Scroll down page to view “Reviving a Live Sourdough Starter” video

Reviving a dried sourdough starter is a fairly simple matter that should meet with success most of the time. This video covers the details but I’ll jot down a few steps here so you don’t necessarily have to.

Note: The following written instructions have been revised slightly since the making of the video. Watch the video but follow the specifics of the written instructions.

  • Soak 1 tsp. dried starter in 1 Tbs. lukewarm purified or spring water for a few minutes to soften.
  • Stir in 1 Tbs. all-purpose or bread flour, cover loosely with plastic and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. While not necessary, stirring again once or twice during this 24 hours will expedite the process.
  • Stir in another Tbs. of flour and 1 tsp. of purified water and let it sit as before. Within the next 24 to 36 hours you will most likely start to see the bubbling action of fermentation begin. (If not, something is most likely wrong and you should try again).
  • Now stir in 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup of water to your activated starter and continue to build the starter with once or twice daily feedings until you have a sufficient quantity to use for baking (amounts vary per recipe). You may double or triple the quantity of starter with each feeding. Feeding with approximately equal weights of flour and water (vs. equal volumes) will result in a good consistency for your starter.
  • Once you have a cup or two of healthy starter, store your starter in a container with a loose fitting lid in the refrigerator. Once refrigerated, weekly feeding is sufficient to keep your starter happy. Just remember to hold back some starter when baking as your seed starter for the next time.

Post your questions/comments below.

Reviving a live sourdough starter is even simpler and faster than reviving a dried one. Just view the video and/or follow these steps.

  • Spoon out the contents of the zip lock bag into a small bowl or container.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of room temperature purified or spring water. Mix just until the flour and water are incorporated and you have a smooth consistency. (Don’t use tap water as most tap water contains chlorine which is not good for the yeast).
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 18 – 24 hours. At this point you should see signs of life in the form of some bubbling.
  • Feed the starter again by mixing in about 1/3 cup of flour and 1/4 cup water. Cover and let sit as before for 6-12 hours.
  • You should now have a pretty lively and hearty sourdough starter.  All that is left to do is build it up to the quantity you desire with once or twice daily feedings. See the video entitled “Managing Your Sourdough Starter“.

Post your questions/comments below.

Reviving a Dried & Live Sourdough Starter

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  1. Eltica says:

    Hello everyone,

    I'm trying to revive a 15yr old dried sourdough starter a friend has given to me. I'm on my second attempt now, and I don't really know what I'm doing wrong.

    I've followed the instructions, and added 1/3 cup flour and a bit over 1/2 cup water to my bubbly starter. However, the starter didn't rise at all during the day. It still has bubbles in it. I thought I might have made the starter too wet, resulting in gas floating to the top rather then trapping it in the starter, so I've added two tablespoons of APF to create a thick batter like consistency. I've only added the extra flour just then, so I don't know the outcome yet.There's bubbles currently present in the starter.

    I'm not sure how I go from here though. Do I discard half of the starter and keep feeding it 1/3c flour and 1/2c water daily? Do I stir it twice daily and stop feeding it? Do I feed it daily and stir twice daily? Do I feed it twice daily? I've used water from the tap, which hasn't been an issue in previous starters.

    I hope you can help me out! I've got a little bit of dried starter still there, but I don't want to waste a 15yr old starter!

    Thanks, Ella

  2. Eric says:

    Hi Ella,

    I wish I could give you specific ideas with some confidence. It sounds like your starter is really close to performing the way you want but it just needs some more babying. Keeping a healthy, vigorous starter healthy is a lot easier than getting it there in the first place. You somehow just have to judge how much to feed it and how often to feed it based on what it looks like and how it's performing now. It can be a bit of a catch 22 if you don't have a lot of past experience nurturing a starter back to full strength.

