How to Feed & Maintain your Sourdough Starter

You’ve done it! You’ve created a living batter filled with wild yeast. Now let’s see how to feed & maintain your sourdough starter.

If you haven’t made your starter yet, visit this post to see how to make a sourdough starter from scratch.

stirring flour and water into sourdough starter to feed

Right off the bat I’m going to say that there are a million ways to feed, maintain and use a sourdough starter. In fact, after you’re done reading this post, you should read through my instructions for How to keep a small sourdough starter to see of that method would work better for you.

I am going to outline for you how I maintain my sourdough starters. I tend to have a fairly relaxed attitude towards the process. It works for me and I think my approach can work for you if you don’t bake bread every single day (and even if you do).

At the end of the post you’ll find a how-to card that lists the ingredient amounts and steps to follow each time you feed your starter.

But first I’m going to give you all the how’s and why’s and try to answer any questions you might have.

Tips for using and maintaining your sourdough starter:

  • Since I don’t bake every day, I keep my starters (yes, I have 3) in the refrigerator.
  • If I’m making a 2-day recipe (most of mine are) I take the starter out of the refrigerator early in the morning of the day I’m making the dough. If the starter is inactive I feed it right away and it should be ready by early afternoon.
  • If I’m making a 1-day recipe, I’ll take the starter out the night before and feed it if it’s inactive. It should be ready to use first thing in the morning.
  • When the starter is cold from the refrigerator, I feed the starter using fairly warm water, warmer than body temp. The warm water will jump-start the cold starter.
  • If the starter has been fed within the last 2-3 days, and has been refrigerated, you can probably go ahead and use it without feeding.
  • If you’re not sure if the starter is active, drop a dollop into a bowl of water to see if it floats. If it does, it’s ready for baking.
  • I write all my sourdough recipes to use 8 oz of active starter. After using 8 oz of starter in the recipe, I’m left with 4 oz of starter, exactly the right amount for feeding.
a bowl of water with a dollop of sourdough starter
A dollop of the starter should float when it’s ready and active.

Schedule for feeding your sourdough starter:

  • Your starter needs to be fed about 1x per week if refrigerated, and every day if left at room temperature.
  • Generally, about 5-6 hours after feeding my starter is ready. The time may vary based on room temp, dough temp, etc. The starter should have doubled in volume and started to recede and/or pass the float test.
  • I take my starter out of the refrigerator once a week for feeding, even if I’m not baking. Although, truth be told, I often go longer than a week between feedings and I haven’t killed it yet.
  • Did you know you can dry your sourdough starter? Dried starter can be kept indefinitely.
  • After you’ve removed the portion of starter for baking, feed the starter again and leave it at room temperature for 3-4 hours before putting it back in the refrigerator.
3 side by side photos showing how to feed sourdough starter
To feed your sourdough starter, weigh out 4 oz each of starter, water and flour.

FAQs about feeding & maintaining Sourdough Starter:

What if I forget to feed my starter for several weeks?

Honestly, I’ve gone longer than a month without feeding my starter and I haven’t killed it yet. Give it a feeding and see if it wakes up. If it’s alive, keep feeding it until it is reliably doubling in size within 4-5 hours.

Can I use a neglected starter as soon as it’s been fed?

If you go more than about 2 weeks between feedings, you might want to give the starter 2-3 feedings before using. A starter that hasn’t been fed for weeks will be quite sluggish and your dough won’t be as lively.

Can I make dough with cold starter straight from the refrigerator?

If your starter was fed a day or two before, it’s possible to use the starter straight from the refrigerator. Give it a float test to make sure it’s active. The dough may take a little longer to ferment since the temperature of the dough will be colder.

What is that gray liquid on top of my starter, has it died?

It’s called “hooch” and don’t worry, your starter is still alive. Just stir that water back into the starter before feeding. Again, you might need 2 feedings to completely revive the starter since it’s been quite dormant.

Do I have to weigh the ingredients?

To maintain your starter at 100% hydration it is best and most accurate to weigh your ingredients. If you’re just a little bit off every time you feed, eventually, your starter could be thrown out of balance.

What if a recipe calls for less than 8 oz of starter?

No problem, use the amount of starter called for in the recipe. Then weigh out 4 oz of the remaining starter for feeding and discard the rest.

Do I have to discard starter?

If you continually feed the starter without discarding, you’ll end up drowning in starter.

Can I bake with the discard?

Yes, even if the discard is not active enough for baking bread, you can add it to many other recipes as a flavor and texture enhancer.

If I go on vacation, do I have to take the starter with me?

Unless you’re going away for an extended time, your starter should be just fine for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. If you’ll be gone really long-term, put the starter into the freezer or dry it. Frozen or dried starter will need several feedings to rejuvenate.

