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, 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. Madelyn

    I bake rye bread all the time. I started off using Bob’s Red Mill rye flour, but then switched over to Hodgson Mill. I had a similar problem when I first started using Hodgson Mill until I discovered that I had to raise the temperature during the first couple hours. This seemed to be key. I have a proofing setting on my oven. If the room temperature is not warm enough (70 might be too low) I will put the dough in there for about 1 hour on proofing and then turn the oven off. Once its gotten started, it seems to rise on its own, but it seems to need a nice warm (not too hot!) place to get started. A few days ago it was downright hot here. I had a few rooms that were on the warm side and the dough was fine there. Did not need my oven to kick start the yeasties. The way I tell is is after an hour or two its not doing anything then that’s a bad sign that tells me I have to take some action to find a warmer place.

  2. Hi David. Controlling the degree of sour is one of the most challenging things to take on in sour dough baking. Madelyn’s advice is the best you’re going to hear I think.

  3. Madelyn

    I’ve gotten some pretty sour sourdough using my starter. My starter itself didn’t sour, but it happens in the fermentation or proofing time for the bread dough. I was told use less starter and longer proofing / fermentation time (cooler temps, you can refridgerate) will produce a sourer sourdough. Worked for me as I have friends I bake bread for who said “too sour” so I adjusted my technique for them, though if I want to make a sourer style bread for us I know I can. I did use the recipe with the vinegar a few times, though if you are a purist and don’t want to ‘cheat’ with the vinegar, I’d try less starter and longer proofing. Try this before you give up.

  4. David

    I GIVE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    No matter what I seem to do, my starter will not sour.

    I have kept the starter in the oven with the light on (85 degrees) for 10 days now, I feed the starter every 12 to 24 hours, it is alive and very healthy and I just made bread and it is not sour at all.

    I guess I am not supposed to have sourdough bread.

    Years ago I made my own sourdough starter from scratch and had very sourdough bread from that starter.

    No matter what I seem to do I can’t get the starter I have now to sour at all. Nothing. Nada! Rien n’a changé.

    I give up on the starter. I want to dump it all down the drain, wash my container, and say good riddance to it all.

    I am extremely disappointed. I long for the sourdough taste in my bread but I can’t get my starter to sour.

  5. Clark


    I made my first starter about 6 weeks ago. The first time I made bread it was very good, but it took about 3 hours for the dough to rise. I’ve made bread twice since then and each time it has risen less. My last batch hardly rose at all in 4 hours. I’ve been feeding it about once a week. Should I just leave it alone for a bit? I would like to use it every week or two.

  6. Ann

    Thanks for your explanation of the process. I am happy to say that I have achieved success in reviving my starter. It took a few days of work but this morning it’s doubled in size and looks great! Makes me happy. I will make the bread tomorrow so keep your fingers crossed. I think it was just too wet. I added more flour each time to get it to a more pasty consistency. I think I will make pancakes tomorrow too!

  7. At the outset, let me tell you, I had the same issues when first making my starter back in February. I have read a lot and experimented much and this is what I did to correct the problem and what I do now with very consistent and happy results.

    1. First you need to know there are two kinds of starters as far as consistency is concerned:
    a. Batter type which looks a lot like a thick pancake batter; and
    b. Solid type which looks like wallpaper cleaner, just not quite that hard and is quite gummy and sticky.

    2. Too much flour or too much water can kill the starter. There is a happy range of hydration, albeit a broad one, but if you go too far in either the dry or wet direction, you will not achieve the results you seek. Look for certain tell-tale signs that will help you determine whether you have the right hydration. Too wet is reflected in having standing water (as opposed to the occurrence where a proven starter has sat in the fridge for ten days or more and has separated from its liquid and solid components and a gray liquid called “hooch” has formed on top. Here you just stir the hooch back into the solid mass below it and it returns to its normal state.) The too much water I’m talking about for your benefit is when you are first mixing up the starter and after a few hours or the next day you find an ⅛ to a ⅓ of an inch of standing water–that’s a sure sign of too much water.

    Too dry is another condition you do not want and it’s signs are excessive flour on the bottom of the container or on the sides that have not become incorporated into the starter mix or dough and you would need to add liquid, by the teaspoonful, to allow it to incorporate itself as you mix or turn the batter/dough with a spoon.

