The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Refrigeration of starter

Hautcuisine's picture

Refrigeration of starter

So I grew a culture a month or so ago, baked a ton of bread, but over the next few weeks I'm not going to be baking that much at all...If I refrigerate the starter, how long can I go without feeding it?

Thanks, sorry if this has already been covered...


SourdoLady's picture

Starter can survive for quite a long time under refrigeration without feeding before it totally dies. I wouldn't deliberately do this to your starter, however, because it will become very sluggish. It is best to feed it once a week, but up to a month without feeding will not harm it. I would recommend that you put quite a lot of flour in the starter so that it is very thick. It will keep better and for longer if it is thick. When you do get ready to bake with it again you will need to do several feedings in succession before you can bake with it again (like 3 or 4 feedings at 12 hour intervals).

moko7's picture

I have been reading your blog and I found it to be really helpful.  It's so interesting to read through them.  I look forward to the day I can make a good sourdough bread. 

I have a question about refreshing my refrigerated starter.   I let my refrigerated starter come to room temp then I threw out all but a 1/4c before the initial feeding. Do I need to discard all but 1/4c of the starter at each feeding during this 12 hour interval or just add to it?

Floydm's picture

I'm pretty sure you do need to discard it. Not to be gross, but it is like changing the litter box.

I have a question along those lines: how do people dispose of their starter? I always fear if I wash it down the drain I'll end up clogging the lines after a few weeks, so I toss it in the trash, which I don't like doing. Am I just being paranoid?

pumpkinpapa's picture

Floyd I am currently working on my pipes in the basement because there is a buildup of dried sourdough plugging it up. Bad stuff! Like concrete nearly with all the food material in the pipes already. Ever makes bakers clay? Great for modelling, shows the potential for flour, water, and salt in construction ;)

Best thing is to compost it, along with almost everything else. Being all natural it breaks down nicely outdoors! 

JMonkey's picture

Really, the only reason you need to discard starter is so that you don't have to add an incredible amount of flour to double it. If you don't double the amount of flour, the starter won't have enough food to thrive, and you'll get a starter that just poops out. I usually triple or quadrupal the amount of flour when I refresh. If I never threw anything out, it'd soon get to the point where I'd have to add a couple of pounds!

The way I handle my starter these days is to keep about an ounce or two of very stiff (50% hydration) starter in the fridge in a small glass jar that used to hold honey. When I want to make sourdough on the weekend, I pick off about 3-5 grams and then build it up to where I need it (about 200 grams or so) over the course of three refreshments about 12 hours apart on the kitchen counter. That way, I haven't thrown away anything and I won't have a ton of excess starter. Once a week, I take about a third of the starter in the jar and refresh it. What's left over I put in a plastic bag in hopes of giving it away to someone who can use it. If it's still there a couple of weeks later, I toss it in the trash. Which is sad, but, alas, necessary.

bottleny's picture

You can make some dry starter out from yours. It's always good to have some backup.

andrew_l's picture

I always keep two starters on the go, in case one should die, get contaminated, or thrown away by someone. One is in regular use, the back-up is refreshed just occasionally.
The longest it has gone with nothing done to it is 3 months and it was back to full strength after two refreshments. It is a stiff starter, typically it is 60 grams starter, 60 grams water and 100 grams white bread flour.
It will seperate after time and go a coffee - colour, but just stir it about, take 30 grams of that, add 30 of water and 50 of flour. Leave overnight, add to this 110 of water and 110 of flour, leave overnight and it is ready to use as the basis of your next bake. This way, you waste much less - which I hate doing.


andrew_l's picture

Incidentally, I have a friend via email (!) who has kept a stiff starter for 2 years, stirred it, took a tablespoon of starter and mixed that with 30 grams water and 50 of flour, threw out all but 30 grams of that, which was refreshed again, and it was up to speed. So - up to two years is theoretically a viable keeping time.

gianfornaio's picture

Since I go several days between loaves (I pretty much just bake on my days off) I like to keep just a tiny pinch, like a teaspoonful, of my last loaf-- that way I feed it another teaspoon or half tablespoon of flour, doubling that twice a day-- it grows quickly but you can go a few days without tossing any and keep your starter really powerful. I don't start weighing things until I make an actual loaf, but I do starter by volume: 2 parts flour, one part water, which is usually about 60-70% hydration for me, so I can work back with that estimation from there for figuring hydration and weights.

Day 1: bread made in AM, ~teaspoon saved from dough; 1/2 tablespoon added in PM

Next day: Tablespoon flour in AM, 1/8 cup in PM.

Day 3: 1/4 cup in AM, 1/2 cup in PM

Day 4: 1 cup in AM, 2 cups in PM.

5th day AM: Make bread, or if you don't have the day off yet or otherwise aren't intending to bake today, start discarding a portion. Ideally, you might have started discarding earlier if you've known you wouldn't be baking today, to avoid wasting flour.