If you appreciate this detailed information, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

Print Recipe
4.93 from 225 reviews

How to Feed Sourdough Starter

Follow these steps to feed and maintain your Sourdough Starter.
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
12 oz
Save Recipe


  • 4 oz unfed sourdough starter
  • 4 oz all purpose flour
  • 4 oz water (room temperature)


  • Weigh 4 oz of your unfed starter into a clean container. Discard the extra starter (see note)
    4 oz unfed sourdough starter
  • Add the flour and water and mix until combined. Set aside at room temperature.
    4 oz all purpose flour, 4 oz water
  • The starter is ready to use when it has doubled in volume and a small spoonful floats when dropped into a bowl of water. This generally takes 4-5 hours but the time can vary based on dough temperature and room temperature.
  • If you do not plan to bake with the starter on the day it is fed, refrigerate 3-4 hours after feeding.
  • Feed refrigerated starter weekly. If you go longer than a week without feeding, you may want to give the starter two feedings before using.

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Check out these recipes that use sourdough discard if you don’t want to throw it away.


Calories: 43kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 10mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.03g | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Thank you this is so helpful! I love that you try to answer everything about cold starter, dormant starter, etc! It’s a one stop shop for newbies!!!

  2. 5 stars
    Hi there, I have an over 50 year old starter that my friend received as a wedding gift 45 years ago. It came from a grandmother in Sweden. I’m guessing it’s honestly about 80 years-old. The pressure to take good care of it is huge! However, my lifestyle and baking habits are not in keeping with that! I’ve left this starter in the fridge for 5 months at a timeI feed it 2 cups of Bob’s Red Mill organic flour and two cups of filtered water the night b4 I use it. It always performs and gets bubbly etc. I then take out my 8 oz and proceed baking. It does always have a hooch, I often flip it in the refrigerator to incorporate it. My question is, am I doing this precious starter a disservice? Am I going to kill it? I’m very concerned. My other question is, often my bread or biscuits are very dense. Is this due to the long time between feeding? Thank you in advance!

    1. Obviously you haven’t killed it yet! I have left my starter for quite a long time occasionally. They aren’t that easy to kill. I would say you might be getting dense bread if your starter is a bit sluggish. Maybe try doing two feeding before you’re ready to bake.

  3. After you’ve removed the portion of starter for baking, is it necessary to feed the starter again and put it back in the fridge ? Or can I just put the starter back in the fridge and feed it again before the next time I use it?

    1. The leftover starter will need a feeding to stay alive. If you just put the unfed starter in the fridge eventually it would run out of food to keep producing the yeast.

    1. No. Once you have an established starter you just need to keep it active. If the starter hasn’t been fed in several days you should fed it 1x when you take it out of the fridge. Wait for it to rise to about double in size then use it in your recipe. If the starter was fed within the last couple of days it may still be active enough to use when you take it out of the fridge. As you use your starter you’ll get a sense of when you need to feed it before using and when you can use it right away. Generally, if I take my starter out I can tell if it hasn’t reached it’s peak since it’s been fed (usually because I put it in the fridge shortly after feeding).

  4. I fed my starter and completely forgot to mix the dough last night. It has been sitting on the counter for almost 20 hours. Did I ruin it? Should I mix the flour to make dough ball or throw it out?

    1. You definitely don’t need to throw out the starter, but if you left it out at room temperature you should probably feed it again before making your dough. Feed it. Wait for it to double in volume then make your dough.

  5. Hi there. Sourdough newbie here. Quick question: If I plan on baking a loaf once a week, am I basically feeding the starter twice? Once after removing what I need for baking (3-4 hours before putting it in the fridge) and once again the night before baking when I take it out of the fridge. Or can I ignore the pre-fridge feeding and only feed it once a week the night before baking?

    1. So let’s say you bake every Saturday and you keep a 12oz starter. When you take the starter out on Friday night to prepare for baking on Saturday the starter will need to be fed since it’s been in the fridge all week. So Friday night you discard 8oz of starter (or use it in a discard recipe) and feed 4oz flour and 4 oz water. Saturday morning you use 8oz of starter for the recipe. You feed the remaining starter with 4oz of flour and 4 oz of water. Leave it at room temperature for a few hours and then refrigerate it for the week. So you are doing 2 feedings between Friday and Saturday. If you keep a small starter, your work process would be as follows. Take the 3oz of starter out of the fridge Friday night. Feed it with 3 oz of flour and 3 oz of water so you now have 9oz of starter. Saturday morning you remove 1oz of starter and feed it 1oz of flour and 1oz of water. Leave it at room temperature for a few hours then refrigerate for the week. Use the 8oz left in the bowl for baking. You are still doing 2 feedings. The difference is that with a larger starter you can use the discard for baking. With a small starter there’s less discard and less opportunity for discard baking.

  6. Thank you for such a straightforward post! I’m on my first week and second loaf, and as I’m researching, most posts come at it with very detailed and rigid instructions that are overwhelming and almost scare me off the whole project. Saving and looking forward to going through your recipes!