    3. Here’s how I corrected my problem of too much water: I added ⅓ cup of flour to the starter to help absorb the water then waited 12 hours to allow for the yeast to grow and the flour to become properly hydrated. I did not add more water because it was sufficiently present when I added the flour. Little by little after 24 to 48 hours the problem was corrected and I could see the small bubbles in the mix. After 72 hours there was a very noticeable aroma of the sour with lots of bubbles on top and sides.

    4. This is a process that you need to be patient with. After you’ve added the flour, put the jar aside and do not be tempted to add more water or flour. The starter undergoes a change in consistency as it sits. It seems to emulsify and become a homogenous mass.

    5. Something else to try is to leave the lid off the container for a couple of hours after you mix. Some water evaporation will occur and if you do this outside, there is the strong likelihood that you will capture windblown, wild yeast, as well.

    6. Also, because rye flour has a lot of natural yeast, add a little of it to the bread flour you use to make the starter or to feed it, say 50/50 for the first two feedings. It will make a dramatic change in a starter that is just sitting there doing nothing. Do not keep adding the rye, unless you are wanting to make a separate rye starter which is something I do for my rye breads.

    Now with all of this said, let me tell you that starting and feeding a starter is really very easy–you don’t need a scale to make starter, nor a thermometer, or anything other than a good jar that will allow you access to the contents with a large spoon. A good size jelly jar will work and produce enough starter even if you are baking twice a week. You need a measuring cup, I actually use a ⅓ cup measure and a large tablespoon or mixing spoon to turn over the starter and be able to access the bottom of the jar.

    Finally I’m guided by the rule that the starter shouldn’t be too wet or too dry. So when I open the jar and look in, if it’s too wet, I know to add a bit more flour than water, or no water at all, depending on what I see in the jar. If it appears too dry, then I may just add a teaspoon or two of water, stir and then check it’s condition.

    Check out Maggie Gleazer’s great bread book for all you want to know about solid starters. I now use this method, but simply converted from an existing starter to a solid. Have fun.

    Bernie Piel a/k/a BernietheBaker

  8. Ann

    Sorry, but I’m confused by your comments. When you say feed my starter “well” with flour, do you mean only flour or a flour/water mix? I have been removing 1 cup of starter and replacing it with 1/2 cup flour mixed with 1/2 cup water each day since day 2. Now, my starter (on the counter at 70 degrees) has been having a liquid on top each day. No bubbles or rising at all. I have been mixing in the liquid each day then feeding it as I stated above. So that I’m clear about your directions, are you saying if I have 2 cups of starter I should add 2 cups of flour only, no water? Thanks for your patience. I really want this to work. Is the liquid on top of my current starter harmful or detrimental to a good starter?


  9. Hi Ann,

    Sourdough is typically a lot happier at 70 degrees than in a warm oven, so while that may or may not have had anything to do with this particular problem, just let it proof at room temp.

    Another thought is that it can take more than a week for a new starter to reach a very potent state. Some bakers say several weeks before it’s really at full strength. When you feed your starter well (by “well” I mean feeding it as much flour as the volume of starter you’re starting with), you should see your starter rise very well. About double. If your starter about doubles, there’s theoretically no reason why your bread shouldn’t also. If it does nothing, the starter needs more work.

  10. Ann

    I made my first sourdough starter this week and tried to make the no-knead bread yesterday. My starter was bubbly when I mixed the ingredients for the bread, but it the dough didn’t rise at all. I left it for 18 hours and still no rise. I threw out that batch, fed my starter and will try again tomorrow. Any suggestions as to why it didn’t rise? I left it on my counter at 70 degrees in a plastic bowl with plastic wrap on top. I bake regular bread all the time and was surprised this didn’t work for me. My starter is now also on the counter. I proofed it originally in my oven with the light on. Is it maybe too cool now?

  11. Hi Rebecca,

    No, not really. Whole grain starters in general typically don’t rise as much as white flour ones. I often suggest starting with all purpose or bread flour (the white stuff) until the starter is going strong just because it’s easier to know when it’s ready. Then, when it’s all bubbly and looking good, just feed it spelt flour a few times and you’ve got your spelt starter.

  12. Rebecca

    I would like to make a sourdough starter using Spelt. Are there any modifications to the recipe?

