Before you watch this video on sourdough starter maintenance, please know that it really isn’t a big deal to keep your sourdough culture alive and healthy. A good starter is naturally very hearty and robust. If I were as strong as my starter is, I’d be competing in Iron Man competitions. At a minimum, all you have to do is throw some flour and water in once in a while to keep it alive during periods when you’re baking infrequently. To keep it near optimum health, feed it once a week or so and keep it refrigerated.



If you’re baking regularly, say weekly or bi-weekly, it’s easy enough just to feed it after using the amount called for in your recipe before returning it to your refrigerator. If you really want to be sure your starter is in optimum shape, feed it once or twice the day before baking or the two days prior to baking day. In addition, here are a few points that are worth noting…

  • When you feed your starter, feed it with approximately equal weights of flour and water. That equates to about 2/3 to 3/4 cup of water for every cup of flour.
  • As a general rule of thumb, the amount you feed your sourdough starter depends on how much of it you have to start with. When practical, you want to approximately double the amount of starter you have each time you feed it. However, if you already have a couple cups of starter on hand and typically only use a cup of starter in your recipe, it doesn’t make sense to have to double the existing two cups of starter. In this case just dispose of a cup or more of the starter and then double what remains.
  • If it’s been a long time since you’ve fed your starter and you don’t plan on baking for a while, don’t feel like you have to go through a big rigamarole to keep it happy, just stir in a 1/2 cup of flour and about the same amount of water and forget about it. That will at least buy you a few more weeks before you have to worry about it again.
  • If you really don’t think you’re going to use your starter at all for a very long time, (some people don’t bake during the summer months, for example), you could dry some starter and freeze it. It will store this way indefinitely. Then revive it in the fall. See the videos on drying starter and reviving dried starter.
  • If you need a whole wheat or rye starter, it’s easy to convert your white flour starter by just a few successive feedings with the flour you want. You may have to adjust the water as some flours are thirstier than others.
  • Be sure to store your starter in a container that’s not air tight. This comment from Madelyn dramatically (and humorously) illustrates why.

I’m really belaboring this subject. Once you’ve played around with sourdough starters for a while and baked some with it, you’ll know all you need to know and develop a sense for what works best. If your bread is not rising as much as you think it should (you’re not getting the desired oven spring) then try what I said about feeding your starter a couple of times in the 12-24 hours before starting your recipe.

As with anything on this web site, if you have any questions or comments about anything please ask in the space below.

Jan 13, 2011 Update: In this video I mention a favorite recipe of mine that calls for 2 cups of sourdough starter. It’s been so long since I shot the video (and many favorite recipes ago), that I’ve forgotten exactly which recipe I was referring to. I do know it was in Ed Wood’s book,ย Classic Sourdoughs. He has many recipes in there that call for 2 cups of starter.

Managing Your Sourdough Starter

Comments from our Forum

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  1. saarsalem says:

    Is it okay if I leave my starter in room temperature all the time as long as i feed it once a day?

  2. Eric says:

    Yes. Some bakeries do it that way since they're using it daily. But it can be a little tricky unless you are using it to bake daily. If you're not drawing from it daily then just a little bit of feeding probably won't be enough and the right amount of feeding may result in you ending up with a ton of starter before long. It may just take some experimenting to find a routine that works for you and your starter.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I returned from vacation the other day and when I took my starter out of the fridge to feed it the top 1/2" had turned an unhealthy-looking bluish-grey color. Rather alarming! I skimmed the discolored portion off and fed the starter as usual, but is it safe to use...?

  4. Eric says:

    You did just the right thing. You might want to feed it once more now just for good measure, if you haven't already. Your experience isn't unusual and your starter will be fine. Not unsafe to use.

  5. Katrina says:

    I would like to give a friend some starter but have a couple questions. .. 1. should I feed my starter before I give it to her, or give her the cup unfed for her to feed? 2. If I do not feed it before I give it to her, how soon should she feed it? 3.Should she let it sit on the counter to bubble up before storing in fridge? 4.Lastly, I had read that a thinner starter will have a more sour flavor, is this true?

  6. Eric says:

    I would feed it before giving it to her and tell her she should keep it in the fridge and feed it again within a week. Then I'd direct her to this page so she can learn how to manage it.

    I've read that a thicker starter will produce a more sour flavor. open_mouth

  7. richard says:

    Jennifer, I can relate...I was horrified the first time I saw that blue-grey liquid, or "hooch", atop my very first jug of starter. And I'm certain it's a felony, the way I abuse and neglect my starter at times...but those wild yeast critters are amazingly forgiving, at least those here in the Pacific Northwest. So now I actually welcome that liquid because I learned that by stirring it back into its "mother" increases the sourness. I lost all fear of the hooch when I saw some Youtube instructor sipping it like a fine wine. Yeah, I did, too.

