The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

lame newbie sourdough question

flour-girl's picture

lame newbie sourdough question

So, I just got Hamelman's "Bread" and immediately mixed up his Liquid Levain culture. It is nice and bubbly after two feeds today and I'm hopeful that I can follow his instructions over the next week or so to wind up with a viable starter.

I don't feel like his book, though, addresses how to take care of the starter once you've cultivated it.

Say I'll only be making sourdough bread once a week or so ... How often should I be feeding it? How much should I be feeding it? Should I be storing it in the refrigerator?


I feel like I just hastily adopted a dog from the pound with no inkling as to how to care for it!

Thanks for any guidance!


(Check out my blog at Flour Girl.)

Pablo's picture

Hi Heather,

If you poke around here with the search engine you'll find lots of different ways to take care of your starter.  A question is, how involved do you want to be?  There are folks who keep their starters at room temperature and feed them twice a day, carefully manipulating hydration ratios, flour types and storage temperature.  I used to be one.  I got tired of that and went the other way.  I mixed my starter to a pretty low hydration (50%) and keep it in the 'fridge.  It's good for at least a couple of months, that's how long I've gone before using it down to the end and starting a new batch.  It works for me.


Frosty's picture

Hello Heather,

I'm not saying this is the "right way" but this is how I do it.  Every month, in a clean quart mason jar, I mix 3/4 cup of AP flour and 1 cup of water.

If the hooch on the starter (which is kept in the fridge) is a lot a pour some off (say > 1/2 inch).  I then mix it together and then pour some into the prepared container.  I use a line on the side to measure how much, but I can't remember off hand.  It's less then 1/2 of what's in the original.

I stir is up really good making sure there is no flour clumps on the sides or bottom and then let it sit out for about an hour or two.  I then put it back in the fridge.

I just did this yesterday and it only takes about 10 minutes.  I've never had an issue and it seems to work well.

Again, just my way, but it seems to work.


ClimbHi's picture

I realize that I'm not fussy enough to care for a room-temp starter. I'd likely forget, or just not be able to get home at some point to deal with it. So, right from the start, I began keeping my starter in the fridge in a crock. I keep about a 1-lb batch at 100% hydration (makes the math easier) and generally bake every weekend. If I miss a weekend, I will toss out half (or more), refresh it with equal weights of flour and water, let it sit for an hour or two, and then put it back into the fridge until next week. The general PR rule is never refresh unless you at least double the amount of starter used, and let the refreshed starter sit at room temp until it starts to get active -- usually about an hour or so -- before putting it in the fridge.

Pittsburgh, PA

flour-girl's picture

Thanks, everyone ...

I guess the biggest thing I don't understand is ... Why are some of these formulas so fussy? It sounds like people are able to get this to work without being so precise, right? All of these books are kind of freaking me out. Should I just not worry about it so much and it'll be OK?

It sounds like if I can get this culture growing over the next week or so, I should be able to store it in the refrigerator and feed it equal parts flour and water once a week. Does that sound about right?

You can check out the exploding starter fun I woke up to this morning on my blog at Flour Girl.

Thanks for the advice,


LindyD's picture

Heather, people started leavening their breads around 1500 BC, so the process has been around for some time.

When I made my culture, I fed it daily for at least two weeks before I even attempted to bake with it.  Then I continued refreshing it for about another week to ten days before I finally bit the bullet and refrigerated it. 

Like Pablo, I keep a relatively firm starter.  I remove it from the refrigerator 24 to 48 hours before I intend to use it - and feed it a couple of times.

You want some maturity in the culture and you definitely want a strong culture before you put it in the dark coldness of your fridge.  My suggestion is to keep on refreshing it and bake with it once or twice before you put it in the cooler.  Once it's in, if you start seeing hootch, take it out and feed it immediately.

I've always enjoyed Alton Brown's description of a sourdough starter when he said it is like a family pet: well cared for and fed until it grows strong.  But then we bake and eat it.  :-)




summerbaker's picture

I'm not a sourdough expert by any means, but I have been able to keep a stable starter going now for about six months by feeding once a week.  I happen to mainly use a "stiff" (50% hydration) starter which is created by using twice as much flour as water but I'm sure you can do the same thing with liquid to keep it ready to use (I actually do have a 100% hydration starter in my fridge that I feed once a month just to keep it alive).  I don't bother at all to let the starter sit out of the fridge once I refresh it.  I just put it directly back, but keep in mind that I won't be able to use it for about 4 to five days or until it looks almost like melted mozzarella cheese when I peel back to top layer (full of stretchy holes).  Here's my method:

Shred 200g starter into 400g flour and add 200g water.  Mix until combined by hand in the original container.  Either use or discard extra starter.  It's even easier to mix when using a 100% hydration starter like yours.


ermabom's picture

I keep a 60% hydration starter (2 of them: a rye and a whole wheat) for up to two weeks at a time w/o feeding. When I am ready to bake, i take some out and feed it with some of the flour and water in the bread (still maintaining the 60%) and then add that to the dough. I also make up a new batch of starter to keep. 


I am finding creative uses for the discards because I hate to throw it out and so far I've been successful in using it all up. Sometimes they sit for weeks before I use them up but they add flavor, if not leavening.