Maintaining your sourdough starter: food, water, and time

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How’s your starter doing?

Fresh sourdough starter is a wonderful resource. Bread, pancakes, waffles, cake… there are so many delicious directions you can take with sourdough.

The key: maintaining your sourdough starter so that it’s healthy, happy, and ready to go when you are.

Once you’ve successfully created your starter, you’ll need to feed it regularly.

If you bake a lot of sourdough treats, you may want to keep it on your counter, at room temperature. While this means feeding it twice a day, it also means your starter will be ready to bake with at the drop of a hat (er, oven mitt).

However, many of us don’t want the commitment of twice-a-day feedings. If you’re a more casual sourdough baker, it’s possible to store your starter in the refrigerator, feeding it just once a week.

Let’s take a look at both methods.

But first, a word of advice. Sourdough baking is as much art as science. This method for maintaining sourdough starter is just one of many you might choose to follow. It doesn’t exactly match the process in our Baker’s Companion cookbook, nor some of our recipes online, nor what your neighbor down the street does. And that’s OK.

If you have a process you’ve successfully followed before, then hey, stick with it. Or try this one and compare. All good.

Maintaining your starter at room temperature

Room temperature is the best environment for the yeast and lactobacilli that inhabit your starter, and you can learn a lot about your starter by observing a twice-a-day feeding regimen with the starter at room temperature.

If you’re willing to maintain your starter at room temperature by feeding it twice a day, here’s how:

Stir the starter well and discard all but 4 ounces. Add 4 ounces non-chlorinated, room-temperature water (hereafter known simply as “water”) and 4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (hereafter known simply as “flour”). Mix until smooth, and cover. Repeat every 12 hours.

A note about room temperature: the colder the environment, the more slowly your starter will grow. If the normal temperature in your home is below 68°F, we suggest finding a smaller, warmer spot to develop your starter.

For instance, try setting the starter atop your water heater, refrigerator, or another appliance that might generate ambient heat. Or, set it near a heat source (baseboard heater, etc.).

Another option: set the container of starter on a folded dish towel laid atop a heating pad on its lowest setting.

 

Maintaining your starter in the refrigerator

For most home bakers, daily feeding is impractical; so you’ll need to store your starter in the refrigerator, and feed it once a week.

Take the starter out of the fridge. There may be a bit of light amber or clear liquid on top. Either drain this off, or stir it in, your choice; it’s alcohol from the fermenting yeast.

Remove all but 4 ounces starter. Use this “discard” to make pancakes, waffles, cake, pizza, flatbread, or another treat; Buttery Sourdough Buns is one of my favorite “unfed” sourdough recipes. Or, simply give to a friend so they can create their own starter.

Add 4 ounces lukewarm water and 4 ounces flour to the remaining starter. Mix until smooth, and cover.

Allow the starter to rest at room temperature (about 70°F) for at least 2 hours; this gives the yeast a chance to warm up and get feeding. After about 2 hours, refrigerate.

Getting ready to bake

If you’ve been maintaining your starter at room temperature, you may want to increase the volume of starter to the amount needed for your recipe. You can do this by feeding your starter without discarding; or by discarding, and feeding it 8 ounces flour and 8 ounces water.

If your starter has been refrigerated, you’ll want to both increase its volume, and raise its activity to a more energetic level. You can do this by giving it a couple of feedings at room temperature.

Take the starter out of the fridge, discard all but 4 ounces, and feed it as usual with 4 ounces water and 4 ounces flour. Let it rest at room temperature for about 12 hours, until bubbly. Repeat as necessary, every 12 hours, until you notice the starter doubling or tripling in volume in 6 to 8 hours. That means it’s strong enough to leaven bread.

For the final feeding, make sure you add enough flour and water to use in your recipe, with a little left over to feed and maintain the starter for the next time you bake.

For instance, if your recipe calls for 1 cup (about 8 ounces) starter, add 4 ounces each water and flour. If your recipe calls for 2 cups (about 16 ounces) starter, add 8 ounces each water and flour.

Once the starter is bubbling and vigorous, remove what you’ll need for the recipe and set it aside. Feed the remaining starter with 4 ounces flour and 4 ounces water. Mix until smooth, and allow the starter to work for about 2 hours at room temperature before putting it back in the refrigerator.

 

Troubleshooting your starter

Living creatures sometimes get sick, be they humans, pets, or even sourdough starter. If you find yourself becoming a sourdough doctor, here are some symptoms and possible cures:

If your starter lacks acidity

Feed with half whole-rye (pumpernickel) flour or whole wheat flour for a few days. The extra nutrition in the bran and germ can increase the starter’s acidity.

Be sure your starter has a chance to ripen (develop) fully before it receives another feeding; before you use it in a recipe, or before refrigerating it. An ideal feeding regimen for a starter kept at room temperature (in the low 70s) is two feedings a day at 12-hour intervals.

Find a slightly warmer (in the mid 70s) area in which to ripen the starter after its feeding.

If your sourdough is too acidic

You may be letting the starter ripen too long before using it. Once your starter is bubbling and vigorous, it’s time to make bread, feed it again, or refrigerate until its next feeding. Don’t let it become bubbly, rise, and then fall and start to “calm down;” that’s adding acidity to its flavor. Reduce the duration of ripening as necessary.

Ripen your starter in a slightly cooler area, so it doesn’t digest its meal of flour and water too quickly.

Reviving a dormant or neglected starter

Sometime you may find yourself with a starter that’s gone far too long without a feeding.

Covered in a clear, dark liquid (alcohol, a by-product of yeast that’s been deprived of oxygen), the starter will lack bubbles or other signs of activity, and will have a very sharp aroma.

Although the starter appears lifeless, its microflora will spring into action again as soon as they get a few good meals.

Stir the liquid back into the starter. Discard all but 4 ounces, and set the bowl or crock on the counter; you’re going to be leaving it at room temperature (at least 70°F) for awhile.

Feed the starter 4 ounces water and 4 ounce all-purpose flour twice a day, discarding all but 4 ounces of the starter before each feeding. It should soon become healthy, bubbly, and active.

Sourdough starters are hearty, and easily resist spoilage due to their acidic nature. The pH of a sourdough starter discourages the proliferation of harmful microorganisms.

However, if your starter turns ominously pink or red; shows signs of mold growth, or smells decidedly putrid, throw it away and begin again. Luckily, in our experience, this rarely happens.

OK, after all of that – how about baking some sourdough bread? Our Rustic Sourdough Bread is a great place to start.

Or for “true” sourdough, without any added yeast, try our Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread.

Read our post on creating your own sourdough starter.

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Holly R

    At the point where you are taking it out of the fridge to use in a recipe, and you take a portion of it off and discard, leaving 4 oz. behind – Is there anything wrong with feeding the 4 oz. (following the directions for its weekly maintenance), AND feeding the ‘discard’ (and resting that until it’s bubbling/doubling), for use in the recipe. I always feel like I’m wasting the discard.

    Absolutely, Holly – you can feed the “discard” and have two starters going; bake with it; give it to a friend… lots of things you can do with it besides toss it. PJH

    Reply
    1. scampydoodle

      what happens when a very active starter all the sudden decides it dosent want to rise anymore? is there something wrong with it?

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Instead of using water right from the tap, feed the sourdough bottled water or tap water that’s been left at room temperature overnight. You might also feed it a couple times a day (for a couple days) to get the activity level back. Always discard and begin with 4 ounces starter adding 4 ounces flour and 4 ounces water. If this doesn’t give you the activity you seek, call our Baker’s Hotline (855-371-2253) and we’ll guide you through that process. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  2. JuliaJ

    What a timely post. I’ve tossed out some starters in the past, thinking they were too far gone–maybe I should have just tried feeding them again.

    Are starters using whole-wheat or rye flours more “active”/robust/sturdy than starters based on all-purpose flours? Do higher-protein flour, like bread flour, give a better rise than all-purpose flour? Which would produce a more “tangy” or stronger sourdough flavor?

    Thanks!

    Julia, it’s good to start your starter with a whole grain flour, as it’s liable to have more helpful lactobacilli and wild yeast than the more “sterile” AP flour. However, Jeff Hamelman, one of our SD experts, says that unless you plan on refrigerating your starter, it’s best to feed it with AP flour – as feeding a sourdough that’s kept at room temperature with whole-grain flour will encourage it to go bad. As for bread flour, there’s no need to feed your starter with bread flour; but for a potentially higher rise, bread flour (with its additional protein/higher gluten content) is a good choice. As to how to make your bread more sour – you can try refrigerating the shaped loaf overnight before baking, as colder temps. encourage the production of acetic acid (think vinegar), which is obviously sour. You could also take the easy way out and add a pinch of sour salt (citric acid). Hope this helps – PJH

    Reply
  3. juliey

    The instructions that came with the King Arthur sourdough starter that I ordered about a month ago call for adding twice as much flour as water every time you “feed” the starter (adding a cup of flour and a half-cup of water, to be exact). Is that a mistake? I was very confused but double-checked the instructions against the ones downloadable on this site with the starter. It doesn’t work very well!

    Julie, you feed the starter with equal parts flour and water BY WEIGHT – which is 1/2 cup water (4 oz.) and 1 cup flour (4 oz.). Does that help? If not, please call our bakers’ hotline, 802-649-3717 – they can help you sort this out. PJH

    Reply
    1. Kathy

      The instructions that come with the starter do not make clear that it must be by weight! I had the same problem.

