The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


m.c.cotten's picture


Hi there -- first time posting, but I've often consulted the fresh loaf for advice -- it seems like there's always someone who's ALREADY had my problem!  :)  Anyhow, I couldn't find the answer to this question, and I'm hoping some kind soul might help!

Here's my problem:  My starter is alive -- TOO alive, in fact!  I've been growing my sourdough starter for just about a month now.  I've kept it at room temperature the whole time, and have dilligently fed it every 12 hours (I've been told it's important to let it do its thing un-refrigerated for a few months if you can, to develop the flavor fully).  Ever since day 3 or so, it's been reliably rising and bubling after each feeding, and getting a nice sour smell -- I've even made some fairly nice bread with it (if I do say so myself).

Up until a day or two ago, my starter would approximately double after each feeding, over about a 12 hour period.  And then something happened.

I don't know if it's the weather, some magic word I said, or what, but all of a sudden, it's like my starter is on steroids.  Now when I feed it, it grows AGRESSIVELY, and FAST.  After a feeding (I keep my starter at 100 percent hydration and always double its weight with each feeding), it grows like crazy, and within about 3 hours, it's tripled or quadrupled in size -- I'm afraid to go to sleep at night, for fear it will crawl out of its jar and try to smother me!  By 12 hours after feeding, it's deflated quite a bit from its peak, and has a REALLY strong alcoholic smell (just like my grandmother used to smell after bingo night...).

So my question is:  Is my franken-starter something I need to worry about, and if so, what should I do about it?  I'm worried that growing so fast, the yeast and bacteria can't get enough food, and will starve.  Should I just feed it more often?  Refrigerate it for part of the day?  Send it to live with my mother in Boca Raton?  Help!

Olof's picture

I would place it in the fridge after feeding and feed it once a week. This is too much work and waste of flour. Your starter is definitely already good for baking. Sure, it will develop more taste with time but it will do that as well in the fridge. In the fridge you have more environmental control. I often wait for one hour after feeding before placing the starter in the fridge but it doesn't seem to matter for it's development if I throw it back there right away.

Start baking and see what happens

pmccool's picture

My starter always revs up in warmer weather.  It often grows twice as fast as at cooler temps.


FlourChild's picture

Yes, sounds like warmer temps or maybe just coming into its own.  I keep mine at room temp as well, and there are several things you can do to slow down.  If you routinely let it get past its prime, bread baked from it will have more of a tendency to be acidic.  I try to feed mine close to the time of its peak rise.

To slow it down:

-when feeding, reduce the quantity of seed starter while holding flour and water at current levels.

-experiment with salting the starter (less than for bread dough)- this is recommended by both Calvel and Hammelman.

-find a cooler place, like the basement, for it to live.

-use cool water for feedings.


m.c.cotten's picture

Well, sounds like the consensus is that the weather's to blame!  I'm just so surprised that a few degrees temperature change can cause such a DRASTIC change in starter behavior -- but I guess I still have a lot to learn about sourdough!

Unfortunately, I live in an un-airconditioned New York City apartment, so cool, dark places are a bit hard to come by -- but I am going to try feeding it with cold water, and increasing the ratio of flour/water to seed starter.

I'm also really intrigued by the idea of salting the starter -- what do Cavel/Hammelman say about it?  I keep 400 grams of starter at 100 percent hydration -- how much salt would you recommend adding to that to successfully slow the yeast down?  I'm a "by the numbers" kind of guy, and I'm afraid to add too much salt, and kill my yeast-bugs!

Thank you all again for the help, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!