need some good advice  (Read 2150 times)

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Offline chriskfla

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Problem with Starter's - need some good advice
« on: October 31, 2008, 12:55:14 PM »
Hi all,

I read Jeff's manifesto 10 times when I started this addiction 4 months ago and was really successful at first but now I'm in a slump. These could be repeat questions but I searched the forums and could not find answers. There's also too much conflicting info on other sites.  I live in SW Fla. and we've recently started having cold snaps so maybe that's why my starters are failing?

(Jeff I can't wait to hit your place when it opens in Buckhead. I'm in IT Sales and up there every week looking for new places. Good luck with it!)

Here goes:

1. I've had very good success with my own starter. Some great (almost jeff-like) results. I recently bought a San Francisco Sourdough Starter, it starts out fine, but each time I've gotten mold within 2 days.  Everything is as sterile as possible. Would bananas or cantalope on a nearby counter interfere?  Thoughts?

2.  A number of times, after my starter reaches the perfect bubbly pancake batter stage, (both mine and the SF one) I'll feed it more, stir it in with a wooden or plastic stirrer, and it's almost like I killed it. It doesn't bubble anymore, then comes mold, then I just throw it out.  What gives?

3. In general I can't seem to progress my starters. When you get a starter to the right stage, do you HAVE to remove a cup before you feed it? Or can you just add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup bottled water and stir it in? At this pace I might be better off just creating a new starter batch 3-4 days before each pizza making run.

4.  I nomally use a clean dannon yogurt container for starters. I poke a couple of holes in the lid and cover it. I've also heard to wrap the lid tight in saran with a rubber band after the first 24 hours as the bacteria does better without air. I've also heard to use a cheesecloth.  Which is the best way to cover it?

Thanks all. IMO, sourdough is the best pizza around!

Chris


Offline anton-luigi

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Re: Problem with Starter's - need some good advice
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2008, 02:08:21 PM »
Hmmm,  obviously you're getting contamination somewhere in the chain.  From what I've gathered,  with wild caught starters you never really know what you've caught.  You may have ended up with a particularly un-hearty strain??? 

Seems to be that activation temps are EXTREMELY CRUCIAL to success as well,  you may need to create an environment where you can keep a consistent temp, such as a proofer box.  This may be your stumbling block right here IMHO.

As far as the starter reaching the perfect bubbly stage,   are we still talking about during the activation stage? What is the feeding interval that you are doing?,  and what is your activation process in general??   Yes you should remove a portion as you need to dilute the starter to reduce the byproducts that have accumulated during the activation process. 

I doubt that you'll have much success,  or good results with a "new" starter before pizza days,  it needs to age and will generally improve over time.   

I had good results using a 1QT canning jar.  I wouldnt cover it tightly myself,  there are gases that need to escape during the process.  My jars are always cracked open just enough to allow gas to escape. 

Where are you buying your starter?


Offline widespreadpizza

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Re: Problem with Starter's - need some good advice
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2008, 02:23:33 PM »
The wooden spoon could have something to do with the contamination?  Unless you steam it or something. -marc

Offline Pizza_Not_War

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Re: Problem with Starter's - need some good advice
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2008, 03:56:46 PM »
The most important part of getting your starter going is maintaining a constant temperature. At the early stages it was 85F for me. Letting those temps drop too low seems to help the other bugs grow until your starter dominates. My first starter was the Goldrush/SF and it was very easy to start & maintain. I don't use it anymore as I like the Sourdo.com starters better.

Try using your oven with the light on and the door slightly open until you can get your temps to be in the 85F range.

When I reactivate a starter for use I am at 80F and within 4 hours I usually have a viable starter for my dough.

Good luck

PNW
« Last Edit: October 31, 2008, 06:34:15 PM by Pizza_Not_War »

Offline chriskfla

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Re: Problem with Starter's - need some good advice
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2008, 10:30:56 PM »
When I've used the San Fran starter, it was Goldrush. In terms of feeding interval I've just used a cup of flour/cup of water plus the gold rush if using that. Then I feed it after 3 days. Maybe I'm not feeding it quick enuf?  I'll give the oven / light a try too. Thanks.

Offline Pizza_Not_War

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Re: Problem with Starter's - need some good advice
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2008, 11:23:50 PM »
Feed twice a day until you get it well settled. Then refrigerate it and take out and feed as needed. I usually take out a tablespoon of starter add 2 tablespoons of flour & 2 of water and leave at 80 degrees in my Koolatron warmer/cooler for 4 hours. Every 2 weeks or so I take the mother batch of starter and feed it to keep it vital. Works for me.

The Gold Rush lacks the character of the other starters I have used, but it was very easy to maintain.


PNW

Offline anton-luigi

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Re: Problem with Starter's - need some good advice
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2008, 09:47:14 AM »
When I've used the San Fran starter, it was Goldrush. In terms of feeding interval I've just used a cup of flour/cup of water plus the gold rush if using that. Then I feed it after 3 days. Maybe I'm not feeding it quick enuf?  I'll give the oven / light a try too. Thanks.
OK,  makes sense now,  you are getting "contamination"  but this is because your culture is dying off or has died off due to starvation.  Hope you dont have kids do you????   LOL  just kidding man!!  So,  yeah, 3 days without food is a long time when the culture is warm and active.  I would feed at least every 8 hours myself during activation,  you cant "overfeed" it. 
« Last Edit: November 01, 2008, 09:53:08 AM by anton-luigi »

Offline chriskfla

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Re: Problem with Starter's - need some good advice
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2008, 08:43:06 AM »
Thanks all, I agree that's what's been going on - it's being underfed. My new batch is much happier.