    One small note. A little chlorine in tap water isn't, by itself, normally likely to negatively impact a starter's health significantly. But if your starter is struggling to achieve a healthy state, every little advantage you can give it might be worthwhile. Chlorine is in water because it kills microorganisms. Starter is a bunch of beneficial microorganisms. If you're not filtering out the chlorine in your tap water, at least let it sit overnight so the chlorine will evaporate before feeding your starter with it. It couldn't hurt and it might help.

Earlier Comments

183 thoughts on “Reviving a Dried & Live Sourdough Starter

  1. Bart

    Hi Eric,

    I’ve neglected my starter since Christmas and have kept it outside, i.e. not in the refrigerator, since then. Do you think it has a chance of survival?

    Thanks for helping,

    • I suppose. Feed it and see.

  2. Cheryl

    Hi, Got my Sourdough Starter in the mail and I am on day 5 of reviving(?) it. After day 2 I started feeding it more often than once a day, like every 6 daytime hours. Also, discarded some. There are some bubbles tho I know it should be more…then a thin (1/8 inch) of hooch (if that is the just liquid layer?) So, is it worth it to go on? The bubbles this AM, 3 hrs. after feeding, are more than I’ve seen so far, but still minimal.

  3. Stammon

    I just got your starter in the mail. It’s now in a bowl with 2 tbs of flour and water. It was very stiff and doughy, I wanted to add more water but didn’t. My mom, an old time sourdough baker, says plop the whole thin in a pint of milk with enough flour to thicken it. I didn’t. I did start a natural starter in Northern CA when I lived there. Not much rising ability but super sour, we loved it. Unfortunately it was lost when we moved to IN. Here’s hoping for the best. I want to use this with my bread maker to make brioches. Wish me luck.

  4. Jamie

    I received your starter yesterday and have started the process of bringing it to life. I am wanting to make regular size loaves of bread instead of using the special ceramic baker/ Dutch oven. Will that work okay for your no-knead sourdough bread recipe? Thank you!!

    • Yes, for sure. The covered bakers are nice for crust development but certainly not necessary.

  5. Amanda

    About a week ago I revived a dried started that I got a couple months back and had kept in the freezer. The starter is very active (after each feeding I have about a cup of starter, and it always tries to come out of it’s quart-jar home after a few hours). I’ve been keeping it at about 75 degrees or so and feeding it twice a day (as close to 12 hours apart as I can get it) unbleached organic white flour and filtered water. It’s very nice looking and apparently happy, but I’m curious about the smell. It smells like alcohol. Well, not the sharp, acrid odor of spirits, but it smells like a very strong beer. There is a yeastyness to it, but no sourness – that I can smell, anyway (I haven’t been brave enough to taste it yet). When I smell it, it’s like a very strong, concentrated beer smell. I’m wondering if this is a normal “stage” or if something is funky with my starter. Is there a way to fix it (if it needs to be fixed), is it fine, or do I need to toss it?

  6. Jill

    Do you warm the water that you add or just use room temperature purified water? Room temperature in our house is about 65 – 68.
    Thanks! Jill

    • Hi Jill,

      Room temperature water. 65–68 is a great proofing temperature.

  7. Dick Eastmure

    I have been making nk bread for about 6 months now. Was turned on to it by a friend. Wanting to make something with more taste, I wondered about a sourdough version and that’s how I came across your site. What a great site and fantastic info on reserecting/maintaining starter! I was given a starter from a friend that apprently came across the Chilkoot Pass during the 1898 Klondike gold rush. It sat in my fridge for about a year. It looked grey in colour and was at least half “hooch”. Not knowing better, I stirred the thing up hooch and all before finding your site and instructions about discarding the hooch. Oh well, just carried on with your reserecting method and voila, after a few feedings it came back to life! Can’t believe how good this bread is. I like it better then the bread from our local artistan bakery and I can make it for about a tenth of the price!
    Many thanks for this great site!!