  7. When I have the starter going and refrigerate it , for the weekly feedings , do I need to let it warm up or take it out, feed it and put it right back in the frig ? Thank you for any help

    1. When I don’t plan to use my starter but just want to feed it I take it out of the fridge, feed it right away using very warm water, leave it at room temperature for 3-4 hours until it looks nice and active, then refrigerate it.

  8. Hello,
    Thanks for all your great tips.
    I have had my sourdough starter in the fridge for a few months now, but haven’t fed it for a couple of months ! It had a grey ‘hooch’ on the top which I stirred in, but it smells quite strongly like nail polish remover and I’m wondering if I should ditch it and start again ?
    It has been sealed in the fridge and I wonder whether it has encouraged anaerobic bacteria to flourish and if this is detrimental ?
    Thanks for any help in advance !

    1. That hooch can get quite pungent. Personally, I would try feeding it. It probably needs several feeding to rebalance. Try feeding it 1-2x per day for a few days and see how it goes. That being said, if you’re worried you can always start over with a new starter.

  9. 5 stars
    You provide great information and it is great but I am missing one bit of advice. Two of us fed our starter- once on Friday then the other on Saturday. What should we do?

    1. Can you give me more information? Do you do this every week? How often do you bake? There is no problem feeding the starter every day if it’s left at room temperature.

  10. 5 stars
    Wow. I have had so many questions about my sourdough and I think you’ve answered all of them. In great detail. Thank you!

  11. 5 stars
    So glad I found your site! I’m returning to baking with sourdough and first time learning to make and keep the sourdough going. My husband was the one to take care of it when we were younger. He’s happy to let me do it now and I’m enjoying my experiments. This is a wonderful site. I especially like the recipes for the discard. Thanks so much.

  12. Very early Sunday morning, I fed my starter after using it in bread and left it out until Monday evening. I then popped it in the fridge overnight. Tuesday morning, I checked my starter and did a float test after taking it out of the fridge and it did not float. The current recipe I’m using states that if I want a more sour taste, I can use an unfed starter from the fridge…but as I said, it’s not floating. What should I do? Hoping for a more sour taste.

    1. An older starter does have more of a sour taste, but it has less leavening activity. I also find that it’s harder to get good gluten development with an unfed starter. Your best bet is to follow the recipe as long as it’s from a reliable source. Is it a bread recipe?

  13. Is it necessary to transfer the starter to a clean vessel?
    I just wipe the vessel to make a roughly level “ring” about 1/2 above the starter level.

    1. No, if you measure out 8 oz of starter and leave 4 oz in the container you can do it that way. I have a collection of plastic deli containers so will transfer to a clean container every so often. If you have a specific container for your starter you don’t need to transfer.

  14. Materials
    4 oz (112g) unfed sourdough starter
    4 oz (112g) all purpose flour
    4 oz (120 ml) water, room temperature

    I think there is a typo error with the water weight. Shouldn’t it be 112g if we are using the weighing scales?

    Thank you for your recipes and the instructions!

    From a sourdough baker in New Zealand!


    1. I give the weight in ml since I tend to use a measuring cup for the water. You can weigh the water and it would be 113.2 g.

    2. @Eileen Gray, What if I used the wrong amount of water? Will it keep my dough from rising and being active? I weighed my water to the exact weight of my flour and starter (which was active before I fed, then after feeding it did not rise)

      1. If you are feeding your starter with the same weight of starter, water and flour then you are doing it right. I’m not sure I understand the problem. Is your starter not rising or did you make a dough that isn’t rising?

  15. We are going away for a few weeks and I was wanting to put my starters in the freezer (I have two, one regular and one wheat free for my wheat-allergic daughter). When do I put it in the freezer? Should I feed, let it rise like normal, and then put it in that day? Or wait a few days, maybe until the night before we leave? And when we get back, do I thaw it and feed it right away? Or thaw for a few days in the fridge first? I also need to have a look at drying some of it, but that might be better left until we get back and I have time to make sure I understand it properly (my luck, I’d mess it all up!)

    1. How long are you away? Honestly, I’ve left my starters for a month (and more) and have no problem reviving them. If you feed the starters just before you leave and feed them as soon as you get back I don’t think you should have any problem. If the starter is very sluggish upon return you could give it 2 feeding before baking with it. You could dry some of the starter or discard as a backup. This all applies to the wheat starter. Not having experience with wheat free starter I can’t speak from experience. But I’d bet you’d have the same results if the starter has a similar activity cycle as the wheat starter.

    2. @Eileen Gray, we will be gone 3 weeks, but it would be probably 4 weeks between feeds if I follow my normal feeding day. Trying not to cram all the possible “things to do” into the day before we leave because it drives my husband crazy when I do that! I usually keep the starters pretty small (1/2 oz of each part for feeds) but I suppose I could do the full amount that is in each jar. The wheat free one might be on a different cycle because it never seems to have the same consistency/texture as the other one. I’ve never thought to give it a different time though…might try that this weekend! Thanks!