  8. jlynn550 says:

    I was told not to use anything metal on the sourdough starter. That by doing so it will prevent the dough from rising. Is this true?

  9. Eric says:

    There's probably no need to keep that much starter on hand unless you plan on starting a bakery. Since most sourdough recipes only call for a relatively small amount of starter, you might want to toss all but a couple cups at most. Besides taking up less space, you won't have to feed it as much to keep it healthy. Here's a page on sourdough starter management that might be helpful:, but the really rough answer to your question is feed it at least once a week and at least double it each time you feed it. That's why if you're not using it enough, you'll need to toss some periodically in order to keep the quantity manageable.

  10. ritchd01 says:

    I have purchased one of your dry sourdough starters. It is working beautifully but I'm still a bit confused about how to maintain. I have a scale so what I have been doing is adding equal amounts by weight of starter, water and flour. Is this correct? In other words I take 350 grams ( just using this figure) of sourdough, then add 350 grams of flour and 350 grams of water. Does this make sense? Is it also correct of me to think that you nearly always will have some starter to either give away or throw away when you feed your starter? Otherwise you will end up with too large a quantity.

Earlier Comments

1,522 thoughts on “Managing Your Sourdough Starter

  1. Chris Olsen

    Question? I know you are to feed your starter once a week. If I am out of town, will the starter die?

    • If you feed it really well before leaving and put it straight away into the fridge, it can go a lot longer than one week without dying. Even if you don’t feed it well before leaving it should still survive. People have abused their starter really badly and still revived it with a few feedings.

  2. Suze

    Hi All,

    Please help!
    I saw this question asked before but it was never answered. I started a potato starter, a Carl’s starter and a purchased GoldRush San Francisco sourdough starter, and a mix of potato starter and Carl’s about 10 days ago.
    They have a nice layer of hooch on top and smell wonderful but only the potato starter ever foamed up and doubled in size. I am afraid that might be because the temperature where they were sitting reached 90 degrees. None of the starters ever turned dark or had any type of mold.
    I fed them and put them in the fridge 3 days ago. Can I use them to bake bread or Are my starters bad?

  3. Hal McAdams

    It’s been about a month since I discovered your recipe and method and the bread is getting better and better. The starter is doing so well, I use it in pancake batter and breakfast fruit loaves such as apple, or banana bread.

    So far the liquid level on the top seems to be getting larger by proportion and I am wondering if I need to discard some of this or change the feeding of the starter. I take the big container out of the fridge, stir completely, take off about 500 ml to use in a recipe and feed the cold container some unchlorinated water and flour with a spoon of sugar, and back to the fridge. The 500 ml gets a teaspoon of flour and a spoon of water, it warms up and gets bubbly and added to the recipe for bread.

    Thank you

    • You need to feed your starter a lot more flour and water and perhaps more frequently too. Also, skip the sugar. In order to feed your starter a lot more without ending up with a ton of it, try to keep as small amount on hand as you can given your recipe needs and baking frequency. You may want to toss all but a very small amount and feed that. A healthy, well fed starter won’t form the hooch.

  4. Janine Read

    Greetings from Down Under! I’m very new at making sourdough bread – having never attempted it before this! Although I do make regular bread and rolls from scratch quite often. Using wheat grains which I had milled into flour in my Thermomix, I followed your pineapple juice sourdough starter recipe up to the part where you add 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water (rather than more pineapple juice). Everything seemed to go well up to this point – quite a number of small and medium bubbles happening – but I wasn’t sure what to do with it after that, as it hadn’t become spongy, just contained a small number of bubbles. Up to this point it had been sitting on my kitchen bench and then I took it away on holidays with us in our RV and put it in the fridge after adding the first mentioned dose of 1/2 cup flour and purified water. Am I supposed to refrigerate it immediately after feeding it each time, or should it stay at room temperature to gather more bubbles before it goes into the fridge? Should I toss this lot out and begin all over again, as it doesn’t seem to be doing very much, although I did feed it again this morning with another 1/2 cup of wholemeal flour and 1/3 cup water and it is sitting back on my bench at home now! It’s just the question of when it’s supposed to go into the fridge or if it needs to stay at room temperature after feeding that bothers me. Thanks for any tips you can give me!!!

  5. OliverJohnson

    Great advice and recipes. Thanks

  6. Rebekah

    After reading Madelyn’s story, I know to keep a loose covering like a coffee filter or sack cloth on the starter when its a room temp so it can breathe; however when in the fridge, should it be kept in an air tight container? Thank you!

