This post may contain affiliate links for products and ingredients I use and recommend. For more information, see my disclosures here.
- 1. Maintain a Schedule to Feed your Sourdough Starter
- 2. Know How to Store a Sourdough Starter
- 3. Maintain a Small Sourdough Starter
- 4. Use Sourdough Discard for Less Waste
- 5. Know How to Revive a Sourdough Starter
- 6. Measure your ingredients by weight
- 7. Keep your Sourdough Starter at the Right Temperature
- 8. How to Clean Sourdough Starter
- 9. Know when your Sourdough Starter is Ready to be Fed
- 10. Boost your Sourdough Starter with Rye Flour
- Extra Tip: Keep an Additional Sourdough Starter in Your Fridge
- What are Your Sourdough Starter Tips or Questions?
Last Updated on March 6, 2023
A strong and healthy sourdough starter is the foundation for making delicious sourdough bread.
Use these Top 10 Sourdough Starter Tips for Success to make a stronger sourdough starter, and you’ll be on your way to making great sourdough bread or other naturally leavened baked goods.
Tips include how to feed your sourdough starter, store a sourdough starter, revive a sourdough starter, and more.
1. Maintain a Schedule to Feed your Sourdough Starter
Maintain a regular schedule to feed your sourdough starter, dependent on how often you bake with it.
Every sourdough starter behaves differently (especially dependent on ambient temperature), so take this sourdough starter feeding chart with a grain of salt. If you notice that your sourdough starter needs to be fed more or less regularly, adjust.
Sourdough Starter Feeding Chart
|How Often Do You Bake?||Feeding Schedule:||Notes:|
|At least a couple of times a week||Feed at least once a day at room temperature||Maintain your sourdough starter in an ideally warm environment (75-80ºF) and feed it twice daily for best results.|
|Once a week||Feed daily or refrigerate in between feedings when ripe||You can feed your sourdough starter once a day, let it ripen, and put it in the refrigerator between bakes. Feed it once at room temperature before using it.|
|Once every couple of weeks||Refrigerate in between feedings and revive at least a day before baking||Keep the starter in a cold part of your refrigerator where the temperature does not fluctuate much.|
|Once a month||Refrigerate in the coldest part of the refrigerator and revive by feeding at room temperature a few days before baking.||The longer the sourdough starter is neglected in the refrigerator, the more feedings it needs to be revived at room temperature.|
|Less than once a month||Freeze or dry the sourdough starter. Revive a few days before baking||Please see the section below #5 on how to revive a sourdough starter.|
2. Know How to Store a Sourdough Starter
There are many ways you can store your sourdough starter. Follow the chart above depending on how often you bake to determine which storage process might be best for your schedule.
How to Refrigerate a Sourdough Starter
- Feed the starter as normal.
- Let it set at room temperature for at least a few hours to kickstart some fermentation activity.
- Place in a cold part of your refrigerator and feed at least every couple of weeks.
How to Dry a Sourdough Starter
- Spread active sourdough starter thinly on parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Set in a cool, dry place to completely dry until brittle. This can take anywhere from 8 hours to a day depending on humidity.
- Break apart and place in a dry storage container or sealed jar indefinitely.
- This is the storage option I recommend sending sourdough starter in the mail, or if you know you will not be baking with it for many months.
How to Freeze a Sourdough Starter
- Place any amount of active sourdough starter in a freezer-safe ziplock bag or container.
- Frozen sourdough starter will keep indefinitely.
Check out #5 at How to Revive a Sourdough Starter to learn how to rejuvenate your sourdough starter from these storage options.
3. Maintain a Small Sourdough Starter
I keep a small sourdough starter (about 50g) and use it for baking at least twice a week.
Keeping a small sourdough starter reduces waste and allows for a more manageable one you can make larger a day or two before baking.
Essentially, I discard almost all of the starter until just scraps remain at the bottom of the jar. I then feed it 25g water and 25g flour. At room temperature, it ripens and needs to be fed once or twice a day.