  13. naomi

    Question when I feed my starter should I immediately put it in the fridge or should I let it ferment on the counter for a hour or so then place back in the fridge..? Is it possible to over ferment my starter? Thanks~

  14. dorothy

    I have a question? Do you have to use the type of baking dishes that you use.

    • Hi Dorothy. No, I think pretty much anything will do.

  15. Dan


    As soon as you take the loaf out of the oven, rub butter over the exposed crust. As it cools you will be left with a soft, chewy crust. I use this method and I learned it from my mother who baked bread my whole childhood.

    It helps to use a frozen stick, since you only want a thin coating on the loaf.

  16. Natalia

    I like a thinner, slightly softer crust too. In order to achieve it, I bake my bread at a lower temperature (465 F), and only 5 minutes without the lid at 445-450 F. The most important step, I cover the bread with a towel after I put it on a cooling rack. In this case, I have a wonderful thin crust!

  17. Charmaine,

    One method is to use some extra glutten in your dough. I’ve seen it sold just as glutten, or as High Glutten flour at Whole Foods. Glutten gives that chewey texture that is commonly found in commercial white bread. I haven’t used it for some time, so I can’t tell you exactly how much to use. I used to experiment and would use anywhere from one-half cup to three-fourths. Also, you can add an egg to the dough, dried milk powder are other ingredients to help soften the crumb and texture.
    Good Luck and keep trying before going back to marshmallow bread at the supermarket.

    Happy Flour Trails,

    Bernie Piel

  18. Charmaine

    Hi, I just made my first batch of Sourdough Bread. Fantastic flavour and well worth the rising time. One issue though that I need help with fixing – the crumb as well as crust is way too HARD. I had to cut off the crust for the family and even then they said that the crumb was too hard for their liking (they are used to the soft commercial additive added bread).

    How do I go about making softer crumb and crust sourdough because if I can’t do this, there is no way my family is going to give up their commercial bread for this home baked goodness.

  19. You are welcome, Pat, and glad to be of help. It’s pretty simple really. Just go back over all the steps and try to think what changed–no matter how little it may seem to you. Then readjust to duplicate your exact procedure that you know worked in the past. Believe it or not, it could even mean using the exact same time of day, sometimes. It may seem insignificant, but usually it isn’t—hence the tap water vs. distilled. Happy Flour Trails. Bernie Piel

  20. Lee Smith

    Starter vs. held out dough.
    I’ve been making a Pain au Levain recipe from Rustic Eurpean Breads from your Bread Machine. I tossed my machine, but still make the recipe. It starts with a sponge using “any sourdough starter”. When the rest of the ingredients are added, they include 1 tsp of salt. Before the final rise the instructions include “Cut off one cup of dough, place in a jar, cover, and refrigerate for a Pain au Levain that you might make tomorrow or anytime during the next week or so”. I’ve tried this and am on the 4th cycle of holding the cup for the next sponge. The stuff is so lively I don’t add any dry yeast.
    So if my starter is a starter, but this stuff does the same job, is it a starter? Why am I feeding my starter if I’m not using it? I don’t have any pets, so maybe the yeast colony has become my pet.

  21. Pat

    Hi Bernie, I just wanted to thank you for helping me out..I tried using the distilled water like you said and now my bread is rising like it is suppose to..I am not sure what has happened since I made the bread a year ago but I had always used the water straight from the tap because we have well water and never had any problems at all but once I used the distilled water like you suggested it started to rise again. I could see a difference with the starter working so I knew it was going to be better. Once again thanks and my kids thank you to because they have just about died to get some of this bread..LOL Thanks Pat

  22. Travis Desing

    Thanks for the SD starter! My first “sourdough” loaves, 2 baugettes, are just out of the oven. Hopefully they taste as good as they look!

  23. Jerry Dodd

    Hi Eric
    watched and learned a lot from your videos on bread baking. Have made lots
    of them. most turned out great. but made a few bricks as well.
    The sourdough waffles Joe s recipe whole wheat or potato every one raved about them. Best 100% whole wheat I have ever ate.
    I have been reading about the sourdough starter and how to care for it. I have read in several different places about throwing out 1 or two cups to make room for feeding. I have to tell you I did throw away a cup or so, BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO THROW ANY AWAY GIVE IT TO SOMEONE OKAY. THIS THE WAY I use my starters. In the evening I take it out of the refrigerator feed it whatever amount of flour I am going to need for baking
    let it set our over night at room temp. next morning it will be risen and bubbly. take out what you need to bake with put what is left back in the cooler. When I want to bake again I repeat the steps.This works for me.
    Hope you try it or any one else for that matter I don’t like waste.
    I added a picture of a loaf of sourdough I make today. the texture is so smooooth. If you enlarge it it looks frosty.