  7. Vivien

    My starter looks like a pancake batter with little bubbles. It is not as thick as other starters I’ve seen. I don’t think it raised much ever since it produced hooch. I’m a little worried that 6 days of care is going to waste. Please tell me there’s still hope!

  8. Jess

    Hello, What a great website! I have been following another starter recipe and not much action so far, finally on day 5, some bubbles. Now, I have added flour and have more starter, but not because it is rising, just because I’ve added more to feed it. My question is, do I keep feeding it the same amount (1/2 cup flour) or increase the amount to feed the larger quantity? Thank you so much!

    • Good question. Ideally, you want to at least double your starter with each feeding. Since that will quickly become a ton of starter, you want to try and keep a relatively small quantity so if you have to feed it a couple times between baking, you can feed it a decent percentage of what you’re starting with, without ending up with a truck load of it. You might have to dispose of starter before feeding to accomplish this objective.

  9. Meryl

    I ordered the sourdough starter and jar. The jar says it’s hermetically sealed, but the instructions say not to store the starter in an airtight container. How should the jar be used? If I leave the rubber gasket off, will it not be airtight, and work as it should?

    • Hi Meryl,

      Just leave off the gasket. Latching the jar with the rubber gasket removed helps to protect your starter from airborne contaminants, prevents starter from drying out and allows adequate air passage.

  10. Bethany

    Hello. Your website it great! I started my own sourdough starter and the first time I made a loaf, it turned out great. I then put the starter in the fridge till I used it again and I followed all your advice for that. The last loaf I made seems to be more flat. What could I have done wrong?
    Also, can I use the starter in place of any recipe that calls for instant yeast? If so, how much do you use in replace of it?

    • Hi Bethany,

      It’s hard for me to say, but before baking with starter it’s usually a good idea to feed it well the day before or maybe even several hours ahead of time. If the starter rises well, then so should the bread. If it doesn’t then hold off on baking until you’re able to revive your starter to its former robust self.

      You can substitute sourdough starter for most any commercial yeast recipe but there’s no rule of thumb on quantity. There are too many variables. So you just have to take a guess and adjust through trial and error. Starter also doesn’t behave the same. It typically acts a lot slower, for example, so you also have to adjust your expectations.

  11. kimberly

    what if pink stuff grows inside the jar above the starter? not on the starter but on the jar…..

    • Scoop out the starter, being careful to leave behind the mold, and put it in a clean container and feed it.

  12. Your starter appears to be much more liquid than mine. When I add the recommended amounts of flour and water to mine it’s so thick I can’t get the flour incorporated, so I usually add just enough water so I can mix in the flour, but I definitely couldn’t pour it out of the jar. Is it ok to add more water? It seems that it would be easier to use if it was a little thinner. I’m just starting out and haven’t baked anything yet, but am excited to give it a try! Hopefully tomorrow! Which brings up another question. Can I bake with my starter the same day I feed it? Thanks for all your terrific videos!

    • Hi Britiney,

      From the sound of it, I think you should add a bit more water so it’s somewhere between what you have now and what mine looks like in the video. I actually keep mine more on the stiff side. More like a wet shaggy dough than a pancake batter. It shouldn’t be so stiff that it’s difficult to incorporate more flour. There’s also a wide range of what’s workable so you should be able to easily find a consistency that feels right for you.

      It’s fine (good, actually) to feed your starter the same day as when you use it, but it typically takes at least a few hours at room temperature for it to assimilate (digest) its meal. So after you feed it, wait for it to rise back up and get bubbly and spongy.

      • Thanks so much for the quick reply! I’m going to try the no-knead recipe, so fresh bread tomorrow!!!

    • wolverine1012

      I have some starter that I have admittedly neglected. It’s been refrigerated and was fed today. I’m leaving it out on the counter overnight. How can I tell if it’s still viable?

      • If it rises and gets bubbly and spongy then it’s alive and probably doing well.

  13. Joyce

    Why are there no biscuit or dinner roll recipes? Is there something about sourdough which prevents use that way?

    • You can make sourdough anything. Dinner roll and busciut recipes are just a couple of the countless recipes we’d love to get into time permitting.

      • Janice

        Is it possible to make sourdough quick breads, cakes and gingerbread?

        • Sure. You’d just have to do some experimenting to come up with a recipe that you like.

  14. Mary

    I want to use my starter to make a biscuit recipe tonight. I did not feed it (oops) but have plenty of containers of it. Do I need to feed it to use it?

  15. Carlos

    If you’re baking on your day off don’t throw away any starter …make some sourdough pancakes to start the day

  16. Tracey

    Hi, I was just given my first sourdough starter. The recipe that came with it states to feed my starter with potato flakes, sugar and water. I would much prefer to feed it with flour and water as your video states. Are there different kinds of starters? Can I change the ingredients I feed my starter with and not cause it harm?
    Thanks for your help!
    Great website!

