The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Starter dud

virginiann's picture

Sourdough Starter dud

Hello all! I've been lurking here for quite sometime. I'm fairly new to all this bread making 'obsession'. I say obsession because six months ago I went from buying a used bread machine to giving it way and buying my first heavy duty stand mixer and baking bread everyday! 

I've hesitated jumping in and asking yet 'another' sourdough question for fear of sounding redundant. But I've searched everywhere for the answer to this question and I still do not see it.

I got me one of those San Francisco sourdough starter kits a while back and it did exactly what it was suppose to do, I made a couple of very good loafs with that starter. However, being the uneducated bread baker wanna be that I am. I successfully killed it.

Wanting to try one more time at the sourdough starter, I purchased another starter. It is doing what the first did with the bubbling and aroma, but not the rise. It looks good, smells good but even the cup that I remove produced a dead glob of dough. How can it look good in the jar, with the bubbles and looking all spongy but produces nothing? 

I hope someone can help me, thank you in advance for you time. I have learned so much and I'm sure now that I've broken the ice you will see much more of me. Sorry for the long windiness of this post.


tananaBrian's picture

I'm not sure that I can answer your question scientifically, but it has been my observation that starters become a lot more robust and more reliable after several months of feedings and refrigeration cycles.  I've got a whole wheat starter that I made by converting from a white starter, and then more or less abused it.  It started out quite active but then in the process of moving 400 miles, it didn't get fed at all for about 3 weeks.  I fed it last night and ...dud.  2 or 3 bubbles in it this morning.  I let it ferment all day, after stirring well, and tonight ...maybe 5 bubbles.  It'll probably come back but will require some patience I suppose.  I've done worse things to starters and succeeded in reviving them!  In any case, I would encourage you to keep feeding your starter once a week or more, and refrigerate it in between feedings, and give it some time.  Chance are good that you'll spend a couple of bucks in flour and a few weeks in patience, but will be rewarded with a good and active starter.  Most people fail before their starters do!  (As in 'quit')



dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Virginia.

How old is your starter?

I agree with Brian, except I would feed the new starter every 12 hours for at least a week before giving up on it.

I just activated a starter purchased in dried form. It took 6 days before it was fully active. Tonight, after a feeding, it doubled in volume in 2 hours. But, on days 3-6, it didn't grow at all. However, the flour gluten was breaking down and the aroma was steadily improving.

This period of inactivity is normal and expectable. You must keep feeding the culture until it gets active, which it almost always will.

Note that I assume you are keeping it in a fairly liquid form. If it is more firm, it will mature more slowly and can be fed less often.

I hope this helps.


virginiann's picture

I decided after I posted to go ahead and bake the bread. Here are pictures of the starter and the off spring:

It was very dense and chewy. I will start feeding it twice a day instead of the once a day that I was doing. I will keep you posted.

Thank you again for your time.


P.S. Yes it is fairly liquid.

Davo's picture

Very hard to comment unless you have details on starter-to-dough ratio, temperatures/times etc. There are stages during my normal routine where if I baked, the bread would be dense. But I know the times and routines that are required to get a decent rise and oven spring....