  8. Sandra

    I just discovered your website and really enjoyed all your videos on creating/maintaining a sourdough starter. I haven’t ventured onto your website in detail just yet so forgive me if the answer lies somewhere on your website – could I mix and match sourdough starters to a different grain bread recipe – for example can I use a white flour sourdough starter for a spelt bread recipe or a whole wheat recipe or do you need to use the same type of flour in your bread recipe as your sourdough starter?
    I am also thinking of starting a bakery as a business – any tips/advice you would recommend?
    Thank you.

  9. Karen

    High Eric,
    I have a starter that was started in 1867 by a miner on the Chilkoot trail. I have had it for 44 years. It is a little different than yours in that I use milk rather than water. I am sure it didn’t start out that way. Probably on its journey being passed down it got changed from water to milk. I dried 1 cup to try it out and after it was dried I added 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm milk and let it set on counter for 2 days. Now it has a hard top on it and is real thick like a loaf of raw bread dough. Normally to feed it I added the same amount of flour and milk and take off the same amount the next morning to use in recipe. Should I take the hard top off and thin down the rest with warm milk? I hate the thought of losing it after having it this long.

    • Hi Karen,

      That sounds like a reasonable plan. If the hard top is forming because it’s exposed to the air, then you might want to cover the container with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

  10. Hi Barbara,

    Flat could just be a result of the dough being very wet. Wet dough will flatten out under its own weight. If that’s all it is, you could add more flour to the recipe until the dough is stiffer. If it’s flat and dense, then I’d look at the yeast or starter.

    If you’re using instant yeast, you don’t need to proof it. You might want to get ahold of some SAF instant yeast and just mix it up with the dry ingredients before combining with the water.

    After you feed your starter, is it rising well in the container you keep it in? That’s the best test to know if your starter has what it takes to get your bread to rise too.

  11. Barbara

    Help, my bread is dismal. I’ve tried at least 6-7 breads with various flour combos. Rye, all purpose, bread and 1/2 Rye and 1/2 bread flour. Love the videos, get shaggy dough, heat the La Cloche, drop the dough onto the hot container, cover and bake, my bread is always flat, flat, flat. I proof my yeast, have a great tasting starter, but poor results. What can I do?

  12. It’s hard to tell if you killed it or not. It may never have really started in the first place, at least not so it’s very obvious. The thing about getting a starter started is that sometimes it just either doesn’t work or takes a long time.

    Eventually, the odds are in your favor that some yeast from the wheat, the air, wherever, is going to start growing in your mix and you’ll end up with a viable culture. It’s just doesn’t always follow your expectations.

    One thing is you should try to make sure your mix is thick or stiff which is accomplished by using equal weights of water and flour. You might have to continue to dump some so you don’t end up with a house full of starter. It’s much easier to tell if your starter is working in a thick mixture of flour and water because a thick mixture will better trap the air bubbles than a thin mixture. Trapping the air bubbles will make it rise – a good sign something good is happening.

    Sometimes the whole process is just a waiting game. You could start over, but I’m not sure you gain much by that unless mold starts to develop and your batch becomes very yucky. You don’t want yucky.

  13. I think I killed it.....

    I started a starter almost 5 days ago. The first couple of days it made lots of bubble and I had not discarded any of it so it was getting rather large for my container. I poured about half of it out and continued feeding it twice a day like I was previously but now it is barely bubbling but I am still getting a thin layer of “hooch” on the top. Did I feed it too much, not enough? Should I start over again? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!

  14. Mary Sue

    Thanks, Eric…..patience has never been my strong suit! I’ll keep feeding, waiting….and hoping.

    I did the oven-with-the-light-on thing because our house is pretty cool (Michigan, furnace hardly on, about 65 degrees) and I thought it would be happier.

    I’ll let you know how it goes!

  15. Hi Mary Sue.

    I wouldn’t give up yet. The fact that’s it’s showing any signs of life at all is something. After a zillion years of gross negligence (sorry, couldn’t resist) 😉 it may take several more days to come back, if it does come back. Give it some more time.

    Also, I would just let it sit out at room temp. I guess the oven with the light on is ok too, but there’s something about putting it in too warm a place that doesn’t feel right to me. No evidence to back that one up.