4. Use Sourdough Discard for Less Waste
Don’t let your sourdough discard go to waste!
Sourdough discard is simply sourdough starter that would normally get discarded after a regular feeding. Since it’s not used immediately for baking, it will not have the same leavening power as a sourdough starter and shouldn’t be used to leaven bread.
However, sourdough discard can add a lovely tangy quality to baked goods. I use sourdough discard to make delicious recipes like my Easy Sourdough Discard Granola or Sourdough Discard Blueberry Scones.
Store sourdough discard in a clean jar or container and keep it in the refrigerator for about a week. After a week or so, it will become quite acidic and sour.
5. Know How to Revive a Sourdough Starter
Sourdough starters are very resilient and can be revived from most situations.
Refrigerated Sourdough Starter
- A refrigerated sourdough starter should be fed at least once a month.
- To revive a refrigerated sourdough starter, feed it as normal at room temperature for at least a couple of days to get it back to its optimal performance.
- If you’re feeding the sourdough starter to refresh it and put it back into the refrigerator, feed once at room temperature and place it back into the fridge when the starter has started to rise. The starter will continue to ferment in the refrigerator at a very slow pace.
Frozen Sourdough Starter
- A frozen sourdough starter does not need to be fed and can last indefinitely if kept in a clean, freezer-safe container.
- To revive a frozen sourdough starter, sit it out at room temperature to thaw. Once thawed, feed the starter as you would normally.
- A frozen sourdough starter is dormant and might take a few days to be rejuvenated.
Dried/Dehydrated Sourdough Starter
- A dehydrated or dried sourdough starter is as easy as adding dried flakes of your sourdough starter to its feeding container and then feeding as normal. The water will quickly revive your dried sourdough starter, and it should be active and ready in a day!
Sourdough Starter with Mold or Died
- If your sourdough starter has grown mold or never rises after multiple feedings, you will need to toss your sourdough starter and make a new one completely.
- You’ll notice mold on your sourdough starter if white, black, or pink spots grow on top of your sourdough starter. Mold typically only grows if your sourdough starter has been neglected for extended periods or has been contaminated.
- Mold is different than hooch. Hooch is a thin, clear liquid that might sit on top of your sourdough starter. Hooch is simply an alcohol byproduct of fermentation typically found on a hungry starter and will not harm you or your sourdough starter. Pour off the hooch and feed your starter as normal.
6. Measure your ingredients by weight
Have you ever tried to measure a cup of sourdough starter? It weighs differently for everyone depending on how active it is and what flour is used to feed it!
Measuring your sourdough starter ingredients by weight will ensure that you feed your sourdough starter with a consistent feeding ratio.
In general, measuring baking ingredients by weight will make your baking better too! Weight measurements are more accurate and will help you replicate a recipe as the recipe writer intended.
I use this Escali baking scale to measure my baking ingredients, and sourdough starter feeds. It’s lightweight, simple, accurate, and comes in many colors. For a more sleek and modern-looking scale, this scale from Challenger Breadware will also get the job done at a similar price.
7. Keep your Sourdough Starter at the Right Temperature
A sourdough starter is a live culture of bacteria and yeasts. Sourdough starter is very resilient but performs best at slightly warmer than average room temperature. Keeping your sourdough starter at the right temperature will help you bake better bread.
The best temperature for a sourdough starter is between 75-80ºF (24-27ºC).
At a warmer temperature, a sourdough starter will rise and ferment faster. You will need to feed a sourdough starter more often in warm temperatures, and your sourdough starter might be more acidic.
Cooler temperatures mean a sourdough starter will rise slower and you will need to feed it less often.
