Pizza Making Forum

Pizza Making => Starters/Sponges => Topic started by: ButteredPizza on August 11, 2018, 10:01:49 AM

Title: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 11, 2018, 10:01:49 AM
What are some techniques to increase starter's strength and/or activity, if possible?

I'm on my nth sourdough starter in last 2-3 years (lost actual count).  At the moment, the starter is about 6-8 weeks old.  Fed every 12 hours for ~3 weeks straight.  Ambient temp has ranged 76-82F, using filtered water with pH of 6.7 and TDS of about 250ppm.  Current starter on central milling organic type 85.  I've tried different flours in past starters, including 20/50 or 50/50 mixtures of bob's red mill rye, whole wheat, KAFs, etc, or even just plain hodgson mills white flour.  Currently, on a 1:2:2 feeding (20g starter, 40g water 40g flour) it takes about 8 or so hours to double and 12 hours to peak.  This seems.. slow... based on what I'm seeing on the interwebs.  I've tried slowly increasing feeding amount to improve the ratio, it just takes longer.  My neopolitan pizzas end up a bit gummy, and breads would get poor rise in oven, I'd get an okay crumb but bread weight always hefty not airy and light.  A few years back I had great results, no clue what my troubles are.

I have been looking for more "scientific" approaches to improving a starter, the internet research ends up being mostly anecdotal or not very helpful with "here's how I feed my starter and here's how I listen to the dough and it is great".  My dough is silent, and my starter is wimpy :p

Thank you for your time and review.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 11, 2018, 04:47:17 PM
How does it smell and taste when it's peaking?
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Brent-r on August 12, 2018, 12:10:04 PM
I don't know if this will get much support from those with more experience but in the last few weeks we've been using methods in Ken Forkish's book and used a mix of whole grain and unbleached sifted in one tub, and nothing but unbleached sifted in the other and it seems that the one with partial whole grain content rises fast and farther in the jar.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: HansB on August 12, 2018, 02:04:51 PM
I don't know if this will get much support from those with more experience but in the last few weeks we've been using methods in Ken Forkish's book and used a mix of whole grain and unbleached sifted in one tub, and nothing but unbleached sifted in the other and it seems that the one with partial whole grain content rises fast and farther in the jar.

Yep, whole/rye in the mix makes mine very active.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 14, 2018, 08:32:16 AM
How does it smell and taste when it's peaking?
Tastes sour, made cheeks pucker - cannot tell if it is acetic or malic.  Maybe has slight ferment taste.  It smells like soured dough - similar to how buttermilk smells compared to milk.

Brent-r: in past iterations, I have used various combinations of flour, including whole wheat, rye, home-milled grains, etc.  I do not recall timing/feeding of the starters, I believe they were a bit faster.  Those all had different issues, though, I could never get any reasonable final product (bread or pizza).  At the moment, I'm using an 85 extraction flour (bolted), which is sort of a hybrid between white and whole.  I had extra that I did not plan to bake with, so thought I'd try it.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 16, 2018, 08:41:48 AM
Since we can't sequence your culture... try this: the ambient temp is a little high for 2x feedings at 100%, in my experience. If you don't mind another experiment, try splitting the starter and feeding one half 3x/day at 100%, and the other 2x/day at 60%. A couple days of this should suffice. Whichever one seems to be doing better after a few days, switch the feeding schedules and see what happens.

Even though you're using "filtered" water, have you tried it with bottled for a few days?
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 17, 2018, 09:56:24 AM
Okay, I'll give it all a go.  I had tried bottled water a while back with no change, I can try it again.

Questions:
 - three times a day feeding: 7am, 1pm, 7pm, 1am, 7am... etc ?
 - what innoculation for the two variations?  I've been using 50%

I ran out of the specific flour I'd been using last night, and had to switch over to the only flour I have on hand at the moment... pizza flour I use (central milling organic 00).  This morning it's full of bubbles, barely rose at all, and had same consistency as typical 100% starter.  This barely rising characteristic with new flour seems very consistent with my attempts at using the starter for baking.  I'll get some more "normal" flours this weekend at the store, give it a couple feedings, then try your two experiments.

Thank you for the help and your time!
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 17, 2018, 10:20:41 AM
Okay, I'll give it all a go.  I had tried bottled water a while back with no change, I can try it again.

