Any defferences between liquid starters and stiff starters ?



My understanding is that a liquid culture is faster than a stiff one in developing phase but both starters get same sourness and flavour at the end .  I think that there would be no big difference , the choice depends on what type is convenient for me.


However I have read a posting on the othe website which says that a stiff starter has stronger flavour and sourness . Liquid starters don't have much sourness .


I wonder if it is possible to have wild yeasts  enough to leaven a dough without developing lots of bacteria which are responsible for the unique flavour and sourness in a sourdough bread.  If the  flavour and sourness get weaker as more water mixed in , what is the maximum ratio of water ? I know 166% water ratio recipe, is it possible to have more than this ?


Whenever I found sourdough breads ( or the breads which were advertised naturally leavened ) with just a little flavour  and sourness  ( sometimes not at all )  ,  I suspected there were commercial yeasts mixed in . However,  now the posting makes me confused. 




309 users have voted.


andrewd 2010 October 31

I molifemo,

One of the books I have mentions that the more water in your starter, the more diluted it is so it therefore has less flavour.

My day-to-day starter is a 200% hydration rye starter. I've never done an experiment where I reduce the hydration of the water and compare the flavour of the end product. I've alway though that it wouldn't make much difference since I'd just add the water that I didn't use in the starter to the final dough at mixing time, i.e. the total percentage of water in the dough wouldn't change, it would just be added at a different stage.


LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2010 November 1


Whenever I found sourdough breads ( or the breads which were advertised naturally leavened ) with just a little flavour  and sourness  ( sometimes not at all )  ,  I suspected there were commercial yeasts mixed in . However,  now the posting makes me confused. [/quote]


I think I know what you are trying to do.  You want to make bread that uses a starter that isn't sour, is that right?  This is possible.  There is a nice article by Debra Wink on The Fresh Loaf that will give you the tools to help you in that quest.  Here is the link to the article.  There are many factors involved so it isn't an easy answer.

molifemo 2010 November 1


You know exactly what I am trying to do.  Recently  I have found not a few people don't like the strong flavour and sourness in a sourdough bread even they all admire the advantages that a sourdough bread has.




molifemo 2010 November 2


I saw your mini's . It is a wonderful bread. 


I have a question for you.  Why do you feed your culture twice before mixing in the final dough ?  One refreshment isn't enough to make the culture fresh and active ? Does it relate to sourness ? 


I have read the article that you had linked to.  I bet that you wouln't expect me to understand all of them. 


What I just understood is that there are two different types of acid which are made by bactieria, lactic acid and acetic acid . It seems to be clear if you can control the bacteria growing then the sourness would be adjusted more or less . 


As you said, many factors are involved in this .  There are somethings that I got understood and somethings that are still bugging me.  In terms of flour, whole grain and rye flour have more bacteria so higher possibility of sourness will be presented.  I can manuplate this factor by mixing up more or less these flour .


Wetter and warmer doughs encourage bacteria activity, which means there will be more acids produced.  So could just decreasing  hydration and temperature clear off my problem ?  It's not so simple. The article says that at lower hydration and temperature, more acetic acid will be produced.   Ok..then should I go higher or lower ?  Does this mean the ratio of acetic acid to lactic acid ?  Total amount of acid still remains less than under high hydration and temp. ?  


Low temperature makes bacteria grow slowly. This is good way to decrease sourness but how about yeast's activity ? I think yeast would be slow also under low temperature , which means proofing time would take longer while bacteria accumulates acid as much as under the standard or normal temperature. Is there a temperature zone at which yeasts go normally and bacteria goes slowly ?  If so, then lowering temperature make sense.     


One more question ; Between lactic acid and acetic acid , which one is responsible for the sourness of a bread ?    Both ?  One of them has more ?     


It's very confusing topic. Even I don't know what I've written until now.... 


Thank you,


LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2010 November 5


Lots of questions and I was really busy making wine so I didn't have time to answer them.

I do two builds of the preferment for a couple of reasons.  First reason is I don't have to keep a very large storage starter.  I just take a small bit of starter and build it up to the size I want it.  The other reason is that if I keep my starter in the fridge I like to think that doing two builds helps it to become very active.  Sometimes a starter made from one stored in a cold place is a bit sluggish and doesn't do a good job raising bread.

Ok I don't even think I understood all that she wrote there.  But you want a less sour sourdough.  What you want to do is make your starter environment that favors bacteria that only makes lactic acid.  Lactic acid is the softer of the two acids that bacterias produce.  Think nice creamy buttery type flavors.  To do this as I understand the subject just store your starter in a fridge and at a high hydration.  I would guess anywhere from 100% to 166% hydration would work.  I have also read from Debra Wink that if you want that same starter to be more sour then store it at room temperature.  It will take about two weeks before the bacteria change into acetic acid producing bugs.  The environment that the starter is stored in determines the sourness of the bread that the starter makes.  You can switch the starter back and forth from strong acid flavor to weak just by how it is stored and feed.  That is my understanding of what she has written.

Low temperature does slow all activities down but if you have the right bacteria the ratio of acetic acid to lactic acid will increase, your bread will be more sour.  The yeast and the bacteria will slow down at similar rates so it is going to take longer to get your bread to fully raise.  The whole time the bread is rising the bacteria is making more acetic acid than if the bread had been fermented at a warmer temperature.

The bacteria on the flour that you use to make the bread is such a small population that it will have no impact on the outcome of your bread.  This is why it takes such a long time to make a new starter, there is hardly any yeast and bacteria there.  We just keep feeding them and build up their population.  Whole grain flours have a higher ash content so they buffer the acids in the dough.  This is why whole grain flours can cause a bread to be overly sour.

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