The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to Use My Starter

blackhorse16a's picture

How to Use My Starter

I've read a lot of posts here (great group of folks) but I'm still confused about what I need to do prior to using my starter.

I have been just taking it out of the fridge and using it to make a barm, providing I've fed it in the last three days. My rising has taken much longer than the recipes call for,

even at warm temps, and my bread is still pretty dense.. Should I be letting the starter get to RT before using? Shou;d I feed it nearer to using and leave at RT?

Any advice appreciated.



Ford's picture

For myself -- I now keep 100% hydration starter in the refrigerator. (Yes, it used to be 188%hydration.  My recipes still call for that.)

On the day before I want to bake. I remove 3 ounces and mix with 3 oz. unbleached A. P. flour and 3 oz. chlorine-free water.  I let this stand at room temperature for eight hours.  I then mix in 9 oz. unbleached A. P. flour and 9 oz. chlorine-free water.  This gives me 27 oz. of 100% starter.  I put 2 oz. back with my refrigerater starter along with a half oz. flour and a half oz. of chlorine free water.  (If I am making a whole wheat bread, I substitute whole wheat floour for the A. P. flour)

I now have 25 oz. 100% hydration starter to use as I see fit.  If I add 11 oz. of chlorine-free water, I will have 36 oz. of 188% hydation starter.

My bread recipes normally take about three to four hours for the final rise before baking, depending upon the temperature.  I do use an hour of poolish rise and an hour of preshaping rise.

Does this help?


Ford's picture

It sounds to me as though you do NOT yet have a real starter.  If you cannot get a small amount of starter to build on, then you must start fresh and this is a several week process.

See Mike Avery's instructions:


OR here are instructions from Debra Wink:

Debra Wink’s Sourdough Starter Recipe
There is nothing magic about the two tablespoons of measure used throughout the first three days.  Equal weights didn't provide a high enough ratio of acid to flour to suit me, and equal volumes did.  Two tablespoons is enough to mix easily without being overly wasteful (and just happens to be the volume of an eighth-cup coffee scoop, which is what I kept on the counter next to the flour and seed culture for quick, easy feeding).  These first few days don't really benefit from being particularly fussy with odd or precise measuring, so make it easy on yourself.  Keep it simple, and let Mother Nature do the rest.

Day 1: mix...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour* (wheat or rye)
2 tablespoons pineapple juice , orange juice, or apple cider

Day 2: add...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour*
2 tablespoons juice or cider

Day 3: add...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour*
2 tablespoons juice or cider

Day 4: (and once daily until it starts to expand and smell yeasty), mix . . .
2 oz. of the starter (1/4 cup after stirring down-discard the rest)
1 oz. flour** (scant 1/4 cup)
1 oz. water (2 tablespoons)

* Organic is not a requirement, nor does it need to be freshly ground.

**You can feed the starter/seed culture whatever you would like at this point.  White flour, either bread (unbleached) or a strong unbleached all-purpose like King Arthur or a Canadian brand will turn it into a general-purpose white sourdough starter.  Feed it rye flour if you want a rye sour, or whole wheat, if you want to make 100% whole wheat breads.  If you're new to sourdough, a white starter is probably the best place to start.
On average, yeast cells begin to grow on day 3 or 4 in the warmer months, and on day 4 or 5 during colder times of the year, but results vary by circumstance.  Feed once a day, taking care not to leave mold-promoting residue clinging to the sides or lid of your bowl or container, and refer back to the different phases to track progress.  Once you have yeast growing (but not before), you can and should gradually step up the feeding to two or three times a day, and/or give it bigger refreshments.  This is the point at which I generally defer to the sourdough experts.  There are several good books on sourdough that address the topic of starter maintenance and how to use it in bread.  Just keep in mind that the first days of the seed culture process have nothing to do with developing flavor or even fostering the most desirable species.  The object is simply to move through the succession and get the starter up and running.  The fine-tuning begins there.  Once yeast are growing well, choose the hydration, temperature and feeding routine that suits you, and the populations will shift in response to the flour and conditions that you set up for maintenance.
One more thing I have found is that with regular feeding at room temperature, new starters seem to improve and get more fragrant right around the two-week mark.  Maybe this coincides with the appearance of Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis mentioned previously.  It is generally regarded as the most desirable species, as well as the one found to be the most common in traditional sourdough.  A Fifth Phase?  Obviously, there is still more to learn.  -Debra Wink


Good luck -- Ford