  24. Pat,
    Were you using water from your tap? Has the water chemistry changed such that it has a lot of chlorine or some other chemicals. Try using distilled water in your starter mix. Also, I leave my starter out on the shelf when I make a new batch or if I feed it. This seems to help it get up to speed quickly. What about the potato flakes, could the be stale? Not sure if that would do it, but I’m just trying to do a little sleuthing here for you. Try to replicate, as much as possible, the exact same conditions. Make certain the containers are free from soap scum and are perfectly clean. If that doesn’t work do a google search for sourdough starter using potato flakes. I know I’ve seen recipes using potato flakes but can’t recall where or when. Good luck, Pat.
    Bernie Piel

  25. Pat

    Hi,I have been using the Sour Dough Starter that a lot of people have talked about in other websites the one with 3 tablespoons of instant potato flakes, 3/4 cups of sugar and a warm cup of water. I got this from a dear friend years ago and I made the bread like twice a week because my kids loved it..and never had a problem with it rising at all and the bread was always ate very quickly.

    Then I got sick and didn’t feed the starter like I was suppose to at least once a week and it went bad and I threw it out. Then when I got well and my kids was wanting it again I ask the lady for another starter from her batch and I have no clue what I am doing wrong this time but I cannot get it to rise.

    The very first batch I made rose very good and the bread was delicious and every batch I have tried to make since just will not rise. The lady I got it from said hers was rising just fine. I am wondering what I am doing differently from the first time I made this bread because I made it for over a year with no problems. My house is not a really warm house and I have even tried to put it closer to the area where I have my wood stove and it rises some but not enough to double in size before I can bake it. Can someone please help me figure out what is happening before my kids go crazy for their bread. Thanks

  26. Hi Eric,
    My starter is very active, rising twice it’s volume after feeding, but has a strong alcohol odor to it even after one “washing”. Does this indicate a problem?

  27. Anna

    Hi again Eric,
    My second loaf turned out really good! Thanks again. And, I saw a video of you using a Romertopf while I was waiting for the last proof. Yours is kinda black on the inside and your kitchen looked a little smokey (I think it was the making sourdough rye video). Mine was a little smoky too and it was the first time I used the baker. Just thought I’d mention it.

  28. Anna

    Thanks sooo much! Gotta get to the kitchen.. bye 🙂

  29. Anna

    A big P.S. from Anna
    Those instructions for soaking the clay baker in water and starting out in a cold oven were for yeast bread. (I am making sourdough). Also, I bought parchment paper with the clay baker to use like in the Sicilian video. I’m not knowing what to do.

    also, I think I’m posting these questions in the wrong place.. guess I’ll learn my way around the site soon

    • Hi Anna,

      Whether yeast or sourdough bread, don’t soak the baker first. Preheat it dry to the desired baking temp and then put the dough in. When you preheat it before putting the dough in, you also won’t need (or want) to grease it at all.

  30. Anna

    Hi Eric,
    I just started making sourdough bread (on my second loaf). I ran out and bought a clay baker (Romertopf) thinking I would use it like you use your La Cloche. But the instructions say to soak the clay baker for 10 minutes in water, then pat dry, grease it well, and put the dough in, and start it in a cold oven, set it at 475 degrees and bake for 45 min. I wanted to ask you about this because it is so different from how you bake your sourdough bread. I really don’t want to soak the thing in the good ole chlorinated water. Can I use it like you do yours? Wish I would have ordered one through Breadtopia, but I didn’t want to wait. Also, I am really enjoying the videos. I’ll be ordering a bread wisk at least. 🙂
    Hope I hear from you before the 18 hours is up. 🙂