  16. I have a question. I have a 7week old starter. been on counter. been feeding twice a day and using it to bake.
    when can I put in fridge. I have read 3 to 4 months. I am soo ready to put in fridge.
    please get back to me.
    thank you

    1. I started putting mine in the fridge right after they were ready. Sourdough starters are much less fussy than some would lead you to believe. I suggest taking out of the fridge and feeding 1x per week if you can. But, honestly, I’ve gone more than a month without feeding (refrigerated) and haven’t killed a starter yet. Also, if you’ve got lots of discard you can dry drying the discard rather than tossing it.

  17. You mentioned 100% hydration as being equal ants by weight. Are there other hydration’s? What are they used for?

    1. You could keep a thicker starter by using more flour than water by weight or a thinner starter with more water than flour by weight. Obviously a stiffer starter will yield a stiffer dough and a wetter starter will yield a moister dough. There are more factors involved, such as the temperature you keep the starter at and how frequently you feed. But generally a lower hydration starter (stiffer) tends to produce a bread with more acetic acid which has more of the tangy, vinegary flavor. A more liquid starter will tend to produce more lactic acid, or milky, flavor. Again, this is not a straight forward result. How you handle a starter from hydration to feeding frequency to holding temp will affect the final loaf. I develop my recipes with a consistent process of temperature, hydration and feeding to try and keep the results consistent for readers. But you can experiment with all the factors to make your perfect loaf.

    1. I’m not sure exactly what your question is. Did you read through the post and instructions? You feed 4 oz of starter with 4 oz of water and 4 oz of flour. When that is ready and active you can use the amount of starter called for in your recipe. Then feed the starter again to bring it back to the starting weight (12 oz). Feeding, using and refeeding the starter is a cycle.

  18. Can I feed the starter with bread flour? I was kindly given some sourdough starter from anItalian restaurant and I don’t want toess it up! I only have bread flour but I could buy other flour if needed. Thanks!

    1. You can use bread flour. Bread flour will absorb more water than ap flour so your starter will be a little thicker than one fed with ap flour.

  19. My starter is 9 months old and I keep it in the refrigerator.
    I feed it once a week. Do I still have to use distilled water and whole wheat flour to keep it going? Or could I use tapwater and regular flour?

    1. I always use tap water and regular flour. Unless your tap water is super chlorinated and it is good drinking water you should be able to use it to feed your starter. I generally use King Arthurs unbleached AP flour for feeding. Occasionally, if I’m making whole wheat or rye bread, I’ll feed with the whole grain flour.

  20. Feeding sourdough just taken from fridge do I feed let prove 6/8 hours & then return to fridge or just feed & put straight back in fridge.?z

    1. I usually feed it and give it a couple of hours at room temperature. Usually 2-3 hours is enough time. I like to see that it’s active and growing before it goes back into the fridge.

  21. Thank you so very much for your excellent and very helpful information on keeping a sourdough starter ‘baby’alive!!
    I have recently begun this new hobby (or obsession-as my husband has righly observed).
    My friend who gave me starter- and continues to when something goes awry-happens to be the person you described as “drowning in starter”. Now I willnot only be following your instructions, but also intend to pass your info on to her. I now have a renewed hope in my success as a sourdough ‘Mama’!
    Thank the Lord! And my husband thanks you too!

  22. my starter will now pass float test several hours after feeding. But right out of the refrigerator it never does becuase it has fallen. In your directions you state that you can use starter right out of the fridge if it is still active. I always feed it first, but do i have to. Am I doing something wrong if it falls in the regrigerator?

    1. No, it will rise and fall in the refrigerator. It goes through the same cycle, just a little slower than it would at room temperature. I find that if I feed my starter and refrigerate it after 2-3 hours it is active enough to bake with for a couple of days. After about 2-3 days I will feed it before baking. It’s not an exact science and each starter will behave differently for a myriad of reasons.

  23. Hi! I made a new starter yesterday, I have looked at it several times today to see the bubbles are forming. My question is once I have a new starter how long do I need to wait before feedings? I’m really enjoying making sourdough bread and I can’t wait to try some of the recipes on this site. It has been out of the fridge for 24 hours. Any and all tips or creative criticism is welcome. I also store my starter in the fridge. Thank you, SKC

    1. Did you just begin the starter yesterday? As in, mix the flour and water? If you’re getting bubbles on the first day that’s pretty good. Visit my post about how to create a starter to see the process I use. I grow my starter over 8-10 days. This process gives the starter time to grow a good population of yeast. Even if you’re seeing a few bubbles on the first day, the starter is not ready for baking yet. Once you’ve finished developing your starter then it should be fed about 1x per week if you keep it in the refrigerator.

  24. Hi! My starter never has enough for the recipe and to feed. And that’s after feeding it that morning! What am I doing wrong?

    1. @Eileen Gray, by volume. I know that’s not great but I maintained it this way and not feeding before using for months. Then I switched to feeling it before and after baking with it and it is now much less starter but still works. I’ll order a scale and start weighing!

  25. I really like your way of feeding sourdough, by weight rather than by measure. This way is much faster and turns out great. For years I have measured and starter is never consistent. I also found out the bottled water is better than treated city water.

