The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My Starter isn't rising enough and it's an over 100 year old starter..... Help!!!!

grimeswh's picture

My Starter isn't rising enough and it's an over 100 year old starter..... Help!!!!

I got a starter from my mom that has been in the family for over 100 years (My grandma's mother started it and my grandmother will be 91 this year). In other words it's a good starter and I shouldn't be having problems with it!!! But because I didn't pay enough attention as a child I'm paying for it now. At night when I feed my starter it seems as if it's not raising enough. It doesn't double in size. In a gallon jar it should be going up about 5-6 inches but it's only going up about 1 inch in an 8 hour period. So I figured I wasn't feeding it enough flour so I made it "thicker" but it's still not helping. I need help what should I do.... Can I add anything to the starter to help kick start it??? There's obviously still yeast there just not enough. Help!!!!


Thank you everyone for the comments but I finally figured out what I was doing wrong. I just wasn't saving enough starter for how much flour and water I was adding. It's doubling and bubbling just fine now thank you again =D

Ambimom's picture

When you feed it, do you discard a like amount from your jar?

For instance,

When I feed mine, I first remove 290 grams of starter; then I feed the "mother" with 150 grams of water and 150 grams of flour to replace what I've just used.

Mine tends to double in about 4 hours....though this is very dependent on the humidity and room temperature in my kitchen, sometimes more, sometimes less.




grimeswh's picture

Just after reading your reply I decied to go ahead and try to measure out the starter, flour, and water (instead of eye balling it like my mom and grandmother do) before I mixed it so I had equal parts. It only took about 2 hours and it wasn't quit doubled but it was close. I just wasn't saving enough starter for how much water and flour I was adding. How it's still alive is beyond me. Thank you =D

stevel's picture

 it sounds like its cold. For me, in the winter I find a warmer spot and in the summer I even put the starter in the fridge over night. A consistent feeding schedule with the correct temperature, fresh flour and good water should always produce a happy mother.   :)

Trialer70's picture

Be sure not to use tap water--it contains chlorine which inhibits starters (or kills them over time).  I always use bottled spring water on mine.  I also use an occasional tablespoon or two of dark rye flour (the whole grain rye flour) every third feeding to give mine a little kick if it's slowing down.  I've also used a tablespoon of CIDER vinegar (not white vinegar) in mine when I feed it if it's starting to smell less "sour" (this seems to happen sometimes in the summer months when it gets pretty warm in the house (low 80's).  The other suggestions thus far also seem sound.  I have salvaged a starter from just the residue left inside a jar if I keep dumping and feeding every day.  This happened one time when I tipped over a jar of starter and broke it.  I carefully scraped off some of the residue on a large piece of the jar that seemed clear of glass shards, put it in a new clean jar and began feeding.  Took me over a week, but I saved that starter.

I've always heard about 100+ year-old starters and been envious of them.  Someday I will be able to get a little bit of an old starter and keep it going for myself.  It's like living history and it's edible, too!  Good luck with yours.

Zeb's picture

MIght be an idea to dry some of it at some point, when it is full of vigour and happiness, that way you will always have an emergency back up?  Very hard to truly kill a starter, unless you bake it in the oven...

Regular schedule like everyone says, consistent temp, water which you let stand (to dissipate chlorine, it goes overnight says Jeffrey Hamelman, if you don't use bottled water) reasonably fresh flour, a little rye from time to time if you feel inclined. I have been known to give mine yoghurt, but not for a while now. Good Luck !

tananaBrian's picture

Two things ...First, note that a 100% (or even higher) hydration feeding of a starter may not result in a doubling at all since the CO2 gas can bubble right through it.  When I feed my starter, it never doubles and only rises a little, but it becomes full of bubbles and has an almost frothy look to it when it peaks.  Once past that, the froth tends to diminish and the volume drops.  I never worry about temperature or season and just feed it at room temperature all the time.  These critters survive in nature, and a household is a pretty mild climate compared to nature, so why not?

Second, rather than just say "use bottled water", I would suggest saying "use non-chlorinated natural water".  Lots of bottled water is "purified", which could mean any of several things ...distilled, filtered by reverse osmosis, etcetera.  These processes remove minerals from the water that is good for the yeast and lacto bacillus in your starter so you do not want them removed.  Look for 'mineral water' or 'natural spring water' and the like and avoid 'purified' or 'filtered' or anything that implies processing that may have removed the minerals in the water.  I'm glad we have a well and that it has great water... sure makes it easy at our house!


grimeswh's picture

As everyone keeps commenting about "purified" water and the comment about well water it makes me think about what my grandmother and mother use... They both have wells so they just use water out of the tap. That's a very good point about the "natural" minerals in well water. I live in a very small town where the population is only 300. Even though it's a small town it's still considered a city which unfortunately means city water. The added chlorine is just above what the state allows, but it's still not well water. Some people don't think there is a difference in taste but when you've grown up on well water, city water just isn't the same. I'll have to try some mineral water and see how it does.

K.C.'s picture

I've been making starters for a couple of decades with reverse osmosis water. It works just fine. Here's a 10 day old example.


YeastyBob's picture

Sour dough yeast must be both active and alive. Yours is obviously alive. If you use sourdough daily or every few days it is very active. If it sits it gets inactive. To activate take just a 1/2 teaspoon add 1 tablespoon each flour & water & let rise till double or 8 hours to 12 hours. Add 1/4 cup each water & flour & let sit 8-12 hours. Add 1/2 cup each & in 8-12 hours you will have a very active starter. Add this to 2 cup each flour & water to make a sponge & go from there. To a spoon or so of the final starter add 1/4 cup each & put in fridge for base starter if needed.

YeastyBob's picture

10 day old is the KEY - from fridge? I dont think water or amount of water & flour are that critical on the starter like on the bread. My recommendation is 1 1/2 - 2 days minimum.