    2. Amy Trage

      Hi Kathy, the measurements don’t need to be by weight, though we always recommend using a scale if you do have one! ~Amy

  4. "allison@bakedoff"

    Any tips for determining what recipes will work well with an “unfed”, straight-from-the-fridge starter (besides trial and error)? I like to use the ‘discard’ starter for baking on the days I feed mine. I’ve tried some of your recipes and I’m wondering what the difference is between those recipes and the ones using fed starters.

    Allison, a fed starter will give yeast-raised baked goods a better rise; more “oomph.” A fed starter will also make somewhat lighter cakes, although there’s less of a difference there. Obviously, it’s necessary to use a good, strong, bubbling starter in recipes where it plays the main leavening role; not so necessary where there are other leaveners present. I’d go ahead and try an unfed starter in any recipe calling for starter EXCEPT for yeast breads without a significant amount of added yeast. Hope this helps – PJH

    Reply
  5. Cody F

    ok, I have a naive question. I’ve made sourdough bread in the past and have always wanted to have started stored in the fridge for when I need to make a loaf. Here’s my question: Do I cover it in the fridge? It seems as though it would take on smells or give off smells, but I’m also afraid that putting a lid on it will kill the effect of it. What is the best way for storing it in the fridge? Lid on or off?

    Don’t worry, Cody – NO question is “naive!” Baking has so many different twists and turns, especially sourdough baking, none of us can know everything… Definitely lid on. The yeast slows way down when it’s cold, and doesn’t need a lot of air. Don’t make the lid of whatever container you use airtight, but definitely use a lid. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  6. dariawalton

    I’ve left my starter for far too long before, and I find that pouring off the dark liquid yields far better results than stirring it in. I killed it once by stirring it in, and had to get a new sample from my mom to start over. Since then, I’ve left it in the fridge for months and do fine just by pouring off the dark liquid, and then giving it a feeding.

    Thanks for sharing your experience here, Daria – good to know what works for each of us, so that others can give it a try. PJH

    Reply
  7. "Sara S"

    I am a big fan of sourdough baking, and use my KAF refrigerated starter weekly. My favorite recipe is from the 200 Anniversary Cookbook – love that you take the starter right from the fridge to make a ‘sponge’ with – and the added flexibility of starting it the night before and finishing it after work the next day. I have used that base recipe to make pizza dough, stuffed sandwiches (roast beef, goat cheese and bbq sauce – yum!), wrap around hot dog pretzel style for the kids, and of course, a lovely big rustic loaf. That recipe makes nice shaped loaves too – i.e. bunnies for Easter. If you have been thinking of making the leap to sourdough, go for it – it is very fun to bake with!

    Wraparound pretzels for hotdogs – I’m on it. How about brats? (I mean the ‘dogs, not the kids!) Thanks for the inspiration, Sara – sourdough rocks! PJH

    Reply
  8. ebenezer94

    I am sad to report that my starter is shoved in the back of the fridge in a giant peanut butter jar looking very black indeed. I really need to clean it out, but I know it’s going to be an icky task. When my son was born prematurely last year and spent 72 days in the NICU, time to manage my starter just disappeared. I’ll have to start again when he’s a bit older. Up until then I was having great fun trying out all the sourdough recipes in the whole wheat baking book (well, I hadn’t gotten to ALL of them).

    We’ll be here for you when you are ready to join the sourdough fold again – until then, Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  9. lillabit2001

    Other than keeping your starter from taking over your fridge or kitchen counter or wherever you store it, why discard some of it before feeding it? Is it a matter of balance between the amount of starter and the amount of “food” it gets? Can a person take the starter they have been storing (I keep mine in the fridge), feed it and let it stand overnight, and then use most of the resulting sponge in a recipe as “fed” starter, then feed the remainder and put it back in the fridge after it stands for a few hours? It’s a little backwards from what you recommend, but it seems as if it would reduce the amount of starter that’s “wasted” by discarding it. I admit to trying it this way, after doing it the way you describe, and thought my results were still about the same either way.

    Also, can starter be frozen if a person anticipates not being able to use it for an extended period of time?

    I had some homemade starter many years ago, but got too busy with kids and ended up discarding it. I bought some of your starter a couple of months ago, and have been trying to use it at least once/week. I love the flavor (it’s better than my former starter) and have been enjoying trying your (and other) recipes. Love your site, your catalog and your blogs. Thanks for all you do for all of us home bakers.

    Yes, you discard some of the starter to maintain the pH balance of the whole; and to give the remaining yeast more of a chance at the food and water you’ve just added. And, as you say, there’s no need to discard the starter, if you can find something else to do with it: give to a friend or substitute it for flour/water in another recipe. Also, yes, you can do just as you recommend: feed, use most of it, feed the rest and refrigerate. In fact, that’s how I usually do it myself; the method in this post is simply another technique. All good. Freeze? Sure. Works well, so long as your freezer doesn’t drop below 0°F, which is yeast’s dying point. Best not to keep it frozen too long, though; the longer it’s frozen, the less vigorous it’ll be when it wakes up. Probably best not to freeze longer than a month. Thanks for connecting here – always a pleasure, “talking” to our fellow bakers. PJH

    Reply
  10. pat

    In reading these posts, I am understanding that when I take my started out of the fridge, I should discard all but 4oz. Is that a cup? I understood from the directions that came with my starter to discard a cup and fed the rest. Is this discard what can be given to a friend and when do they feed it or use it?

    Pat, 4 ounces is about half a cup; let’s call it a generous half-cup. The discard can be given to a friend; they should start feeding it as soon as they get it, and feed it on a regular schedule. The discard can also be used in a number of recipes (search our recipe site using the keyword “unfed”), including the best sourdough waffles/pancakes you’ll ever taste… Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  11. lurohamey

    Part of the difficulty of knowing what to do with your starter seems to be what it’s intended for: I’ve got a freezer full of bread already, so I moved on to making Ethiopian flatbread (injera). This calls for self rising flour & some addition of exotics like teff flour, or even masa harina, and a bit of yeast, but it also calls for three solid days of fermentation, after which the dark liquid is poured off, and the resulting mixture is thinned with water & good to go.
    The last batch I made was very small, so I have a lot of ‘starter’ left. I’ve fed it a couple of times and it’s still looking fine. Question is, would this continue to be my ‘injera’ or could I just incorporate it into whatever I’m in the mood to make…this is not an easy decision :-) So many recipes, so little time…
    I’d say you could continue using this starter in your regular baking. If this particular starter contains the various ingredients that you listed and you would like to return to a more basic mixture, you could just continue feeding it with an all purpose flour to phase out the other ingredients. I hope this is helpful. ~Amy

    Reply
  12. Kim Redden

    Thank you. Excellent information. It answers a lot of questions I have about how to maintain a starter in the refrigeration.

    Reply
  13. cascadia

    I’ve got a starter going, though I didn’t have any rye flour to start it with and used bread flour (I do have whole wheat, though… would that work?). It’s day 4, but so far, it just smells like beer. I don’t get any kind of sour aroma from it. Is it that it simply needs to be refrigerated to produce more acetic acid?
    I think you are right on track as long as the starter is the right consistency (thick pancake or waffle batter) and bubbly. Yes, whole wheat flour is a great flour to use in the beginning and to feed with every now and again. ~Amy

    Reply
  14. Madeline

    I’ve been using my starter since August and I love it. My only problem is, I feel like I have too little. When I go to remove a cup’s worth to feed it, I always end up doing a scant cup just so there’s a little starter left over to work with. Even when I remove a scant cup, there’s maybe a tablespoon or so left of starter. Is that how little there should be left? How do I bulk it up a little?

    Isn’t it remarkable that just that little amount of starter is enough to get the next addition of flour and water all revved up to bake? If you’ve been maintaining your starter at room temperature, you may want to increase the volume of starter to the amount needed for your recipe. You can do this by feeding your starter without discarding; or by discarding, and feeding it 8 ounces flour and 8 ounces water.

