The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How often to feed starter

kwonders's picture

How often to feed starter

I am on day 17, I feed my starter once a day. In 12 hours it expands to a solid double if not more and is just begining to collapse. At 24 hours it is back to just above original volume. My problem is that it would be very difficult for me to fit a second feeding into my busy day. My starter at this point is 1 prt. starter, 2 prts. flour and 2 prts. water. I intend to mature this starter for a month or so, then into the refrigerator. At that point I will start to think about actually making bread with it, but right now I am focusing on making a good starter.

My question is what am I sacrificing by only feeding my starter once a day instead of more often.

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

When I had to restart my levain after throwing it away (an indicator of what sort of person is writing this, perhaps) I pretty much stuck to the 8 hr feeding schedule I use for the mature culture, and although the changes in the mixture were more in texture than in volume initially, it was ready to bake with in under a week. 

To me, you're 1:2:2 ratio and 12 hour double says that your culture isn't very healthy, or that your house is freaking cold! We've got the heat off in spite of the recent cold snap here and it's about 58-60 in here. My batch starter for sourdough from last night is mixed 1:7.2:10 (S:F:W) and probably quadrupled in 9 hrs.

Do you bake with commercial yeast as well? DIY gets the short end of the stick. Preferments can do a lot for flavor and are easier to fit in to a busy life.

mwilson's picture

The answer is simple... You are sacrificing activity!

Generally speaking the more often you feed the more active it becomes.


clazar123's picture

I have done all sourdough and all  commercial yeast but time didn't permit me to be a purist.  I now do a sourdough preferment and add commercial yeast in smaller amounts to the final dough. I get the best of both worlds-great flavor and faster rise.


1 c AP flour/1 cup water/about 2 tbsp active starter

Mix and let sit overnight in a covered container.

Next day, mix into a recipe that has about 3-4 additional cups of whatever flour. I then use 1/2tsp-1/1/2 tsp instant yeast (depending on how many hours I want to spend on breadmaking).I use less if there is an overnight retard involved.

I often use an overnight retard in the refrigerator to develop flavor and allow the dough to ferment/rise while I sleep. Mix dough up in the evening,sit for about 1 hour,put in refrig in covered container. Take out next day:finish rise to double-shape-proof-bake.

Very general principles here.

MANNA's picture

You should feed every 12 hours. I used to feed mine every 24 hrs and it worked good for me, cold up here in the NE USA. I would keep it in the fridge and take it out every week and move to a fresh container and feed. Then when I wanted to bake instead of ditching half during its weekly feeding I would use that to build my leavian to bake. King Arthur has a good tutorial on sourdough starters plus there are many here.

Grenage's picture

I feed mine once a day, and it will generally double in 4 hours or under.  I find it curious that is varies so frequently, but suspect that the so much is checked away in some folk's 12-hour feedings, the bacteria counts are just not as dense.

kwonders's picture

Obviously I am new to this and am trying to learn as I go. I used Debra Wink's method for the creation of my starters. Once they became active I created 3 seperate starters by feeding one with All Purpose flour, one with Whole Wheat flour and one with Rye flour. I beleive they are quite healthy, my room that i keep them in is typically in the mid 70's and I use qrt. glass mason jars so I can see the amount of activity (gas bubbles) which is extensive. The Rye starter is the fastest riser, it will begin to rise within 30 minutes, the whole wheat will begin to rise after that and the AP will begin to rise after the Whole Wheat one. They all will expand to nearly 3/4 of the jar. So maybe I mispoke earlier when I said they doubled in 12 hours, more like maybe 3 times expansion. Certainly not 4 times, it would overflow the jar if it did that. 

I use the following recipe for feeding my starters and since I am self taught and new to this would appreciate any advice on adjustment to what I am doing.

Starter = 50 grams

Flour = 100 grams

Water for the AP = 100 grams, Whole Wheat = 125 grams, Rye = 125 grams( I use a little more water in the whole grain flours to make it easier for me to mix)

I feed my starters every morning before work, I clean my jars every time, heat my water to tepid, place my starters in a very warm room, for the day, and when I come home from work 9 or more hours later they are just begining to colapse. The rise line is nearly 3/4 the way up the jars, the amount of gas in the starters is extensive. By the next morning they are back to just above where they started and I do the whole thing over again.

I would like it if you could tell me how to do this better, of am i on the right track, do I need to increase to a 1-1-1, (I do not understand "1:7.2:10 (S:F:W) " from post above. what is the extra data bit?) I would like to know more on what the poster meant by "Sacrificing Activity", please expond on that. Are you saying that I should feed at the point when the starters are just beginning to colaps? In other words keeping the starters in a state of expansion for the majority of the day, rather than what is happening now is that it is in a state of expansion for 12 hours and then in a state of colapsing for 12 hours. Would love to hear more on that topic.

I want a mature properly developed starter when I go to only once a week feedings in a month or so. And I realize I have no experience so I thought this would be a good place to get some feed back from people who do, on what I am doing and how to do it better.


Thanks in advance


Salilah's picture

Just a thought - one thing you could try is feeding the same amounts, but use cold water and a cooler room, so the activity might take longer?  Then you could move to feeding once a day?

Not sure it matters too much though, it sounds like you have pretty healthy starters - why not try baking with them?

pmccool's picture

I'll let the others follow up with what they meant in their other posts.