  26. My start doesn’t have the strong smell and taste of sourdough bread when I use it for making bread. Any suggestions on making it more tangy would be much appreciated.

    1. How you feed and store you starter, and how you mix and ferment the dough can encourage different acids to grow. If you ferment your dough for a shorter time at warmer temperature you encourage more lactic acid. Lactic acid has more milky, yogurty flavor. A longer, cooler ferment will encourage more acetic acid to develop. Acetic acid has more of the vinegary tang. Also, keeping your starter at a lower hydration level encourages more acetic acid than lactic acid. Even if your starter is not particularly tangy, you can encourage that acetic acid by adding more flour to make a thicker starter and by letting the dough ferment for a longer time in the refrigerator.

    1. Do you want an all-rye starter? If so, give your ap starter a couple of feedings of with rye flour until it’s mostly made up of rye. If you want a rye starter for making some rye bread you can do one rye feeding before making the rye bread and then go back to feeding with ap flour. If you want to keep a rye starter in addition to the ap starter, use some discard from the ap starter and feed it with rye flour to grow the rye starter.

  27. Hi,
    Yesterday I decided to make a starter. I followed a recipe (not this one) and it told me that after I made it I should leave it out for the night. when I woke up this morning to check on my starter, I found that was bready on the top and the rest was an amber liquid. I stirred it all in and refrigerated it, and it looks fine. But recently a clear liquid developed on the surface. I just took it out of the fridge and placed it on the counter and I was wondering what you would recommend I do with it. Should I feed it or is it too early for that? Thanks.

  28. Hi!
    A little late on the ball, but I’ll give it a try. If you intend to keep the sourdough starter in the fridge and feed it once a week, and for this example, not intend to bake it. Do you stil use warm water when feeding it? Do you put it right back in after feeding or keep it at room temperature for a while?

    1. The reason for the feeding is to give the yeast some food to keep it alive. The yeast is more active at warmer (not too warm) temp. Use warm water to activate the yeast and leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours to give it time to multiply and grow. Then it can go back in the fridge.

  29. When you are ready to refrigerate your starter in the glass quart jar, do you screw the lid on or do you leave it loose?

    1. @Eileen Gray, I have been setting the lid on but not screwing it down with the ring, it seems to be ok. I love how you answer every ones questions so well. I have lots of ? haha I’m just getting started to the sour dough world. thank you

  30. Hello
    I just started making sourdough bread in March when I couldn’t find yeast. I make 6 loaves of bread twice a week. I use 3 cups of starter for a batch of 6 loaves. So I never discard any starter. After I make the dough, I feed the starter a couple of times and put it in the refrigerator. I take it out in a couple of days when I make bread again. I usually use it right out of the refrigerator without feeding it. I don’t really measure when I feed the started I add about 3/4 cup of flour and then enough water to make it like a pretty thick pancaker batter. Is this OK. Will the starter go bad or get really strong if I don’t discard any? This has been working for about 6 months and I’ve started selling some bread at a farmers market. I just don’t want to ruin my starter. Thanks

    1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I have found that if I refrigerate my starter and then take it out within a day or two it is still good to use without feeding. The refrigerator slows down the fermentation. You may be pretty consistent if you have a good eye for how the starter should look when you feed it without measuring. But, personally, I would weigh the ingredients to be sure the starter is consistent, especially if you are selling your product. For selling, consistency is key.

  31. I really enjoy your website, in particular your sourdough recipes. I started my sourdough journey in June and have now reached a level of comfort with my bread making and maintaining my starter. I have begun to experiment and have since made your soft white sandwich loaf and donuts. Your recipes are quite user friendly. Will continue to experiment with your other recipes. Thanks a mil.

  32. Hello Eileen,
    Awesome website!!!
    Would it be possible to take the leftover active 4oz (after removing the 8oz for baking), and put that 4oz directly into the fridge. A week later take out that 4oz from the fridge building it back up to 12oz, bake, and repeat. At a one week baking schedule there would be no need to discard anything.
    In your feeding instructions next to the 4oz measurements it is 112g for starter and flour, however the water reads 120ml. Should this not be also 112g? 112g will also read 112ml on the scale.
    Thank you.
    Kind regards,

    1. I understand what you’re asking. Basically, you want to keep a smaller starter so you have less discard. It would possibly work. If you’re looking to have less discard you might want to try keeping a small starter. Using the small starter method there is only 2 oz of discard each time you’re ready to bake. Sometimes, if it’s only been a few days since my last bake, I won’t discard the 2 oz and will just go ahead with the 3 oz feeding. But I have found that giving the starter 2 feedings before making the dough results in a more active dough. By weight the water would be 112g, by cup measure 120ml.

  33. I’m a novice. This is great info. Question : can I claim my sour dough starter as a dependent on my taxes?

  34. Ended up throwing mine out. It never grew, never got yeasty. Very disappointed. I followed the directions that I thought were well written. The temp in my house is about 74 so I wondered if that was the problem. So disappointed.

