5 Solutions to Sourdough Starter Consistency Issues
Having issues with sourdough starter consistency? Read our guide for multiple solutions to this problem.
The most asked question in regards to sourdough is “My sourdough starter doesn’t look right. Does it have the right consistency? Did I make any mistake?” Most people often think that their sourdough starter doesn’t have the right consistency, especially if you’re a first-timer and you’re planning on using it to bake bread at home.
Therefore, is your sourdough starter either too runny or too thick? The answer to this question depends on whether or not you’re performing these three things:
- The sourdough starter is being fed following regular intervals
- The amount of water and flour used in feeding it are consistent
- The water and flour it’s being fed is enough to satisfy it
If you’re doing the things mentioned above properly then it means that your sourdough starter probably contains the desired consistency. The texture of sourdough starters can range from being runny which will have to be poured to a thick paste, which has to be scraped out of the jar with hands pr a dough scraper.
The most important thing when it comes to sourdough starters is that it has to be bubbly and active, instead of how runny or thick it is. Ideally, the consistency mainly depends on a couple of factors that can be tweaked so that you are left with the most desirable consistency.
Things That Affect Sourdough Starter Consistency
There are a couple of factors that can affect how runny or thick the sourdough starter becomes. They are as follows;
Type of Flour Used
The sort of flour you choose to use is the main determining factor of whether the sourdough starter will become runny or thick.
Each kind of flour has its own absorbency level, even if the flour you choose to use is of the same kind, the level of absorbency differs depending on the type of flour it is regardless of the brand. There are flours that take a longer time to absorb water, even though the overall absorbency level is high.
Absorbency Level Of the Flour
There are a couple of factors that determine the absorbency level of the flour. These include:
If the flour you’re using has a higher level of gluten content, then its ability to absorb water will be faster and vice versa. For instance, the flour used to make white bread contains a very high percentage of gluten content meaning it absorbs water very fast.
Bran, which is present in wholemeal flours, has high absorbency levels. However, it takes a long time to absorb water. So, even though wholemeal varieties contain lower gluten content, the flour has a high absorbency level because of the bran content but at a slow rate.
Below is a chart showing the different absorbency levels of two different kinds of flour
|Fast Absorbtion||Strong White Bread Flour (Bread Flour)||Less absorbant overall|
|Slow Absorbtion||100% Wholemeal Flour||Highly Absorbtant|
Therefore, if absorbency levels of flour were the only factor that determined its ability to absorb level, then wholemeal flour would be the best choice of flour to use to make the best sourdough starter a lot thicker because of its ability to absorb more water as opposed to white bread flour which will only make the sourdough runnier.
There are also other factors that need to be put into consideration when it comes to determining the absorbency levels of flour meant for Sourdough Starter. They are as follows:
- How it was milled – If the flour was milled to a very fine texture, it will have a larger surface area meaning that it will be able to absorb water faster.
- How it is stored – Storing flour in a dry area allows it to remain dry which will then cause the flour to take more time to absorb water.
- When it was harvested and milled – Fresh flour has the ability to absorb water very quickly.
- How old it is – If the flour is old it will take a very long time to absorb water because it is drier.
Your flour’s absorbency level isn’t the only factor that affects the sourdough starter’s consistency. There are other factors such as;
c) Surrounding Environment
When sourdough starter is stored in a warm and well-aired environment, it’ll feed faster and will require frequent feeding, unlike when it is stored in a cool area.
This is one of the main reasons why your sourdough starter might not look the same as that of the next baker, even after using the same kind of flour. Since the environment, including the temperature, humidity and air flow differ from one place to the next.
Best Consistency for Sourdough Starter
Most people ask: “what is the right consistency of sourdough starter that can be used to make the best sourdough bread?”
A lot of recipes recommend that you use a 100 percent hydration sourdough starter. Meaning that the sourdough starter should consist of 50% flour and 50% water. This is the best way to start everything out especially if it’s your first-time making sourdough starter.
If your sourdough starter contains a pungent smell, is bubbly and the level keeps lowering and rising each time it is fed, then it will be able to make the best fermented bread regardless of the kind of consistency it has.
You can even try using different types of flour for different sourdough starters ranging from rye to wholemeal as well as different white bread flour brands. This way you’ll be able to know which one makes the best sourdough starter because the consistency varies from extra thick to extra runny.
I bet you’re wondering if this determines how your bread will turn out, it actually doesn’t. Whether your starter is thick or runny, your bread will have consistent results because the most important thing here is the feel of the dough and since the amount of water is normally adjusted accordingly, the bread will have the same consistency.
How to Change the Consistency of Your Sourdough Starter
The consistency of your starter is normally determined by one’s preference and not its performance. If you’re looking to change your sourdough starter’s consistency, there are several ways it can be performed without changing the recipe.
- Changing your Sourdough Starter’s Hydration Level
- Using Alternative Flour
Changing Your Sourdough Starter’s Hydration Level
For a thicker consistency – Instead of using 50% water and 50% flour during feedings, you can increase the amount of flour while you reduce the amount of water. However, this ratio needs to be kept consistent so that the recipe can be adjusted accordingly. So, if you’re using 40% water and 60% flour, you’ll have to maintain the ratio for a couple of days to see if the sourdough will get to the desired consistency. If the consistency isn’t desirable you can adjust the ratios and wait for a few days.
For a runnier consistency – Reduce the amount of flour and increase the amount of water.
Consequences of Changing Sourdough Starter Hydration Levels
Note that when the flour and water levels are adjusted, your recipe might also require some adjustments.
Refer to the recipe’s overall water and flour levels (this includes the sourdough starter) so that you’re able to make the required adjustments. For instance, your sourdough starter will require more flour if you were feeding it less flour and vice versa.
If you’re a first timer and you’re not confident about making the adjustments to your original recipe but would still like to change your sourdough starter’s consistency, a better option would be to…
Use an Alternative Flour
If you’re a beginner baker ensure that the hydration level is kept as 100% so that you’re able to use a different type of flour to feed your sourdough starter. You’ll be able to switch from strong white flour to a wholemeal variety without difficulty. This is a great way of making the sourdough thicker. You can even choose to use different brands of the same kind of flour until you settle for the one that gives you more desirable results.
If you’re going to try to change your sourdough starter’s consistency, try one method before moving to another one. This will help you to know what made more difference for the best fermented sourdough starter.