The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How many days (please tell me days) can I wait to refresh my room temp starter culture?

Jean-Paul's picture

How many days (please tell me days) can I wait to refresh my room temp starter culture?

How often does my active culture need to be refreshened? I have a small ball of mother starter (60 grams) sitting in my crock (which I found at an antique shop: says "Authentic San Fransisco Sourdough Starter"... how apropos is that? :)   out on the counter at room temp. How many days (please say days, please please please don't tell me it's a couple of times a day) can I wait to refresh it. I bake sourdough only every other week, but I want to keep it going rather than starting fresh each week (from dried starter)

LeadDog's picture

I used to feed my starter that sat on the counter once a week but I used a courser ground whole wheat to feed it.  I figure that the courser grind kept the yeast and bacteria from eating it all up in hours.  You can also out the starter in the fridge and then you don't have to worry about feeding it but once every week or two.

pmccool's picture

An example: temperatures here in my part of South Africa are running in the high 80's in the daytime and in the upper 60's to low 70's overnight.  If I leave my starter on the countertop, it peaks in 6-8 hours and has collapsed if I let it go 12 hours.  At that point, the entire zoo that lives in the starter has consumed most of the readily available food and is hungry!  So I discard half or more and feed the remainder.  And then repeat after a similar interval.

In the winter, when temperatures in the house are down in the 50's and 60's, a daily feeding is usually all that is required.

Since I ordinarily only bake on weekends, my strategy is to store the starter in a covered container in the refrigerator.  This slows down the yeasts and bacteria enough that when I pull it out on Thursday evening or Friday morning, it only needs one or two feedings to be at fighting strength.  Note, too, that I maintain mine as a firm starter; one that is about as stiff as bagel dough.  In hydration terms, that's about 50-55%.

I wouldn't expect great things from the starter, whether for leavening or for flavor, if it has been malnourished for the entire week since I last baked.  Just guessing, but your personal performance would probably also be impaired if you went a week between meals.


ehanner's picture

The answer to your question will depend on the climate zone where you live or the setting of your heat system and also the type of starter you have. You say you have a ball of starter which makes me think this is a firm or low hydration mix. I'm confused. How did you come by the ball of mother starter? If you bake sourdough every other week, where does the starter come from? A firm ball will last longer because of the higher percentage of food available.

As Paul said, a firm starter kept in the refrigerator can be fed once a week.