    If your starter has been refrigerated, you’ll want to both increase its volume, and raise its activity to a more energetic level. You can do this by giving it a couple of feedings at room temperature. Call us if you need more tips at 800-827-6836 and ask to speak with a baker. Happy Sourdough Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  15. wendylovesfood

    where can i find the printable version of these maintaining instructions. i gave my copy from years ago away and now i can’t seem to locate one that is printer friendly with less pictures! thanks
    Hi Wendy,
    If you send an email to bakers@kingarthurflour.com, and ask them to send you the sourdough insert, they can attach it right to your response and you can print it from home, plus save it on your computer. Happy baking! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  16. kaf-sub-ncfullerton

    Hi KAF:
    My starter never looks like your pictures. I discard and feed once a week and keep it in the KAF crock in the refrigerator. My starter always has the consistency of marshmallow creme and I never see any liquid. What am I doing wrong?
    It is possible your starter might need a kick start to get it going as it might not be ripening completely between feedings. I would take four ounces out and leave it at room temperature (70F) for a day or two, feeding it every 12 hours. You should start to see increased activity by the end of the 24 hours. If not, keep it out another 24 hours, feeding again every 12 hours. It might also need a little nutrition kickstart: try subbing in half rye or whole wheat flour in the first feeding. Let us know how it goes! ~Kim@KAF

    Reply
  17. rnstew

    I purchased KA starter a couple of weeks ago and have a question. When you show pictures of your starter online it looks like it is a consistency where you can almost pour it, but when I add 1/2 cup water and 1 cup flour I get a very thick batter, almost a dough. Is that correct? Should I add a little more water? I live in Arizona so I don’t know if our lack of humidity contributes to this? What should the consistency be? Also, I keep my starter in the fridge in a crock. Is it possible to take out unfed starter too often (even if I feed the refrigerated starter when I take out the unfed)? Your starter should be a very thick batter after adding the flour and water. You could increase the water by 1 tbs if you are very worried, but it should be ok as is. The starter will release some liquid as it sits in the fridge. If you are worried your starter is lacking “gusto”, leave it out at room temperature (about 70F), covered in your crock, for 2-3 days, feeding it every 12 hours but making sure to see some bubbling before you feed it. It might need to go 13-15 hours between feedings if you don’t see activity. Once it gets going, you should be able to store it back in your fridge, feeding it once a week. -Kim@KAF

    Reply
  18. Jeremy

    I made a sourdough starter using KA Whole Wheat and fed using bread yeast (I do not have any AP flour). It was doubling in about 3 hours by day 4 but it didn’t smell very sour at all (more like bread!). When I tasted it, it was definately tangy. Should I warm the start back up and keep feeding it at room temp to increase the sourness or just leave it in the fridge and feed it once a week. When I feed it, should I use Wheat or the bread flour I have on hand? Thanks!
    Hi Jeremy,
    To bump up the sour, try keeping it at room temperature and feed it with whole wheat flour once a day. Rye flour is also great for bumping up the sour. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  19. jellymoon

    great info here, thanks. however, i’ve been struggling with a starter that, from what i’ve read on peter reinhart’s blog posted some years ago, may be going “dormant” after several days of doubling in volume. even when starting with orange/pineapple juice i experienced three good days of feeding every 12 hours then less and less activity until it becomes an inactive soup. fearing leuconostoc, i waited and stirred (no feeding) for 5 days until i saw yeasty bubbling (very fine bubbles and clumping) – i thought it may have come to life with good yeast. i let it go another 24 hours, then after one feeding (150g starter to 250g each water & flour) it went “dormant” again, very little activity, no gluten (very soupy). it smells of sour apple and breadiness, there is some warmth and humidity in the tub when i remove the lid, so there’s life, but just not much. can you help?

    Please call our baker’s hotline, 802-649-3717. Sourdough can be complicated, and a dialogue will be much more useful to you than my trying to formulate a one-sided answer here, OK? Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  20. Christina

    Wow, what a difference the heating pad made! My starter was chugging along but not as vigorous as I had seen others at this stage of day three. Tonight I pulled out the heating pad and within an hour – bubbles! We’re having a cold spell here in Los Angeles and my kitchen gets down to 62-64 at night. I cannot wait for Friday when I can get busy making the sponge! Watch out family… There’s a baker in the fold.

    Reply
  21. addijo

    Thank you for the great information & recipes on sourdough. I have just started in this adventure. My question of the day: I take my starter out of the fridge (has been there for 5 days) to re-activate prior to baking. Your instructions above say to give it a couple of feedings 12 hours apart. When feeding to re-activate prior to baking – do I toss out half of the starter with each feeding? I have done 2 feedings, 12 hours apart, (without splitting off any) and my starter has filled an eight cup bowl! Thanks for the help! PS. We LOVE the sourdough pop over recipe!

    You would need to remove about half of the starter with each feeding to prevent having too much starter as well as keeping a good pH level for the yeast!-Jon

    Reply
  22. mikabl

    I have been working on a fridge kept starter for a 2 months now. I Really want to make some bread but I keep forgetting to feed it up for baking. Normally I feed my starter on Saturday mornings, leave it out for 3 hours and fridge it for the rest of the week. Now, I fed my starter this morning and left it on the counter, it doubled in 6 hours. Is this a good activity level? Can I use this as is and start a batch this evening, or do I need to feed it again before I can use it? How about “spiking” the recipe? I am looking at KAF’s Rustic Sourdough recipe, it adds yeast. Would that be considered spiking?
    I’d say 6 hours is a bit long for having the starter double. Try giving it another feeding before using, and that should make it nice and happy for baking. If you do use it now, definitely add the extra yeast that the recipe calls for to get the best results. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  23. unsolved999

    I’ve been making bread once a week. I’ll take my starter out of the fridge, add half a cup of flour and some water and mix it up. Then I’ll wait 20 minutes to half an hour before using with instant yeast on my bread recipes. What are the drawbacks to using my starter this way?
    It sounds as though you aren’t discarding or refreshing your starter properly. When you take it out of the fridge for use, you should do this way ahead of time, remove about half, then feed, then allow to come to room temperature and activate. This can take a few hours. ~Amy

    Reply
  24. "Kelley WC"

    Hi- I started feeding my new starter last week and I misunderstood about discarding some of the starter with each feeding. (I thought it was just a space in the jar issue, didn’t realize it would affect the ph balance). So after a couple days of this, have I really messed it up or is it more forgiving than that? It is bubbling by the next feeding still so I’m hoping it’s ok…? Thanks so much!!

    Starters can be very resilient. The more you feed/discard/feed/discard, the closer your starter will be to a balanced pH. Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  25. itsmith3

    Hi! I just got my starter on Friday and got it fed and all and used it to make bagels on Saturday evening. When I was keeping it on the counter initially it seemed to be getting thicker and thicker with each feeding but still bubbling some (not as much as in your pictures above). We tend to keep our house kind of cool during the day (low to mid-60′s). Is that part of the problem? I saw someone reference using a heating pad? I am keeping the starter in the fridge going forward, just concerned I did something wrong at this point.

    Don’t worry about it – it sounds like you might be giving it a bit too much flour with each feeding. Do you weigh the flour? If not, make sure you’re measuring using the sprinkle and sweep method. And yes, it’ll definitely be slowed down by mid to low 60s ambient temperature. That’s what my house is like (or even colder), so I put a heating pad on the lowest setting, wrapped it in a towel, and set the starter on top; it helped a lot. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  26. liz95688

    I keep my starter in the fridge. here is the difference though—-I don’t feed it before I use it but feed the rest of it. I use both the rustic sourdough recipe snd the extra sourdough recipe and I always end up with delicious loves of bread. My question is why feed it first if my bread turns out great when I don’t do it.

    If your recipes include both fed starter and yeast, then the yeast is also providing the rise for the bread. Using fed starter will help get more rise from the dough and bread, and is the only leavening agent in recipes that don’t use additional yeast like the extra tangy sourdough bread. Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  27. wendy

    i am planning on begining a starter soon, was looking for just the right crock. i really dont like the tangy flavor of sourdough, but i want to use a starter to bake with instead of store bought yeast. youve had a few questions on how to make bread tangier, but how do you make it less tangy?

    Wendy, let the dough rise in a warmer place for a shorter amount of time; that’ll help keep the bread from becoming too tangy. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  28. Bob

    Twice in recent history I’ve attempted to make starter. I’m using a small glass crock with a towel to cover it. Keep it on top my refrigerator. Both time my starter became moldy after about day 4 or 5. What am I doing wrong?
    Good for you for trying to make your own starter, Bob. If you are keeping it at room temperature, you will need to keep a more rigorous feeding schedule of every day or at least every other day. If there was a pinkish/reddish color developing, yes that is mold, discard, try again. If you see a little blackish liquid floating around on top, no problem. This is just the alcohol being produced when the wild yeast is not in contact with the air. Just stir it back in for a stronger sour flavor or pour it off for a more mild flavor! Keep trying! Elisabeth

    Reply
  29. Nicole

    Can I leave my starter after the 7 days on the counter and then feed once a day to keep it going? A friend of mine had what she called a sourdough starter but she fed hers mashed potato flakes and sugar, what is the difference between these and which is best for a full sourdough bread flavor(think Jack n the box’s sourdough).

    Yes, Nicole, you can leave your starter on the counter and feed it daily. Just be sure to feed it with all-purpose flour, no whole grains; whole grains could cause it to go bad. The potato flake/sugar school of sourdough feeding is another way of approaching it; I remember trying it WAY long ago, but can’t comment on results. You might want to start another starter and try your friend’s method, so you could see for yourself what the difference is. I’m not familiar with Jack in the Box, but if you’re looking for a more sour bread, try refrigerating the shaped dough over night before baking. the sourness in your bread will come mostly from the way the dough is handled, rather than form the starter itself. For more information, call our baker’s hotline: 800-827[6836. PJH

    Reply
    1. Leslie

      I have my Mom’s starter from the 1980s. This starter is fed with potato flakes/sugar. My bread turns out very nice but a little on the sweet side. I love Sourdough bread and would love it to taste more sour. Can you elaborate on your comment above about the sourness in the bread coming mostly from the way the dough is handled? Specifically, do you refrigerate the shaped dough after it has risen? Do you bake it right out of the fridge or do you have to rise it again?
      Thanks!

