The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to Sourdough

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

New to Sourdough

I'm new to Sourdough so I need a bit of help with feeding starters. I have been reading and reading but not finding the clarity for this simple question.

I need to feed my starter. The problem is at what point do I discard.

How does the process go? I grab my starter that is hungry. Do I discard all but a cup at this point then add the 1 cup flour and 3/4 water? This gives me about 2-3/4 cup to do its thing.

Or do I grab my starter then add the 1 cup flour and 3/4 water to the starter mix and only keep about a cup of that. This one leaves me with one cup but I toss new flour.

Funny how all the reading material is fuzzy on this point.

Thanks for your help



Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

I feed on a 2-3-4 ratio by weight: 2 parts original starter, 3 parts water, 4 parts flour. 20-30-40 is my normal gram amounts. I feed this way once every 24-36 hours and my starter is happy, bubbly, and ready to go in 6 or so hours.

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Thanks Stephanie

I think you answered my question just to be sure.

I grab my hungry starter ...give it a stir.... remove all but 20 grams and discard the rest...take the 20 grams of starter and add the 30 grams of water and 40 grams of flour. then let it do its thing.

To do some baking, I can take the discarded starter grab 20 grams of it and add the flour and water and in 6 hours or so is ready for the dough. The starter is ready when it doubles volume?


Thanks Faith

ehanner's picture

Just one point about baking with some of the discard starter.

You said "To do some baking, I can take the discarded starter grab 20 grams of it and add the flour and water and in 6 hours or so is ready for the dough." The 6 hours might be right but it would depend on how large of a batch you are inoculating, what the temp is and how far past peak the starter was when you started to feed it.

For example, if you used the 20g of starter in a 800g dough at 74F you could be looking at 12-18 hours before it doubled. If you use the 20 g to elaborate an intermediate starter or sour of 200-300g of flour, your 6 hours would be closer.

I hope that's clear and not just confusing.



sephiepoo's picture

Hi Faith,

You have the amounts correct according to Stephanie's post.  Yes, stir the unfed starter (well), discard some first, then feed the proportion you like. You'll find many different ratios that people feed - I feed equal proportions of water:flour since I generally keep my starters at 100% hydration because the math is easier for me :)

Most (all?) recipes will call for fed starter at its peak of activity. So you wonder how to define when a starter is peaked? Every one is different - how's that for frustrating? :) Most healthy starters will double within 4-8 hours, and once doubled, you know it's strong enough to raise a loaf.  I keep mine in a quart soup container with a rubber band around the outside to measure its original starting point so I know when it doubles. A piece of masking tape on the outside of a straight sided container will do just as well, since rounded bowls are hard to measure volume visually.

If you have starter discard, you can definitely feed it and use it in baking.  I'd guess that most of us do, and cringe at the thought of throwing away discard. If it's been awhile since you've fed the starter, you may not want to use the discard as the only source of leavening (ie add a touch of commercial yeast, etc) but if it's discard from a fed starter, you're good to go.  Sometimes I just add discard to a recipe just for the extra flavor and shelf life (don't forget to adjust hydration since the discard is probably wetter than your dough).

Hope that helps!


Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Thank you Stephie and Eric.

Yes you have been a huge help and you have answered the gaps in my reading . The rubber band idea is great.

Eric I think I understood your post. I think you said the 20g of starter may not be enough for what the recipe calls for so the 20g of discard may need to elaborate for the intended size of the dough. Sorry not very technical at this point. But if I have strong healthy starter and I'm discarding more than 20g can't I increase the amount of starter that would in turn increase the flour and water to get the desired amount needed for the bake?

If I'm all messed up please correct me. I feel at times that how I perceive the concepts are askew .

sephiepoo's picture

I think the point Eric was trying to make is that the percentage of starter that you use relative to your final dough makes a difference in what the rise time of the dough will be.  If you only use a little bit of starter and have a large final dough, it'll take longer for the beasties to multiply enough to raise the dough. If you have a strong and healthy starter that's ready to go, you can use some of it (starter or discard) to create a second-stage starter that uses some of the flour you'd be using in your recipe so that you get a higher percentage of starter (larger amount of leavening) to flour.

The purpose of discarding is to reduce the number of hungry mouths to feed, otherwise the beasties will eat right through their feeding too quickly.  If you've got healthy starter and you need a certain amount of starter larger than you have after a normal feeding, you could consider not discarding and simply feeding a larger amount.  You could also yes, discard as normal and increase the flour and water as you said.

Hope I didn't just add to the confusion!

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

By George I think I've got it.


Thank you, thank you , thank you.