starter not doubling but floating?



I was wondering if anyone can help. I have a 100% hydration starter (6 weeks old). I retain a cup and feed it with 120g AP/plain white flour and 120g water, and after 2 hours, it will begin to float and increase in size by about 50% and I can continue to remove blobs that will float for around 2 hours, however, it never doubles in size, and from what I can see the starter should not float until around 6-8 hours after feeding [in general], would this starter still be viable?

Thanks in advance!


PS great resource thanks!

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farinam's picture
farinam 2017 January 21

Hello azipper,

The amount of rise that you 'see' depends to some extent on the shape of the container that you are working with.  If you have a tall thin one, the walls provide extra support and the bubble structure does not have to span as great a distance so you will see a lot more rise than you will if you are using a wide shallow container (all of these container dimensions are relative).

The amount of time that a starter takes to activate depends very much on the temperature that you are working at and can range from a couple of hours if it is warm to 10 to 12 hours if it is cold.  So if yours is reaching the floating stage after two hours it probably means that you are working in a warm environment or your starter is very active. 

Also floating has nothing to do with 'doubling' in  volume, all it requires is for the density of the aerated starter to be less than water and that is obviously what you are achieving.

As an aside, I view the float test to be a waste of time and starter.  If it rises and is shot through with bubbles and appears mousse-like then you are hot to trot.

Whatever the reason, your starter is ready to go and should make you some very fine bread, if not immediately, certainly after you have some practice and get the hang of it.  Whatever you do, don't despair if your first efforts aren't picture perfect.  They will still be edible and you will learn from the experience.

I find it a good guide to adjust my dough preparation and proving times based on the time that it takes to starter to activate.  If it activates quickly the time from mixing to baking is shorter and vice versa.

Good luck with your projects.


azipper 2017 January 23

Thanks Farinam, this is great! I use a fairly wide container I believe, probably around 5 inches in diameter? It's plastic too so I guess it doesn't provide a great deal of support.

Right, so last night I took my starter (using around 1 cup starter which was nearing the end of it's active life I believe, 2 cups flour), relatively high hydration, and did not knead and let is proof overnight for 11 hours (not exactly a warm room), it more than doubled in size and then I baked for 35 mins at 200C. It's attached, what do you think!? I think there the holes could have been larger and it could have been left to prove for longer but doesn't look too bad? I used a loaf tin as I'm yet to purchase a dutch oven!

pplanders 2017 January 23

Great hole structure! 

The Dutch oven simulates a steam-injected commercial oven, creating great crust. You can try putting a rimmed sheet pan in the oven on the shelf below where you will bake your bread and preheating it to the same temperature you bake your bread. After sliding your bread onto a stone, pour 8 ounces (225 g) of water into the hot pan. Instant steam. Quickly close the oven door.

I recently bought another Dutch oven so I could make 2 loaves at the same time. Options I found on Amazon.

1. LeCreuset 3.5 qt French oven: $220 US

2. Lodge cast iron 3.2 at combo cooker: $35 US. The top is flat and the handles are on the sides so it can be used with the shallow part on the bottom and the deep part on top, or vice versa.

I went with Lodge for two reasons:

1. Cost

2. Safety: If you use it with the shallow side down it is much easier to slash your loaf with no risk of burning yourself. If is also far easier to place the loaf in a shallow pan than a deep one, especially when they are screaming hot.

Have used my old LeCreuset and the combo cooker side by side several times now. No problems with sticking with the combo cooker and the oven spring actually seems better.

Only downside to the combo cooker is its weight, especially the deep part. Strongly recommend buying a really good pair of oven mitts. Minimum 450 F. Forget those cotton ones. They will not protect your hands.

Again, really nice loaf!




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