The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Out of Control Starter?

TSignature's picture

Out of Control Starter?

So I made a sourdough starter for the first time and for the first two days nothing happened. By the third and fourth days it reeked of a rotten vinegar smell, now it smells lovely and is alive. VERY ALIVE. I gave it just a tiny bit of flour today (1/8 cup), and literally, in three hours it overflowed a 1 litre container. And my house is freezing too! I don't get while the population is exploding!

I don't have the time to bake with it, and I want the flavor to keep developing. Should I just stop feeding it and chuck it into the back of my fridge for a while, or leave it outside but not feed it? Or should I just keep feeding it?

CeraMom's picture

I wish I had your problem!

rockfish42's picture

Keep less of it around, you only need to maintain a couple tablespoons of starter and then build your levain up for a recipe.

logdrum's picture

you only really have two choices: room temp & a dedicated feeding schedule [I double the weight of the starter for flour & water-1:2:2 every ~12hrs.] or cold storage & a reviving build before using. As rockfish pointed out, you can easily build to your levain from a very small amount-10-20g.

For example, I regularly make a 2kg formula that call for 60g at the first refresh. If I'm using room temp. fresh fed starter, I'll simply take the 60g off of that & refresh the remainder. If I'm pulling from the frig., I'll take 15g starter, let it get to room temp, then add 30g water, 30g flour for 12-16 hrs. If it looks up to snuff, I'll build the dough from there, if it seems slow, I'll try to do 1 more preliminary refresh.



Peggy Bjarno's picture
Peggy Bjarno

I've finally decided to start measuring my ingredients in grams. Your brief description of "2kg" and "60g" etc. sounds like you know what you're doing -- which I don't, as I am pretty much a newbie. I have a healthy starter that I keep in a baggie in the fridge. I've worked recently to get it drier (I think the jargon is "hydration," but I'm not sure what I've done that fits into that category, it's just less wet.)

Can I assume that "the first refresh" is what happens when you take it out of the fridge? And do you do it immediately or let it warm up a bit?

I'm planning on trying again this weekend for "the perfect sourdough bread" and will take the starter out of the fridge on Thursday night. Would you walk me through with time and weights so I'll be ready to bake on Sunday? I use King Arthur AP flour, and intend to find some Rye flour SOMEwhere on Saturday, so I can "spike" the sour.


logdrum's picture

Here's the  website that I got that formula from:

Start at your endpoint & work the times backwards. Take notes, observe the results. Note that this calls for 8 hr intervals, your house temperature may influence that somewhat.

I recommend making this formula as many times as it takes to get it "perfect", then you can start tweaking it. I find 60% to be easier to work with initially.

I use the term "first refresh" to differentiate from regular feeding as it is building to a specific dough.

"do you do it immediately or let it warm up a bit?" I hate to be obtuse, but it really depends on how soon I'll need it. Last night I fed two separate starters (one for pizza dough, one for baguettes) straight from the frig, @ 1:2:2 [1 part starter, 2 parts water, 2 parts flour] because I knew they'd be on the counter for 12 hrs. This morning at 6 I began building at the same ratio & will tend to them further after work ~ 6 tonight. 

I would consider transferring that starter to a mason jar and feeding it at least once a week, with equal parts by weight of flour & water, maintaining a 100% hydration-I simply find it easier to do the requisite math knowing that what ever recipe I tweak my starter is half flour & half water. 

"sounds like you know what you're doing" Ha! Some days I'm able to fake it!



As long as your desire to make great bread outweighs [pun] any undesired outcomes, you'll make progress.

Franchiello's picture

I give excess starter away, just gave a friend enough levain to make a few loaves and maybe start his own culture. You can always dry it out and save it just in case, like I'm also doing. My brand new starter just went bananas after I gave it 2 tbs of rye flour (it didn't taste sour to me) and stuck it back in the fridge, looks like pancakes for dinner tonight!! ;)