Barb at King Arthur

November 18, 2022 at 2:38pm

In reply to by Nancy (not verified)

Hi Nancy, a lot depends on what stage you are in the creation process. If your starter was already doubling and rising predictably but now seems to be rising more slowly, that might just be a matter of offering your starter a few days of twice a day feedings at room temperature to get it nice and active again. If your starter is falling significantly between feedings, then you may find it helpful to adjust your feeding routine a bit so that your feedings line up closer to the peak, which will help keep the yeast active and vigorous. Adjusting your feeding routine to something more like 1:3:3 or 1:4:4 (starter:water:flour, by weight), particularly if you live in a warm part of the country, will slow down the ripening process and allow your twice a day feedings to line up closer to the peak. Keep in mind that you can reduce the starter percentage rather than increasing the flour and water amounts, so you don't end up using more flour if you adopt this method. For example, with our starter routine a 1:3:3 feeding would look like this: 38g starter + 113g water + 113g AP flour. 

On the other hand, if your starter rose early in the process (Day 1 or 2) and then stopped rising, this issue can be a bit more challenging to resolve. That sort of early rise is generally caused by a bacteria that gives off carbon dioxide rather than true yeast activity. Unfortunately, the presence of this type of bacteria seems linked to a subsequent delay in the yeast kicking in. The good news is that patience almost always pays off when it comes to sourdough starters, and sooner or later the starter organisms will figure thinks out and your starter will begin rising again, even if you continue feeding the way you are. 

If you think this might be what's happening with your starter, you could also take a more proactive approach and adjust your starter feeding routine to increase the acidity, which seems to help encourage the wild yeast to join the party. If you'd like to give this a try, I would recommend feeding like this:

1. Feed only once a day.

2. Feed with whole grain flour (whole wheat or whole rye) rather than unbleached all-purpose flour.

3. Feed with a 2:1:1 ratio (starter:water:flour, by weight). For example, your once a day feeding would look like this: 1/2 cup (113g) starter + 1/4 cup (57g) water + 1/2 cup (57g) whole wheat flour. 

Once your starter begins rising predictably (twice), then it's important to be resume twice a day feedings. You can also go back to the normal 1:1:1 feeding (starter:water:flour, by weight), and gradually transition back to feeding with all-purpose flour over the course of several feedings. Once your starter is doubling predictably with the AP flour, then you're good to go! 

One more note: if you're worried about using up too much flour while you're waiting for your starter to begin rising again, you could consider maintaining a smaller starter.  Any of the feeding routines outlined above can be shrunk down to 60-70g of total starter, which will fit nicely in an 8-ounce canning jar. Once your starter begins rising again, it's easy enough to build the quantity back to our normal starter amount over the course of few feedings. 

I hope this helps! Let us know how it goes. 

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