  16. Mary Sue Sylwestrzak

    I might be one of the few people able to kill a good starter…I bought one from you (fresh), made it up, baked wonderful bread….then my husband developed a problem with yeast and it sat in my fridge–for 3 years. I want to try and use it again, so I poured off the hooch, threw most of it away, and started feeding it once or twice daily with bread flour and filtered water. I’ve been keeping it in the oven with the light on. I’m not sure if it’s working or not. I don’t see any froth, but it did seem to increase in size and the starter (I tend to go on the thick side) has some tiny holes in it that I can see thru the glass.

    What do you think? Is this a lost cause? I also got a sample of Carl’s friends dried starter and got that fired up, and it looks about the same, but had a bit more froth.

    I hope I can get some advice…I promise never to ignore my starter so again!

  17. sierra

    hi, I just realized that I had left my started out, bout a week and a half. During this time it was not fed at all. the consistency is still dough like. What concerns me is that there is little “worm” like things in it. Have I killed the starter? and what the heck are the ” worm” things? Should I even try to revive it? Thank you Sierra

  18. Sandy

    HELP! I’ve been trying to revive an old starter using spelt flour but my starter has turned so glutinous that it cannot be stirred/dissolved in water at all. I’m not sure if this is good or not or how I should proceed. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  19. I don’t know but I’m hoping you’ll try it and let us know how it works out.

  20. Sylvia

    A friend came across a packet of 40-year-old dried sourdough starter that had been stored in a bookshelf in a home. Any chance it could be revived? Anyone know how long a dry starter can live?

  21. Janet

    Well, I’m happy to report that the starter revived. It just took a few days. But is now going strong. Thanks for the instructions.

  22. Janet

    Thanks so much for these instructions. I made a wonderful starter and baked several loaves with it. But now, for whatever reason, it will not activate/revive from the fridge. It’s only been in the fridge for a week.

    The starter won’t bubble up like it did before and it smells very sour, not at all like the sweet healthy starter it was before. It does get frothy on the top, but after 24 hours of feeding it is still doing nothing on the rising front.

    This is dissapointing. Before hand, after 7 days of fermenting it was a wonderful high-rising starter.

    I have tried everything I can think of (no metal utensils, chlorine-free water, etc.). Any idea what could be wrong with it?

  23. Aaron Gross

    Just revived my starter that was in the frig for 7 months.Talk about alot of hootch. I can’t believe how strong this stuff really is.

  24. Bart


    Is there a destinct difference in flavor if you live somewhere else than in San Fransisco?

    Thanks for your advice


  25. Carrie

    I’m very new to making a starter dough and your site, so apologize in advance if this question has already been asked.

    I hail from San Francisco, where the sourdough is like no other. I moved to upstate NY to attend a PhD program and was homesick for my special bread. A friend has a starter out there and offered to dry it and send it out. I anxiously await its arrival! Thanks to you, I know I’ll be able to revive it with no problems.

    It is my understanding that the distinct sourdough taste from SF is due to the active yeasts in that area. My concern is that even if I use this SF starter, it will eventually lose its specific flavor because it is now out here in NY and using the yeasts here. Am I right, or will my starter retain its SF “feel” for the most part?

    Also, I am making my own starter here and will dry and send a sample to my friend to see if he can taste the difference. I was thinking of mixing the two starters (one from SF and one from NY) to see what results. Will that work, or will it cause a strange and “unhealthy” reaction?

    Many Thanks!

    • Hi Carrie,

      All good questions. I think most people will tell you that your variety of starter will eventually morph into another variety if you move to another area. Sourdough starter is comprised of the yeast and also beneficial bacteria. It’s the many strains of bacteria that impart the varying tastes. In San Francisco, the strain is actually called Lactobacillus Sanfrancisco. When you move, another dominant strain of bacteria, indigenous to New York, may infiltrate and take over your culture.