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Leslie, the starter you have sounds like a “friendship” starter – these were very popular back in the ’80s, and are fed with sugar. They’re really not designed to yield a tangy sourdough bread, but are more for cakes and sweet doughs (e.g., sticky buns, etc.). You can try refrigerating your shaped loaf prior to baking; and you can bake it right out of the fridge (if it’s risen as much as you want), or wait for it to come to room temperature and rise some more; but either way, using your starter, you’ll never get a truly sour bread. Your best bet would be to start another starter, one that’s for a more tangy bread; and save your mom’s starter for mildly sweet breads. Sound like a plan? PJH

  30. zcsgamma

    I started my first sourdough starter 7 days ago. My starter has lots of bubbles
    and a nice sour smell, but it is not rising it has not doubled in volume. I have followed the instructions very carfully. I’m doing something wrong but not sure what. I would love some troubleshooting ideas.
    The good news is that the starter is alive and kickin’ . If it is too thick, it will have a harder time rising. Try adding 2-4 more tablespoons of water to it to thin it down a bit. If you still have questions, give the hotline a call, they can get you right on track. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  31. erinalene

    I was recently given a 20-yr-old starter. However, it is a “potato flake starter.” The instructions my neighbor gave me with the starter say to feed it potato flakes, sugar, and warm water. Do you know if I can start feeding the starter AP flour and warm water instead as is done with traditional sourdough starters? Or do I need to start over from scratch and create my own starter using wheat flour?

    Whichever starter you have, you’ll want to follow the directions (and ingredients) given with it for maintenance and therefore best activity. We do have recipes for starters on our website. Happy Sourdough Baking! Irene@KAF

    If you don’t mind experimenting and possibly losing your neighbor’s gift, try feeding it with flour and water; I have a feeling it’ll work, though no guarantees… PJH

    Reply
  32. LisaT

    I received some SD starter from a friend and when fed it, I didn’t discard anything first…have I ruined it?? It’s my first time using SD starter and I feel a little confused! Ack!
    I fed it this morning – she told me 1 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup AP flour. And it’s been sitting on the counter all morning in a mason jar with a loose fitting lid…Is it going to be okay?
    Help please!!
    Yes, it is fine that you did not discard any before feeding, Lisa. I am sure she did not give you a whole lot to begin with so discarding would not have made a whole lot of sense. In fact, often, if one wants to increase the starter quantity, skipping a discard before feeding is commonly done. When you feed your starter, please feed it with 1 c. of all purpose flour and 1/2 c. of water (not 1 c.). You may use bottled water or if you are on town water, draw the water the night before and allow to sit overnight uncovered so the chlorine can escape. Here are our sourdough tips found on our site. If you need further assistance, please contact our Bakers’ Hotline, 1-855-371-2253. Enjoy! Elisabeth

    Reply
  33. LisaT

    I received some SD starter from a friend and when fed it, I didn’t discard anything first…have I ruined it?? It’s my first time using SD starter and I feel a little confused! Ack!
    I fed it this morning – she told me 1 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup AP flour. And it’s been sitting on the counter all morning in a mason jar with a loose fitting lid…Is it going to be okay?
    Help please!!

    Sorry for the delay in answering, Lisa, but yes, it should be just fine. I trust by now it’s happily starting to bubble… Please contact our toll-free bakers’ hotline if you have any questions at all – we’re here to help. 855-371-BAKE (2253) PJH

    Reply
  34. Gambles

    I found most of my answers after pouring through all the blogs and comments, but I still have a few…My starter is refrigerated. I’ve been successfully baking, but questions still keep coming up. I don’t have long distance so this seemed an easier option for contacting you. Hopefully four questions isn’t too many.

    #1 Most importantly after I take it out, feed it, and let it sit for 12 hours, what if I can’t get back to it at that time? I have health issues that make multi day recipes problematic as I never know if I will be mobile on day 2. I just ran into that problem when trying to reinvigorate my starter. How far can I push that 12 hour feeding before I lose the starter?

    #2 Is starter on the counter as resilient as that in the fridge?

    #3 One of your baker’s mentioned a nail polish smell. What would that mean?

    #4 and lastly, In your tips blog, it mentions that anywhere between 4 – 12 hours post feeding is considered “fed.” Does that mean that after the 12 hours it is again “unfed” as far as what recipes require?

    Thanks so much for always being there. I love KAF!!
    Suzanne
    Hello Suzanne – Keep the questions coming. As I was told by my own parents and I continue to tell my children, ask because there are probably several others who also have the same questions!

    #1 You will not “lose” the starter after 12 hours of sitting on the counter after being fed. It will not die. It would have to sit unfed for several days before it started to go bad on you. It may take even less time during the summer months when it is warmer in your kitchen. The starter unfed on a regular basis is not happy in a hot kitchen! If ever a reddish/pinkish color develops on your starter and has a really rank odor, it is time to start over. A black liquid floating on top is not bad. When the wild yeast is not in contact with the air, it produces alcohol in form of the black liquid. You may stir it back in (that is what I do) for a more pungent flavor or pour it off for a more mild flavor.

    #2 See number #1! If you bake often, say every day to every other day, you may store the starter at room temp. But, if you are like me and use once a week or once every 4 weeks, store in the frig. It should be taken out once a week for a feeding even if you are not able to use it. Admittedly, I am not good about doing this and can let a few weeks go by. So, to compensate, before using my somewhat neglected starter, I will feed it 2, maybe 3 times before using in a recipe calling for a fed starer.

    #3 I am not sure where that comment was made for reference. But, SD starter can have quite a strong aroma or odor (depending upon who you ask!). My guess is the acetic acids (verses the lactic acids) have been developed more giving the pungent aroma.

    #4 Yes, technically. After 12 hours have gone by, remove 1 cup (use as unfed starter in a recipe) and feed once more before using in a recipe calling for a fed starter.

    Hope this helps clear up some of the mysteries! Elisabeth

    Reply
  35. mike

    can you substitute whole wheat flour for all purpose flour for the regular feeding of the starter?
    Sure, whole wheat flour is fine to use, but you will need to add about a tablespoon of extra water. ~Amy

    Mike, you’ll end up with a different starter, and one that’s much more susceptible to “bad” bacteria. You can feed with ww flour, but watch your starter carefully at all times; and try not to keep it at room temperature any longer than necessary. PJH

    Reply
  36. Larry

    I have three starters from three different regions around the world. As I maintain them all at my home location will they each “hold” their original tastes & aromas or will they all eventually taste & smell the same (due to absorbing my local bacterias)? Thanks.

    The latter, Larry – it doesn’t take very long for sourdough to adapt to its surroundings, to form a symbiotic relationship with the local yeast, bacteria, and other flora. By feeding and maintianing them differently, however, you can change them – for instance, feeding more frequently (or less); maintaining at room temperature vs. in the fridge. Sourdough can take you on a long and interesting journey, for sure. Keep experimenting – it’s fun! PJH

    Reply
  37. Betsy

    From your “Getting ready to bake” section:
    Take the starter out of the fridge, discard all but 4 ounces, and feed it as usual with 4 ounces water and 4 ounces flour. Let it rest at room temperature for about 12 hours, until bubbly. Repeat as necessary, every 12 hours, until you notice the starter doubling or tripling in volume in 6 to 8 hours. That means it’s strong enough to leaven bread.

    When you say to “Repeat as necessary”, where do you repeat from? The discard all but 4 ounces part? Or the feeding part? I’m super confused. I just want more volume to my starter! Thanks for the help!
    The repeat means the entire process, including the discard. Before a starter is fed, it is always necessary to discard first. ~Amy

    Reply
  38. Heather

    I would like to have my starter ready for baking first thing in the morning, but it seems to “fall” and get liquid on the top overnight, even if I feed it right before bed. Do you have any tips for perfecting the timing of feedings so that it’s ready to go when I am? Thanks for your help!

    It sounds like your starter is going through the food really quickly! To be sure your starter doesn’t go into the dormant phase again, you will want to slow it down. The best way to do this is to feed it with cold water and flour and then keep it in a cool part of your kitchen. If that still doesn’t slow it down enough, you may have to stick it in the fridge right after you do a “cold feeding” with the cool water. Then pull it out the next morning and let it come back to temperature and show signs of life before you bake with it. As soon as it has doubled in size and shows lots of bubbles, it is ready to go! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  39. nancy

    Can you use bread flour to feed the starter ?

    Yes, Nancy – there’s no benefit, but it won’t hurt, either. You may find you need to add a bit more water over time, as bread flour is higher protein and absorbs more liquid than AP flour; add enough to keep your starter pourable, like very thick pancake batter. PJH

    Reply
  40. "Prairie Owl"

    Lots of helpful info here! I keep two starters, a rye one and a whole wheat one. I refrigerate them and remove & feed one before baking with it. Reading these posts, it occurs to me that maybe I only need to keep one starter, say the rye one, and feed it up for a couple of days with whole wheat flour if I want a wheat bread, or with rye flour if I want a rye bread. Would that work? If I wanted to make a bread with unbleached white flour, could I just feed my rye or whole wheat stater for awhile with white flour beforehand? Thanks!
    You are absolutely on the right track. You don’t need to always maintain 3 starters. You can keep your basic starter around and feed it appropriate flour to the recipe you’ll be making. Starters love whole wheat and rye flours, so you’ll have great flavor all the time, and a very healthy starter. ~MJ

    Reply
  41. Jannette

    About a month ago, I made a starter according to your instructions, and it was going gangbusters. Lovely stuff. Then, a few days ago, my husband purchased “purified” instead of “distilled” water (our tap water is chlorinated). After using the purified water, my starter seemingly stopped “breathing” or rising. No bad smell, no pink stuff, but no bubbles or rising, either. I changed it back to distilled water last night, but after three feedings, I have seen no improvement. How do I bring my starter back to life?

