The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cold House

Nangua's picture

Cold House

I am in the process of building my first sourdough starter and was wondering about a potential problem.  In the winter (now) my place is normally around 62-63 degrees F and I am worried that this may be too cold.  Do I have anything to worry about?

I know yeast is normally active but slow at this temperature (I don't really mind that); I just want to make sure I can build a starter at this temperature.

mcs's picture

It may take a little longer than someone developing their starter at 78 degrees F, but that's fine.  I developed mine during the winter when my bakery averages around 60, and have been using it for a couple of years.


Nangua's picture

It's what I thought, but I didn't want to go too far with a sourdough starter without knowing whether it could work.

Thanks a bunch!


clazar123's picture

The heat from the coils rise behind the frig and a little bubble of heat is trapped by the cabinets. Just don't forget it's there! And also, it will be more active when warmer and need more feeding than when it is cold.

I have also grown starters in the coolness here-midwest USA. My house is in the 60's, also, in winter.

Have delicious fun!

Nangua's picture

I never thought of that, but the cabinet right above my fridge may serve as an incubator.  That's bloody brilliant!

My heating isn't very good and it's -12 degrees C outwide right now!


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

It may take a while, but more than a few people have used the oven light to help proof their loaves in cool temperature homes. The oven light probably won't be of much help initially but once you've got your starter going, it can help.

breadinquito's picture

I tried the that trick a couple of times and yes...the dough rose, but almost without the acidity tipycal of oa sd loaf...

Nangua's picture

The whole goal of going the sourdough rise is to give the microrganisms time to do what they can do.  Before doing this, though, they need to wake up.  I think the environment is good for the initial incubation of a starter (which is what I am doing), but I am also doubtful it would be a good idea for the bread.

I will let my dough rise at a lower temperature for longer (I find my place's cool temperature makes good dough and tasty bread).  Just need to get the starter going and I will be able to make beautiful rye bread. 

breadman_nz's picture

I had the same problem getting my starter going as it needed a 'very warm place' according to the book, and it we have no hot water cupboard.

The good advice I received was to place the starter (or whatever else needs warmth e.g. proofing dough) under a duvet with or without an electric blanket for added warmth.

Nangua's picture


Covering the culture with a duvet (with or without a heating blanket) is a good idea and it is indeed interesting.  I just don't know if I really want to incubate microorganisms in my bedroom (where my one and only duvet can be found).

I have found a solution that works brilliantly in incubating a culture: put the jar on the top of the fridge.  The temperatue is a steady 75 F and my cultures are bubbling now.  I am actually doing a competition between the pineapple, water, and a small amount of citric acid to see which works the best (up to now pineapple and water are working great).


Davo's picture

I deal with cold house by putting the mix in the not-operating (!) microwave with the door cracked open, which turns the light on. My oven is 900 mm wide and the light takes too long in that space to make much difference.

I deal with a warm house by using a large insulated picnic bag thingy - just put in a bottle of refrigerated or even frozen water (usually wrapped in a cloth to moderate it's influence). Could use this for warmth using a bottle of warm/hot water, but never done that. I can get a big steel bowl covered with 3.7 kg of fermenting dough and a litre bottle or two of water in this thing.

Or to keep a mixed dough cool in a hot house, I cycle it in and out of the fridge between kneads or for half of the time between stretch and folds.

If the house is going to get very hot during the day and I am fermenting a levain for say 10 hours, I just bring it in my car to my 22 deg C office - perfect.

Nangua's picture

Good suggestions on keeping the dough hot/cool.  I'd do the microwave thing, but I am a luddite and refuse to purchase one of the evil things.  I get the idea, though, and it seems very much like the type of technique I use to incubate yogurt.

That said, I still managed to make a working, beautiful, nice smelling sourdough in 7 days with a house at 66 degrees.  IO am looking forward to making pain au levain now!