      You never know what strain of starter you have unless you have it lab tested. Even if you do determine you have the “real thing” in authentic SF starter, being able to bake a loaf of bread that mimics your favorite bread back home is a completely different thing. My take on this topic is any sourdough leavened bread, provided the starter is simply healthy, is better than bread that’s not sourdough leavened. Maybe you’ll end up making something even better than you’ve ever had before.

      Mixing cultures is totally fine. There won’t be any unhealthy consequences, but you might want to hold back some of the original in case the resulting hybrid is not to your liking.

  26. Jeannette

    Thanks to your written instructions and videos, your dry starter is now bubbly and doubly in my kitchen after only two days. I will admit to reading and viewing all of your online instructions as well as practicing with a yeast-water-flour starter first, so I am looking forward to a long-living, healthy sourdough starter. Including enough dry starter in your package for more than one try quieted any reservations I had about ruining my attempt to revive the starter, i.e., I did not freak out. I will be feeding it awhile before using it, but I know it will produce some delicious bread. Thank you.

  27. Anders

    Hi Eric,
    I saw your videos and recently got a pack of sourdough additive from Europe to add to bread recipes. Im curious if you could add dried out starter to a no-knead recipe that sat in a warm spot (like oven with light bulb on) for 20+ hours? Thought I would ask before I experiment. Thanks. Anders

    • Hi Anders. Gosh, I don’t know. Are you thinking of adding the dried out starter in lieu of yeast or live sourdough starter in order to stretch out the rising time?

  28. Hi Linda,

    That liquid at the top is hootch (alcohol) and you can just pour it off. Mixing it in is ok too. It won’t hurt anything necessarily, but it also won’t form on really healthy starter. Sometimes sourdough starter just requires more frequent feeding to keep it healthy enough to not form hootch.

  29. Hi! I have been using a starter from a company in california. They specialize in sour dough bread. It’s great, but I’ve noticed a couple of times now that a liquid almost chlorine-like has formed over the top of the starter and when I mix it in the nice elastic texture is now thinner. Has the starter gone bad and if so,can I revive it? Also,is it safe to use. I have used it and the bread was fine,but I don’t want to use it if it’s rancid. I also make large amounts of starter at a time,could this be causing a problem? Thanks so very much for all your help.

  30. You might be able to revive it. Take a couple tablespoons from the middle and mix it with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/3 cup water (non chlorinated) and let it sit at room temp for a day or so. If it starts showing signs of life, feed it a few more times until it’s going strong.

  31. Jennifer

    Is there any way to use a starter that has been in the fridge for around 6 months? Not being fed?

  32. DGAllen

    Hi. I received my live starter UPS 3 day select yesterday. I revived it last night and by this morning it had already gotten very bubbly and doubled in size! I fed it again this morning based on Breadtopia’s reccomendation since it was already active. I can’t wait to make my first loaf.

  33. tammy

    Well, I tried the sugar and it did accelerate the rise. It also added alittle sweetness to the bread. I got rave reviews from friends . I think that it just made a better bread. Thanks for all the help.

  34. If anything, a little sugar aught to help the rise as it’s food for the starter. It may actually accelerate the rise so be a little more alert to possibly popping it in the oven sooner than otherwise.

  35. tammy

    Yes, using sourdough starter to make a loaf of bread ideal for sandwiches. I was also wondering if I used alittle sugar in the dough to sweeten it would cause the bread to not rise? Thanks for letting me pick your brain so to speak.

  36. Hi Tammy,

    Sorry for the delay. Missed your post until now.

    Either type of flour is fine. In fact just about any type of flour at all is fine.

    Using metal utensils will absolutely not cause any problems. I would just avoid long term storage of starter in a metal container as the acid in the starter may eventually react with the metal.

    Is a sourdough pan bread just sourdough bread baked in a pan or does it refer to something else in particular?

