Yeast feeding notes

:: Bread

By: John Clements

Back in San Luis Obispo, now, and once again yeast is extremely happy. But wait… rewind!

Last time I wrote, my yeast in Blue Hill was ailing horribly. It appears that the basic problem had to do with my well water. I had it tested, and while it’s perfectly fine to drink, it is quite acidic (PH of 5.3 or thereabouts?) and contains somewhat elevated levels of copper. I can’t say which of these was the culprit, but I started putting the water through a Pur filter, and the yeast popped right back up again. Well, mostly. It still would go through sad phases. I think the weather may have had at least some part to play in it.

Taking the yeast back across the country was somewhat amusing; I bought a TSA-approved shampoo kit and put the yeast in one of the bottles, and that bottle inside the provided quart-sized-ziploc. It’s a good thing that that second layer was there, because by the time I got back home, there was, as far as I can tell, less than a twentieth of the yeast in the bottle, and the rest had escaped into the bag, though mercifully not into the luggage at large. I can only assume the bottle popped open because of low cabin pressure, though I should add that this was in carry-on, not checked luggage. Ah well. Should have taken pictures.

Anyhow, the yeast is now back, and quite happy. One accidental discovery—I’d really love to be a bit more systematic about this, some day—is that increasing the water a bit seems to make the yeast much happier. Also, of course, my only “happiness” metric is how eagerly the yeast increases in volume, driven by its production of CO2. Then again, that’s what we want to happen in the bread, so it’s probably a reasonable metric.

Anyhow, I don’t think I’ve ever written down my feeding schedule in detail; here it is:

Once per day, start with 44 grams of tap water. Mix in 20 grams of existing starter. Then mix in 40 grams of white bread flour. Done.

Naturally, I believe that the ratios are the only thing that matter here, and I’m thinking of cutting the whole thing in half; the only important thing is that I have at least 30g of starter when I want to start making bread.