  35. I need some help. I’m new to sourdough baking. I was given some starter to refrigerate. Was told to feed once a week. If I use equal parts of starter, flour, water, and have to discard what’s left, how will I ever have enough to bake a loaf of bread?

    1. @Eileen Gray, I was told if it’s is the refrigerator, I feed it once a week. Do I discard some before I feed it?

      1. Yes, you always need to discard before feeding. Otherwise the starter would grow exponentially and you’d end up drowning in starter.

  36. Hi! I’ve got a bit of a niche question. I fed my starter this morning, left it for a few hours to ripen it, and have now made up my dough for the bread I will bake tomorrow. My question is, for the starter I’ve got left in my jar, should I be feeding that right away after removing the portion I need for the dough? Or should I be leaving it alone until it’s about 12 hours after the last feeding time as not to over-feed it? For context I now want to stick it in the fridge so I can revert to weekly feeding times. Thanks so much in advance! X

    1. I always feed my starter right after removing the portion to mix the dough. I then leave it out for a couple of hours to give the yeast time to get going. Then it goes in the fridge until next time I plan to bake. If I plan to bake within a day I leave it out.

  37. I am anxious to make your sourdough rye with caraway as soon as I can get out to buy the stone ground rye flour to add to the recipe. However, I would like to have a more sour taste to the rye than with the white bread. How do I do this. Can I add dill pickle juice to the recipe? Or is there a more favored method?

    1. The amount of sour in a sourdough is about how to ferment the dough. A long cool rise encourages more acetic than lactic acid in the dough. Acetic acid is tangier. So instead of letting the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, you can leave it for 2 days. Also, if you feed your starter less frequently leading up to making the bread the sour will be stronger. Don’t poor off the “hooch” (liquid) that forms on top of an unfed starter.

  38. So I got a starter from a friend and I baked with it and then fed it…. I think I followed things right but after a few days in the fridge it is pretty solid looking. How long does it take until it develops that more liquid texture? have I screwed it up and can I fix it?

    1. The texture will depend on how you feed. If you feed equal weights of starter-flour-water the texture will be similar to a very thick pancake batter. Mine often thins out after being the fridge for a week or so. If you are feeding with more flour the starter will be more solid. Whatever the texture, as long as it is rising and falling it is alive and can be used in your recipes.

  39. I would love to get that recipe from you and give it a try, especially if it is as delicious as the white sandwich loaf! How do I get that recipe?

  40. Dear Eileen

    I am almost 80 and have been making bread and cooking for countless years for a family of 6(4 hungry children). Because of the lack of availability of bakers yeast, I’ve started experimenting with sourdough. I “stumbled” on your soft crust sourdough sandwich recipe and it is WONDERFULLY delicious and a godsend to me. With the arthritis in my hands, as slicing crusty bread is painful. My question is: Is there any room for substituting some of the white flour with rye flour?

  41. Hi Eileen,
    I have tried to start my sourdough 3 times now. Again it is runny and I really never see it rise. In the mornings it has a soft pink colored liquid on top which I just stir back into the batter. I am using one cup water to one cup of flour when feeding it of which the recipe called for. I have seen 4oz in some of your comments so I have a couple of questions,
    1) Can I use a glass bowl to make my started in or should I be using a glass jar.?
    2) Do I remove and add 4 or 8 oz when feeding
    3) Is my starter ok even though runny and has the pinkish fluid on top?
    Today is day 6 so I am going to feed every 12 hours but not sure if I remove .4 or 8 oz each time.
    I look forward to hearing from you!!

    1. Hi Cheryl, If you see pink or orange streaks in the starter you should discard it and start over. Pink or orange streaks indicate bad bacteria has grown in the starter. Same if you see any type of mold at all. If the liquid is clear or even a darkish gray that just the “hooch” and it ok. But definitely there shouldn’t be any pink or orange at all. Answers to your questions:
      1) You can use any type of container as long as you cover it. Plastic wrap or foil is fine. You don’t want to surface to dry out.
      2) The amount you discard when feeding depends on your own schedule. I have two methods; the full starter method is always kept at 12 oz. and is always fed with equal weights of starter-flour-water. This is the method described here in this post. I also keep a small starter which is maintained at 3 oz and fed 2x before using.
      3) No, If it is really pink then it should be discarded. Grayish liquid just means the starter is hungry, but any pink, orange or mold is bad.

  42. I have a starter that is bubbly, is nearly overflowing the jar on day4 which seems early to me. Do I continue to feed? And for how long? Or is it time to do a float test and be able to bake or refrigerate until I am ready? Thank you for your help.

    1. I would give it a few more days. Even though is it bubbling you want to give it a few more days to get the nice yeasty aroma. You want the right balance of bacteria and yeast before baking with it. Have you read through my How To Make A Sourdough Starter post? You’ll see day by day photos and notes on the activity and smell.