  37. Hi Amy,

    Baking will kill anything potentially harmful although I’ve never heard of anyone adversely effected by grungy starter. On the other hand feeding multiple times is usually the formula for freshening up the starter and doubling is a good sign, so I don’t know why the lingering Pine Sol taste. Someone else mentioned soap in reference to their starter a while back. Interesting.

  38. Amy

    Hi Eric,

    I have been baking with my sourdough starter for almost a year now with generally great results. I’m not the most diligent starter tender but in the past I have been able to bring it back or perk it up without a problem. I recently made a loaf after leaving my starter unattended in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. Although I fed it multiple times before baking, the bread tasted a bit like soap. I’ve tried again to resuscitate my starter by tossing most of it and using a small amount to grown a new one. This newer starter still smells a bit like alcohol but is bubbling and doubling in size. Is it safe to bake with? Could tap water be causing the funky smell and taste? I don’t want to toss my starter if it is healthy but I don’t want to waste good flour and bread baking loaves that taste like Pine Sol.

    Thanks for your help,

  39. tammy

    I am just starting all of this. So everything is very new to me. I am alittle confused. I think. My questions are;
    1. I am reviving dried starter with bread flour instead of AP flour and I fed it after 12 hours with bread flour. Is this okay or do I need to start all over with AP flour?
    Mind you that I just found this site and all the videos are very helpful. I have the Carl Griffith’s SD starter. The C G’s broshure says not to use metal , but I see you in the video using metal wisk.
    2. Will using metal harm the starter?
    3. Will you be making a video of how to make a sourdough pan bread?

  40. Scooter

    High Altitude Update for NKSD. I haven’t written for a while and wanted to let you know that the reason my bread was not turning out well was because I had it set at the 100 degree proof setting on my oven for the 18 hour rise. This is too warm. I discovered this when visiting a friend who actually used “room temperature”. I now let it rise for 18 hours inside the oven with just the light on. (My home is very well insulated and doesn’t get over 65 degrees). For the second rise in the proofing basket I use the 100 degree proof setting. Works like a charm! oh, and no need to add any yeast, the starter is all that it takes.

  41. Hi Perley. It’s better to use unbleached unbromated wheat flour.

  42. can i use bleached weate flower to make a starter thanks.

  43. Hi Loraleigh,

    I’m not an expert either but I’d say the same as Dave as far as reviving your starts goes. Once it’s fully resuscitated and healthy, then start feeding it whole wheat flour if you want a whole wheat starter.

    What you describe doesn’t sound good. You might want to take a very small amount of what you have and start feeding it with white flour and toss the rest. If your starter is going to work at all, then that little bit will work to get it going again.

  44. Dave Womack

    I’m not an expert, but I think you’ll have better luck using all purpose or bread flour (white) to revive a starter. WW flour has some extra critters in it that conflicts with the good stuff in sourdough starter. There should be noticeable bubbling going on within a couple of days.
    Good luck

  45. Loraleigh

    Hi, I was given some dried starter from a friend, no instructions, and I think it was a store bought starter. I revived the starter using whole wheat flour it has been two days and now there is a blackish/grey liquid on top and maybe some blackish bits inside? I don’t know it’s hard to tell. Is this ok? It doesn’t smell bad just sour/yeasty. I have been feeding 1/2 cup WW flour and water everyday. Can you give me any pointers? Thanks

  46. Janet,

    I agree with you. I use small jars about the size of baby food jars to store my starter.
    So I am storing only about a quarter cup.

    On Thursday evening, I put the starter in a large bowl, feed it and cover it with plastic. Friday morning, feed again. Friday evening as soon as I get home from work I feed again. About two hours later, I mix up my dough, remembering to put starter back into the jar, feeding it and then refrigerating immediately

  47. Jackie,

    I’ve found that if the container used to revive a dried starter is too large, it is inclined to dry out if left for a long period. Graduating from small to large as it grows seems to work better and faster.

  48. Yes, that would be more efficient.

  49. Hi Eric,
    I’m curious as to why you start with such a small container to revive the dried starter. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to start it in the jar you intend to keep it in?


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