  31. I was told by a bread making friend, to get a 2 quart jar to make and keep my starter in, but I could only find one quart mason jars with the screw on lids. Even though I cut my friend’s suggested sour dough starter amounts in half, and the lid was screwed on to touch the gasket but not firmly screwed on, and set it on top of the fridge for 1 to 2 days, the starter bubbled up and out, a lot, and the lid had a puffing pressure behind it in less than two hours. What did I do wrong?
    Also, I notice in your sourdough starter feeding video, that your mason jars had the wire cap lock feature. is there a reason that you prefer that over my screw on caps with replaceable gasket rings?
    I’m sure you can tell by my questions, just how new I am at this. I feel that this is good for my soul.
    Thanks for being so available.
    Rob Rounds

    • Hi Rob,

      You didn’t do anything wrong exactly. Maybe just loosen the lid a bit more and store the starter in the fridge unless you plan on baking with it within a day.
      There’s no big reason I like the wire bale jars over the screw on type. I like the wide mouth I do remove the rubber gasket so no pressure build up.

  32. Hi Mark,

    Growth is probably the best indicator of a healthy starter. If it grows a lot after feeding, it’s got to be pretty healthy. There are also signs that indicate a stater is in need of help, like a clear liquid (hootch) forming, or discoloration, or off smelling.

    I think feeding within a day of use is good. And up to several hours before use.

    I use mine straight out of the fridge a lot. Room temp is good too. When it’s cold to start with, it just takes the dough a little longer to get going.

    The whole sourdough starter thing is very flexible. There’s a wide range of what could be considered correct use of it.

  33. Bruce

    In the “Managing” video you mention your “favorite sourdough recipe” that uses 2 cups of starter. Where is that recipe?

    • Hi Bruce,

      I can’t remember the exact recipe since I made that video almost 3 years (and numerous favorite recipes) ago. But I know it came out of Ed Wood’s Classic Sourdoughs because a number of his recipes call for 2 cups of starter.

  34. Mark

    In a couple of the video’s, you mention the need to get the starter “healthy” before baking with it. How does one determine “health”? Is it simply a measurement of growth? What’s the optimum time from last feeding to use? Is there a temperature consideration for starter use? Thanks

  35. Mary

    My starter stayed in the fridge (in the coldest part) for almost a year with no feeding…I opened it up, stirred, fed it and it is just bubbling away…Eric is right, it is very hardy stuff. The bread turned out beautifully.

  36. Bernie Piel

    Eric’s comment about overfeeding the starter w/ sugar items (high sucrose) is right and explains why my starter has been overflowing on the days I feed it w/ honey or malt. I personally like the taste of these things and the aroma of the starter, although sour, is still plesant and imparts a ncie aroma to the bread—at least it’s nice to my sensibilities. The last loaf was my best ever, I think, as far as taste and texture and crust and crumb. But, there were so many other things I played with in making this loaf like coating the dough with crisco to keep it from drying out while letting it rise for several hours on its third rising after thawing it from the freezer and from the fridge then stretching the dough and actually thinking I wa probably overkneading which wasn’t the case. Also, I also put some olive oil in my clay baking pot and put in sesame seeds which was an idea I got from one of Eric’s great videos, then not being content with that, I generously sprinkled some McCormicks Italian Seasoning over the sesame seeds then put the just kneaded dough on top of the seeds and seasoning and pushed down lightly to force the seeds, etc to adhere to the loaf then turned it over to rise. The bottom of the clay pot, I did not soak, but I did the top for almost 30 minutes, and hours later when the loaf had risen a little more than double, i sprinkled the loaf w/ rock salt lightly. Almost forgot, while kneading this loaf, I took several garlic cloves and sliced them very thick, over an 1/8″, and kneaded those into the center of the bread. I discovered the combination of oil, butter and crisco on the loaf along with the steam from the porous soaked clay lid created this really wonderful textured and chewy crust that was lighter than the bottom and somewhat up the sides because the bottom was not soaked, but oiled w/ olive oil and seeds.

