The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When to start baking with my starter? It's a bit sluggish...

andrew_cookbooker's picture

When to start baking with my starter? It's a bit sluggish...

I'm a bit of a newbie with sourdough, and I've got a seed culture going, using Reinhart's Pineapple Juice recipe initially, and then I started fiddling around with it after reading more on this site. So now I have a little jar of culture which is fairly sluggish. For the last three days I've been refreshing it with a 1:1:1 ratio of starter:water:flour, and it is taking 24-36 hours to double in size each time. It's in my kitchen at about 69 degrees F. I was using Unbleached AP the first two refreshes at 1:1:1 and then put in some organic WW yesterday to see if it would wake up, but it's still the same. It's alive, but slow.

I keep waiting for it to get speedier as I've read lots of accounts of people having vigorous cultures which are doubling in 4 to 6 hours. So I haven't put it in the fridge yet or tried to bake with it. Am I being overcautious with this? Or should I keep going at room temp for a while longer to see if it becomes speedier?

Yumarama's picture

If you put it in the fridge what's now "sluggish" will be even slower. 

It's in my kitchen at about 69 degrees F

Then you'll want to find a warmer spot in the house to set your starter. 69º is still on the cool side for starter activity. Find a desk lamp you can leave on 24 hrs and set the jar nearby (but not so close to the bulb it bakes), that should be a couple of degrees warmer. Or next to a TV or computer, anything that gives a little bit of heat so the starter stays about 70-75º. If it is active, even though currently slow, this should pick up its pace.

Stick to the 1:1:1 feed after doubling for the time being, you don't want to dilute what little yeastie colony you've got going. 

But until your critters are at least doubling the starter in 4-8 hours consistently after several feeds, it's best to just keep doing what you're doing and ignore making bread with it for now. It's not ready to take on bread dough yet.

And remember the First Five Golden Rules of Sourdough Starter:

  1. Patience.
  2. Patience.
  3. Patience.
  4. Patience.
  5. Patience.


It will eventually get there, but on it's own timeline.




andrew_cookbooker's picture

Patience... yes. I will stick it in the cupboard with my wireless router; it's always an even temperature in there. Thanks for your wisdom. There really is a zen of sourdough, isn't there...

Update in the morning - the temperature was definitely part of (or the entirety of) the problem. After a night next to my router at about 75 degrees it doubled in less than 12 hours. I've refreshed it this morning and popped it back in to see how long it will take to double now. Whew!