Questions:
 - three times a day feeding: 7am, 1pm, 7pm, 1am, 7am... etc ?
 - what innoculation for the two variations?  I've been using 50%

Use 3x 8-hour intervals: 7AM, 3PM, 11PM

Feeding 1:2:2 is fine. Good luck!
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 19, 2018, 06:23:40 PM
The every-8-hour is looking well now 5 feedings in - I haven't done the 60% version yet.  I had planned to take the starter with me to the office during the week for the 3pm feeding, but just realized temps there are 68-72 so it will likely be slower than at home.  Hmmm.. just convert it to 60% in the monday morning feeding and go from there?
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 23, 2018, 09:39:51 PM
If I were to make a larger version of the starter at 60% hydration, no salt, and assuming it doubles in 8 hours and peaks at 12, at what point should it be baked?  The sensory metrics such as what's it feel like, what's it smell like, how many bubbles, etc, have not worked for me.  This will help me get a rough starting point.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 24, 2018, 12:48:20 AM
Are you talking about baking a chunk of ripe starter to calibrate yourself? Why not add 1.8% salt and make a real dough instead?

Generally, baking at 1.5-2x original volume gives good results, but baking a gob of starter probably won't--it'll have a weak, webby internal (lack of) structure, and it needs some strength/elasticity to push against to get the best oven spring... think trying to inflate a balloon until it's tight, vs. blowing up a plastic bag with a hole in it).

I'm going to the post office tomorrow today. :)
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 24, 2018, 10:32:10 AM
Yup, trying to calibrate a rough estimate of total fermentation time.  From what I've gathered, total fermentation time is "when it's ready to bake".  That's way too baking by zen for me, so I'm looking for some empirical target!
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Heikjo on August 24, 2018, 11:15:33 AM
Yup, trying to calibrate a rough estimate of total fermentation time.  From what I've gathered, total fermentation time is "when it's ready to bake".  That's way too baking by zen for me, so I'm looking for some empirical target!
You could get a pluviometer to more closely monitor fermentation status. It's got lines and numbers to accurately tell how far it's gone. You can use other people's experiences on how far it should rise, and from there experiment. Or put the dough in a container where you can easily see its expansion, but this can be difficult since it expands in three dimensions.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 24, 2018, 11:50:39 AM
You could get a pluviometer to more closely monitor fermentation status. It's got lines and numbers to accurately tell how far it's gone. You can use other people's experiences on how far it should rise, and from there experiment. Or put the dough in a container where you can easily see its expansion, but this can be difficult since it expands in three dimensions.

That' where the poppy seed test comes in:  https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=26375.msg433518#msg433518 (https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=26375.msg433518#msg433518)
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Heikjo on August 24, 2018, 11:55:01 AM
That' where the poppy seed test comes in:  https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=26375.msg433518#msg433518 (https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=26375.msg433518#msg433518)
Interesting, haven't seen that one before. Does it work no matter what size the dough is?
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 24, 2018, 12:01:48 PM
Here's the post that introduced/explained it:  https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6914.0.html (https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6914.0.html)

No surprise, resident mad scientist November and Peter are involved...   :-D

I miss November...  :'(
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 24, 2018, 06:18:01 PM
That was fun research.  Poppy seeds and pluviometers!  I will give these a go, thanks!

 - also, the hidden humor in some of the posts made my day, going to be snickering all weekend  :-D
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 25, 2018, 09:12:10 PM
I'm not sure what to make of this.  Monday changed starter to 60% hydration, and fed twice a day.  Initially was a 1:2 ratio (starter:flour), but it smelled very strong after the first two feedings and subsequently every day I increase until I stuck with this: 10g starter, 30g water, 50g flour.  See picture what it looks like after 12 hours - it more than doubled volume-wise.  This is using WF bulk organic unbleached flour (it's super cheap).

Friday night I used the sourdough starter timetable here, and estimated 1.5% for 17 hour ferment based on my ambient temps.  3% salt, 62.5% hydration, 00 flour (central milling).  I made my own "pluviometer" spy glass.  Ended up using 2%, which was about 5g (it's like a teeny tiny nubby) See picture of both bulk and spy glass.  No rise, but lots of bubbles?  -- edit: I just noticed, it's very hard to see the bubbles in the spy-glass version due to the small picture.  Sorry.  They are there. Tiny and many.

This (Saturday) morning, I made a bread recipe, 2% salt, 15% starter (80g), 65% hydration.  See picture of overpriced fancy from local farmer's market former jam homemade pluviometer spy glass after 12 hours.. very little rise.  Flour was WF organic APF (which is malted).  Lots of bubbles, minimal rise.  Sorry, no bulk picture, it is in a stainless steel bowl.  I have baked bread with former starters at this stage, a few hours earlier, and a few hours later, and all were dense-ish.