    The toast I made with it was really good and tasted like a NY “everythng” bagel, especially with the chewy texture which became crunchy with the toasting.
    I guess what I like doing is taking a recipe, whether its starter or a loaf, and using the inital directions as a point of departure….most times I find the end result to be really a treat, but always the journey getting there is the best experience of all.
    Bernie Piel

  37. Wil

    In regard to using sugar or other sweetner in the feeding and management of your sourdough starter. Other than perhaps giving a new starter a jump, and even that is really not necessary, there are consequenses in the continuance of the practice of using sugar or other sweetners long term. The flour has all the sugar the natural yeast in the starter needs to flourish. That’s why it’s called “feeding” the starter. Adding sugar to the starter causes the yeast to binge, but then it also gets starved once the sugar is gone. The result of the binge is the over flowing container. The sugar causes the population of yeast to grow uncontrollably to the point that it will take quite a bit of flour to feed it. You want a “sour” dough starter not just a “yeast” starter. You want to achieve a balance in your starter between lactobacillus bacteria (the sour) and natural yeast (the rise). That being said, if you like your starter, the rise of your bread and the taste, that’s what counts. Don’t let me go purist on you.


  38. Roni

    Bernie Piele Thank you for sharing the different additives to the Basic Starter….I will certainly be playing more and being more adventurous. The Guinness and Malt sounds like a winner.

  39. Jackie

    In this video your starters are much more liquid than the ones you use in other videos making bread. My starter was more like pancake batter too. I’ve been using 1/4 cup in your recipes with good results. Then this morning I decided that I wanted it to be thick like the one in your Sourdough Rye video. It was so active last night after feeding that it ran over the top of the jar. I used some and then fed the remainder a half cup of flour & no water. Was that okay?

    • Hi Jackie,

      Sure, that’s fine.

      I run into the sourdough Mt. Vesuvious effect too sometimes. So much fun cleaning up.

  40. Catherine

    In a few weeks we will be flying to our annual ski trip and want to take our sourdough starter with us so we can have fresh baked bread and we can then share it with our friends so they can take the sourdough starter home with them. What is the best way to store and transport the sourdough for the flights?

    • Hi Catherine,

      I would just double bag some in a zip lock type food storage bag. The plastic will flex enough to accommodate some expansion from the starter. It should easily tolerate the journey.

  41. Bernie Piel

    Well, I’m happy to report that the starter I made using rye flour 2 C; H20 1 1/2 C; 2 tsp commercial yeast; and 3/4 cup Guinness has turned out quite well. 2 days later I added 1/2 cup of buttermilk and same amt of rye. 3 days later I added 1/2 cup of spelt and 1/2 C of H20 and a tsp of honey. I had to keep adding flour because the additional sucrose caused the yeast to become hyperactive and it overflowed my container while in the fridge. Other than the initial commercial yeast in the beginning, I’ve not added more yeast. This afternoon, I added more rye, H20 and malt barley, just 1 tsp of the malt barley. I forgot it on the counter while I went to a cooking class and it had bubbled up nicely–very foamy, but also very much out of its container, again. However, I finally noticed that the starter has this really great pleasant rustic smell to it that is almost heady. Tomorrow, it’s try making sourdough.

    I’ll say one last thing. I read about 12 books today regarding sourdough starters–one of these was from 1942, several were of more recent vintage. But what I gleaned from them is that starter is nothing to fret over. If it doesn’t bubble, then give it some time. Feel free to experiment with beer, milk, grape skins or whatever you want. I’ve been lucky enough to mentally taste what I throw together and I know not to add some obvious things that could create a chemical or negative organic event that could be detrimental to the final product, but even one’s health. If you think about the people that came across this country to settle it–they didn’t have refrigerators, they didn’t have packages of Red Star or Fleischmann’s to help them along, nor did they have containers that would seal out every little microbe that they’d brush up against while heading west on horseback or a conestoga wagon. So, I don’t think we need to be so worrisome about our starters—I have a feeling if you keep it wet, keep it from freezing and drying out, feed it its pinch of flour or whatever flavorful foodstuff that might seem tasty and an occasion bit of sweet—these things will pretty much take care of themselves. My only drawback is that my starter seems to want a bigger jar and so I guess I’ll get one to make it happy. Thanks for listing some great books on the site. Br. Reinhard is my new best hero.

  42. Ami


    I think I might be having problems with my starter. It doesn’t seem to be rising like your does when I feed it. I usually feed it and put it back in the fridge, but it never really rises. I’m using 100% whole wheat. Last night before I went to bed, I made the recipe on your website, “Sour Dough No-Knead Method”. This morning when I woke up (about 8 hours later) it hasn’t seemed to rise very much at all. I usually make bread with instant dry yeast and therefore know what risen bread should like it, but this hasn’t really bugged. Do I need to let me starter ‘rise’ out of the fridge before I use it? Or can I just take it out and add it to my recipe. Any suggestions as to why my starter is having issues? Should I start all over again? Thanks so much.