    I would suggest to give our Baker’s Hotline a call, we will be able to speak in depth about what you can do over the phone or on web chat!-Jon 855 371 2253

    Reply
  42. shugg

    so, I think I’m confused. Before I can bake with my refrigerated starter, I need to feed and discard? Is that right?

    Right – if you want your starter to contribute some energy to the leavening process (as opposed to just sour flavor), you take the starter out of the fridge, discard as directed, feed, and let sit at warm room temperature until it’s good and bubbly, about 12 hours. Then you use what you need, feed it again, let it get slightly bubbly again (about 2 hours), and refrigerate. Make sense? If not, please call our bakers’ hotline, 855-371-BAKE (2253). PJH

    Reply
  43. Ilana

    Hello!
    I have been keeping my starter out of the fridge, in a warm spot, and feeding twice a day – though not with military regularity by any means – so that it is ready to use when I need it. Yesterday when I took the lid off I was hit in the face by a strong nail polish remover smell. Could you tell me what the best way to correct this is, if indeed it does need correcting? I have a niggling fear of serving up nail polish remover bread to my family! I discarded about 2/3 of it rather than the usual 1/2 and gave it a feed with 100g rye flour and 100g lukewarm water (as per usual), which gave it its nice, regular yeasty boozy smell back immediately after feeding, but this morning the acetone smell had returned.
    I noticed earlier on June 14 2013 Elisabeth replied to Suzanne’s question about the nail polish remover smell, saying
    “My guess is the acetic acids (verses the lactic acids) have been developed more giving the pungent aroma.”
    …and in the tangy sourdough recipe you have it says that refrigerating the sponge overnight encouraged the lactic acid. So does it follow that refrigerating my starter would help to redress the balance?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Have no fear! Storing your starter at room temp AND feeding with a rye flour (lots of minerals!) makes for a very active starter. The acetone odor is only telling you it needs to be fed. However, this is not always interpreted as a bad thing. The sour flavor will be more pronounced, that is for sure. If you are going to continue storing it at room temp, a little vigilance is necessary in the maintenance. If you are baking every day or every other day, continue to store it at room temperature and feed at least every day. Since you are using a whole grains for feeding, more than once a day may be in order. Whole grain starters will go rancid pretty quickly due to the oils from the germ. This is why you will need to keep up on it. If you should see any pinkish or reddish color, discard all of it and begin again. Most of us do not bake every day, so storing in the frig is the way to go with weekly feedings. So, yes, storing your starter in the frig and/or more frequent feedings at room temp will redress the balance. Good luck to you! Elisabeth

  44. Kristin

    Thanks for all of the wonderfully helpful information. I’m relatively new to this sourdough bread-making process. I’ve been maintaining my KAF starter now for a month, baking at least once a week, and it’s going well. My question is this: can I use the AP flour-fed sourdough starter and use whole wheat flour for the recipe? Is there anything I need to know before making a simple swap from white flour to whole wheat?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      If you mean, can you use your starter in a bread recipe that calls for AP flour, and substitute whole wheat for the AP? Yes. You’ll get a different result, obviously; different flavor, texture, appearance, rise… I’d suggest you start by substituting whole wheat (preferably white whole wheat) for half the AP. If you like the result, increase the percentage from there. Due to the difference in how whole wheat absorbs liquids, I’d add an extra tablespoon of water to the dough; and let it rest for about 20 minutes before kneading. Good luck – let us know how it goes. PJH

  45. Oval Lee McKenzie

    I’m a novice bread baker. I was given a sourdough starter kit as a gift. I’ve started it a several days ago and used it once. The bread was a failure. Flat and dense but I make toast with it. The rest of the starter became liquid. Where did I make my mistake? I have a bread machine (the starter and it were the gift) that I want to learn to use. I’m frustrated, can you help?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I would suggest to give our Baker’s Hotline a call so we can troubleshoot the problem with you! We will likely need to know a little more information so we can give you some help. Jon@KAF :) 855 371 2253

  46. Carol De Vito

    I have just returned to the starter world after being away from it for several years. My original recipe was for warm potato water. Is this not the accepted method anymore? I need to know that my starter will still work.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Carol, there are as many potential starter recipes as there are bakers in the world, I reckon! There’s no ultimate right or wrong when it comes to baking bread, sourdough included. Do whatever works for you, in your kitchen; I happen to like this particular starter method, but if you want to use potato water, there’s no harm in that, certainly. Enjoy – and welcome back to the wonderful world of sourdough. PJH

  47. Sharon

    Hi … if I’m discarding all but 4 ounces each time I feed it, how do I grow the quantity so I have a couple cups for baking? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      To make more starter, Sharon, simply feed it a greater quantity of flour and water when you’re feeding it just prior to using. Here’s what the blog post says: “For the final feeding [feeding just prior to using in a recipe], make sure you add enough flour and water to use in your recipe, with a little left over to feed and maintain the starter for the next time you bake. For instance, if your recipe calls for 1 cup (about 8 ounces) starter, add 4 ounces each water and flour. If your recipe calls for 2 cups (about 16 ounces) starter, add 8 ounces each water and flour. Once the starter is bubbling and vigorous, remove what you’ll need for the recipe [e.g., 2 cups] and set it aside. Feed the remaining starter with 4 ounces flour and 4 ounces water. Mix until smooth, and allow the starter to work for about 2 hours at room temperature before putting it back in the refrigerator.” Hope this helps – PJH

  48. Confused Hungarian

    Just entering the sourdough starter ranks and find myself confused on a regular basis as I begin to prepare for my first loaf. First question when you are feeding your sourdough everyone says to repeat the ratios but I’m not sure what that means. If I start with a 1/2 cup of starter and add 1/2 cup of water and scant cup of flour, do I add the same amount for the second feeding or do I add the same ratio? To me if I am adding the same ratio I now need to re-measure my starter and add that amount of water and almost double of flour so my second feeding might now be adding 1 cup of water and almost 2 cups of flour if my original starter now doubled to 1 cup. If someone could clarify if I use the same amount each time based on my original amount of starter or an increased amount the second and third time based on my new amount of starter it would really help. I feel like a dope for finding this so confusing. Also I purchased King Arthur Bread flour was that a bad idea? Final question on kneading. I’ve gotten conflicting information from different people/sites. Knead for 20 minutes? Knead only enough to blend in flour and water? How long do I need to Knead? :)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      No worries, Confused – it’s a confusing subject! By ratio, people mean the same ratio of flour and water to one another – not the same ratio of flour and water to the existing starter. Bottom line, always feed with equal amounts flour and water, BY WEIGHT (about 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water). Bread flour is fine to use; since it’s higher protein than all-purpose, you might want to change that 1:1 feeding ratio a tiny bit, increasing the water by a couple of teaspoons. And as for kneading – you don’t knead starter, so I assume you’re talking about bread dough. And there’s no pat answer. Kneading is used to develop the dough’s gluten, which will allow it to rise. You can develop gluten simply by mixing the dough ingredients together and, without any kneading at all, letting them sit: first for a few hours at room temperature, then overnight in the fridge. This is called the “no-knead” method. At the other end of the scale, you can knead dough by hand for 20 minutes, and it’ll probably be fine – though it’s also not necessary, unless you’re kneading extremely slowly and gently. Using a stand mixer at medium speed, I usually knead about 7 minutes. The point is less the time you spend, and more the final texture of the dough – whatever it takes to get a dough that’s cohesive, fairly smooth, and fairly elastic and springy, that’s how long you spend kneading. Hope this helps – remember, the folks on our baker’s hotline – 855-371-BAKE (2253) – are a great resource, should you have any further questions as you go along. Good luck! PJH

  49. Naomi Davies

    I spent a week making my first liquid levain culture, seven days of watching a lovely bubbly mix develop perfectly. Day eight everything collapsed into a vinegary flat state. Happily after reading these posts, I drained off the liquid, saved 4-ounces, added 4-ounces each of flour and water and made sure the mix was in a toasty 65-70-degree spot. As a result the entire culture is thriving again.
    I’ll be making my first sunflower seed bread with a rye sourdough tomorrow (see Hamelman’s A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes). Thank you to all for the Q&A that preceded this posting, you all saved my starter!

    Reply
  50. Aaron Shier

    I managed to get starter going using your method. I’ve started starters several different ways over the years and I’ve had success with several different methods, some complicated, some simple.

    I ran into a problem this time, and I hoped to run it by you. I recently moved into an apartment with a roach problem, so all of the food is either kept in the refrigerator, or freezer (we don’t have many airtight containers around yet). I had small bits of flour in some sealable plastic bags (the rye and AP) to get things started and after a day, I was already seeing bubbles. Things went well for the first three days. On the fourth day, I fed the starter with flour from the freezer. The activity of the starter was stopped dead in its tracks. I made sure to compensate for the cold flour by using warmer water (I usually used water at about 85).

    So, does freezing flour make it a poor substrate for feeding? I thought the existing yeast was using the flour as fuel, so I assumed the freezer-kept flour would be a fine way to go. Was it using the warm water that did this? Any other ideas?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I wouldn’t say cold flour won’t work, but it will significantly slow down the activity of your starter. You may need to compensate even further by using water between 95 and 100 degrees to really balance the temperature of your starter. Jon@KAF

  51. Jenny

    After reading all this and more I think I’m ready to take the plunge but the question I’m left with is: how long is discard good for when you want to use it to bake or even give it away.
    Say I want to feed my starter but don’t have time to make pancakes or muffins… Or my friend can’t get the starter for a few days. How long does it keep? And if it keeps, can it be combined with multiple discards. Like if I were feeding the starter to make bread and getting it active. The couple feedings it may need to go from fridge to ready can those discards all be combined.