    • Hi Tracey,

      Starter can be sustained well with a diet of just about any carb, whether it’s potato flakes, rice, any of a wide range of wheat flours and a lot more. I don’t see the point of using sugar unless there’s some reason to accelerate the fermentation process. Yes, there are different kinds of starters. A starter can be fed and managed in infinite ways. Personally, I like to keep it simple with wheat flour and water, fed often enough to keep it healthy.

      • sean

        What if I had something come up (funeral) and forgot our start for way to long it has mold on the sides and a little Orange on one side I just found it and took some to try to wake it up is it possible?

        • Sure, it’s possible. Feed it a few times and see what happens.

  17. JoAnne

    Hi, I am new to sourdough and just received your fresh starter on Sunday. Everything went well and it is now in the fridge. I am going to be doing some daily baking for a couple of weeks. Should I just keep it out at room temp on the counter and keep feeding it daily?

    • Hi JoAnne. Daily baking is one scenario where keeping your starter at room temp with daily feeding can work. If it seems your starter is beginning to lose a little of its oomph, you might want to split some off into another container, feed it well and put in the fridge. A healthy starter doesn’t take long to resume it’s vigorous ways after it’s removed from fridge, warmed up and maybe fed a bit more. There’s no set in stone way to manage starter. It won’t take you long to judge any needed starter adjustments as you go.

  18. S.R.

    Very helpful site. I am a beginner with sourdough and the info is just what I needed!

  19. Loretta

    After you store the started in the fridge, what do you need to do in order to prepare if for its use and baking bread? Why do you need to feed it before baking and not after? You mentioned that the containers should not be perfectly sealed, but it seems that your are air-tight? Thank you.

  20. Colin

    Good morning.
    I’m from Australia, Perth, Capitol of Western Aust. I have searched the net for weeks to find all the guff on sourdough bread and how to Start and care for a “Starter” Your videos would undoubtedly be the best so far but I
    I’m still a little bemused as to why it’s so important to throw half of it away each time it’s fed???
    During my many searches I still have 2 basic queries about making sourdough bread. How does one know when the starter has Brewed sufficiently and is strong/robust enough to do the job. With beer brewing one can measure the Specific gravity, how do measure the active yeast content?? Secondly how much starter is used to make the loaf?? e.g. 1 cup starter 2 cups flour.

    • Hi Colin,

      Sourdough baking is a lot less demanding than beer brewing. The easiest way to know when a starter is ready to be used for baking is when it rises well after feeding, it the starter rises, so should the bread dough.

      There’s no set ratio of flour to starter for a recipe. It’s whatever the recipe calls for. It ranges a lot.

      The idea behind tossing starter with each feeding is simply to keep from accumulating a truck load of it. It’s often possible to manage the baking and feeding schedule to minimize or eliminate the need to throw any away.

    • Chris

      Chad Robertson the guru behind the Californian bakery Tartine says the starter is ready when a teaspoon of it floats in room temperature water.

    • Dorothy Kirkaldy

      Hi Eric I notice that you store starter in covered jars. My understanding has been that you cover your starter with a cloth. Should a covered jar be used? Dorothy, Perth, Western Australia

      • Hi Dorothy,

        I’m sure people do it all kinds of different ways. I think a cloth would tend to allow the starter to dry out too much.

    • Peggy

      i was given some sourdough starter with a recipe for feeding which requires sugar. Do I have to add sugar each time? I would like to make some savory breads, too.

      • Hi Peggy,

        There’s no need to use sugar for feeding starter. If the bread recipe calls for using sweetener, that’s a different thing.

    • Leif

      I’ve been confused about maintaining a starter for a while too. Here’s what I do… I keep 1000 grams of starter in my fridge, because that’s the quantity I use to make bread every week. (it’s actually about 1040 grams). Friday evening I take the starter out and set it on the counter, twelve hours later, Saturday morning, I mix the dough up and use 1000 grams of starter. Even if I had exactly 1000 grams and I had to scrape the container nearly clean, that’s enough leftover to keep your starter going. So I add 500 grams of water and 500 grams of flour (usually ~512 grams and ~512 grams, because I go over a little bit intentionally so there is slightly more than 1000 grams). I then put it back in the fridge until next week. I hope this helps. I too thought it wasteful to dump half, especially when making enough for 4 loaves.

      • larry

        Leif, can you send me your recipe? That looks amazing!!! My mouth is watering.

  21. Sherry

    Hello! I want to use my starter w/o having to take it out the night before. May I take it out of the frig in the early am, feed it, and use it in the afternoon?

    Also, do you have any hints on how to make my recipe a little more “sour” for the bread? Thank you for your help.

