When I first make my sourdough starter, I am always nervous about feeding times and measurements. But then after doing it several times now, I’ve learned that established starter is quite resilient, so there is a certain amount of flexibility in the process.
This post is for me to share what I have learned to maintain my sourdough starter happily. If you don’t have a starter, I recommend you check out my post here.
How to measure ingredients
I always use my digital kitchen scale, because it gives me the most accurate way scale my flour, starter, and water.
What is Hydration
Hydration refers to water quantity relative to the total weight of flour. For my sourdough starter tutorial, I used 100% hydration which means I feed my starter with equal parts water and flour. Most of my sourdough bread recipes use this type of starter. A 100% hydration starter is the best for beginners because it is easy to maintain, easy to mix into a dough, and is easier for calculating additions to a bread recipe.
But today, because it is now summer, I’m using 80% hydration. This is to slow down the fermentation and so I don’t need to feed my starter 3 to 4 times a day. I will share below how I feed my starter with 80% hydration.
This is the sourdough hydration calculator I’m using when I’m baking sourdough bread.
Can I switch flours over time
Yes, of course, but I recommend to do not constantly switching your flours. It will create confusion for your starter.
However, if you already have a mature and active starter, you can definitely change your flours. Knock yourself out and try to match your starter to the flour you tend to bake with. But remember different flours absorb water in different ways so when you feed your starter, you will undoubtedly have to adjust the water levels and feeding schedules.
Types of flour you can use: all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour, and bread flour
Rye flour and whole wheat flour are better flour in the beginning since they help kick-start the fermentation process.
Don’t store your starter in a hot location. It can encourage bad bacteria to grow and can ruin your starter. I store my starter at room temperature at 25 degrees Celsius.
And if you are planning to bake frequently or going out of town, you can refrigerate your starter for up to 2 weeks. To do this, I feed my sourdough as usual and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before transferring it to the fridge. Remember to allow your starter to come back to room temperature before feeding and using it for baking. I use fairly warm water when feeding my cold starter.
My common feeding schedule is to refresh every 12 hours. I feed my starter twice a day using 80% hydration and kept at 25 degrees Celcius. Following this schedule, my starter peaks every 12 hours.
I feed my starter at around 9 am every day and I always follow the same feeding time. And you can feed your starter whenever it feels right to you. So, around 4 pm my starter is ready and peaked and I can use it making my dough for my bread the next day.
If you forget to feed your starter, remember that when it gets hungry, it will eat all the available food and it will get really sour. And if your starter has become too sour, you can use a lower feed ratio (1:5:5) to reduce the sourness a bit.
Don’t get discouraged by the maintenance and feeding schedule. Once you have an active starter, you can adjust the feedings to fit your schedule. Or if you’re not baking often sourdough bread, you can store the starter in the fridge and feed it once a week or so.
If your starter is from the fridge, I recommend a minimum of three feedings prior to baking it to ensure your starter is active and bubbly.
Feeding ratios are used to indicate the ratio of sourdough starter, flour, and water in each feeding.
1:1:1 ratio – means equal amounts of starter, flour, and water by weight. Ex. 30 grams starter: 30 grams flour: 30 grams of water
1:2:2 ratio – ex. 30 grams starter: 60 grams flour: 60 grams of water
1:5:5 ratio – ex. 30 grams starter: 150 grams flour: 150 grams of water
My sourdough starter tutorial begins with a 1:1:1 ratio. The weight of the starter (100 grams) is equal to the weight of flour (100 grams) and water (100 grams) it is fed with. As your starter becomes active, you can adjust the feeding ratio to fits your baking schedules.
I feed my starter twice a day every 12 hours and store it at room temperature, at around 25C. And when I am not baking, I store my starter in the fridge.
When I’m baking every day, I’m keeping as little as 20 grams of starter from an old batch and feeding it with 80 grams of water and 100 grams of bread flour. Here are the reasons why I only keep a small amount of starter:
- To avoid too much wastage, I only maintain a small amount of starter (20 grams) and it can easily be built up into a bigger amount by simply feeding it a larger quantity of flour and water for the feed before I plan to mix the dough.
- I choose to use a smaller amount of starter and feed it with larger quantities of water and flour to grow it. This is like a big feast to a small community of wild yeast, making your starter happy. And if I want my starter to rise faster, I am using a 1:1:1 ratio.
Therefore, it is important to know your starter performs in your environment, so I always recommend using a rubber band or mark the side of your jar with a pen, to show the initial level of your starter.
I also change the container for my starter after 2 or 3 feedings.
I’m not a sourdough bread expert, but I loved sharing my experience with you. 😊 And If I missed something, please let me know in the comment section below.
Happy sourdough baking!