    Maybe this would make more sense if I knew what recipes called fore with unfed starter but I’m still in the learning phase before I take the plunge.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, I don’t see why you couldn’t combine your discards. However, keep in mind that I would not keep them longer than 4-5 days if the dough is refrigerated. Jon@KAF

  52. Kim

    Made my starter a few days ago with the KA recipe on the website….it seems to be doing well, but I’m stumped as to what to do now. Below is the KA recipe and directions but the directions stop after saying,”refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.”
    2 cups warm water
    1 tablespoon of sugar or honey (optional)
    1 tablespoon or packet active dry yeast
    2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

    Pour the water into a 3- to 4-quart glass or ceramic container or bowl, and add dissolve the sugar or honey and the yeast in that order. Stir in the flour gradually. Cover the jar or bowl with a clean dishcloth and place it somewhere warm. By using a dishcloth instead of plastic wrap, you’ll allow any wild yeast in the area to infiltrate and begin to work with the domestic yeast which itself is beginning to develop “wild” characteristics and flavors.

    The mixture will begin to bubble and brew almost immediately. Let it work anywhere from 2 to 5 days, stirring it about once a day as it will separate. When the bubbling has subsided and a yeasty, sour aroma has developed, stir your starter once more and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.

    Can I use some of my starter in a recipe at this point before I put it in the refrigerator?

    Is there any such thing as using the starter to bake bread straight from the refrigerator? Or do I have to feed it and wait 12 hours before using it?

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kim, you can use starter straight from the fridge if all you want is some sour flavor in your bread; but if you want the starter to add rising power (i.e., your recipe includes little or no added yeast), then you need to feed it before using. And yes, you do need to feed the starter you just made before using and storing in the fridge; unless, as I said, all you need is its flavor, without its rising power. Contact our baker’s hotline, 855-371-BAKE (2253), if you need any help at all, OK? Good luck – PJH

  53. Kim

    Thanks so much for helping us “sourdough beginners!”

    I just made my first loaf in my bread machine and my family loved it but they would like for it to be more “sourdoughy” tasting….so I’m wondering….will my starter get more sour as it ages or is there something I can do to make it more “sourdoughy” tasting now.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kim, it’s actually pretty hard to get good, strong sourdough flavor using a bread machine, in my opinion; the flavor comes mainly from long rises, rather than how sour your starter is. To use your bread machine, I’d say your best bet is to add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon or so of “sour salt” (citric acid) to the dough, which will really beef up the sourness of the loaf. Good luck – and congratulations on your first sourdough loaf! PJH

  54. Randy Brown

    I’m leaving for a 3 week trip. Unfortunately I won’t have a sourdough sitter to take care of my starter. Should I just start over when I return or is there another technique to have good starter when I get back? Taking it with me is not an option since I’ll be flying. If I were driving it would be a passenger in my truck.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Randy, just cover it and leave it in the fridge. Feed it when you get home – it’ll be fine. Happy traveling! PJH

  55. Dennis

    I learned sourdough from my grandfather who never “discarded” any of his starter. (Maybe because of his depression-era experiences.) He (and I) always keep 1 cup of starter. If the recipe calls for 2 cups of sourdough, I add my cup of starter to 1 cup water and 1 cup of flour. I let it grow (usually overnight at about 75 degrees) and then take 1 cup of the sourdough which goes into the fridge until needed again for Sunday hotcakes or whatever else in the meantime. I don’t understand why you’d waste any.

    Comments?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Dennis, it sounds like we offer our sourdough a bit more food – since we feed it double the amount you do, by weight. But you’re right, doing it your way prevents any discards. And since it works so well for you – don’t change a thing! I’m going to try the non-discard method next time, and I’m betting it’ll work for me, too. Thanks – PJH

  56. Catherine

    I am going to do one last baking before I put my starter in the refrigerator for a couple days. Do I feed it first?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Catherine, you should always feed your starter before baking with it – unless you don’t care about its leavening power, and are using it only for flavor. Sourdough is happiest when it’s well-fed, and fed on a regular schedule; so if you have time to feed it, yes, go ahead and make it happy! PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Oh, sorry ’bout that – yes, feed it before you put it “back to bed.” It’ll be happier that way. Enjoy – PJH

  57. Teresa

    I love making my own Extra Sourdough Bread. Thank you so much for making it so easy! I’ve only had my starter set since Christmas and have baked two loaves already. Absolutely wonderful! I can have Extra Sourdough Bread when ever I want now. Yea!!!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Good for you, Teresa – thanks for sharing your success here. Happy sourdough baking in 2014 – PJH

  58. Terresa D.

    I’ve been maintaining my refrigerated starter for a while now. It’s vigorous but the consistency is more like a dough. I’m wondering if adding an additional tablespoon of water at each feeding would correct to problem.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, you can adjust the texture of your starter by reducing the flour, or increasing the water at its next feeding.~Jaydl@KAF

  59. Joan Maslin

    So happy the way this is going. I am on Day 6 and looks ready to go. Smells and looks perfect. However, I am not ready :). Going to keep feeding twice a day. The only pain is cleaning the container. I finally settled on using a 1 quart wide mouth canning jar covered with plastic wrap. Thanks for the great tutorials.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      So glad to hear it’s bubbling away nicely for you, Joan – I’ll bet you can’t wait for your first loaf of bread or batch of pancakes! Enjoy – PJH

  60. Clay Claborn

    You have already stated that the starter can be frozen but can I also do this with the discard if I don’t have time to make bread that day or a friend to give it to? Also, can I combine multiple “discards” if I continue to crunched for baking time? I just feel like I am wasting the discard if I throw it away without using it.
    Thanks so much.
    PS> Loving the starter and the website for information!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The short answer to your question is yes. However, I would not advise keeping lots of your discard, maybe 1-2 cups to use when needed. I would also suggest to keep it frozen separately as most recipes will only use 1-2 cups of unfed starter. Jon@KAF

  61. carolyn hubatka

    I purchased the starter and crock from KA flour and when I received them I put the starter in the freezer did not do anything to it, Today I took it out of the freezer so do I do the instructions on the side after it thaws or should I throw it away and get more or make my own. It had been in the freezer since 2010. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Carolyn, you might as well try it rather than just throw it away. I don’t hold out much hope for it, but sourdough can surprise you with its resilience. Give it plenty of time, some love, warmth, and food, and see what happens. Good luck – PJH

  62. Anita

    OK dumb question: We went away for the day and forgot to feed it today, lots of liquid on top, we just stirred it up and added more flour and water, is that ok…today should have been the day to use it and now how long until I can use it….

    Reply
  63. Barbara Bates

    I have just received my first sour dough starter, and have done me first feed. My question how long will me starter keep in the refrigerator between usages and how often should it be fed between bakings?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Feed or maintain that starter once a week for best activity and health of the starter. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  64. Kathy H.

    Hello!

    Received my sourdough starter (and crock) from KAF today & have some questions:

    1) The insert refers to a glass or ceramic bowl… can the KAF crock be used for all steps of feeding/storing the starter, or does it come in at a specific step?

    2) I like to use my bread machine to knead my dough… My dough cycle kneads for about 30 minutes, and then rises for about another 50 minutes or so. For the sourdough recipes included on the insert, should I remove the dough immediately after the kneading, and follow all rises, or consider the machine rise as the ‘first rise’?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      For feeding you are going to always want to use a bowl as the crock is too small to contain a recently fed starter. it is best to keep your unfed starter in the crock. Also, I would definitely just mix the sourdough in your machine. Once it is done kneading, remove and allow it to rise on your counter. Jon@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If your starter turns ominously pink or red; shows signs of mold growth with pink or green spots, or smells decidedly putrid, throw it away and begin again. Since we can’t see the white spot that your starter is showing you, or if you’d just be more comfortable with a fresh batch of starter – call our wonderful customer service reps at 800-827-6836 and we’ll get you a fresh new starter. We want to make you – and your starter comfortable and happy, happy. Happy Baking – Irene@KAF

  65. Kendra

    I fed my starter about 7 hrs ago and it is not moving very fast. It is cold here in Denver so I moved it closer to our fireplace. Do I need to discard some of it and feed it again?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kendra, the warmer you can keep it (high 70s is ideal), the faster it’ll grow. Let it rest overnight, see what happens. If it’s not showing any activity at all, then yes, try feeding it again, and perhaps leaving it inside your turned-off oven with the light on. Sometimes just the heat of the lightbulb is enough to get that yeast bubbling! PJH

  66. Tiara aka luvpyrpom

    It was nice to review the blog and comments. Today I used my unfed sourdough starter to make Belgian waffles. Not very sourdough flavor but a great way to use up my unfed starter. Definitely a keeper!

    Reply
  67. Jennifer Edwards

    I am having great success with my starter so far, and I’m on day 4. It’s bubbling up nicely, and more than doubling in size every 12 hours.