  43. Hi Eric,

    Thanks so much for this on maintaining starter! I was excited about making my first successful starter with your first video. Then my oven broke–I needed a new baking element. I’ve done so much bread baking last year, that I wore out the element.

    So I didn’t know what to do with the starter. Your video really breaks it down for a starter novice like me. Thanks so much! And, I can’t wait to get my dough whisk from you!!!

    By the way, that dough docker we discussed isn’t only for crackers. It works great on pizza, so it doesn’t bubble up.

    Be well, Judy Lederich

  44. Bernard Piel

    I’m fairly new at both bread baking and even more so with using sourdough starters. After reading several articles, none of which are here, mainly from some cooking texts of mine, I came to see how simple it was to make a starter. But, I also remembered many years ago reading that the type of starter strongly influenced the taste of the final product. I’m a tinker at heart, I make no apologies. So I made a starter using rye flour, a standard packet of dry yeast, a cup of water and a half cup of Guinness beer. (I have friends who would say that was a waste of good beer!) But, it did give a nice malty kind of odor that I think would have been a great addition to any bread—if you like malty flavor, I suppose. A few days later, after using it for some pancakes, i.e., adding a half cup to the pancake batter, I decided to add some buttermilk to the mix and a Tbs of honey. BTW, the pancakes were absolutely the best I ever ate. Seconded by a friend. Tonight I decided it was time to try to make a semolina based, sourdough Italian loaf. The bread was beautiful and tasted great, but I don’t think it was the true, airy Italian loaf that I’m used to–one that is easily compressed and many airbubbles throughout the bread. Also, one question, the recipe did not call for oil of any kind in the dough. Is this normal for Italian bread? Could the reason the dough didn’t have the nicy airy texture be because I used the semolina flour (mix was 50/50 bread flour and semolina)? Yes, I let the dough rise twice, doubled in bulk both times. The bread is very tasty, but the texture isn’t what I remember for Italian bread–any suggestions or recipes would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Bernard,

      You might get the results you’re looking for if you used durum flour instead of semolina flour. Semolina is made from durum wheat but a significantly courser grind. Too bad durum flour is much harder to come by. Check out this page:

  45. Hi Eric!
    I just wanted you to know that in search of sourdough recipes, I stumbled on a site where they told you to mix the alcohol “gunk” in? Yuck.
    In my initial learning I practically memorized your site, “they” are wrong and you are right! I’ve seen several sites on this subject in recent months, your is one of the best yet for information. I’m so glad I found it.
    Thanks again.

  46. Hi Julie!
    It feels so good to have things turn out the way you envision them doesn’t it? I’m finishing my catering license this next month so I’m spending a lot of time brushing up on things I’ve forgotten and things I never knew. I enjoy learning when it comes to food and preparation. My favorite hobby in the world! I’m going to be using some of the recipes from this site. I’m excited.
    Have a great week!!!

  47. Hi Kent,

    For many years I fed my starter with flour and milk. That’s how I thought it was done. And it is if that’s how you do it. 🙂
    For the past many years, I’ve just used water and flour. Besides being more convenient, it’s going to keep longer (require less frequent feeding). Dairy in bread will soften the dough some too, but probably won’t be real noticeable unless the recipe calls for a large amount of starter. My 2 cents and hopefully somewhat accurate.

  48. Kent Kalnasy

    Any thoughts about water versus milk based starters? Growing up, we always had a milk based starter on the farm. I just received your starter (thanks), but haven’t used it yet. I’m just curious.

  49. Hi Linda,
    It is the supreme starter now! I use the basic recipe for no-knead sourdough: 3 cups bread flour, 1/2 c ww flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 c starter and about 1 1/2-2 cups warmish water. Perfection. Have a great weekend!

  50. Paul Loberstein

    Greetings from a sourdough rookie. I am ready to use my first starter. I’ve noticed that one quarter cup added to whatever flour used is all that is necessary. My question is, can the starter be added right out of the fridge to the recipe and proof the eighteen hour or so? or should it be at room temp.?

    • Hi Paul,

      Either way is perfectly fine. You might not need to go the full 18 hours either. I’m usually in the 12-14 range, but that’s just me.

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