The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Drying a starter????

grimeswh's picture

Drying a starter????

I once saw a comment saying a person dried their starter so they could use is for later. Kind of a neat idea has anyone on here tried it??? Sounds weird to me because I've only ever grown up with the "normal" way of doing a sourdough starter but I think it would be cool to try. Is there a website or something that I can go to, to show me how to do it so I can try it myself???

grimeswh's picture

Cool sounds good I'll have to try it =D Thanks =D

YeastyBob's picture

From The sourdough FAQs located here:

Two options from the FAQs:

How can I ship my starter to someone else?
Subject: 30. How can I ship my starter to someone else?

Take refreshed starter at peak yeast activity, and add flour to make "noodle dough". Roll it flat so that 2/3 oz. or so fills a postal envelope. (A postal employee wrote suggesting a cassette mailing box available cheaply from Radio Shack -- dg) Wrap it in cling plastic and mail it ordinary first class. It should be so dry as to resemble slightly damp cardboard.

I assume a white flour starter fed and compounded with same. A week in the mail will not bother it. It can be stored in the frig for months in this form.


Can I freeze or dry my starter?
Subject: 34. Can I freeze or dry my starter?

With regard to freezing, I have done this for years: I put a cup of starter in the freezer and in six months or so thaw and feed it then refreeze. It has always worked so I have not understood the frequently expressed concern about freezing. I think people should always freeze part of their starter for safety's sake. Of course, they can always get some more from me by sending me a SASE.

(Ed. note -- be sure your starter can handle freezing like Carl's before you rely on this method of preservation.See "" if you would like to obtain Carl's starter)

I only dry the starter when I know I am running out, which may be every week or two. I prepare a batch of starter for distribution by combining one tablespoon of stock starter, 1/3 cup water, and enough flour to get waffle batter consistency. I activate this mixture at room temperature (about 70 degrees F.) until I can see small bubbles in the body of the starter ( not frothing or hooch formation.) (The stock starter culture is kept in the refrigerator. It is fed and activated every two weeks or so, i.e. whenever I think about it or need to use it.)

I pour the activated mixture into three 10-inch diameter plastic picnic dishes to a depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. It dries for several days at room temperature. The dry starter does not stick to the dishes. It dries on the top first, but the bottom is then exposed with a knife. Otherwise drying would be too slow. One could use regular ceramic or metal dishes if you put a layer of plastic sheeting over the dishes so the wet starter didn't stick to the dish. Waxed paper should work as well. When it is dry and brittle I break it up and grind it in a blender. It seems to work OK. I wonder if other people always activate their starters before they dry them.

I leave the dried starter in the freezer for several weeks, long enough to fill the requests that I get in the mail. Never had a report of my starter failing to reactivate. (I test each batch before it goes out in the mail by reactivating a portion of it to make sure it is OK.) Well, that is just the way I do it. Cooking is not a mathematical science. When I learned to cook some seventy years ago in a cattle trail chuck wagon and ranch house there were no quantities or temperatures in recipes - just did it feel good or look right, or taste good, and did the cowhands like it, was all there was. This can be checked with many of the recipes from that time. We used ones printed in the 1800s.


I kind of like the drying option because you can store some in the freezer for you own back up and send some off to a friend.


Charles  / for carlsfriends



grimeswh's picture

The only concern I have is when you leave a good healthy start out for too long the yeast keeps "working" and eventually "dies" right??? Wouldn't it do the same when drying a start? While it's drying on the parchment or wax paper or what ever whouldn't it kill the yeast??? I would just expect that you would just be starting a whole new start only adding old crumbled peices of "dead" starter to some new flour and water.

GAPOMA's picture

Fortunately ... no.  But you are correct.  Some of the yeast will die when you dry it on the parchment (or other medium).  But there's a whole bunch of yeast in that starter you're drying.  Those yeasties that do survive are more than happy to get going again when you feed them new water and flour. 

My experience has been that starting from a dried stock (a'la, the new batch of starter only takes about 48 hours to get going strongly again.  Much faster than if you were simply setting out fresh flour and water (without the starter innoculum).   Do the experiment yourself.  Two bowls; one with flour & water, one with flour, water & dried starter.  See which one bubbles up first.  I think you'll be convinced that the dried starter is definitely adding something to the mix.

One final point.  One of the best ways to preserve things is to "freeze dry" them.  This is especially true for bacteria and proteins.  It's also called lyophilization, and we use it in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries every day to stabilize and store things like vaccines.  Although the "parchment drying" technique used for starters isn't quite the same (no freezing involved) it accomplishes the same end result.  And yeasts and bacteria are very hardy little critters! :)

grimeswh's picture

Sounds good thank you =D

leostrog's picture

In this summer I made a new fresh starter from grapes. After my my starter became enogh mature ( about a week) , I pit a little quantity ( 30 g) in a plastic container and put in a freeze.  Few days ago I thawed container in freedge, that add  15 g water and 15 g flour, placed conrainer in my kitchen ( temp. is above 18-20 C). Only in the third day it became to bubble, pH decrease to 3. In this point I feed it with 20 g water+ 20 g flour. After 3-4 hours my starter increased in volume a twice.  So, I thing it became more and more powerful.

Juergen's picture

In my experience the parchment paper trick works very well. In order to re-activate your starter from flakes of dry starter, just proceed as you normally would by mixing some water and flour. To that, add the dry starter but before you do, first grind the flakes down to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. If you don't, the large flakes won't dissolve. 

I have succesfully re-activated my starter this way and I can also confirm that you kan keep a freezer bag of dry starter in your freezer forever. These little yeasts and bacterias just go dormant and in theory, you could even re-activate them in 5000 years from now and still get a great working starter culture.