    My first question is – is it too active? I have it on a heating pad since the kitchen is on a drafty exterior wall, and the thermostat is set at about 68 degrees during the day, but I have to admit that the bubbling and volume are more than I expected. We’re also at about 3,600 feet elevation, in a very dry, high desert climate.

    My second (and last) question is – I’m tempted to use some of the discard now for some bread, but when I look at the instructions (as if we were on the 7th day), it says to feed it, and let it sit for 6-8 hours before using. Now, I’m an energetic bread maker, but after letting it sit, then mixing the bread and taking it through a couple of rises, I’ll be up until the middle of the night waiting for it to bake. If I wanted to start in the morning, how could I prepare the discard for baking? Or is it just ready as-is?

    I’m strangely excited about how successful this is so far! I just read another blog where the writer warns people to not try their own starter – just to buy one pre-made. It made me worry that I was being too ambitious for my first time out. Phooey I say :o)

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Jennifer! I’m glad to hear about the success with your starter. I would call our Baker’s Hotline so that we can chat about your options over the phone. 855 371 2253 Jon@KAF

  68. Lenora

    When the starter is on the counter and you say “cover it” does than mean with a lid or cloth? I have mine in a jar on the counter and it has started to smell like blue cheese and I was wondering if I shouldn’t have the lid on.
    Thank you

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I like to cover my starter loosely, Lenora – plastic wrap not tightened, a jar lid not screwed on but simply set atop the jar, or a crock with a non-airtight cover. That way there’s a good exchange of oxygen. Let your starter breathe for a few days, and see if the blue cheese aroma turns to something more vinegary, OK? Good luck – PJH

  69. jb

    Hello PJ!

    First, your blogs and answers to bloggers’ comments are as amazing and helpful as your recipes. Thank you for all you do for us home bakers!

    I’m an experienced bread baker but am venturing into my first sourdough project.

    I like sourdough bread pretty sour. Recipes such as KAF’s “Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread” call for adding of sour salt (citric acid). I developed a (non-sourdough) multigrain bread recipe in which I add a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar for flavor enhancement (for 3# of dough). That bread already has complex flavors from the grains and other things, though.

    My question: Would a little of some sort of vinegar do the same thing for sourdough as citric acid?

    Thanks!

    jb

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello JB! Yes, vinegar will work in a very similar way as citric acid. Feel free to use it and see how you like it in your sourdoughs. Jon@KAF

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Yes, it would – although it would take quite a bit more vinegar. I also fear that because of the amount you need to add sour flavor, you might weaken the gluten enough that the bread won’t rise as well. Give it a try and let us know how it goes, OK? I love the idea of adding a teaspoon of balsamic, for flavor enhancement – thanks for sharing that! PJH

  70. Ryan H.

    Hello!

    I have recently begun my first starter using KAF whole wheat to start and maintaining it at room temperature (in oven with light) with 12 hour feedings of KAF all purpose (1c flour + 1/2c water + 4oz starter). The first 24 hours the starter was looking pretty good, lots of bubbles forming. However, each feeding after the starter is looking less and less active, only a few bubbles and no sour aroma. I feel like I may be feeding it too much and not giving it a chance to get active. Should I base feedings on schedule, or by activity of the SD?

    On other thing I was wondering is, I use Natural Artesian water as this is the only non chlorinated water I keep in the house for drinking. This water has high alkalinity with a PH of 8.8. Could this be bad for the yeast? Any recommendations on what water to use?

    Thank you you in advance for your help. I can’t wait to be able to bake my own sourdough buns (SD really makes the best burger in the world!).

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Ryan, your alkaline water may be causing your starter trouble. I am not sure. You might consider buying a gallon of spring water and using that to feed your starter for a week. If it perks up, you might then be able to conclude that the alkaline water is harming the starter. ~Jaydl@KAF

  71. Deacon Allan J. Frederiksen

    I am new to this but after the first 24 hours and having followed the instructions to the letter there are slightly green splotches on the top of my starter. Since I have just discarded half that part has been discarded. I have now given it it’s first feeding. What should I expect?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Green or pink splotches are not our sourdough friends. Please call our customer service reps. at 800-827-6836 (tell them we had this “chat”) and we’ll replace that starter for you. Irene@KAF

  72. lindsey

    I’ve had a starter for about 2 weeks now. If I keep it in the fridge, can I use it more than once a week? I don’t use it enough to keep it out although i would like to use it more than once a week. Also, when I feel it it bubbles a lot, but I don’t really think it doubles in size. Also, after it sits and the liquid rises to the top there isn’t very much clear liquid. I’ve had starters before that had almost as much clear liquid as starter, but this one has maybe an eighth as much. is this a problem?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, you may store it in the frig if you are not a frequent baker (every day or every other day). It is Ok that is does not double in size every time. If you neglect your starter for a long period of time, the liquid increases. Try it sometime and you will see. Just stir it back in for a more tangy flavor or pour it off for a more mild flavor. Your choice! Elisabeth@KAF

  73. Laura

    2 questions –

    1. Is there an easy way to print these instructions as well as the following article on maintaining.

    2. My kids cannot tolerate regular wheat, and one can’t do commercial yeast. So, all I have to work with is spelt! And I’m planning to make bread with the starter with no store-bought yeast.

    Any extra tips/tricks?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Laura, unfortunately, there’s no easy way to print the instructions; though if I were you, I’d cut and paste the copy into a Word doc, and just print that. I’d say you’re in for somewhat of a challenge, using spelt; its protein is very mellow, and with the addition of the lactic and acetic acids produced by sourdough, I fear you’re going to have issues with the bread rising. Plus, without using commercial yeast, you’re going to have to let it rest a good, long time; and the longer it rests, the more acid, the more compromised the gluten… Anyway, not much you can do other than give it a try and see what happens, then try to make small changes along the way. One thing I can advise; don’t refrigerate the dough, as this tends to create more acetic acid than lactic, and as I understand it acetic acid is stronger and more injurious to gluten. Good luck – PJH

    1. Susan Reid

      No Beverly, not at all dumb! All they have to do is feed it like you’re going to feed the starter that you keep. It’s a long and cherished tradition to share starters with friends! Good for you. Susan

  74. Carie

    Hi I just found these instructions after working with my first starter. I started it with half whole-wheat/half AP flour, water and a little bit of sugar. It was quite vigorous and quite sour smelling after only 2 days. The instructions I had didn’t mention discarding some before feeding, so I’ve just been using it and then adding more flour and water after using it. Then I let it sit at room temperature for a bit before putting it in the fridge. When I add the “food” it always bubbles quite vigorously but I do notice that it doesn’t smell as sour. Does this mean the pH balance is off? I’ve made three different recipes so far and it always rises at the shorter end of the allotted time and has a decent sour taste. Is there anything I should be doing differently?

    FYI I’ve been adding 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. Mine has a very soupy consistency once I stir in the hooch. Is this okay?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Carie, sounds like you’re doing just fine with it – though a better proportion might be equal parts flour/water by weight, which would be 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup water. For more sour flavor, refrigerate your dough (either shaped or pre-shaping) overnight. But it sounds like aside from not smelling as sour, you’re happy – so maybe you just want to continue what you’re doing, eh? PJH

  75. Tea Berries

    I am having a really hard time with my sourdough starter and making the bread. The issues range all over the place.. so let me just list them off since they’re not really related:

    1. I’m part of a bread forum and getting information from well intended bread enthusiasts is as easy as choosing a religion. Everyone swears by their advice and everything ends with “trust me, this will work.” :) I’m not upset over it, but I just want a simple sourdough starter. I tried just mixing flour and water with a pinch of salt… it smelt like dirty (insert your expletive here). The yeast water I made smelled like a dead body after about 5 days of culturing it and changing out the water once. Is everything for sourdough supposed to be so rank? Does the rank stage pass and THEN you get sourdough starter? No one seems to talk about the stink. My end goal is the perfect sourdough baguette. That’s all. Nothing super hard or fancy.

    2. My sourdough starter is always tiny, frothy bubbles. Other peoples are big, airy holes. How do I get the big, airy holes? How do I get big, cavern-like holes throughout my SD starter rather than just pin-head frothy bubbles with a few “small” ones on the surface? I want the big, airy holes in my crumb.

    3. People pressure me about rye starter, but rye bread is too rich and dense for me, and rye starter sour’s amazing but has zero rise. When I tossed out 80% of the established rye starter and added AP to lighten up the mixture, I got ripped a new one by a few people. What’s with this mentality that a great SD starter has to be 100% rye? I don’t like rye enough to make mine all rye. I know starter with AP or wheat is possible, but it doesn’t seem to “sour” like I’d like it to. Not like the rye flour starter does. How long does it take for AP to turn into a great starter? And again, is the funk smell normal?

    4. Why do I always hear about pizza/bread stones cracking? Do you know? I just bought one and I don’t want it to break.

    5. Is using dry active yeast in dough considered sacrilege to making good bread? Is there any way to get the same crumb with no yeast additives?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      The perfect sourdough baguette is a fine goal – but not uncomplicated! Sourdough baking, while you’re in the learning curve, can be a long and winding path, as you’re finding out. Sometimes you get so deep into a subject, you need to just step back, forget everything everyone’s told you, and start from square one. Take a look at this Extra Tangy Sourdough Bread – is that the kind of bread you want (albeit in long, narrow baguette form, rather than a rounded boule)? If so, follow the directions in the recipe and blog to get there, including how to build your starter, and how to maintain it (the blog post you’re in right now). Remember, shut out everything everyone else has told you – there’s no baking moral high ground, nor any baking police. Follow the directions, step by step, and when you start to run off the track (as you inevitably will – we all do), call our hotline, 855-371-2253. OK?