  22. Sue

    Message I received my starter and it’s now my third day. I have some questions. 1. how long and how much/how often do I continue feeding? 2. How long do I have to wait to use it? You refer to having 1 to 2 cups of starter – I assume the measurement is based upon the content before it rises? I see recipes for Tutti Fruitti, etc…..I just want to make old fashioned basic sourdough bread like I get in San Francisco… you have a recipe for that? I am sure you have probably received these questions numerous times but I could spend hours searching this website. I would recommend a Frequently Asked Question/answer section. I have never attempted bread making and would like to know all the details necessary. Besides, m y 95 year old mother is anxious to have some sour dough bread!!!

    Thank you,

  23. schleps

    i have managed to get a healthy starter and i would like to refrigerate it as you suggest so I don’t have to feed it everyday. Each time I feed it (every 3-5 of days?) I will be doubling its weight so how often should I reduce it?

    For example, if I have 100g of starter in the fridge and in 3 days feed it a total of 100g (total 200g), then 3 days later feed it 200g (total of 400g), then 3 days later feed it 400g (total of 800g) , 3 days after that should i then remove 700g, leaving 100g and start again? Basically, do I maintain the same feeding (and reducing) schedule I used when beginning the starter but instead of doing it every day, spread it out over a week?

    Thanks for your help and thank you for the excellent advice on the site.

  24. Ichiyo

    My starter smells ok but it is liquid and no bubbles. It was once bubbly at the second step on Breadtopia sourdough starter packet instruction. Does it mean it is dead? How can it be revived?

  25. Ro

    I never know when I am going to make bread, usually 2 or 3 times a week. Should I leave my starter out at room temp all the time? If so, should I feed a once a day?
    Thank you

  26. Francie

    Hi GREAT VIEDO. I THINK IT DID ANSWER MY QUESTION, DO you~~sorry for the caps ~~ have to keep the developing starter in the dark? No?
    I also understand it will smell funny when it is first starting, right? I am a totally new at this thanks for your time!!

    • It doesn’t have to be in the dark.

  27. Stu B

    Add some more flour to make your dough a little more dough like and not batter like. Knead it a little, 2-3 min. then a few stretch and folds, shape a ball, rise it on the cloche then bake initially covered then finished uncovered.

  28. Denise

    How can I get my bread to rise??? I have a good bubbly starter and make sure the cloche is piping hot – the bread tastes good but is quite flat – any tips. I am using the recipe that somebody on this site gave me – very wet dough – no kneading which has been so easy and does work but results in a flat loaf!!

    • Hi Denise,

      Very wet dough will pancake out on you if the container you’re baking it in does not shore up the dough. Some baking vessels are better suited than others for this. The oblong cloche, a 4 qt Dutch oven, a properly sized Romertopf baker or the Bread Dome are shaped to force an upward rise.

      You can also just add more flour. There’s a happy medium where the dough can be wet enough to still be no knead but stiff enough to give a better rise. Practice is about the only way to get it right.

  29. Jan

    When do you answer the questions? My question is there, but no answer!!! Do you feed your starter and then take out what you need for the bread or do you take out what you need and then feed it? I feel like I’m just feeding and feeding and don’t know when to use!

    • Anna

      Hi Jan,
      I sort of had the same question you do…and no answer, so I just jumped in and did what I thought was correct, and so far I’m having excellent results. Here is what I do:
      First I made sure my starter was “strong”, at least doubled in size and really bubbly about 3-4 hours after feeding. If your starter has been fed regularly (Q 12 hrs.) even if you refrigerate it, it will still be bubbly and grow. If your starter meets those criteria’s….then, it’s ready to use. Just take the amount of starter you need for your recipe (always leaving behind enough starter as your seed).
      I have been baking bread once a week. I took my very active starter, after using it for a recipe I put it in the refrigerator until the next week. The day before I’m going to use it I take it out of the refrig and let it come to room temperature. Then I give it one feeding and “voilร ” it’s ready to use later that evening for my no knead recipe.
      Hope that helps! just jump in and give it a try ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Jan

        Thank you so much Anna! Did as you said and oh boy! Perfect bread!!!!! This made all the previous failures worth it!!!! Passing this information on to daughter and granddaughters. It just seems like some information is left out for the beginners and it becomes rather confusing. Glad I kept searching–I just knew somebody would make it clear and so simple. Thanks again! And this site is awesome for sure!


  30. Vicki

    I made my first loaf of sourdough with the starter I purchased from your website. While it tastes great, it’s not as strong of a sourdough flavor as we like. Is there any way to make the starter have a stronger flavor?