My ambient temps last night dropped to about 76F and this morning by 10am they were around 80F.   
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: TXCraig1 on August 25, 2018, 09:17:16 PM
Interesting, haven't seen that one before. Does it work no matter what size the dough is?

It does not work so well if you use a container that constrains the dough in the horizontal axes thus forcing the dough upwards. You need 3D expansion for it to work.  I suspect it doesn't work all that well on slack dough's either.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 25, 2018, 09:58:16 PM
I'm not sure what to make of this.  Monday changed starter to 60% hydration, and fed twice a day.  Initially was a 1:2 ratio (starter:flour), but it smelled very strong after the first two feedings and subsequently every day I increase until I stuck with this: 10g starter, 30g water, 50g flour.  See picture what it looks like after 12 hours - it more than doubled volume-wise.  This is using WF bulk organic unbleached flour (it's super cheap).

Friday night I used the sourdough starter timetable here, and estimated 1.5% for 17 hour ferment based on my ambient temps.  3% salt, 62.5% hydration, 00 flour (central milling).  I made my own "pluviometer" spy glass.  Ended up using 2%, which was about 5g (it's like a teeny tiny nubby) See picture of both bulk and spy glass.  No rise, but lots of bubbles?  -- edit: I just noticed, it's very hard to see the bubbles in the spy-glass version due to the small picture.  Sorry.  They are there. Tiny and many.

This (Saturday) morning, I made a bread recipe, 2% salt, 15% starter (80g), 65% hydration.  See picture of overpriced fancy from local farmer's market former jam homemade pluviometer spy glass after 12 hours.. very little rise.  Flour was WF organic APF (which is malted).  Lots of bubbles, minimal rise.  Sorry, no bulk picture, it is in a stainless steel bowl.  I have baked bread with former starters at this stage, a few hours earlier, and a few hours later, and all were dense-ish.

My ambient temps last night dropped to about 76F and this morning by 10am they were around 80F.   

It's a tough angle, but that last photo looks like it rose and fell and is starting to break down (it's got that slack, wet look on top). How did the dough feel? Did you do any stretch-and-folds? Twelve hours is really long at your temperatures; most of the sourdough breads that I do are 2.5 hr. bulk and ~2 hr. final proof.

You've got a lot of moving parts in this post, and I'm getting whiplash from all the flour changes (my problem).   :-D

Can you get yourself a nice 5# bag of King Arthur all-purpose (red bag) and stick with it for a week for *all* tests? I don't have a WF within 2 hours, so no access to their flour (or CM by name, either). If it smells super strong, feed 3x instead of two. I only keep 20-30g, my feeding is ca. keep 5g, feed 10+10 for 25 total (I don't usually weigh for maintenance feeds, but I've been doing it for about 8 years and it's pretty close).

You should be getting a crunchy envelope in a few days... :)
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Brent-r on August 25, 2018, 10:10:35 PM
I also don't measure for feedings but I do simply watch the overall texture.  Having found a few years back that if the brew is to wet the bubbles will all come to the surface and pop and you won't be able to get a visual on the rise and fall.  Porridge is a good model to start from.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 25, 2018, 10:21:44 PM
Craig: Heikjo above suggested using a pluviometer for observing doubling of dough.  I don't have one, so I made two. :D  The poppy seed idea was also suggested, however,

VSteve:  okay I'll drop the flour variable and try the KA for this next week for it all.  The dough in the last picture is not wet on top, it's just the glare.  I let it go this long because I've been waiting for it to double.  Which it's not.  I have tried baking doughs with similar "no rise but lots of bubbles" in the past at shorter timelines, from 4-8 hours, always flat/dense.  EDIT: these former sourdough tests were generally done in cooler temps, 65-70F.  We're having a warm summer here in so cal.

Here's a picture of the bread dough in pre-shape.  It was slightly tacky to work with, but I did not need flour and it is holding shape (which is unusual, in past it usually just goes slack and plllppptttt).  I'm waiting for the oven to heat up and going to bake just for laughs, see what happens.  Excuse the strange stain in wood.

Oh, and I'm looking forward to the envelope thank you :)
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Heikjo on August 26, 2018, 05:20:38 AM
Is there a particular reason you changed the starter to 60%?
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 26, 2018, 08:04:42 AM
Since we can't sequence your culture... try this: the ambient temp is a little high for 2x feedings at 100%, in my experience. If you don't mind another experiment, try splitting the starter and feeding one half 3x/day at 100%, and the other 2x/day at 60%. A couple days of this should suffice. Whichever one seems to be doing better after a few days, switch the feeding schedules and see what happens.