      2. Now, the tiny frothy bubbles might simply signal your starter is a bit thin; try adding an extra tablespoon or two of flour when you feed it, see if that helps.

      3. The artisan bakers on our Bakery and sales staff include some of the best in the world, including veterans of the Coupe du Monde. Our Bakery director, Jeffrey Hamelman, is a Certified Master Baker, a very elite “club,” and absolute sourdough expert. Our Bakery doesn’t use a rye starter. OK? (And if you haven’t read Jeffrey’s book, I think you’d fine it very helpful. Check your library.)

      4. You always hear the bad news from people, not the good. I’ve been baking with this stone in my oven for years, and I’ve never broken it. Maybe the people who break them a) don’t follow the manufacturer’s directions, or b) bought cheap ones?

      5. No such thing as “sacrilege” in baking. People have used active dry yeast for years. Can you get the same crumb without yeast? Depends on the loaf; a fine-grained, high-rising, soft sandwich loaf, probably not. Can you get great crumb without ADY? Yes. Manage your expectations.

      Does this help? Have I talked you down? Sounds like you’ve been frustrated both by your own results, and by the people you’re listening to. Remember, our hotline bakers are a good resource; and they won’t “rip you a new one” – promise! PJH

  76. bampam1

    I’ve been away from bread baking for a year or so, and instead of discarding 1 cup after or before (can’t remember which) feeding, I put the discard in the freezer. How do I go about get this discarded starter back to its’ “ole self” again. Tried feeding another old frozen discard, and nothing happened, so I threw it away. Thanks in advance for your direction.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Use that discard (once thawed) in a recipe that calls for unfed starter. You can bring it back to life/activity by discarding half the unfed starter, feeding it 4 ounces flour and water. If the activity is sluggish, discard half and feed again. Often multiple feedings will revive starter, whether it was frozen or neglected! Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  77. Jason

    When I put my sourdough starter in the fridge for storage, what is the best way to store it, uncovered or covered? If covered, does it need to be airtight or loosely covered?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Your best option will be plastic wrap placed over the top, just make sure it is secured to the sides of the storage container. Happy baking! Jon@KAF

  78. KV

    A couple of times now I have forgotten and used our tap water to feed my starter. I’m sure it has some chlorine in it. The starter is only 4 days old, and although it gets bubbly between 12 hour feedings, it doesn’t seem to be growing a whole lot yet. Do I need to start over, since it has had some tap water in it? I think it might be fine, but would like to get an opinion before I invest a lot more time/flour into it.

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      I think if you switch to filtered water at this point, the starter might become more vibrant. I don’t think you’ll need to start over. ~Amy

  79. carladavehicks

    In the past, I adjusted on the fly, as I kneaded by hand when converting recipes to use sourdough.

    Now I want to use the bread machine in the dough cycle to knead.

    When converting volume type recipes to use sourdough, does one cup of starter replace 2/3 cup of flour & 1/3 cup of water?

    OTOH, do the embedded bubbles expand the starter (typically having doubled in volume) to the point that it make a cup of starter equal significantly less than that? Half of each?

    In other words, when using starter what adjustments to the recipe liquid and flour should be made.

    Same concern when converting European volume / formula breads?

    Any other issues / suggestions on using the bread machine in dough cycle?

    Can starter be used in full bake cycle of the bread machine?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you wish to use one cup of fed sourdough starter (8.25 ounces) in a recipe, you should subtract one cup of all-purpose flour (4.25 ounces) and one half cup of water (4 ounces) from the recipe.
      When you use your bread machine to knead dough, go ahead and lift the lid of the machine to check on the dough as it mixes. If it seems dry to you, do add a few extra Tablespoons of water, just as you did when you adjusted doughs, on the fly, when kneading by hand.
      You can also fully bake sourdough breads in your bread machine.~Jaydl@KAF

  80. Bonnie Anderson

    After back surgery in 2009, I lost my sourdough starter that I had for many years–it was fed with potato flakes. I cannot find a recipe that is fed with potato flakes, can you help me?

    Reply
  81. "Edie Newman"

    To keep my starter going, I replenish with equal parts of warm water and flour, let stand at room temperature, and then refrigerate. I continue this process each time I use it. I don’t discard any of it and I always have the same amount when needed. I bake bread at least once a week.

    Reply
  82. Sharayah

    Hi. My starter is just over a week old (11days). I have been maintaining it at room temp for this time. I live in Australia, so its hot at the moment, 30C/86F.
    My question is; when can I move my young starter to the fridge. I feel like I am wasting a lot of flour as I can only bake on the weekend, but I have read that you need to keep the starter at room temp for a month or so, is this correct? I baked with my starter for the first time a couple of days ago when the starter was 8 days old. The sourdough bread tastes fantastic but it didn’t rise very much, (during proving or in the oven).
    If I can move my starter to the fridge, how many hours do I leave it out of the fridge after feeding, before putting it in the fridge to live for a week? I have read to feed it then leave out for a couple of hr and I have also read to feed it and leave out for 12hrs. My starter reaches peak before 12hrs as it’s so hot in Australia. Does the starter need to reach peak before putting it in the fridge or should it be before peak so it still has some food available to it in the fridge? To me the second option makes more sense.
    Thank you for your help.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It can be very difficult to keep a sourdough under control in hot weather. When you do feed your starter in preparation for putting it in the refrigerator, please leave it out for just an hour or two before refrigerating it. It does not need to reach the peak of its ripeness before you refrigerate.
      Your starter will gain strength and maturity as it ages. Is it possible for you to store yours in a cooler cellar or air-conditioned room? A temperature in the 70 degree range Fahrenheit would be ideal. If you can’t find a cool room, you might consider using cold water and cold flour to feed your starter. This will help control the fermentation.
      You don’t need to feed your starter daily for a full month, but your starter will love you if you do.~Jaydl@KAF

  83. Loryn

    How soon after feeding a refrigerated starter can it be used? Mine had been fed within the week a couple of times. I fed it and left it out overnight. More than doubled in volume. Is it ready to use?

    Reply
  84. Bill Tilden

    I have abused my starter with leaving it out for days at a time at room temperature with no feeding.
    When I resume feeding I use Rye flour. I usually skim off the ugly stuff. I do notice that the smell is still fresh to me, maybe not to others. LOL
    However when I do bake a loaf it tastes vey acid or vinegary.
    Also though I do get a good rise for the loaf I would like a higher and fluffier
    loaf than I get.
    I have had this starter for months now and am using the wild yeast from the outside air and would like to keep it without having to start all over again.
    Any suggestions will be very appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Bill

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      Bill, the vinegary taste is from lack of sufficient/frequent feedings. At room temperature without daily feedings, the starter runs the risk of molding. If you are going to abuse and neglect, it’s best to at least refrigerate. The starter is more likely to bounce back and forgive that way. Even if kept in the fridge, the starter should be taken out, refreshed and fed at least once per week. ~Amy

  85. Matt

    I have kept a starter in the fridge for a year now and have been feeding it once a week. I tried to use it in a recipe yesterday and nothing happened. So I removed the remainder of the starter out of the fridge, fed it and left it sit out overnight at room temperature. I have slight bubbles, but the volume isn’t increasing. Is this starter dead?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Probably not dead, as you did get some bubbles, but definitely in need of TLC Matt. Try tossing all but 1/4 cup of your starter, then feed as usual. Let sit 4 hours, then repeat, tossing all but 1/4 cup. You may need to do this a third time but maybe not, if the starter has jumped back into shape after the second feeding. Fingers crossed for you! ~ MJ

  86. Eve Gordon

    I got the sourdough starter from King Arthur and have half that I maintain in the fridge, dividing it weekly (feeding the “discard” half and making pizza dough with it four hours later) and half that I maintain at room temperature. Nowhere on the instructions that shipped with the starter did it say anything about feeding the room temperature starter twice a day (which would certainly make it uneconomical to maintain). It only mentions feeding weekly. That said, I maintain my house at 67 degree F and have had no problems with the room temperature starter keeping bubbly (doesn’t even produce any hooch). Every other week I feed the room temperature starter without dividing it, and this hasn’t seemed to damage it either.

    Am I courting disaster?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Eve, we suggest feeding the starter weekly, because it is, as you point out, more economical for most home bakers. Refrigerating the starter between feedings slows down the rate of fermentation, and keeps the starter under control. That said, if your method is working well, keep going!~Jaydl@KAF

  87. Tabitha

    I just wanted to comment on how very helpful this entire website is and how thorough your directions are, plus the comments help trouble shoot!! I started a sourdough culture from scratch with your flour’s last week and after a few slow days (and I was really sure the entire time that I was not going to have the proper reaction) I diligently followed your instructions on how to feed, measuring, consistency, and temperature to one day I woke up to the starter overflowing on my counter!! (ok so my jar was too small but I still felt triumphant!!) I have never baked a sourdough from scratch (I have worked in several kitchens for years but they just dont make their own breads, so sad) and I have to say now that Ive made the loaf, and pretzels and buns with the “unfed” starter I am so happy I took the time to cultivate this and absolutely need to buy some of those starter jars bc nothing else is similar in a regular store!! LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS SITE!!

    Reply

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