The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello. starter question here

winryese's picture

Hello. starter question here


I have a starter that is about a week old, and will only rise while in the oven with the light on.  I don't have a thermometer but I'm asssuming is 85-90F in there.  I really have no idea at all.  It's very active while in there; doubling or more in 2hrs or so, but drops back down to its original level when taken out and set on the counter.  I'd say in the same amount of time, 2-3hrs.  And then won't rise again at all, in the oven or not, until its fed again.

My question is, #1: has anyone heard of a starter, yes, rising a lot when warm compared to being cool, but dropping when cooling down?  And #2, is this starter safe to use?  I've read a lot online about bad bacteria outnumbering yeasts in warm environments, and that you really want it to be active when cooler.  There aren't a bunch of bad bacteria rising in the oven masquerading as yeast are there?

If this thing won't rise in 70-75F temps, it's not going to rise the bread overnight when it's time to actually use the starter.  My plan was to let it rise 12-15hrs on the counter, as a cold rise is what you want with sourdough, yes?  I don't know.


Thank you for your time.

marc's picture

Avoid the overly warm oven and the oven all-together. Allow your starter to sit out on the counter, loosely covered with plastic wrap at room temp (70˚- 72˚), but don't become to OCD about the temperature. However, 85 to 90 in an oven is definitely going to grow something, but not the critter you want for growing your bread.

Allow 24 to 48 hours between feedings/refreshments. 12-15 is more appropriate for maintaining a healthy starter. First, you need to get to that point.

Stir your starter every 4 to 6 hours just to aerate and prevent mold from growing on the surface.

Allow anywhere from 4 to 9 days for your starter to take hold.

Work in small amounts. Yeast will begin to grow as easily on 2 T of flour as it will 2 cups of flour. Small amounts also make it much easier for cleanup. Once your starter is healthy, you can begin to build larger batches until you have a manageable amount to make bread with some left over to refresh/replenish.

There are a whole host of methods that can be found on this site, as well as in published books. I spent the better part of two months trying various methods, and at times had up to 5 different attempts going simultaneously and eventually threw everything into the garbage out of frustration. 2 days later, I found one lone cup of goop that I had forgotten to discard and it smelled...well, like yeast. So I then weighed out 45grams and discarded the rest. To the 45 grams I added 2T water, 50g bread flour and 2t whole wheat flour. Within about 6 hours the dough had doubled. I repeated this process and then began to work up to a larger batch so that I had enough to make bread, with extra left over for replenishment. 

You'll know you have a starter that is ready to go when:

1. It readily doubles within 8 to 12 hours*

2. It smells yeasty

3. You can slice it with a serrated knife and have it open up to reveal all of the airy pockets.

4. It has an obvious dome on top and is not flat.

4. It is tacky, and perhaps sticky, but definitely NOT gooey.

If the starter does not have the above mentioned traits, don't be discouraged. Simply continue with the refreshments and be patient. It's well worth the wait.

*doubled? I've read mention of a starter needing to triple, and honestly, I don't think my starter ever has tripled. It usually falls before then. But, I have baked many successful loaves with my starter.

Here is a very helpful link for better understanding what's going on and a manageable process.




winryese's picture

I see.  Thank you for the response.  I'm throwing everything out and starting anew with the pineapple juice tonight.  I was worried about the heat and your comments confirmed it.

Yumarama's picture

If you'd like to take a peek at the process with lots of pictures over several days, check it out here on my blog so you can get an idea of what will happen.

winryese's picture

Very good stuff rainbowz.  Enjoyable read

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

Rainbowz, your post (and the accompanying links, including your blog post) is the best I've come across in my search for an answer to the question 'what went wrong with my starter'.  It not only explained what was going on, but also gave me reason not to toss everything in the trash -- not just yet--- which is what I would have done 3 days ago if I hadn't come across this thread.  Now I have a nicely bubbling starter and reason to hope, even though I did not use pineapple juice, just spring water.  Thank you.