  43. Eileen, your site is great. Like many people I recently created a starter. I made your overnight cinnamon buns and was so thrilled when they rose and filled the pan without added commercial yeast. I’m confused about the term “100% hydration “. I made the sourdough bloodies ( they’re in the oven). You state you had good results from a starter that had been in the fridge a week. The recipe calls for 100% hydration starter. I don’t know if I was supposed to feed it or not before using. Thanks for any clarification.

    1. 100% hydration refer to how the starter is fed. The percent expresses the relation of the amount of liquid to the flour. So 100% means the starter is fed with equal weights of flour and water. If you have 80% hydration that would mean you have 80 percent flour to water, e.g. 8g of water and 10g of flour. The Sourdough Blondies use the “discard”. That is the stuff you throw away when you need to feed your starter. “Discard” recipes like the blondies give you the opportunity to use up that stuff rather than throw it away. Since my starter had in the refrigerator, unfed, for a week the flavor was pungent and sour. I like how that comes through in the blondies.

  44. Absolutely love reading your tips and I will surely try your recipes too. I have just started my yeast starter with 4tbs flour and 3 tbs water and it’s been 6 days already. I did the float test and it was successful. It’s tripled in size and very happy . But I’m a bit confused on how to carry on feeding my yeast from now on. I intend to bake in 2-3 days and would use 3/4 of the yeast
    mixture . I would leave a 1/4 in the jar and
    would you be able to tell me how to proceed to keep it active . How much flour and water do I use and also can I keep it on my kitchen counter as I intend to bake on week ends. .
    Thank you ever so much!

    1. By out of balance I mean that it’s not made up of equal weights of water-flour (100% hydration). But there are plenty of folks who keep a wet starter that is more water than flour and some people keep a stiff starter that is more flour than water. If you have a wet or stiff starter you just need to account for that when mixing the dough. Since my recipes are all written for a 100% starter you would need to adjust the ingredients to accommodate your starter. Do you already have a starter? Did you make it or did someone give it to you? If the starter has the texture of a very thick pancake batter it’s probably a 100% hydration starter.

      1. Thanks! I was recently given my starter (it’s been in her family for years) and I assumed I should feed 1:1:1. But it’s become watery, doesn’t double and separates within 24 hours. I read your page and I think I’ve unbalanced it. It still bubbles but isn’t as active as before.

        1. Do you feed 1:1:1 by weight or by volume? 1/2 cup of water is 4 oz but a 1/2 cup of flour is 2.5 oz. So if you use volume measure you will have a looser starter. Nothing wrong with that, but it may need to be fed more often.

  45. Thanks for your reply! It rises about 25% from what I can see. It failed the float test though. Do I continue feeding it everyday in the hope it will rise more?

    1. I would keep feeding it until it’s quite active. Are you using unbleach ap flour for feeding? You can try to give it a little whole grain rye or wheat flour. Sometimes the starter likes the whole grain for an extra boost.

      1. My starter has finally doubled earlier this evening! hooray. But I can see it collapsing as it doubled a couple of hours ago. Do I need to feed it again to keep it active until i’m ready to bake, which is some point this weekend?

  46. I have an heirloom starter, but it seems VERY runny. Everything I’ve made has been overly dense, which leads me to believe that it’s not active. In fact, I just tried to activate and after 8 hours, it failed the float test.

    How do I thicken up the starter?

    1. Have you been feeding with equal weights of starter-water-flour? How much starter do you have? You could take just an ounce of starter and feed it with an ounce of water and an ounce of flour and see how it does.

  47. This was great and helpful! I just got a starter from a friend that has been doing this a year. This put it in simple terms I can come back to if I need extra help! Thanks!

      1. Hi, I’ve just started my sourdough starter journey. A friend gave me their starter and I have fed it everyday. It’s 4oz in starter and I add in 4oz of flour and 4oz of water. Today is day 3. The starter has risen but not double in size. There are bubbles and it smells a bit tangy (quite nice actually). I leave it out everyday in the kitchen on top of the fridge and feed it once a day.

        Do I continue feeding it 4oz everyday until it doubles? Or do I make the feeds more frequent e.g. twice a day? Is it ok to leave out until the starter is active and established rather than store in fridge? Many thanks

        1. Well, it might double and then begin to collapse without you noticing. Is there a significant rise even if it’s not quite doubled? As long as it’s actively rising every day and smells nice and yeasty it should be good to use. I like to use mine right after it has finished rising and is beginning to collapse back. There’s lots of activity at that point. There should be no need to feed more than 1x per day. If you’re not ready to bake with it I would go ahead and put it in the refrigerator until you’re ready. But since it’s already active I would go ahead and get baking. Have fun!

  48. Hi, I read you have to keep starter in a container with a tight fitting lid so I’ve been using a kilner jar. You mention previously it should have a loose fitting lid. Is a kilner jar not suitable? Thanks for all the info.

    1. I use a loose fitting lid when growing the starter. Once the starter is established I keep it in a plastic deli container with the lid fitted tightly. I keep it refrigerated between baking sessions since I don’t bake every day.