Even though you're using "filtered" water, have you tried it with bottled for a few days?

Guilty!   :angel:
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 26, 2018, 10:40:42 AM
Yeah, blame vsteve :p

Summary for Heikjo: I began with 100% starter, but it was very sluggish - took a long time double even with smaller feedings (1:2:2).  Steve suggested I break it into two starters, and feed the 100% one 3x a day and the 60% one 2x a day.  I began with the 100% one but it would be challenging to maintain the consistent temps between work/home so I changed it over to the 60% starter.  It now rises consistently.  I could go back to 100%, and take it with me to work *shrug* but for obvious reasons this isn't something I want to do long term  :P

BTW, bread turned out just like all past breads so far.. it looks nice from the outside, but inside is dense. This time, it doesn't taste good, either (which is weird).  Bread feels very heavy.  It was difficult to cut.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 26, 2018, 10:42:23 AM
Can you post a crumb shot for diagnostic purposes?
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 26, 2018, 11:30:12 AM
The photo makes it look like a decent crumb structure.. but in person it's just dense, very "tough".  When I scored prior to baking, the gluten-breakdown was evident.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 26, 2018, 01:26:09 PM
Yeah, it looks pretty leaden at the bottom, and you've got the start of a flying crust on the top. Did you do the "poke test" as it was final proofing? It combines internal pressure and dough strength/elasticity into one metric (how fast a fingertip dimple in the dough springs back [or fails to]), and is pretty reliable.

How hot was your bake, stone/steel, steam, etc.?
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 26, 2018, 01:52:49 PM
Oven started at 500F, stone about 500F as well, stainless bowl on top for 15 minutes (gas oven so other steaming methods don't work).  I dropped the temp to 425 after loading the dough.  I'm doing same thing I did yesterday, only this time cutting total ferment time in half to 6-7 hours since I have just a little of this WF flour left.  Or maybe just save sanity and wait a week feeding starter on KAF then try again next weekend to minimize variables.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Heikjo on August 26, 2018, 03:46:51 PM
You can choose when a starter peaks by changing how much you feed it. I typically feed mine 2.5:25:25 or 5:25:25 when I feed it around 10 in the evening for use around 8-10AM next morning. If I want to use it after 6 hours I feed it with more of the original starter. As you use the starter you will learn how it works, how to use it and how to feed it according your schedule and work.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on August 26, 2018, 04:27:05 PM
Did you do the "poke test" as it was final proofing? It combines internal pressure and dough strength/elasticity into one metric (how fast a fingertip dimple in the dough springs back [or fails to]), and is pretty reliable.

So, did you poke test the shaped loaf, or did you just go for the 12 hour proof the last time?

You shouldn't notice the smell/flavor changing at this point (mature starter, we hope)--we're trying to establish an equilibrium. If it's getting smellier or breaking down more at each feeding, then you need to feed more aggressively, shorter intervals or a lower proportion of seed (or jack up the water/flour, but it's nice to keep it small while sorting this stuff out).
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 26, 2018, 07:14:14 PM
Didn't do the poke test, but based on how it handled when transferred to the oven, I'm certain the dimple would have remained and not come back - when there was no visible rise at the 8 hour mark in the spy glass, I gave up knowing this dough would not rise in the oven, and didn't take the last few hours seriously.  I will take this week with multiple daily feedings at 100% hydration and bake next weekend.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on August 29, 2018, 09:27:50 PM
It's dead.  Changed flour to the red KAF bag on Sunday, gave it one 12h feeding overnight at 100% hydration (5g starter, 20g each water and KAF).  Monday morning bubbles, but no rise.  Repeated, took with me to work, left in my car (shaded parking).  Checked on it at 3pm.  No rise, few bubbles, so postponed feeding to 12h instead of 8h increment.  No rise, minimal bubbles.  Fed anyway.  Same thing Tuesday morning and evening.  I let it go 24 hours this time, and tonight, not even a bubble.   It doesn't taste sour, just tastes like flour and water mixed :(

It's got to be something in my environment.  I have a starter from the east coast I will try, will use bottled water to officially rule out water as the problem, and hopefully I won't kill this one, too.  wtf. it's just water and flour  :(

Time for n + 1 + 1 try ::)
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on September 03, 2018, 10:08:44 PM
So far the results are promising?  Last wednesday night: I cut off a 2x3" piece of the paper towel dried starter, soaked in a little water (~20-25g?) for 15 minutes, swishing it about every few minutes, fished out the towel, added some flour to get pancake batter consistency.  Left it overnight.  Next morning, I added a little more water and flour.  Thursday evening, it had a few bubbles, added a little more water and flour.  All bottled water and KAF AP.

