The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

old starter in the fridge - how to get it alive again

nora sass's picture
nora sass

old starter in the fridge - how to get it alive again

I had 3 diff starters which had been sitting in my fridge for the last 2 mths. Before I used to feed them every 12hrs at 1:1:1.  the 3 diff are one with just AP white flour, the other with just rye flour and the third 50/50 of AP & WW Flour.

Unfortunately, circumstances does not allow me take care of them daily and I had to put them to sleep in my fridge and had not been baking for a long while.

How do I refresh all of them and how soon could I use them after refreshing these starters. That is of course if I could bring back to life.

Hope someone could help me out here. Thank you very much.



DavidEF's picture

How well taken care of were they before going into the fridge two months ago? Were they active? Were they well fed? How long after feeding was it before they went into the fridge?

If they were kept very active and fresh, fed well at appropriate times, very healthy, then they are more likely to be viable. If, in addition to all that, they were fed an hour or two before being put into the fridge, it should take one, or no more than two refreshments to revive them. If they were refrigerated immediately after feeding, there may not have been enough beasties to keep the culture alive through the "winter", but if they were left out too long after feeding, they may run out of food.

Other factors are the hydration level and the quantity of the starter. Higher hydration may be harder to revive, because it will have used itself up faster. Lower hydration starters are a little less active, so they don't use up their food as quickly. Large quantities of well fed starter have a better chance than smaller amounts, because as the culture gets older, some of the beasties die off, so the more the merrier.

Bottom line, if your culture was already abused, then left to die in the fridge, it may have done just that, and you may have better luck starting a new one. If they were well treated, they may revive in as little as one good refreshment, although it will be sluggish at first and won't need as high of a feeding ratio as you're used to.

clazar123's picture

There are yeasts that have been revived to make beer that were recovered from the pyramids!  Just scrape the top away and take from the innermost part of the jar or even from the dried goodness (if it isn't moldy) from the side of the jar. Make a liquid feed of a small amount (1-2 tbsp.) flour and water and stir the sample in. Keep it warm (80F-top of fridge,maybe))stirring several times a day until you see some life. AFTER there is noticeable activity, then feed without discarding a few times to allow the beasties to get their population up. After you have definite activity, start the usual discard/feed routine and build the volume to what you want.

I revived a 45 yr old sourdough jack powder packet I bought at a flea market in its original dark brown ceramic jar that was baking in 95F sun and probably had been through year after year of flea markets. Best starter I have. Those little yeasties are TOUGH!

Glad to hear you are able to have some baking fun again.

trailrunner's picture

do what I do . I have to leave mine for months at a time when I go on a cycling tour. I feed it very well and get it good and bubbly. Then I simply add enough flour to make it a VERY stiff dough...very. Heavily dust the top with rye flour and cover well . Store for months. When you are ready to bake again take a chunk of the dough and add enough warm water to cover and let it set and soften someplace warm. Magic !!  Has worked for years for me. Good Luck. c

DavidEF's picture

That sounds like a very simple and effective way to prepare a sourdough for a long, cold storage, and equally simple to restore to former glory!

Another good thing to do is to dry some of your starter as a back-up. Those amazing stories from clazar123 all have one thing in common - the cultures were dried! They do go dormant while dry, so that would be a great way to cover yourself in case, for any reason, your starter is killed and can't be revived.

Nora, please do tell us how your sourdough revival turns out! I'm fairly certain you should have little or no trouble getting them to revive in a cycle or two of your regular feeding schedule.

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I just woke mine up last week after being dormant in fridge for almost 2 months.  In the first two feedings there was no movement.  I thought it was dead.  I moved it into a much warmer room, turned up the heat and shut the morning it was alive and doubled.

Good luck!


Felila's picture

I was in the hospital for nearly a month, during which time my starter turned a nasty blackish-green and developed a rotten smell. I could possibly have revived it, but since I wasn't feeling much like baking at the time, and since I had some dried and frozen starter as backup, I threw the old starter out.

Started reviving from backup a few days ago. Starter is back to its old self. Will be making a poolish tonight. I want to bake bread for all my friends who helped when I was just home from the hospital and still weak.

nora sass's picture
nora sass

Thanks for all your kind advices, I finally took the 3 containers of starters I had, and taking each & everyone kind contribution here, I think I am getting there.

for the 100% rye starter, it was turning grey the surface, but still having that beery & yeasty smell. I took 1 TBS of it, discarding the rest, fed it 1:1:1 for the first feeding and second feeding same but putting additional flour and put it back in the fridge.

for the 50/50 AP & WW flour, no issues, same feeding 1:1:1, it was bubbly after 8hrs.

However the 100% AP, this one was kind of slow, it seems that it does not wish to wake up. I fed the same 1:1:1 for the first feeding and just did the same for the second feeding after 12hrs.

@DavidEF, I've attached the pics after the first feeding of the 3 diff starters. 

Thank you so much for helping me out on this. I hope soon to be able to get my hands to do more practices in my adventures. Cant help it when I kept seeing nice bread being posted here. Regs Nora

DavidEF's picture

The Rye is naturally more active, so it is no surprise that it woke up more quickly. From the picture, it looks like your 100% AP is doing fine, just a little sluggish, as you said. I can see a few bubbles near the bottom. It should be alright soon. In fact, I wouldn't doubt that it will be up to speed by the end of this feeding cycle (by the time you feed it again). If not, you could keep more inoculation, or basically lower the ratio of feeding for the 100% AP just once to give it more of an advantage, and still keep it on a 12 hour schedule.