The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Starter on the counter top in hot weather.....

Jayde21's picture

Sourdough Starter on the counter top in hot weather.....

I tried sticking my starter in the fridge, but it came out limp and watery. I suppose I like leaving it/Faye on the counter because I get to watch it grow. My issue is the very hot days and nights here in Phoenix. I wonder, and ask any one in the know, how the high temps here will affect my starter. Will the fermentation speed up, slow down...Will it simply die after a day or so? I'm using 50/50 whole wheat and bread flour. Both are unbleached and all that jazz...Any info or tips will be greatly appreciated.

PaddyL's picture

In one of my older books on sourdough, the starter is supposed to be left at a temperature of 95F.  There is no way I can come close to that temp in my kitchen in Montreal, but I still managed to keep a starter alive and going strong for 5+ years.  The heat should help it.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

If you're not pleased with the outcome of putting your starter in the fridge, you could try lowering the hydration of your starter to around 60-65%, kneading it into a ball, and surrounding the starter with some dry flour in the container before it goes in the fridge.. It doesn't have to be fancy flour.

When you want to bake, take the starter out a half day early and do a two stage build. That will produce a working starter. At least it does for me.

Keeping your starter on the counter for an extended period will require frequent refreshing because it's working at an increased rate. There may be an increase in the bacteria that produce acetic acid as well. I could be wrong there.

I've been maintaining a starter for almost four years using a lowered hydration sample (usually less than 60 grams) by leaving it in the fridge between uses.


PiPs's picture

Hi Jayde21,

Try using cold water and a smaller ratio of starter in your feeding schedule. You will probably have to feed it twice a day minimum in really hot conditions to keep it healthy. What is current feeding schedule?


lazydaisyfarm's picture

I am about to get my starter out of the freezer and start it up again. I had that same question. Glad to see it will be ok on the counter - just a bit more work.

DavidEF's picture

When it started getting warmer around my house in the spring, I couldn't even tell the difference myself, but my starter did! Our house is air conditioned to keep cool and heated to keep warm. There are very few days a year that one or the other isn't running. But, as temps outside started to rise, and heating gave way to cooling inside, the starter was showing signs. I got to where I was taking all of the starter out at feeding, leaving only a residue on the walls of the container - maybe a gram or two at most - and feeding 60g each of flour and water twice a day. Not long of that, and my starter went into the fridge. Now, I keep it at 70% hydration and 2% salt, as a pâte fermentee, in the fridge for anywhere from a couple days to a week at a time, then take out, build for baking, return some to fridge, lather-rinse-repeat. I don't know if the lower hydration has any effect on keeping it in the fridge, it just became the most convenient way to keep it ready to use. I usually build it up by feeding it in a ratio of 1:1:1, letting it sit for about 12 hours, then add the amounts of flour, water, and salt for my baking needs, plus extra to go back in the fridge, and take out the extra before other ingredients are incorporated.

dabrownman's picture

the reproducive rates of Labs and Yeast based on temperature based on Ganzle experiments.  Between 68 F and 75 F the Lab to yeast ratio is around 1 meaning they are reproducng at roughtly the  same rate but also twice as fast at 75 F than at 68 F meaning that things will happen twice as fast meainig twice the feedings and twice the waste. 

Since i too live in Phoenix, thsi is why i went to stiff 66% hydration starter that I stor in the fridge at arounf 80-100 g max.  It requires no feeding and with 20 g of it I can makeany bread in (3) 4 hour builds in the winter and 3 2 hour builds in teh summer.  No muss,no fuss and very sour as you can see that labs arr reproducing 3 time faster at low and high temps.  So long cold retards of starter levains and dough retards coupled with a every hot 85-86 F final proof makes a much more sour bread.


Reproduction Rates of Labs and YeastL/Y 
T(°F)T (°C)L. SF IL. SF IIYeastRatio
     36       20.0190.0160.0053.787
     46       80.0470.0430.0212.222
     61     160.1440.1500.1141.265
     68     200.2390.2590.2251.064
     72     220.3010.3320.2951.021
     75     240.3740.4160.3651.024
     82     280.5350.5980.4171.284
     86     300.6090.6720.3461.760
     90     320.6580.7060.202


Jayde21's picture

Thanks. All for your responses. I currently feed Faye abt 3 times a day:early in the morning around 6:30, right before I leave for work around noon, and when I return home around 10:30. I'll.try the lower hydration in the fridge as well as the counter and see what happens.

tgrayson's picture

Three times a day???? That's a crazy amount of labor. I keep mine in the fridge and never feed it until I need it. Then about 3 refreshes will make it ready to use. I refresh in a 1:4 ratio, 100% hydration, so each one takes about 8 hours.

Jayde21's picture

Ehh, I like it....I just figured since it's really hot, it would eat the food faster.....I will definitely give the fridge another shot. My last attempt turned into a watery mess. Point taken! Thanks!!!

chefscook's picture

Be careful that your sourdough doesn't go bad if sourdough has a pink color throw out not good any long died 

good luck .

Villasheba's picture

I live in the Philippines where the average daytime temp is 85F and nighttime is 77F.  It does get rather humid after sunset.  Our kitchen is not air conditioned.  Should it be safe to attempt a starter here in the tropics?

phaz's picture

 no problem, but you will probably have to make use of the fridge for storing your starter if not used regularly.

CFWilco's picture

Hi you say that when you bring the starter out of the fridge that is limp and watery. First things first DONT PANIC! give it a good stir, add about a cup of flour and about half a cup of warm (hand hot) water. Stir again and leave on your work top for about an hour by which time it should be bubbling up nicely

Jayde21's picture

I have two going in the fridge far, so good. One is very limp, the other is a little thick. I'll leave them out for an hour to post-feed tomorrow. Thanks!!


CFWilco's picture

Hi there, not sure what consistency of sour you look for; I find the a consistency similar to thick porridge is good. So how much flour/water you add to your "limp sour" depend on how loose it is.