Friday morning, it had bubbles, so I used 50g starter, and mixed with 50g water and flour.  Came home from work early (about 3pm), it had risen a bit, had bubbles on top, so repeated the morning discard, and stuck with 3x day through sunday evening.  During this time, it reeked of a mix of parmesan and a hint of savory vomit.  Based on my past experiences and research, this is "normal" while bacteria gets evicted as acidity increases.  I was just surprised that it happened with a dried starter.  Maybe I didn't use enough.  With each change, I noticed the starter had a "fluffy" consistency, and floated in the water before I mixed it in.

Sunday night it began to smell better, so I took the opportunity to try for a 12-hour feeding schedule, and arbitrarily changed the feeding to 10g starter, 50g flour and water.  It rose about 30%.  Since it had bubbles on top, I repeated in the morning and again this evening.  I looks to be working.  The rise in the jar is only about 30%, but the starter is full of tiny bubbles, has a few bubbles at top, is becoming more pleasantly aromatic, and was floating in the feeding water.  It also tastes quite tart now.

Ambient temps have dropped a bit, ranging 72-80F.

Hopefully, I can try a bake this next weekend.

If I ever make another starter, I'm going try the pineapple juice approach.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on September 04, 2018, 11:41:53 AM
If I ever make another starter, I'm going try the pineapple juice approach.

And miss out on the savory vomit smell?   :-D

Sounds good so far. I'm not surprised that there was more initial funk than a dried-flake restart, but it was easy to mail. :)
I might dry a sample on a sterile gauze bandage to see if it recovers faster/more cleanly...


If you try reviving another piece, only feed once a day (no discard) for the first three days, or until you get a rise -- it'll recover more quickly if it's not being diluted too much while the population is trying to rebuild, and may avoid the stinky stretch. Soak in pineapple, and do the initial feeds with pineapple?

Also, Debra Wink on starter maintenance feeding:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2#comment-140505
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on September 04, 2018, 12:46:22 PM
Also, Debra Wink on starter maintenance feeding:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2#comment-140505

I hadn't seen that before!  Very helpful, thank you!!   There's a tid-bit in there that *might* explain what's been going on:  "Smaller feeds more frequently will produce a milder starter..." and  "Larger feeds less frequently help build more potential for sour".  The interwebs has left me with the impression my starter was slow, so I always concentrated on building it at 1:5:5.. perhaps it built too much acidity, which then breaks down the actual doughs.  HMMMM.  I will try scaling back to larger starter ratio since whether is cooling down a bit.  I'm also encouraged by the 2:1:1 as a means to "wash" - I hadn't heard of that before, but lately have seen a few references to it.

Should the current feeding schedule continue to work, then I will try to make my first loaf.  Would you suggest 20% starter, 65% hydration, 2% salt?
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Heikjo on September 04, 2018, 12:54:23 PM
Should the current feeding schedule continue to work, then I will try to make my first loaf.  Would you suggest 20% starter, 65% hydration, 2% salt?
Depends on what pizza you plan to make and how you want to make it. 20% starter is quite a lot, so it will ferment fast. This means either a short RT fermentation or CF (fridge).

I prefer longer fermentations with 2-3% starter, but you can test it with 20%. Here's a chart that makes it easier to gauge how much starter you need depending on how long you want to ferment and at what temperature: https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=22649.0 It's a very good guideline, but as you experiment you may find that the chart predicts too much or too little starter.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on September 04, 2018, 01:00:21 PM
He's going to bake a loaf of bread as a test of the starter (spring, dough degradation etc.), and that sounds good to me.

At that % I usually give it a 2.5 hour bulk, fold at 50 and 100 minutes, then shape and final proof for a couple of hours -- use the poke test, and bake while it still springs back slowly.

