Reader Kevin had a fascinating question. He writes:
Your rye starter is a little drier that some I’ve seen. Is there are reason why some starter formulas have more or less water? Does it change the flavor?
Indeed Kevin there are some bread bakers who believe that the wetness of a starter changes its flavor. There’s at least a theoretical reason to believe that might be true: some types of flavor-giving bacteria and/or yeasts thrive in wetter environments, some in drier ones. Changing the moisture level in a starter could indeed tip the balance of power in the starter bowl, causing one population to thrive and another to diminish.
I remember I once had a yeast doughnut recipe that called for a starter so firm it almost broke my stand mixer. Was it worth it? I have no idea, since I don’t have a palate sensitive enough to tell the difference. Truly I think any baker interested in this sort of bread biology would need to experiment with various levels of hydration in their own kitchens and see what happens.