The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to store starter?

vink's picture

How to store starter?


I have couple of sourdough starter jars in the fridge. I started them  from cultures that I bought from, and those instructions say to save them roughly in the form of a pancake batter. Recently, I bought Peter Reinhart's "Artisan Bread Everyday", and I've been baking some yeast based breads from that. The advice in that book is to create a "Mother Starter" which is more at the consistency of a dough.

Any thoughts on the pros and cons? The batter like starter I have now needs to be fed couple of times before I can use it when I take it out of the fridge, I think Peter advises using the mother starter directly.

More insight is certainly appreciated. Thanks!


Salilah's picture

Search the last few pages of Sourdough & Starters discussion and you'll find quite a few threads on maintaining starters!

For what it's worth, I keep my two (2 locations) at 100% hydration, as I find that a) is easier with most recipes, b) is what I was given (roughly), and c) I haven't yet experimented!  They are both pretty healthy - one week in the fridge, and then given a feed (roughly 2:1:1 starter:flour:water by weight) will be ready for using within 3-4 hours, which I think is quite impressive <grin>


raqk8's picture

Unless you have a lot of time to work out the math for your recipes, I advise keeping your starters at 100% hydration. Depending on the type of flour you use, the temp it ripens at, and how you store it, the starter at 100% can range from batter-like to... I don't really have a good explanation for it... fairly strong dough that sticks to the spoon in globs rather than batter? haha. Sorry It's difficult to describe. If you use KAF Bread flour (more protein than other bread flours) and let it ripen for 3-4 hours in 75 degree weather, you'll likely get a thicker, stronger starter.

Anyway, using a 100% starter helps enormously. It's so much easier to think "okay, half is flour, half is water" than "what's 66% of 3.5 oz???"

As far as a feeding schedule goes, I don't see any reason to throw out a cup of starter before I feed mine. I just pay close attention to how much I need for the recipe I am making, how much I feed it, and how much I keep on hand. You really only need to keep about 3-4 oz on hand if you make smaller loaves (~1.5 lb). Here's what I do:

Pull starter out of fridge (again, I only keep 3-4 oz on hand).

Feed starter 50% flour and 50% water by weight. Always at least double the starter - I always feed it the same amount that I am going to be using, plus a little extra (to account for what gets lost on the spoon). So, if I'm going to need 6 oz for my recipe, I'll feed it 3.5-4 oz flour, and 3.5-4 oz water.

Let the starter ripen, use it in your recipe, and put it back in the fridge. No need to feed it again!

When you need it again, start back up at the first step. No wasted starter, and a lot less hassle!

I am writing a tutorial on breadmaking on my blog, Ovenmitts, at I've just recently started this tutorial, but you may find it helpful if you are new to breadmaking (I'm not sure if you are!). Good luck with your starters!

vink's picture

Dear Ms. "Ovenmitts", 

Thanks for your suggestion about 100% hydration of the starter. That makes sense to me, at least from recipe usage. Also, from this, I would infer that the book suggests a particular starter formula so that it can be correctly accounted for in the all the recipes. I hadn't thought of it that way, I thought maybe there was a difference in how easy it is to activave one versus the other. The interesting thing is, in Peter Reinhart's book, he is using the "mother starter" out of the fridge without activating it, directly in the recipe.  

Thanks also for the pointer to your website. I found the tutorial, especially the one on the different steps of breadmaking, very useful. I am very new to breadmaking. I have made about 7 or 8 loaves so far -- in fact, few enough that if I tried to think carefully, I can actually list all of them. The first two I tried were pure sourdoughs which did not come out well at all, but I have done much better now with yeast breads and hybrid recipes. 

On starters, I went a little crazy in the beginning, because I started with the "Classic Sourdoughs" book, and bought some starters from etc. Now I have three or four half-full jars of starter in the fridge, and I don't really know what their hydration levels are. Also, I really got tired of refreshing them discarding half every time. I now have to figure out how to use up that starter and build up just one (maybe two -- one for rye and one for everything else) in a manageable quantity. Any suggestions?

Thanks again for your website and helpful post! 

(Ovenmitts is a cool name for the website :-))

raqk8's picture

I'm kind of a minimalist, so I only keep one starter - a 100% white. I feed it with KAF bread flour for the strength. I grew mine using rye flour (higher concentration of yeast) and pineapple juice (to keep out bad bacteria). I haven't gotten around to posting about making your own SD starter, but I will soon. In the mean time, there is a ton of info on how to make this type of starter that doesn't use additional commercial yeast.

As far as using up the other starters, there are tons of recipes out there that utilize unfed starters - see KAF for some. My favorite way to use up unfed starter is Sourdough Waffles. You make a sponge the night before, and then finish it up in the morning. KAF also has a good recipe for this. I have a different one that I made, but I've still yet to post that either. Sigh.

You can also throw them into your regular commercially yeasted recipes to get a slight sourdough flavor. Keep in mind, if you do this then remember to account for how much water and how much flour is in the starter. I know you're not positive what the ratio is, but just take a good guess. If the dough seems too sticky, add some flour. If it seems too dry..... that's harder to deal with. If anything, keep it on the wet side and add flour as you knead.

Keep tabs on my website to see when I start posting about sourdough starters. Hopefully soon!


vink's picture

Thanks for the pointer to the waffle recipe! My kids love fresh waffles, that seems like a great way to use up some of the starter. I also want to get down to two starters at most .. One rye and one white.