The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

new to sourdough

Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

new to sourdough

Hello, im 100% new to sourdough baking, and i have a question.


When you feed the starter, the 1/2 you discard is the part you use to bake your loaf?


So if i have 16 ounces of starter, i take 8 out for a loaf and replace what i took with 4 oz of water and 4 oz flour(or whatever hydrations % i am using)?


Please let me know how right/wrong i am!!!!

Yumarama's picture

While you're getting the st6arter going, it's probably best to just toss that excess. Until the starter is good and lively it really is just "used up" flour soup. 

But when your starter is active and hearty, the discard is just as good as the stuff you leave in the jar. Some may say it's exactly the same! So if the stuff you're keeping is good, the the stuff you're taking out is as well and certainly this can be used to make bread. Or use for pancakes or put into the green recycle bin... or give to friends or dry some up as back up or...

It's simply "excess" starter, not bad starter.

In fact if you make it your habit to always use only the "excess" for your bread making and keep your Mother or Chef starter amount separate from any baking amount, you'll never run into the problem of having used all your starter to make your bread and accidentally forgetting to take some back out.

And yes, that has happened to plenty of folks who suddenly realized they've just baked the very last bit of their trusty 7 year old starter.

Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

Thats part of the reason i asked the question great answer thanks.

So the method i plan on using will work, what are some other methods of using the starter?

I am not 100% certain i fully understand how it all works just!

flournwater's picture

As much as I hate to throw starter away, I must agree with rainbowz that newly developed starter probably needs to be discarded until it can stand on its own.

Besides using your starter in bread formulas, it's useful in waffles and pancakes.


Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

oh no, i understood that, i guess what im saying is how to measure out grow and use the starter in a recipe.

Like for example if i have a recipe call for 8 oz starter(or any amount) how do i go about using the starter that i have grown(in the proccess but you get the idea) to get the desired amount for the bread recipe?

Yumarama's picture

from their "Mother" starter. So let's say the recipe wants 8 oz but your mother is kept at 2. 

You can feed your mother without discarding and bring it up to 6 oz, then when that's ready, feed it again to bring it up to 10 oz. You the remove 2 oz and return that to the Mother routine and use the remaining 8 oz. Note you don't "discard" anything in this process as you're building up.

This is where someone might forget to take their 2 oz back out and end up baking all their starter. <gasp><cry>

That's the method Hamelman describes in his book "Bread" - (fake example numbers) take 2 oz starter, build 32 oz, take back 2, use 30. I can just see myself forgetting the "take back 2" part.

By doing it the other way, using only the last excess from a normal feed, you never put your Mother starter in the "baking" cycle and won't end up having to create a new starter from scratch again.


And as an aside and off topic point, you may find your starter a little more vigorous if you feed it more than your current 2:1:1 ratio. I would recommend you increase it to, at least, 1:1:1 or even 1:2:2. You can start with as little as 15g of old starter (about a tablespoon), and adding 30g of water and 30g of flour. This will give you around 1/4 cup of starter and produce 60g of excess at feed time. Hamelman's popular Vermont Sourdough needs only 30g of starter so that's easily gotten from your normal feed. Twice over, in fact.

Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

Thank byou for the wonderfull replies!

Please keep any more information forthcoming!

Janknitz's picture

Now, let's say your recipe calls for 8 oz. of starter but you only keep 4.

1. place 2 oz. of "discard" in a clean container and feed your mother the usual 1 oz flour + 1 oz water.

2. Feed the "discard" 2 oz flour and 2 oz water and allow it to ripen (6 oz).

3. When your fed discard is ripe, discard 2 oz (now you have 4 oz) and feed it 2 oz of flour and 2 oz of water. Now you have 8 oz.

4. Allow that to ripen and use it in your recipe.

You don't have to do it exactly this way. You can "build" it in only one step (add 3 oz each of flour and water to 2 oz of discard) or many small increments.

I don't know what the pros and cons of the various approaches to builds are. Perhaps some one else will weigh in?

Ambimom's picture

First off, there's no right or wrong.

When you begin with sourdough, you'll have to learn what an active starter looks like.  That was crucial for me when I first began my sourdough baking.

When establishing a starter, the first couple of days it should be fed every few hours; then once or twice a day for a couple of days.  Then you can stick it in the refrigerator between feedings and bread-baking.  I bake once a week, but some people store starter in the refrigerator for a month or more.

What you discard, what you keep, what you use in your bread recipe is up to you.  A good active starter smells really nice, has lots of big and small bubbles, and looks frothy.  After an active starter is fed, it will rise noticeably.  You may want to wrap a rubber band around your starter jar to note it's rise.

I'd also recommend investing in a scale to measure ounces and grams by weight not volume.  Eyeballing measurements can really screw up your starter and your bread.

I use my feeding discard for my bread, but that's because I hate throwing out active starter....Mine has been established for a year.