The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

For those that sustain a fridged starter: when do you typically feed it?

stevehollx's picture

For those that sustain a fridged starter: when do you typically feed it?

This is for people that keep a refrigerated starter alive.

I know that it should be fed every 1-4 weeks, but I'm wondering what people's specific routines are.

I'm mostly interested:

* How long people leave their starter out at room temperature before portioning off to use to bake?

* Do you feed it as soon as you pull it from the fridge, or after you've let it warm up?

I'm thinking the best way to do it is to pull from thr fridge, let it warm up for 4 hours, then portion off what I need for my bread, then feed the tub of starter to replace volume ost and put it right back in the fridge. Thoughts?

nickmawby's picture

I keep my starter at 100% hydration (ie equal flour and water).  When I take it out of the fridge I give it a good stir and then a small feed: 300g of starter would get about 50g each of flour and water.  I then leave it until it is bubbling nicely (either overnight at cool room temp 18C, or for a few hours at higher temp 27C), then pour off what I need, then feed again to return it to its original weight.

If it has only been used recently and is fully active when I take it from the fridge, then I would take off what I need and then feed  and leave for a few hours before putting back in the fridge.

Anjali's picture

 300g of starter would get about 50g each of flour and water

Is that correct? 50gm seems too less for 300gm.

nickmawby's picture

300g of starter would get about 50g each of flour and water

Is that correct? 50gm seems too less for 300gm.

That's correct; I have kept this particular starter going for over 4 years.

I like a pronounced flavour in my bread, and this starter gives a good taste without being unpleasantly acidic.  Even when fully ripe it does not smell vinegary but more like emulsion paint.

It is a liquid starter, but I live in the UK and my kitchen temp is usually 18-20C; from what I read it is better to use lower hydration starters when the temp is higher.

Syd's picture

I remove mine from the fridge, give it a good stir, allow it to peak (about 4 hours) and then take what I need for the bread I am going to make.  I then discard everything but 50g which I feed at a ratio of 1:2:2.  So that 50g gets 100g (85g AP/15g Rye)flour and 100g water.  It gets put into a clean bottle and is allowed to almost double before I refrigerate it again. 


picosinge's picture

I feed mine once every two to three weeks, usually when I feel like baking.  I dump all of it from a wide-mouth glass jar into a glass mixing bowl, add a cup of lukewarm water and a little bit over a cup unbleached AP flour, stir everything up, wash the jar thoroughly with hot water and dry it, and put half of what is in the mixing bowl back into the jar.  Sometimes I let it rest in room temperature for an hour or so, more often than not, I put it right back in the fridge.

It containues to stay active and strong for a year and a half now, even with such "neglect".

If I am baking sourdough that day, I would add more flour and water to the other half and let it sit until bubbly and doubled in size.   If I am baking bread with commercial yeast, I would still add it to the dough as I hate to throw food away.





dmsnyder's picture

I'm currently using the routine recommended by my instructor at the SFBI.

Stored starter is 50% hydration and is at least 350 g total weight. I feed 50 g of starter with 200 g flour and 100 g water and refrigerate it immediately.

When I will be baking, I take some cold starter and feed it with warm water and flour at 40:100:100 (starter:flour:water). When this is ripe, I then feed it at the ratio specified by the formula I'll be using for the bread I'll be baking. So, I do two feedings before mixing the final dough.

Ideally, the stored starter would be fed weekly, but I generally feed it every 2 to 3 weeks, using starter I've activated as the "seed."


flournwater's picture

I bake once a week, so I feed once a week.  I remove what I need from the mass, feed it and allow it to develop on the counter, then feed the reserve and return it to othe fridge until the next week.  I don't throw nothin' away.

plevee's picture

I bake every 7-10 days.

I keep only a small amount - ~2 tablespoons of starter in a quart yogurt container in the fridge. The day before baking I feed the starter twice at approximately 12h intervals biulding to the 10-12oz needed for my bread. I then pour out all the starter in the storage pot to use in the recipe. I save only the starter left on the walls of the pot and add ~2T water and enough flour to make a  thick paste and put the freshly fed remains back in the fridge.