Please don't try to extend the fermentation right off the bat! Good luck!   :)
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on September 04, 2018, 02:40:48 PM
Perfect, thanks to you both :)  Don't worry: no extended fermentations, I need a successful loaf of bread first!  Then, a couple more to confirm consistency, and finally, experimentation and pizza!
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Brent-r on September 04, 2018, 05:49:54 PM
There's lots of stuff out there on the internet.   I have found this site interesting and
bought / downloaded each of his booklets and learned something from each of them

https://www.sourdoughhome.com/

on this page he has some calculators and there's a lot of other goodies
https://www.sourdoughhome.com/index.php?content=downloads

if we were not so far away I'd love to go to his classes
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on September 04, 2018, 10:23:28 PM
Thanks, Brent, nice resource :)

Starter was a bit over the "double" mark this evening it was quite exciting!  It looked like it could go another 2-3 hours before collapsing, and the gluten was strong.  In past, it would "give" and become like a slimey goop.  Aroma was good.  Taste, tart.  Tonight will also be cooler, and with the gluten build, I'm scaling back to 1:3:3, and hopefully this ratio will work for 12 hour feedings.  The anticipation is killing me!  ;D

Woohoo!
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Brent-r on September 04, 2018, 10:38:00 PM
I have found the WECK preserve jars to be one of the easiest to use for starters.  They have straight sides and no 'mouth' so they are easy to stir inside and clean.   I never bother to measure and it works great.  I leave about 1" of the old mix in the bottom and add a heaping serving spoon of flour and add water to make the batch something between pancake batter and porridge .... closer to pancake than porridge.   I just realized a heaping serving spoon is a pretty wild idea so I just measured and its about 30 g.   If I am making a loaf of bread that could use as much as a cup of starter, I'll go with 3 or 4 of those spoons full.   Sounds like your getting close to what you want.   

https://www.crateandbarrel.com/search?query=weck+jars
I use the 24 Oz jar and keep two on the go in case I do something stupid and drop or otherwise lose one.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: TXCraig1 on September 04, 2018, 10:51:58 PM
There's lots of stuff out there on the internet.   I have found this site interesting and
bought / downloaded each of his booklets and learned something from each of them

https://www.sourdoughhome.com/

on this page he has some calculators and there's a lot of other goodies
https://www.sourdoughhome.com/index.php?content=downloads

if we were not so far away I'd love to go to his classes

Keep in mind that pizza is NOT bread.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on September 05, 2018, 10:05:41 AM
Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

I woke up stupid early, and watched the starter rise from 8h to 12h mark.  8hr was about double, 10 hours (pictured) more than double.  At 11h and 50 minutes, it rose just a wee bit more, but when I touched the glass to adjust angle, a few bubbles burst  then it began collapsing, so photo of top only.  It seems glossy due to lighting, but when I stirred it, plenty of gluten.  Smells mild, and tastes mild, too, very little tartness.

Because this seems like a very positive result, and that I don't have 5hrs free until Friday to babysit a loaf (no retarding suggestions please, I am testing first per vsteve's recommendation earlier in this thread (https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=53740.msg542681#msg542681), mix, bulk, proof, bake), and that I'm excited to try this, I am considering changing plans: make a 24hr pizza dough tonight in order to bake for dinner tomorrow (12bf/12ball, in my cooler with icepack**), and I'll try to get out of work early Friday to make a test loaf.  I have been mixing 24hr ADY neapolitan doughs, so this could be a nice comparison.

**I logged the cooler with icepack a few months ago: over 12 hr temp goes from 64 to 70.  I'll do it again and post the graph just for laughs.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Brent-r on September 05, 2018, 10:39:52 AM
congrats   :)
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on September 06, 2018, 10:55:08 PM
First sourdough NP pizza ;D  Sadly, not only was I out of cheese, sauce, basil, meat, etc, but also a neighbor stopped by to chat for ~30 minutes right before I was about to bake.  I forgot to recover the skins, and so they developed a crust - you can see it on the cornicone.

There was plenty of other stuff that could be better, but this is quite a leap for me considering I have over 2 years of sourdough failure. 

Next, going to make a loaf of bread with the starter, as another metric.  I am optimistic, as the starter was touching triple height this evening when I got home.

Thanks again for all the help, and vsteve for the jumpstart  8)
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: vtsteve on September 07, 2018, 12:27:53 AM
Congratulations!   ;D

Now that the starter's happy, you can make a backup: take a dab of ripe starter, mix it with the usual amount of water for a feeding, then mix in enough flour to make a stiff dough--probably 55% hydration--and stick it in the fridge (no RT after feeding). If your RT starter goes south, take a bit of the fridge starter, dissolve and feed to ~100% at RT, and you'll be back in business in a feed or two. Rebuild a fresh fridge backup every month or so from a happy RT starter, so it doesn't have a chance to go moldy.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Heikjo on September 07, 2018, 01:35:43 AM
Well done! The pie looks good.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on September 07, 2018, 10:24:00 AM
Pizza taste was good, gave me horrid heartburn not fun :o  Hate getting old!

