The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My starter dislikes the cold.....? What can I do?

Mish's picture

My starter dislikes the cold.....? What can I do?

Hi all!

I'm new here - what a wonderful site! I'am fairly new to sourdough too, I have been baking with it for almost two years and still learning. The terminology I use might be "wrong", I hope you still understand me.

I'd like to ask for your help to understand the reason + solution for the problem I have with my starter.

My starter is originally made of juice of wild yeast captured from fruit, and I've been using it for around 8 month (100% hydration). The juice is maintained too by adding some fresh fruit evert now and then.


My usual pattern is:
Sunday baking, feeding. Wait til it rise, and back into the fridge.
Friday, out from the fridge.  Feeding every ~12 hours to prepare for the Sunday baking.
Occationally when I was away from home, it was "starving" for 3-4 weeks but after a 3-5 refreshes it got active again.

The problem started early this year.

It was no sign of life after Friday-feeding. I had feed using the wild-yeast juice to get it up.
Next week, I took out the jar already on Wednesday to feed. No sign of life.
Week after, out already on Tuesday morning to feed. Again no sign of life.
I decided to move the jar to the balcony instead (winter=cold) and it did better. It simply survived more days until it got "flat with no sign of life".
I kept on feeding daily hoping the yeast to grow very strong, and did put it back after one week of intensive feeding but again, flat after few days in the fridge.
Now balcony trick does not work anymore.

Of couse, every time I refresh using the wild yeast juice, it get very active again but it means I add new yeast to the jar so it's kind cheating.
What I want is to have the yeast-guys in the jar to survive from week to week!

Past 10 days, I been trying to revitalise my flat starter by feeding-resting (no bubbles but still... It tastes sour though) I am giving up now. My rye-sour is living in fridge and doing excellent.

I've tried to feed everything from 1:1:1 to 1:3:3 (approx).
The fridge is 6 degrees celsius, room temperature 22, balcony was arond 6-10 deg C. While rising, I put the jar on top of the fridge, where it is around 26 deg.

So what I wish to understand is....
-what is wrong here??
-what can I do to make it survive week to week, using the fridge?

Thanks a lot!



coalpines's picture

What kind of friut are you using?  Is it ripe or beyond?  You may have to start over. I used sone dark grapes slightly crushed in a cheese cloth bag when I started mine. It was a two week process.  Now it is great.  I never add juice to it and I feed it 3 times (every 4-5 hrs) the day befor I'm ready to bake. Then I put it in the fridge till next time.  That maybe a week or two.  I add 2.25 cups of flour to two cups of 78 degree F water.  (Luke warm)

hutchndi's picture

If you choose to use any of the juice, honey , potato, whatever methods to get your starter going, avoid it like the plague once you have success. Once you get a starter going, you should never, ever need to add anything but flour and water to it, frequent feedings and basking in room temperature warmth instead of too much fridge dormancy is always a good thing. If it seems sluggish, a few good refreshments should be all that is necessary.  Introducing a questionable element at a time when your starter is not so healthy to begin with is never a good idea. If your starter is weak at best, and the yeast on your fruit is not particularly suited to live, or at least thrive, in starter medium (which it is not), then all the other organisms involved in decomposing your rotting bits of fruit are going to reek havok for as long as they can survive in your starter.No matter what you use to get your starter bubbling in its infancy, it is likely to be overcome eventually by strains of flora and bacteria (present in your flour) that are best suited to live in wheat / rye flour and water meduim, not in rotten fruit juice which also draws fruit flies, and who wants them in your bread anyways?

Mish's picture

wow, thanks for the explanation. I did not know that.

As I added fresh wild yeast juice to the starter, I thought it would work give 'vitamin kick'-effect. In my particular case, the juice gave immediate a power boost but the effect was not longer than one Sunday baking, and it did not survive to the next week. Your explanation give me answer to that. Some 'bad guys' basically took over.....

I find it particulary interesting as some sites recommend  some honey, yogurt etc as a treat when your starter is not doing very well. The sites should recommend 'patience' instead!