  31. Anna

    Sorry for this basic question… but I’m having a hard time figuring out when the optimal time to bake with my starter is? I have read so many different opinions that I am now totally confused. My starter is pretty well established, I have been feeding twice a day, it’s really active about 4 hours after feeding, is that the best time to use it? also if I want to refrigerate my starter how long after can I use it to bake? I feel like all I’m doing is caring for the starter and I can’t figure out the jumping off point of using it to bake. Thanks in advance!

    • Lili

      Hi, thank you for helping me give life to a healthy sourdough starter! ๐Ÿ™‚
      I intend to bake a loaf every second day approximately, would you recommend I keep my starter at room temperature at all times or still store it in the fridge? Thanks

  32. Alex

    Started my first sourdough starter 4 days ago. Everything was going well but when I went to look at it today the top had a very slight pink tinge. The rest of it was fine. It smelled very vinegar-y, not spoiled.

    I am really disappointed that it might have gone bad.

    As an additional note, my husband accidentally stirred it with metal, I know that should be avoided but don’t know how bad it is…

    Could it possibly be fine?

    • Where has it been during these 4 days? In fridge or sitting out?

      Metal is not a problem.

      • Alex

        It has been sitting out

        • It may be that you just need to feed it more often. Unless you’re feeding it a couple times a day, starter will start growing all kinds of gross mold if it’s not refrigerated between use and feedings.

          You might be able to save it if you feed it (refresh it) with several feedings in rapid succession. I would toss all but a tablespoon or 2 and build that up by doubling a few times with twice of 3x/day feedings. Once it’s bubbly, spongy and clear of pink mold then keep it in the fridge between feedings.

          • Alex

            Thanks a lot! Will do!

  33. Ashlee

    I love this site, thank you Eric. My starter is brilliant, about 3-4 yrs old now. When I made my starter I read that you can throw a few whole red grapes in with the flour and water instead of juice. I believe the white powdery stuff on the grapes is natural yeast. Anyway, that’s how I made mine. I left the grapes in for a couple of days and then took them out and pretty much did what Eric did.

  34. Clifford


    I took a sour dough bread workshop and was given a 1:5:5 ratio for feeding starter ( Starter:Flour:Water). Should I use yours instead? This ratio works but makes large starters. I’m just beginning to bake and its cumbersome.

  35. Vera Zabloudil

    I have had my starter for about 8 days. Feeding it every day 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup spring water. I probably have about two cups. But it smells like vinegar?.. Is it ok? When do I use it. I have kept on the kitchen counter. Should I have refrigerated it?

    • Patricia

      You’re good. A fresh starter can smell pretty sharply acidic. It all depends on the critters in your environment, and everyone’s yeasts and bacteria are different. If you see mold, then you’ve got a problem and need to start over, but a vinegary smell should be fine. As the mother matures, the smell should even out.

      Leaving it on the counter is fine, too; it just means you’ll have to feed it more often — every couple of days instead of once a week. If you see it suddenly deflate, it’s time to feed it (kind of like me around 2 pm, lol.) It’s helpful to have it out if you bake several times a week, but if you’re a once a week or less baker, you’ll want to refrigerate it eventually. You need to let it mature for about a month before using.

  36. Priscilla

    Hi there
    My husband has decided to use the whole starter into the bread dough and the take out a ladleful after the first proof. This is instead of our biweekly feed in the jar. So pours all the starter into the flour, adds water, kneads it, proofs, then takes out a bit to put in the jar and puts aside, then adds the salt if using does the second proof. The starter in the jar is put in the fridge. Would that affect the strength of the starter if he renews it like that rather than feed it in the normal way?

    • Interesting question. Is he putting salt in the bread? If so, when?

      • Priscilla

        Yes. He puts the salt in after the first rise and he takes out the dough to keep as a starter.

  37. Charlie

    I recently moved to Conifer Colorado, and took my Sourdough starter along. I feed it, and stir until it has grown and bubbled happily, but when I make bre4ad it is heavy and granular. So I’ve tried kneading it more and making sure the loaf has at least doubled, taking my time and hoping, still same results. Any suggestions?

    P.S. the birds seem to love it.

    • Charlie

      Ooops, Forgot My home is now at 9,280 feet Altitude.

      • Alyssa

        I used to live in Florissant, CO and found that you need to have dough that is so wattery it just looks wrong. Your liquid is going to evaporate quickly making a very dense bread. I actually almost exclusively made no-knead bread because you can’t knead liquid very easily.

        Good luck! Pie in the Sky is an excellent book with all kinds of tips.

        • Marcy

          I live in Divide, CO at 9200 ft., and I have found I need to use an electric bread machine for the exact reason Alyssa says. In order to get the dough to work at that altitude, you almost have to double the amount of liquid you use, or your bread will be used as a doorstop rather than as a food. There are a lot of high altitude recipes out there, but the best place to check is the CSU Extension Service.