Thanks for the tip on storage.  I have a week-long business trip coming up so this is timely, thank you.  BTW, what is the history of the starter? :)

Bread test was successful, it was super lightweight out of the oven.  Stuff of course to improve, but now I've got a good starting point, woohoo!

Check out the tripled starter in the background ;D  (sorry for bread picture in this specific sub-pizza forum, I know there's an off-topic, but it's proof we've got the starter working, thanks to team effort here yay!).
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: foreplease on September 08, 2018, 11:41:54 PM
Your bread looks great!
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on September 30, 2018, 10:37:18 PM
I learned a lot in this exercise, thank you all.  I wanted to try making my own starter just one last time.  This one was based on the pineapple juice method, but instead of rye or whole wheat, I vitamixed spelt berries found in my freezer.  Starter went nice and slow.  I didn't try forcing the thing to handle a 1:5:5 feeding, and instead, let it find the best feedings for 12 hour feedings.. ends up just like the starter from Vermont that's working for me, 1:3:3 in the morning and 1:2:2 at night. 

With this 10-day old starter, I finally made a test loaf, and simultaneously attempted to make the exact same loaf using the vermont starter.  I did a blind taste of the two breads, and based on what on the internet discussions hyping up how every sourdough is different, I was expecting dramatic difference between the two.  Nope.  They tasted exactly the same.   :-D

For anyone who finds this thread via search and is struggling with similar issues such as dough falling apart, poor  rise, etc, one culprit to explore would be incorrect feedings - too high a ratio, although can yield a sour tasting bread, it can also cross the line and become too acidic, impacting the bread's structure.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: allabouthedough562 on October 02, 2018, 09:27:39 PM
i have a starter that is about 4 months old now, i was originally feeding it central milling bread organic flour and it has been great but i wanted to see a little more activity and just added sonora wheat flour to mt starter but now im worried its going to change the final product, what do you guys  think?
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on November 25, 2018, 10:32:45 PM
Couple month follow up on this starter thread:  txcraig's sourdough chart was quite helpful figuring out timings for pizza and I've had consistently successful 12, 24, and 36 hour fermented doughs.  Additionally, after a few weeks consistent feeding and baking with my own starter, it began to have the same problems that prompted this thread in the first place, so I threw it out and went to the backup in my fridge with the starter from vermont.

For bread I've stuck to 20% starter (baker's %) loaves that bulk for 2-3 hours and proof 2-4 hours (sometimes I through final proof into fridge).  I seem to have most consistency with 65-68% hydration doughs.

I'd like to experiment with smaller inoculations for bread now, targeting a ~12hour bulk.  With ambient temps in the mid 60F, what starting point would you suggest for a starter % (baker's)?  3%?  5%?  I'll be sticking with 65% hydration, and starter is ready to bake with a 1:2:2 feeding after 10-12 hours.  I know this will likely vary between everyone, I'm just trying to find a starting point with minimal frustrations.

Thank you!
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: sk on January 21, 2019, 09:55:42 AM
Craig: Heikjo above suggested using a pluviometer for observing doubling of dough.  I don't have one, so I made two. :D  The poppy seed idea was also suggested, however,


Buttered - How did you make the pluviometer?  All I see when I google are rain gauges.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on January 22, 2019, 05:35:14 PM

Buttered - How did you make the pluviometer?  All I see when I google are rain gauges.

A pluviometer is simply a graduated cylinder.  Find a skinnier glass jar with straight sides, and weigh water at some interval of stating height you like, draw line with sharpie, double water weight, draw line etc. In my case, I used a Hatch Organic Jalapeno jar, did solid lines at 30g intervals (30, 60, 90), and then dashed lines at the 15g intervals (45, 75). 

When I posted about the pluviometerspy glass last August, it was ultimately *not* helpful to me, because I had trouble even figuring out the right timing and my starter wasn't quite working, etc etc.  Eventually I figured out timing with a new starter by accident and have since maintained very consistent dough with a couple dozen loaves now. 

