The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Technical Starter/sourdough question?

rainwater's picture

Technical Starter/sourdough question?

So far, I'm having quite good results with my sourdough adventures....I'm using sourdough for two weeks now. 

My question:  When feeding the starter (I'm about 75% hydration), when is the optimal sign that the starter is ready for the refrigerator.  The book says bubbly and foamy......but I've read posters say don't let it collapse in the middle.....

any thoughts how much one would let the newly fed starter "rise" before refrigeration....mine goes a little beyond double, and I put it in the refrigerator.....My intuition tells me to chill while there is still some spring in the starter..or before it starts to collapse....or is it better to let it go until it collapses?  ...or does it ever collapse? 


meryl's picture

Hi rainwater,

I would say that the starter is two things - a souring bacteria and a rising yeast. They don't really go together 100% so the answer to your question has to consider which one you want to promote.

I always believe the yeast are more important and sourdough yeast keep on going even after acidity increases.  I once fed my starter three times a day and gradually it started dying even though it would rise then collapse before I fed it. I had better luck when I fed it less.

Sometimes the starter rises again after it deflates. This makes sense since the yeast come into contact with new food after it deflates.

I also just know I waited long enough cause I can feel how strong the dough is when I feed it. If it's too strong, like plain flour and water then I know enough fermentation didn't happen.

Hope this helps,


gaaarp's picture

rainwater, I keep my starter in the fridge and feed it weekly if I'm using it or every few weeks if I'm not.  I feed it right out of the refrigerator using lukewarm water (approx. 90 degrees).  Then I let it sit out for a few hours and put it back in the fridge.  I don't watch for a certain level of activity or rise -- I just give it a few hours on the counter and then put it away.


hansjoakim's picture

I'm letting the starter sit out for two to three hours before sticking it into the fridge. If you take a look at the growth curve at this page, I'm shooting for somewhere in phase 2 before nap time :)

ClimbHi's picture

I find it's more important to let the starter warm up an hour or so before using it to make dough than it is to get the pre-refridgeration rise exactly right.

I bake once a week. I use what starter I need, and then replace that quantity in the starter jar. (I keep a little less than a pound of 100% starter in the jar. I use 8 - 12 oz. a week, depending.) I put it back in the fridge after an hour or two -- I don't worry about exact timing. So long as I can see a few bubbles on the surface, I figure it's good to go.

Pittsburgh, PA

davec's picture

Mike Avery says, "In general, a starter that was fed just before it was refrigerated or frozen seems to bounce back faster than a starter that was mature when it was put in storage."

Since I read that, I've been following his advice, and, depending on the recipe, I can often use my starter right out of the refrigerator.


rainwater's picture

I used the starter method in the "Bread Baker's Apprentice".  I feed my starter, let it rise and bubble....then put it in the refrigerator..per instructions.

....but, in Reinhart's "Whole Grain Bread's", the instructions are to degas the starter, and form into wet dough before putting in refrigerator.

any opinions.....I've never de-gassed or stirred or kneaded before refrigeration before?