There are some really great product options now to help keep your sourdough starter at the perfect temperature range all year round.
|Sourdough Starter Warming Products:||Goldie by Sourhouse||Brød and Taylor Folding Proofer||Challenger Breadware Fermentation Mat|
|How it works:||An elegant, glass cloche and warmer that maintains your starter in the ideal temperature range.|
Light signals when kitchen temperature is too cool, just right, or too warm.
|Collapsible bread proofer that you can manually adjust temperature (70-195ºF or 21-90ºC).||A countertop mat with adjustable temperature to place your sourdough starter container or proofing box on.|
|Add-on Features:||Includes a cooling puck to lower temperature if needed. PINT and QUART jars made for Goldie available.||Includes a humidity tray. Can add a carrying case and accessory shelf as well.||Proofing kit includes the fermentation mat and a proofing box.|
|Additional Uses:||Made specifically for sourdough starters only.||Is large enough for multiple jars and can use to proof dough or ferment other items like yogurt or tempeh. |
Can also be used as a slow cooker.
|Is large enough to place a proofing bowl or proofing box on.|
|Where to buy:||Click here||Click here||Click here|
8. How to Clean Sourdough Starter
Should you clean sourdough starter containers or jars?
- Yes, you should clean your sourdough starter jar periodically to prevent the sourdough starter from caking on the lid/sides/bottom. You do not need to clean your sourdough starter container each time you feed it. Cleaning the container or moving your starter to a new container once a month should be frequent enough for most people. Find what works best for you and your starter.
The best container for a sourdough starter will have straight sides with a wide mouth that allows for easy feeding and cleaning.
Ideally, you have a couple of containers for your sourdough starter to live in.
With at least two starter jars, you can alternate between them so you can clean them between feedings.
Clean sourdough starter jars or containers with cool or lukewarm water and soap or place them in the dishwasher. Hot water can gelatinize the flour in the starter, making it harder to clean.
Cleaning Sourdough Starter from Surfaces
Sourdough starter is quite sticky; if left to dry on a surface, it can be difficult to clean. Thus, cleaning sourdough starter off wet surfaces is always easiest.
It is always best to immediately clean utensils, bowls, surfaces, and your hands with cool or lukewarm water and soap after they’re in contact with sourdough starter.
9. Know when your Sourdough Starter is Ready to be Fed
While a sourdough starter won’t vocalize when it’s hungry like a typical pet, a sourdough starter shows many signs when hungry and ready to be fed.
- A healthy, ripe sourdough starter will smell yeasty and maybe sweet.
- An acidic, sour-smelling sourdough starter is likely hungry and needs feeding.
- One obvious sign that your sourdough starter is ready is if it has at least doubled in its container and looks bubbly.
- If the starter hasn’t risen, it needs to be fed or is too weak to leaven bread.
- Any brown or clear liquid on top of your starter, or hooch, is normal for a hungry sourdough starter. Simply pour the hooch off and feed as normal. Next time, feed your starter earlier so it doesn’t become too acidic over time.
- When you stir a ripe and active sourdough starter, it should be full of air and bubbly. If you tap it on the counter, it will even deflate. This is the gluten network of the flour trapping the gases and is a sign that it can leaven bread.
- If the sourdough starter is runny and thin, it must be fed.
10. Boost your Sourdough Starter with Rye Flour
If your sourdough starter is weak or sluggish, strengthen your sourdough starter with a bit of rye flour or whole wheat flour in each feeding. Only add a few grams of rye flour to your sourdough starter feedings and see if you notice the difference!
Whole wheat flours, especially rye flour, have a dense amount of nutrients that your sourdough starter will feed on, including the amylase enzyme. Amylase is the enzyme that breaks down flour into sugars for the sourdough starter yeasts to feed on.
Rye flour should help boost your sourdough starter, and even a little bit in sourdough bread recipes helps move along the fermentation process.
Extra Tip: Keep an Additional Sourdough Starter in Your Fridge
You never know when something could happen to your beloved sourdough starter and need a backup. Be sure to keep at least one extra sourdough starter on hand in case yours gets knocked over, accidentally thrown away, baked in the oven, unexpectedly dies, etc.