The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When to refrigerate starter?

copyu's picture

When to refrigerate starter?

Hi all,

A quick question needing a quick answer (if you don't mind...  ;-) )

I'm leaving the country tomorrow night for about 10 days and am just about to feed my rye starters. They've been out of the fridge for a few days and been fed twice daily. I've been 'thickening' them somewhat, reducing the hydration, giving more flour than water lately. They're both looking very healthy.

I won't have any time or need to bake tomorrow, so...Do I feed them normally, now, and refrigerate them immediately, or do I have to wait for them to rise first and THEN pop them into the fridge? My schedule would allow one more feed before flying out of the country.

What do you think is best? Your advice will be esteemed most highly. Thank you!


pmccool's picture

is to feed it (I keep mine at about 50% hydration--it's mostly white with a bit of rye or whole wheat), let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so, then put it into the refrigerator.  That seems to give the yeasts and bacteria an opportunity to colonize the new food without giving them so much of a head start that they exhaust their food supply before you use the starter again.  A stiff-consistency starter seems better able to weather a longer storage than a wetter, more liquid starter.  

When you want to use it next, take it out of the refrigerator, give it 2 or 3 feedings per your usual practice and it should be its usual perky self.

Bon voyage!


LindyD's picture

Follow Paul's excellent advice, copyu, and you won't have to worry about your levain while you enjoy your trip.

Since you're maintaining a rye starter, you might enjoy reading these comments by Jeffrey Hamelman on Farine's excellent blog.

Happy travels!

copyu's picture

I'd (kind-of) understood the lower hydration being better for long storage, but was wondering about the timing.

I find that, since the lower hydration, it takes much longer to see any real 'action', so was just wondering how long to let it 'work'. Still, that was only a few days ago...It seems the starters have already adapted to the new 'regime'.

It's been a couple of hours, now and they're looking perky, already, especially round the bottoms of the jars. I'm going to refrigerate them as soon as I've scraped the sides of the jars down with a "jam spoon" or a spatula. I'm glad that I picked up that 'tip' on reducing the hydration on these pages.

Thank you very much, PMcCool, for your very timely response. I'm now feeling confident that these will be 'good to go' early in the new year. I'm keen to make my first 'Bauernbrot' early in 2010, to accompany a Choucroute Royale [or Surcrute Garni.]

Holiday greetings to you (and to all on TFL) and thanks again.



copyu's picture

You're right. Paul's advice is very sound. I'm reassured by your support, as well. I'm feeling very confident, now.

I've had the stressful, but pleasant, experience of successfully 'resuscitating' a very sorry-looking, neglected starter, but I didn't want to go through that again!

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Enjoy the festive season and happy baking.

Thanks a lot,


PS: Thanks for the GREAT link! (copyu)