    1. I use a plastic deli container and put the lid loosely on top. Any sort of loose cover will work.

    1. While growing the starter I use a loose fitting lid. Once the starter is established I keep it with a fitted lid. I refrigerate mine between baking sessions since I don’t bake every day.

  49. If I want to save discard for new starters for family do I feed it then refrigerate till I can deliver them?Thanks

    1. Yes, exactly. Just use the discard (4oz) to create a new starter and maintain until you can deliver it. Happy Baking!

  50. If you’re discarding a portion of the starter but you want to use it the next day in baking, can you save the discard In the fridge for use? Or do you have to use it that same day?

    1. Do you keep your starter at room temp? If you do, why not just refrigerate the entire starter then take it out the next day and use what you need and feed the starter then? If you keep the starter refrigerated just wait a day to feed it. Hope that answers your question.

  51. I am confused. Do I throw away the bulk of the stater every week if in frig and reduce my starter down to 1/2 c if I am not using it to bake that week…I was confused by your explanation above. Why are you discarding 2oz to have 18oz?

    1. You should always have 12 oz of starter as the base. Each time you feed the starter you either discard (if it’s not active) or use (if it is active) 8 oz of the starter. The remaining 4 oz is combined with 4 oz of water and 4 oz of flour to regenerate the starter base back to 12 oz. For folks who bake every day or several times per week, the starter will remain active and the 8 oz that is removed can be used right away for baking. For folks who bake less often and store the starter in the fridge between baking sessions the starter will go dormant in the refrigerator. In other words, the yeast has eaten most of the food available from the previous feeding and needs more food before it’s active enough for baking. In that case you must to discard the 8 oz of starter because it’s not active enough for baking. The previous comment about the 18 oz of starter is specifically for someone who was interested in doing a double bake in one day. You can ignore those numbers if you only plan to bake 1 recipe at a time. I hope this answers your question. Ask me if you need more clarification.

      1. Brand new to sourdough starters and your blog is serving as my life line. I want to make sure I understand this discard correctly because I was given a small amount and am trying to work up to storing a larger starter (LOVE your small starter page btw). I was getting really confused about where my discard would come from if I maintained 12oz but I THINK I get it now… If I want to maintain 12oz but will probably only bake once a week I would…
        1. Pull out my starter from fridge
        2. Discard 8oz bc it’s likely gone dormant (correct?)
        3. Feed remaining 4 back to 12oz
        4. Use 8oz for the recipe I want
        5. Feed the remaining 4oz again to be back to a base starter of 12oz

        Right? And I could take out and feed my starter the night before- leave it out overnight. Then I’d have 8oz ready to use by morning, correct?

        1. Hi Katherine. Sourdough is not a straightforward business so it’s sometimes hard to give a concrete answer. If you want to keep a larger 12 oz starter than what you’re listing is basically correct. All my recipes use 8 oz of either starter or discard. If your starter has been in the refrigerator for a week or two and hasn’t been fed then you will remove and discard (or use in a discard recipe) 8 oz of starter. Feed the remaining to bring back to 12 oz. Use that fed starter to bake a sourdough recipe within the next day. When you pull off 8 oz of fed starter for the recipe feed again and refrigerate. I have found that if I’ve fed my starter and it’s only been in the fridge for a day or two I can go ahead and use it for a sourdough recipe without feeding first.

      2. Good morning, people who know everything are not always good teachers.
        I have been reading and learning about sourdough baking for three months and this is the first time I have seen the proper ratio of starter to flour to water for the feeding of the starter.
        For me, I only use grams so I need to do some conversion sometimes.
        I am learning very useful information, thanks.

  52. I enjoy your website and recipes. Thank you.
    I have a dumb question…When feeding a starter, do I need to measure 4 oz. each time and discard and then add that or add to the starter without discarding what I have in container?
    Another question…Can I have 8 oz. of starter then add 8 oz. of AP flour and water to that?

    I would like to make sourdough bread and pretzels the same day. so I need to make sure that I have enough sourdough starter.

    This is my first time making starter so it is trial & error for me.

    1. Let me see if I can answer your question. The way I have my starter recipe written you should always have 12 oz of starter as your base. Each time you feed the starter you take out 4 oz of the unfed starter and combine it with 4 oz of flour and 4 oz of water. Discard (or use) the remaining 8 oz of starter. The main thing to remember is that you always feed with equal weights of starter-water-flour. That way the starter doesn’t get out of balance. If you want to do a double bake in one day you could remove the 4 oz and feed. Set that aside as your base starter. You’re now left with 8oz. I would discard 2 oz so you’re left with 6oz. Feed that 6oz with 6oz of water 6oz of flour. You’ll have a total of 18oz. When that starter is active and ready, use what you need for the two recipes and you should just have to discard the leftover 2oz. Does that make sense?

    2. I had this EXACT question with the starter instructions i’m following! Glad its explained here, thank you for asking 🙂