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

If you have a thriving rye sour that you maintain in a fridge, you can use that initiate a new white or whole wheat starter. BTW, rye flour is often suggested here on TFL as a means to rev up a sluggish starter. You can take a small "seed" from your rye starter, say 25-50g, and use it to build a new starter. A simple 25g starter, 50g water, 50g flour recipe should get a new, bubbly starter in less than 24 hours. After a few more days of refreshments using white or wheat, both if you wish, you'll be ready to go and wondering what to do with the discard. Your new starter should be ready to keep in the fridge. It may not be a really sour tasting starter but it should be ready to bake at this stage.You shouldn't need to use an instant dry yeast spike to accomplish this.

Temperature does have a lot to do with the activity level of your starter. High temps, over 95F, will definitely hurt your starter but cool temps, under 70F, will merely slow things down. You can freeze an active starter and revive it easily after thawing and refreshing. The starter that I'm using today in a pan au levain spent last night in a cool cellar at 62F. I brought it upstairs to a 68F kitchen and my dough will be ready to shape shortly after a 2 1/2 hr bulk ferment.You can do this too with an active starter.

I know that I'm not the first person to figure out how to use room temperature to manipulate my starter. It may flatten out a bit after I put it in my fridge, but it will rise to the occasion when I use it to build a starter for baking.

Mish's picture

Thanks shareing for the idea,

Handy when my ordinary wheat-starter is out of order as my rye is always happy guy!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

by feeding it with acid water (fermented juice) instead of just using water.  The pH got too low and is inhibiting the yeast.  

If it is sour, but not rising, time to work on the yeast. 

Don't give up.  Give it a 1:5:5 with starter:water: flour and then see what happens.  Use about a teaspoon of the starter.   After 12 hours on top of the fridge, repeat.  Do this for 4 feeds.  Refrigerate before it peaks not after.  That may help it.


Mish's picture


Thanks all for your inputs and ideas so far.

One good news. 36 hours after my last ordinary feeding to the silent starter, I saw quite many small bubbles.
So, I hope the 1:5:5 advise by Mini will make the yeasts stronger again. I started this morning.

However, my concern is....say this rescue plan get the starter get very active again.
I will then put the re-vitalised starter back to the fridge and will it survive 5 days storage?
Let's see.
First and most important is to get it back bubbling.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

flour than 100% hydration ( equal water & flour)  Try making it  50%  before you decide to cool it down.  like  1:2.5:5  (s:w:f)  That gives it something to munch on while it's waiting, keeping the pH from going too low.  Let it sit in that nice warm place on top of the fridge for about 5 hours and then pop it into the fridge. 

When getting ready for the next bake, take out only a tiny bit and feed equal weights of water and flour and let it grow overnight.  (1:5:5)    It should be ready for you the next day!

Mish's picture

Progress report, I 'm so happy!

I've done three of Mini's suggested 4 feedings and it's certainly making progress.

After 1st feeding, a lot of small bubbles. (I unintentionally left it 20h)

2:nd feeding and 12 hours later, even more little bigger bubbles, still sub millimeter. It still does not double.

3:rd feeding.....let's see!

Mini, you said 4, but shall I continue this until it back to full speed /large bubbles ?

Can't wait to see tomorrow morning!



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Glad to here it's working.  Go with the feel!


Mish's picture

Now the four feeding is completed. I by mistake left it 14 hours and it have doubled the size (at least when I checked at 10h) and even collapsed.

I will give now 1:2.5:5 feeding, let it grow overnight in the room temperature and move it into the fridge tomorrow morning. I hope it is ready to get back into the cold....

I will follow up this weekend to see how it survives the cold.

Mish's picture

My starter survived 3 days in the fridge now. It has not happened since January it started to loose thr  balance!

I did 1:2.5:5 as Mini recommended and refreshed it for tomorrows baking with around 1:3:3 in the first round and now 1:alot:alot. Not as active as i used to be but absolutely fine.

I kept some of 1:2.5:5 so I will check in 3, 6, 9 days etc just to make sure it is back on track. This used to survive 3 weeks so.....

Looking so much forward to tomorrow when I will bake :)



Davo's picture

Once it's active and balanced it'll easily survive a week in the fridge - you just need to feed it twice at around 12 hour intervals at room temp and it should recover to an active state, ready for making up a levain. In fact, I have revived some starter discard that has been in the fridge for about 5-6 weeks with no feeding, in two feedings at room temp, no problems.

Mish's picture

I am envious you have starter in such good shape.
I hope my starter get back in balance soon, I mean it used to survive 3-4 weeks without any problems! Cross fingers!