The starter I keep has thus been fed 3 times before storage which keeps it very active without developing a very sour taste, which I dislike. The small amounts also obviate discards and waste.

Works for me.  Patsy


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

About once a week.  I keep my starter at about 50% hydration.  I usually have about 100g-200g at a time.  Sometimes 400g.  I will use most of it, or let it go bad.  Take a teaspoon, and feed it varying portions of AP, organic rye, and or whole wheat flour.  My feeding portions are 1 tsp or so of starter, 100-200g flour, and 50% hydration.  I will feed it, leave it on the counter for 1 hr, and then refrigerate.  I will use it in the next 24-48 hrs.

Salilah's picture

Mine get refreshed once a week on average at the moment, as I'm experimenting quite a bit

I'll either take out what I need for a recipe (if it has a couple of builds) then refresh what is left, or (more often) refresh and leave on the counter for a couple of hours, then take what I need to bake with and pop the rest back in the fridge

My course in the UK suggested we could do the "lower quantity" feed at around 70g of water and 70g of flour to a starter of around 250-300g - however, I think a bigger feed is probably better if the starter is going to sit for a week?

labgrrl's picture

I've been maintaining mine (from KAF) for about three years now...maybe closer to four. I feed it exclusively on 100% rye if I'm not baking with it that day or the next. It gets fed about every three months right now. (I've been in and out of the hospital the past year, so not baking so much.) It sits in the warmest part of the fridge, and when I feed it it gets about 1 part starter to 5 parts flour and water (at the same consistancy as the starter, about 50/50, but I eyeball it.) In the lab, this is similar to how, if you're growing cells and you need to take a break (like for a weekend) you give the cells more media than you'd give them just when growing. *Some* starters, like some cells, take an excess of food/water as a  challenge, and grow more rapidly, but this has never been a problem with this particular starter...I seem to be able to maintain it indefinately like this.

If I'm using it in a recipe where the sourdough is primarily for flavor, not rise, (recipe has yeast in it) I take it out the night before, split it 50/50 into the type of flour I'm using, and leave it on the counter. If I'm using it in a recipe where it's doing all the rising, or the bulk of the rising, I split it 50/50, then put it overnight in a yogurt maker, as an incubator. This gives me a very active starter with a LOT of microorganisms...If I'm short on time I'll put it in the yogurt make for about 4 hours. It seems to do okay that way. The incubation is primarily for the yeasts, not the thermo/lacto bacteria.

I try to not leave it in the yogurt maker more than 8 hours, though. I have had it collapse when left there too long (hydration isn't the problem so much as EtOH's really, really burning through its 'food' when incubated. I always add a tbsp or so of incubated starter back into my main chunk in the fridge. I know some people will take out the whole starter to put it on the counter, but I would rather not risk losing it all because a cat jumps up on it or something...

Like with growing cells, I've found that if you baby it too much, you end up with a starter that is very delicate, and doesn't withstand "abuse," whereas when you "abuse" it you get a more rigourous starter. For a while there I was growing three different splits to see which "lived" best, and my one that's not fed so often seems to have both the best flavor and is least prone to collapse.

Since both yeasts and thermo/lacto bacteria will enter cold dormancy quite happily when they are in the wild, I'm starting to suspect the vast majority of the organisms in our fridge starters are actually sleeping the *whole time* they are in the fridge, and that there is one set of organisms fermenting in the fridge, and another set on the counter...I know some lactobacilli are way happier in the fridge (which is why fresh yogurt is always better after a day in the fridge) than at their incubated temps. I really think the combination of long, slllllooooooooooow, fridge growth and quick, warm, counter growth is why my sourdoughs come out so nicely.


