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Strange activity from starter

Guildive's picture

Strange activity from starter

Hello -

I am new to sourdough baking and I've been trying to get a starter going for a couple of weeks. I've been following King Arthur's starter recipe, but after about 10-12 days of feeding every 12 hours at a 1:1:1 ratio, I noticed that there was no rise, just stagnant bubbling.

I read on another site that sometimes overfeeding can cause this behavior, so I left the starter alone on the counter with no feedings. I'm now on about day 5 of not feeding, and in the past 24 hours I've noticed a huge change. I woke up this morning to the starter having doubled in size, and the smell is now more of a fresh bread scent.

While I'm excited to see the starter behaving more like I expected, I'm looking for advice on a path forward. When should I resume feeding? How much and how often? I don't want to cut the established yeast cultures by overfeeding again, but I need to start feeding again at some point. Additionally, any ideas on why I'm getting this rise activity all of a sudden?

Abe's picture

Go back to 1:1:1 and see how it responds. If it bubbles up within 12 hours then feed twice a day. If not, and it needs extra time, then once a day. Slowly increase the amount it is fed and how often according to the strength of the starter. Speed up as your starter's strength increases and vice versa if the opposite happens. Reason for your starter's behaviour is it appeared nothing was happening but it was going through an important step - Fermenting. 

HeiHei29er's picture

Common problem when first creating a starter and I was guilty of it too...  Feeding a new starter based on the clock and timing given in the recipe rather than when the starter is ready to be fed.

Early on, there's a lot going on with your starter even though there appears to be no activity.  The unwanted organisms are growing then dying off, and the preferred organisms are developing and starting to take over.  At some point in this process, the conditions become favorable for yeast to start growing.  The rub is that there's no easy way to put a clock on that.  There are rules of thumb, but everyone's flour, water, temperature, etc. are all a bit different.  What happens however, is that a newcomer (I include myself in that statement :-)  ) does a feeding based on the clock and sometimes before the starter is ready for the next feeding.  Sounds like you have figured that part of it out though and recognize that overfeeding is a problem.  Stick with the feeding plan Abe outlined.  You'll do fine.

As far as why the sudden activity...  By stopping the feedings and leaving it alone, you gave the unwanted/wanted organisms time to sort themselves out and the conditions to become favorable for the yeast.  Once that happened, the yeast took off and you had a good rise.  

Good luck!