          Hope this helps!

          • Charlie

            Thank both of you for what guidance you had. Will be trying variations on that almost natter bread you recommended. Also the Colorado State reference was appreciated. I have a few ideas now to get an airy loaf op0f bread versus the brick.

  38. Hila

    Thank you so much for your helpful video! I have a batch of starter that I’ve recently created, and have had 2 successful bakings with it. I normally keep it in the fridge and feed it 1-2 times a week. I have 3 questions… 1. If I want to bake, I understand from your video that I feed it to double the quantity the day before, and let it sit out overnight or so. Can I do this every day? 2. When it’s out, how do I cover it? Is a cloth towel ok? 3. When it’s in the fridge just “keeping alive” – how do I cover it? Does it need to be in an airtight container then? Thank you very much!

    • Hila

      Clarification – I mean, if I want to bake every day – can I just feed it the night before and take out what I need in the morning. TKS!

  39. richard

    I have a starter that is very old from Tuscany, I am still travelling and adding organic whole grain flour and glass bottled water every day, I throw out half and add more water and flour, it smells ok and looks ok, how do I know it is alive and will work?

    thank you

    • Michelle

      From what I understand, if your starter does not start to bubble and move around on it’s own after about 5 hours, it is no good. If it does, it is still good. If it has a rancid smell or is pinkish or discolored then it is bad also

  40. kathnell oshea

    Very pleased to have discovered you folks–your videos are fantastic–products are great–my I have a copy of Erics,’ receipe for sourdough bread that calls for two cups of sourdough starter–or where to find it–many thanks–Kathnell

  41. Luc

    Hi, thanks for the great website. I’ve been making no knead sourdough bread for almost two years now and I bake several times a week.

    About a couple of months ago, I started getting a greyish coloring in my starter and even after reading some stuff about it on the web, I’m not quite sure what I’m doing wrong. Of course, I can still make bread and other stuff with it cause it’s working fine, but the color bothers me as if I’m not feeding it the right way. Also, the odor of my sourdough isnt only sour, it’s stronger than that, kind of reminds paint!

    Anyway, if you have any idea what I could be doing wrong, I thank you for your assisatance.

  42. Anthony

    Hello, I have been storing my starter for a few months and have not fed it lately. It smells Ok but a dark liquid has formed on top. Is the starter still OK to feed again ?

  43. Ashley

    Hi, I’ve got a question. Can you leave your starter on the counter and just feed it once a week? I’ve seen different opinions all over the internet and wondered what you thought about it. I’ve seen some say you can leave it out but feed it twice a day, others saying they feed it once a week. Then others saying refrigerate it and feed it once a week, and others saying feed it once a day and don’t refrigerate it.

    ….is it one of those “opinion” things and up for experiment or is there a more appropriate guideline to follow? Refrigerate or done, feeding once a week or not kind of protocol.

    I am excited to get into sourdough and making all sorts of things, but maintaining a starter intimidates me, I’m a busy mom of 4 young kids and tend to not do well with things that are high maintenance with my crazy schedule.

    Love your site by the way, SO glad to have found you! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for any help you can give me on this topic.

    • Hi Ashley,

      I’m firmly in the refrigerate and feed at least weekly camp. I don’t think there’s any way around daily (once or twice) feeding if it’s left on the counter. Given your lifestyle, you pretty much have to go the fridge route or you might as well figure you have 5 kids ;-).

      • Ashley

        Thank you! That’s the route I’ll take then. One last question, can I use my starter the day after I started it or should I wait for the first week to go by before using any of the starter? I hate throwing it away, but I have seen some places say that it’s not established enough the first week to use it yet. What do you think? Thank you again. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • The real test is if it rises well within a few hours of feeding. It should tell you when it’s ready. It usually does take at least a few days to get there.

          • Ashley

            Can I ask one more question? For the first week while you’re getting your starter established can you leave it out and feed it twice a day or so and just add equal amounts of flour and water to the starter without having to take a portion of the starter out each time?

            • Anita

              You don’t have to discard or remove some of the starter, but if you don’t, you will end up with a huge amount! I have tried to use it all up, but it is very dificult. When you are just beginning to make it from scratch yourself, it ususally takes several weeks of feeding twice a day to get peak activity, and you really need to double the amount that you are working with to get the best results. Here is a link to a good explanation of the process -

  44. Noni

    I bought some starte from you a few months back, but so far have not yet had a successful loaf. But I have been a bit sporadic with it and sometimes forget to feed the starter for awhile.
    Recently I noticed that it is forming a pinkish skin on top. Is this ok? I think it happens when I don’t refrigerate the starter. I usually remove the skin and stir in the liquid and then feed it. I live in Florida.
    Thank you

    • Michelle

      it is not good. you must refrigerate the starter. you can make a starter very simply on your own. throw it out and start over.