Noor13's picture

and keep it at 100% hydration

unless I bake with it, then I feed it before I use it

budagl's picture

I keep 150 or so grams of 100 percent hydrated starter in the fridge and make a batch of sourdough-something at a minimum every other week.  I give it 100-200 grams of warm water spring water (microwaves are great), mix well and then add 100-200 grams of bread flour.  I wait until it has almost doubled in volume before I use the starter in a recipe and whatever is left over gets loosely covered and goes back in the fridge.  I started this starter in August 2010 using the pineapple juice method.  It worked great and the starter has never failed me. 

varda's picture

I keep a tub in the refrigerator with between 300 and 400 grams of starter at 68% hydration.   When I bake (every few days) I remove what I need and mix the dough.   Then I move the rest of the starter to a clean container and add back roughly the same amount that I used.   So if I take out 252g of starter,  I'll add back in 150g flour and 102g water.    Then I'll let sit on the counter until it doubles.   Then back in the refrigerator until the next bake.  

Wild-Yeast's picture

The starter is removed from the refrigerator an hour before the dough is prepared.  All of the starter is used in the bread dough preparation except a cup or two for the new starter.  After the bread dough is mixed and left to hydrate a new starter is prepared. A firm dough is made and placed in 1 Gallon plastic container [~68%].  It fills the lower half of the container [approximately 0.5 Gallon] and is then placed back into the refrigerator.  The starter slowly ferments under refrigeration and expands to slightly over 2 times the volume before falling back some [over proofing].  Over proofing the starter is required for the taste of the type of bread that we use as the house bread.  This usually occurs within 7 days.  The starter must be refreshed if, for some reason, you miss the 7-12 day period during which it is prime for use.


Urchina's picture

I have a refrigerated AP flour starter that's been in my family for 37 years. I inherited it from my grandfather. 

I feed it anywhere between once every two weeks and every two months. More than two months is pushing my luck. Every week to two weeks keeps the starter very happy. 

In the evening, I pull the starter out of the fridge. I keep 1/2 a cup in a pint-sized wide-mouth Mason jar, loosely capped. 

I put two cups of flour and two cups of milk into a glass bowl and mix well. Then I add all of my starter (1/2 cup), stir well, and cover the glass bowl with a plate. 

In the morning, I've got a bubbly, active starter. I put 1/2 a cup back into a clean pint Mason jar, cap lightly, and put it back in the fridge. The remaining starter is divided to use for baking. 

I could just as easily use 1/4 cup starter, 1 cup AP flour, 1 cup milk, and dump the additional 1/4 cup starter I keep, but this way works for me. I've found that English muffins more than keep our excess starter used up. 


wassisname's picture

Good to know that wild yeasts are such an accomodating bunch - they seem to work with just about any routine!

Mine is whole wheat at 75% hydration.  I'll feed it straight from the refrigerator if I'm building it up, either for a particular bake or just because it's running really low.  Once fed, it ferments at room temp (how long depends on ambient temp and what I have planned for its near future) then either goes into the dough or back into the refrigerator.  I'll bake with it straight from the refrigerator as long as it's been fed within the last 48 hrs or so.  I almost always bake at least once a week, so it almost never sits in the refrigerator unattended longer than that.


kiwimum's picture

I'm about to bake my first loaf of SD, my recipe calls for 1/4 cup  of starter.  Starter is kept in the fridge.  When I take out the required amount for the recipe, I'm not sure what quantities of flour and water to replace it with - I don't have kitchen scales, so grams are not much use to me (I know that 125g is about one cup).  Anyone who can advise me using cups as a measuring unit?

JerryW's picture

You haven't told us the hydration of your starter.  It's common to use 100% (equal weights flour and water).  The density of flour varies, which is why it's oft said that one should have and use a (digital) kitchen scale.  But 'til then, here's an approximate data point -- I just fed my starter with 4 oz. (by weight) of flour, and it measured just over 3/4 of an American 8 oz. cup.  Good luck with your SD loaf!


Emelye's picture

I used cup measures before I got my scale a few months ago.  1 cup of flour is usually 4½ to 5 ounces.  ½ cup water is 4 oz, ¾ cup water is 6 ounces.  You can maintain an approximately 100% hydration starter using these measurements.  A few percentage points either way won't harm the stuff.