The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Janknitz's picture


OK, so I'm a little backwards.  I've been feeding my 100% hydration starter "all wrong" according to conventional wisdom.  Here's why:  After refreshing the starter with flour and water, most directions say to leave it on the counter for a few hours to get perking, then refrigerate for up to a week.

I probably misread the directions, so what I do is refresh the starter and put it directly in the fridge.  In the fridge it sssssssslllllllllllloooooooowwwwwwwwwwllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyy grows and bubbles.  (Look, Ma, no hooch!).  When I'm ready to use or feed it, I put the starter on the counter until it's nice and bubbly and has doubled from it's original volume.  This takes about 8 hours, just like a regular counter feed.  Then I can discard and feed as usual. 

So when I reread directions and realized that I was doing it all backwards, I tried it the "right" way.  But I don't like the "right way".  My starter did not seem happy.  It developed a yellowish layer of hooch and didn't smell as nice as it usually does. 

I think my way, the backwards way, is actually better and safer for the starter because it reduces the danger that the yeast will eat up all the food before it's time to be refreshed. 

Just wondering what all you sourdough experts out there think?

Ambimom's picture

As a sourdough newbie who "nurtured" a completely dead starter because I never learned what an active starter was supposed to look like, I say if it works for you, then do it!  Gawd, some of the hoo-ha written about sourdough makes me gag.  If your starter is active, then who cares.  If it works for you, stick with it and let the sourdough police implode.

Glass-Weaver's picture

After three attempts at getting a "natural" starter going, all of which eventually failed for a variety of reasons (there are so many ways to go off track) I tried an old method that uses commercial yeast...figuring that I would at least get one batch of bread.  I kept that starter going, feeling like I was cheating, and noticed that it went through the same progression of smells as the natural starters, but with more bubbling activity.  After about 10 days the smell settled down to a strong, healthy sourdough smell, and the starter was nicely active, increasing by threefold after about 7 hours at 71 degrees.  The starter is about a month old now, performing nicely, making wonderful bread.  (Fed twice daily, 1:2:2 ratio, kept at room temp.)  I reason that the original commercial yeast is long gone and the wild yeast/bacteria have set up camp.  The Sourdough Police Officer in my head is screaming at me, but I keep stuffing her mouth with bread.  She's starting to settle down.


photojess's picture

it may take more than a few feedings to turn it around to get it back on "schedule"?

I'm on day 6 of my starter, and it's doing very nicely. also maintained on tap water, not bottled.  I'm feeding at a 1:2:2 ratio now, and it seems to be holding nicely, as our temps are in the 60's here (it is July isn't it?), so I don't think it's going through it's food too fast.

If your getting hooch, (from what I have read on here) that would mean that it's running out of food too fast.  What ratio are you feeding at, and how old it the starter?  What are your kitchen temps?  If it's very warm where you are, it may need to be feed more/or more frequently.

There, I've reiterated what I have learned on here.....smiling proudly....and can't wait to start baking with my own starter, that I have not neglected since I birthed it!

Larry Clark's picture
Larry Clark

I've been treating my starter your way for about two years with no noticeable ill effects and it's pretty much the method Mike Avery recommends at "Sourdough Home"




Soundman's picture

Following up on Larry's reference to Mike Avery's website, I took the liberty of grabbing some of Mike's advice, see below. Note that refrigerating a starter immediately after feeding is only recommended AFTER the starter has become fully active (and microbially populated).

'So, when can you optimally refrigerate a starter? The starter should be at least 30 days old, having been fed twice a day the entire time. It should be able to make bread you like - why store a starter that isn't working for you? A starter you get from a vendor, friend or other source is already more than 30 days old, the 30 days just refers to starters you have started. Next, the starter should be able to double it's size between feedings. If it's not healthy, it's not a good idea to refrigerate it. And finally, the best time to refrigerate the starter is when it is freshly fed. So, feed your starter until it will double in size between feedings, feed it one more time and then refrigerate it. I call the starter in the refrigerator my "storage starter."'



plevee's picture

I've been doing it this way for a decade with the same rationale.

I don't like sour tasting bread. This method seems to produce a starter that raises the bread well without a sour taste.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Jan.

I've refrigerated my starter after it has doubled, an hour after a feeding and immediately after a feeding. All of these work, depending on the hydration of your starter, ambient temperature and how long you keep it refrigerated before the next feeding.

My stock starter is 67% hydration. If you use a liquid starter, I'd say you should refrigerate it right after feeding, because it uses up its food a lot faster than a firm starter. I'd also say you shouldn't leave it refrigerated for weeks between feedings.

If I refrigerate a firm starter right after feeding it (within an hour or so), it will keep without throwing off hooch for a month! It does get a little soupy, but no hooch.


Janknitz's picture

That I don't have to worry about the "Sourdough Police" coming to arrest me jsut yet ;o)


I read Mike Avery's primer, so maybe I really got the idea from him. 

My usual starter is 100% hydration starter begun with pineapple juice according to the directions here on TFL.  It's a couple of months old now and doing well.  I bake mostly on weekends (unless it's beastly hot, like last weekend), and I'm careful to use my starter and/or feed it at least once a week.

I'm going to use tonight's discard to make a firm starter as Rose Levy-Berenbaum recommends.  I'm intrigued with comparing the flavors with different hydration levels and the logistics of using a firm starter in my doughs. 

RLB says a firm starter should be allowed to rise on the counter from 1/2 hour (for starters that won't be used for a week) to 2 hour (for starters to be used within a day).  So, David, it sounds like a good idea to follow her guidelines for a firm starter (though she says almost the same for a liquid starter)?  How interesting that yours throws off hooch if it's refrigerated too soon!  I wonder if there is an explanation for that. 

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

"You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can, and will be used against you on TFL..."




I never got satisfactory results with my 100% hydration starter. I was going to give up. I finally went to a 75% hydration, and just like that, there was the sour I had been searching for! Now the problem is, all of those 'failed' recipes are burned into my brain. I really should go back and re-try some of them...

- Keith