  45. Angela


    I have the starter on day 2 only.

    When I would like to bake bread, I take it out for a day or two and feed it everyday, is that right?

    Then do I feed it again and leave it outside at room temperature and when do I put back in fridge?

    I don’t bake bread every week.

    Thank you very much


  46. Robert

    My starter formed a skin on top. Should I start over? I started it 6 months ago and used it weekly. No problems. The loaf last week was really sour. This week I went to use and this skin had formed. Seems quite tough. It does not dissolve in water. I maintain in a half gallon cookie jar, because of the lid allows gas to escape. I did not refrigerate. I store in the basement. The basement area is low light and cool.

    • I would toss the skin and feed the rest. Once you’ve got it back to a healthy state, store in the fridge between feedings and use.

  47. Adrea

    Hi, when I feed a starter the day before baking, do I leave it out at room temp until the next day?

  48. Cath Hitchens

    Started to make a sourdough starter on Sunday .It smelt okay until yesterday when it started to develop a brown liquid on the top.
    It doesn’t seem to bubbly today.I fed it last night as usual.
    What am I doing wrong and can I save my starter,
    Many thanks Cath

    • It may be too late to help you this time, but when you say that you “started to make a sourdough starter on Sunday”, do you mean that you literally were starting from scratch on making a new starter on that Sunday? New starters often take a while to get well established and strong. They require frequent feedings. During the process of getting them going, it’s not all that uncommon for hootch to form (the brown liquid (alcohol) on top). You can just pour that off and proceed with the next feeding.

      Also, even if you’re doing everything right, getting a starter going doesn’t always work and you end up having to start over.

      • Tanya

        does it matter if you stir that hooch in?

  49. Crabtree

    Please advise- at what point is the best time to use fed starter. I think sometimes my bread fails because it was to far past proofing. Do I need to use it at the peak of proofing. Give me a clue..

    • Anita

      Hi Crabtree- I try to use my starter in a recipe within 2-3 hours of when it doubles after feeding it. I use a measuring cup or container that I mark with tape to show how much it has risen. When it starts to fall, or collapse, I know it is ‘hungry’ and ready to ‘feed’ with the recipe ingredients. I have also used refrigerated starter that is a week or less old- it slowly rises in the refrigerator and seems to keep its potency for several days. The key, of course, is that the mother starter needs to be very strong and active to begin with.

      • Crabtree

        Thanks Anita. I have been baking sourdough bread off and on for years. I will feed a starter for a week, twice daily and it will look, proof and smell awesome. I get good rise on my dough and have used many recipes. I just can not get a great result in finished product. I get a semi-dense bread. I want the perfect, big texture (holes). I get a little let down and try again down the road. I do have good flavor and still make some great sourdough pancakes. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Anita

          Yes, I understand what you mean. I am very similar in my occasional baking habits, so I have to constantly check my notes from previous bakes. I also had many dense loaves from overproofing , or not being home at the right time to put it in the oven. I also don’t bake the exact recipe every time, I like to experiment, so sometimes I add wheat gluten, diastatic malt, or barley malt syrup with whole grains. I’ve also tried potato water, buttermilk, and vinegar. Most importantly, I try to let the dough only rise about 2/3 or so, while having a preheated oven so I can bake immediately and get a good oven spring. Also the wetter doughs seem to get the bigger holes, so I use the stretch and fold method in the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Rising temperature is key too. Once you have everything else under control, I think it’is mainly a ‘when-you-bake’ timing issue that affects the results. BTW, there’s a great recipe/technique that is easy, very reliable and allows you to use any amount of starter that you want. It’s called the 1-2-3 method and originated with a French woman – you can search online. I’d like to hear how your next bake goes-

          • Crabtree

            Thank you Anita- You have been very helpful. It is great to go over results. I will look into 1-2-3. I will let you know how I do. Have you ever had a great loaf of sourdough with chewy, sour and big hole? I can see how refrigeration and wetter dough might suspend or capture bigger holes. Thanks again.

            • Anita

              Yes, a ciabatta type in loaves and rolls a few times that was chewy, airy, big holes, but only a little sour. I would have to make it again to tell you the exact recipe. But I think that overnight refrigerator rise, using a baking stone, high temperature, steam in the oven, not overproofing, all contribute to a better result. I try to eat healthier, so don’t make white bread very much, even tho it is my favorite.

  50. CharlieD

    I’ve been working sourdough for a while, in Metro-Denver, Now live at 9,280 Feet and am wondering what I might want to do different. My current starter isn’t very active.

    I know one seems to need to add more flour but not sure the proportion.

    Thanks for your assistance


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