Recently, however, I wanted to change some variables (starter amount and temperature), so I used the pluviometerspy glass to gauge the rise relative to my consistent loaf - first I made a consistent loaf and watched what height I ended bulk, then what height did I proof/bake.  Then, when I made the next dough, I changed the variables to reduce starter and temp, and watched the fresh dough in the pluviometerspy glass.  When it hit the same heights, I ended bulk and proof respectively.  It worked! :)

You can see examples in the earlier post with the drawn lines, there I used two kinds of jars, one was for capers the other was jalapenos.
https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=53740.msg541503#msg541503

Hope that helps!
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Heikjo on January 23, 2019, 05:39:07 AM
Buttered - How did you make the pluviometer?  All I see when I google are rain gauges.
That's what it is. You can, as ButteredPizza suggested, make your own, but they are very cheap. You may not want to use that pluviometer dough if it's plastic and not meant for food, but if you make your own or use glass, maybe you can make a tiny pizza with it. It's just 80g of dough. Could probably use less dough too. Here's a topic with some photos and info: https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=48918.0
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on January 23, 2019, 09:32:39 AM
I'm going to stop using "pluviometer", it's a spy glass  :P  pluviometer just sounds too close to the word for spit in the language of my peoples.  Post above edited  ;D

It's just 80g of dough. Could probably use less dough too. Here's a topic with some photos and info: https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=48918.0

I've been using your 80g suggestion from earlier, it works for the volume of the jalapeno jars.  I have baked the resulting dough as a little bun, next time I'm going to fill one up with a stick of pepperoni and maybe some cheese and sauce, then bake it or stick it in the waffle iron.  Or or or... one of these days I'll deep fry it and slather some garlic and butter all over it  :drool:

All that said, this brings up a question as a tangent to this thread: with the understanding pizza is not bread, how does the overall fermentation time (both bulk and proof/balled) correlate between the two doughs?  I'm still trying to get a handle on proper timing for pizza dough, my results are less consistent than bread (for which I now have a near 100% batting average as far as edibility is concerned), even using the timing charts provided here as starting points - the charts are good once you know what to look for, so I guess it'll just take more experimentation.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: sk on January 23, 2019, 01:22:53 PM
Thank you Buttered.  I just emptied an olive jar which I will test out.  As an aside, what is your starter feeding ratio today?

Thank you Heijko.  Looking at pics of your pluviometer, I can see it would be inexpensive.  Problem is, I cant find one on google or Amazon.  Do you have a web site you could refer me to in order to purchase one.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: ButteredPizza on January 23, 2019, 04:31:05 PM
The olive jar may be a little wide, but give it a go nonetheless.  I'd suggest you monitor it with a recipe you know works, make sure to increase dough by amount you want to use in the spy glass, in order to get a feel for heights and volumes.

My current starter feeding is 1:1:1 - very cold in my house, ranging from 49-62F these days.  I've let it go 24 hours without collapsing!  My next learning project will be figuring out starter from fridge, and how many days after it takes to recover.
Title: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: DoouBall on July 06, 2019, 09:50:53 PM
Just read this thread. If itís not too late to offer a suggestion. The biggest difference for me that led to an awesome, strong starter was switching to feeding it with a _malted_ organic AP flour. This practically made it explode and rise significantly faster than when I was feeding it with pizza flour - Caputo Pizzeria which, as you know is not malted. I believe malt gives the wild yeast faster access to sugars and supercharges their growth. In my case I am using Central Milling Beehive(available cheap in Costco), but any organic malted flour should do the trick.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: Brent-r on July 07, 2019, 07:54:10 AM
there has been so much weird stuff written about the nurture of starters that Voodoo comes to mind.

The Mike Mavery's newsletter recently published an article on maintaining sourdough starter that makes
a lot of sense to me and in the few short feedings since I read and adopted this technique just makes
simple sense out the confusion.

If you go by traditional methods and take a cup of starter that is mature doing nothing next to nothing in your fridge
and throw half away and add back enough fresh flower to restore the volume... then half of everything in you jar is useless to the
yeasts and bacteria .... they already ate everything good in that lot a day or two ago.  You've got 50% fresh and 50% exhausted
stuff in the jar. 
 But if you toss 95% and restore the volume with lots of fresh flour then there is food everywhere in the jar for the little
critters to feast on.   

see https://www.sourdoughhome.com/index.php?content=blog/2019-06-11fivepercentsolution

In the few weeks since he wrote this and we tried it our starter bounces back to like in a few hours.
Title: Re: How to increase starter's strength/activity?
Post by: andytiedye on July 07, 2019, 01:14:20 PM
This all sounds good, except the part about discarding sourdough.  We never do that. we make sourdough pancakes or waffles.  If the sourdough is still a bit sleepy from the fridge, some baking soda will help it rise.  We only put it in the fridge if we are going to be away, since between pizza, bread, pancakes and whatever else we can think of, we use it at least every other day.