Specific to your question "Are you saying that I should feed at the point when the starters are just beginning to collapse?", the answer is a hearty "Yes".  That is the point when the yeast and bacteria populations are at optimum levels.  By feeding again then, you go from strength to strength, rather than waiting for populations to crash along with the expansion.


kwonders's picture

Thank you so much, I really didn't want to hear that I needed to find the time to introduce a 2nd feeding into my daily regiment, but in my heart I knew it was logical. You put it so clearly when you said;

"That is the point when the yeast and bacteria populations are at optimum levels.  By feeding again then, you go from strength to strength, rather than waiting for populations to crash along with the expansion."

So if my goal is to produce a "mature" starter, and mature = most amount of "yesties" and accompanying bacteria per cubic inch of starter possible, than the way to achieve that is to keep these little guys constantly multiplying until you reach a point where you feel that you've gotten the most your particular environment will support. At that point you can put it into the refrigerator and pull it out to refresh once a week. It is at that point I will try my first attempt to make bread. I will make sure to feed it a few times first before making bread. I just want to get a mature starter first. I just wasn't sure how to do that.

I will start a 12 hour feeding regiment tonight.


Thank you all.

So here are some pictures of my starters at different stages that I have taken over that past few days. Feeding schedule of these pictures is every 24 hours. I would be very interested the opinion of those on this site as to if these starters look anywhere near like they should;

mwilson's picture

About activity.

Activity = The rate of rise.

A starter that doubles in 6hrs indicates higher yeast population than a starter thats doubles in 12hrs.

With regards to your definition of "mature"; keeping conditions are the factors which determine the yeast population/viability and in turn the rate of rise ie. Activity.



kwonders's picture

Thank you so much Michael, I have so much to learn.

Your definition of activity = rate of rise simplifies it for me and I understand.

I am very much seeking some clarification as to what defines a mature starter, I know that starters can be used after just a week, and mature is subjective, yet as I seek to define it, I am hoping to understand how to tell when my starter is as "mature" as it is going to get. That sounds naive even to me. I imagine that "mature" is ongoing. I just want to get to the point that I have done everything I can to develop a good, viable starter and then put it in the fridge, and make bread with it once or twice a month. I know I need to feed it at least once a week after it goes into the fridge, and at least three days of feeding before I make bread. I hope that fundamental plan is viable, not really sure. Mostly I am not sure how to tell when I have done everything I can to make a viable starter.

Having said that, I would like it very much if you could help me understand what exactly you mean by "keeping conditions" and how one goes about doing that.


I am sure these are very beginner questions and I applaud your patience and efforts to help me in advance.


Thanks for your efforts thus far, I have learned allot today just from all your comments.



mwilson's picture

keeping conditions is my terminology and I use it to mean all aspects of how the starter is kept, feed schedule, feed ratio, temperature and food supply (flour properties) - they all matter.

As you discovered and as Paul clarified giving the yeast a regular food supply will help keep the starter healthy. Mature could be said to be the point just before the yeasts run out of food with that occurring on a regular interval.

Specific to your case there is that approx 12hr period where the yeast have no food and are going to sleep (death phase), this will incur a greater lag phase (time taken for starter to get fully active) when you feed again.

There is nothing wrong with entering the death phase if it's part of the schedule but it's worth noting, the longer the death phase the longer the lag phase. 


kwonders's picture

Very cool. So if I feed twice a day for a few more weeks, at what point can I put my starter to sleep in the fridge, drop back to once a week feeding, and then when I want to make bread 1-2 a month pull it out and feed it for 2-3 days before I use it to bake. How long do I have to feed every day?

mwilson's picture

When your starter's activity repeatedly meets your schedule you can then consider it viable for refrigeration on the next feed. It will be up to you to decide if this is the case.

Apologies if I'm being purposely vague, but your experience will teach you. I am just a guide.

PS. Any other questions are welcome. 

kwonders's picture

I don't find your answers vague. Your statement "when activity meets schedule" makes perfect sence to me. I appreciate very much your guidance and the time you took to give it. The last two feedings were at 12 hour intervals. I am looking forward to seeing if in time, say a week or so of 12 hour feedings,  the resulting rise I see becomes greater than it has been in the past.


Again, thank you all

Doc.Dough's picture

Irrespective of what your feeding ratio is (1:2:2 or 1:10:10 for example) the volume increase from mixing to maturity will be approximately double to triple.  When it starts to fall back, feed it again.  The feeding ratio does affect the ratio of lactobacillus to yeast in the long term, but with a particular feeding ratio, the time to double will be dependent only on the maturity (LAB/yeast numeric density) of the starter and the temperature during growth. I keep my starter in 5 oz plastic cups and mix 2g of starter with 12 - 15 g water and the same amount of flour.  It gets fed once or twice daily depending on the temperature.  It is not terribly sensitive to being left for a whole 24 hrs between feedings.  When I want to make a batch of bread I increase the starter by feeding it before I go to bed (taking out 2g and adding the 15g of water and flour) and use the remainder (typically 24-26g) with 240g of water and 240g of flour (1:10:10) as the basis for a ~1500g batch of bread the next day. I think it is a matter of finding a rhythm that works for you, your kitchen, and your schedule.