The Fresh Loaf

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mistake in making starter - how to fix it?

katarina_kne's picture

mistake in making starter - how to fix it?

Hi everyone,


I have been making starter for the prist time with this recepie:

I am on a day 5. So far, everything has been going ewll, however, today, on Day 5 when making the final mix, I have been distracted by my kids and insted of using 1/4 starter to make a final mix, I used everthing I had.


So, I mixed all of the starter from the previous days, 3/4 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of water.

What do I do now?


Thank you so much for help!


RobynNZ's picture

Hi Katarina_Kne

Actually checking Gaarp's method he asks you to use 1/4 of a cup of the starter in the Day 5 mix. 

I know that a 1/4 of a cup of this starter weighs about 60g.

Working through the procedure, converting it all to weight, it would seem the weight of the day 4 mix was about 120g. So you needed to use about half of the day 4 mix to prepare the day 5 mix.

Therefore I suggest that you take half of the mix you have prepared and then add to it 3/8 of a cup of AP and 1/4 cup of water.  (You need to replace half the flour and water for the day 5 mix, you have removed by halving the blend you made) Trust this makes sense.

Don't be too anxious. You have reached the stage that you can 'feed' your starter when it doubles. Because you have used a greater amount of starter it will quickly use the flour and water you have fed it and will double early, if you don't make the adjustment I have suggested. So you could just proceed to the day 6 feed when it doubles. However it helps to have the starter ready to be fed at a time that suits your daily schedule, so it is probably best to make the adjustment to ensure the starter has enough to 'eat' until you are ready to feed it again.


katarina_kne's picture

Dear RobynNZ,

You are right, the amount is 1/4 of a cup of a starter. I am European so thinking in cups is actually very confusing for me. Thank you for converting it for me :) 

I will have to convert the other meassurments. But it doesn't matter.


Actually, I don't quite understand why have you proposed what you proposed, but I will do it. It's my best shot! 

And quite honestly, I am not even sure I undrestand the whole proces of creating, dicarding, feeding and baking with starter, but I am confident that I will "get it" as I work with it.


Thank you so much for your assistence.



RobynNZ's picture

Goodmorning Katarina_Kne

It's a beautiful summer morning in New Zealand but if you are in Europe you will be heading for bed, trust you have left the starter you are encouraging into activity somewhere warm, we hear it is very cold in the northern hemisphere. Be patient and let it double before you feed it next.

Here, we too prefer to weigh when we bake and to use the metric system. It's hard to replicate dry ingredient volume, not knowing how the person who wrote a recipe fills a cup. You will see that Gaarp also recommends working with weight from Day 6 onwards and moving to a 1:1:1 ratio. So you won't have to worry about cups from now on!

Although Gaarp says you can start baking, I would suggest you wait a bit longer until your starter is predictable. That is when the conditions are the same (quantity of food given and temperature) you can predict the time the starter will take to peak (which maybe more than double) . This gives you assurance that the yeast is well established in the starter. Patience is such an important ingredient in sourdough baking, I think allowing the yeasts to get well established is the first test of such patience.

Peak is the maximum rise, before the starter falls back. Having run low on food, gas production by the yeasts slows so we get a visual signal, the bug population is ready for a feed. So much quieter than hungry kids right! 

There are numerous ways to create and then maintain an active starter. With time you will learn what works best for your lifestyle, baking frequency and time of year. As you say working with your starter you will "get it". But do not hesitate to ask more questions.

Cheers, Robyn


katarina_kne's picture

Dear Robyn,


Thank you so much for your help. It is not actually a sunny day, rather really windy :( it is still faily warm for winter (12 C) - I live in the SE Europe (Croatia).

It has been almost 24h since I didi what you told me and my starter has doubled, but it has not grown more. I don't know if that is ok or not. I am also not sure if it is bubbly enough. I have taken a photos of my starter in the container and from the above so mroe experienced eyes could judge. If you click the folowing link it will take you to the pictures stored on skydrive service:

Is this starter bubbly enough to consider mayself having reached Day 6 of gaarp's process? Or should I boost it with rye flour?

since I am a bit confused when it comes to starters in general, it would be great of you could advise on folowing questions:

1. do I feed starter only when I bake with it? (If I understand correctly the idea is to feed the starter after I take some amount of it and use it in the recepie)

2. if I keep starter in the fridge for couple of week and need to boost it, do I toss some of my starter first or add directly some amount of flour and water? Do I follow 1:1:1 ratio? Or I only add flour?

I am sorry if my questions seem stupid or have been answered on the forum before. The information on sourdough baking in my language is really minimal and having a baby and house to maintain limits my time to search for the answers. It is so much easier to ask a good soul for help :) Thank you so much for your willingness to help me.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

After the rise, the starter will level out and begin to fall down.  When it does this, you can reduce the size of the starter and feed again.  Each time you let it peak and level out, feed it.  This will increase the yeast numbers in the starter and the time it takes the starter to peak will be getting shorter.   Don't be in a hurry to refrigerate the starter, let it get at least three weeks old.  

You can save the discards and use them or simply add enough flour and water to a feeding to make enough starter to use in a recipe.   You decide how much starter to keep and feed to meet your demand.  

As you can see, it does not take long to make a lot of sourdough starter when you need it.  

Do not feed more than every 8 hrs.  If you find your starter is peaking with a 1:1:1 ratio under 6 hrs, then increase the water and flour you are feeding it, perhaps 1:2:2  and see how long it takes to peak.  Ideal would be to have it peak in about 8 hrs and then wait to feed it every 12 hours for easy maintenance.   

This posting is very thorough on starter maintenance, if you have problems with it or have questions, just ask us.  I'm not sure if the translator works on it.  Most of your questions are covered.  Rye starter are rather easy to maintain as long as you let your starter mature and get good and sour before feeding or using it.

RobynNZ's picture

Good morning Katarina and Hi Mini O

24 hour coverage on TFL is great! Thanks Mini for responding while I slept!

Katarina, there are numerous ways to look after starter. Many people think their way is best. I think the best way is what works for you, in your kitchen. Mini Oven is a wonderful teacher and has helped numerous people become confident using their starter in a way that suits them. I recommend her guidance. The post she linked is long but very helpful and as she says, come back and ask questions. 


katarina_kne's picture

Hi RobynNZ and Mini Own,

Thank you for your help. I have fed my starter (which has now begun to fall down) in ratio 1:2:2. 

I did it in a way that I took a clean jar and put 15g of (old) starter in it and added 30g or flour and water.

Since I am a complete novince in sourdough baking I am not sure what to do with the remaning amount of my old starter? If I understood well bwraith's article, I can keep it in the fridge in a case something goes wrong with my new starter?


Furthermore, If a recepie I am using calles for 250gr of starter, and I only have 50gr, how do I get to the 250gr? )I obviously have to feed it, but how to calculate the amountsI need to use and how to guess time I will need for starter to develop?)

Thank you for you answers in advance!



katarina_kne's picture

You can of course just give me link to 'sourdough starter for dummies' type of article, should you know of such articles :)

RobynNZ's picture

Hi again Katarina

The photo of your starter and your reports indicate that it is making great progress. Your decision to work with smaller quantities and a 1:2:2 ratio will be fine. As Mini O says be patient and wait for your starter to at least double before feeding it. You are trying to encourage the growth of yeast and if you feed the fledgling starter before the population builds up, you will dilute them. 

When I started along the sourdough path, like you I was very puzzled about looking after and using a starter. It does eventually make sense!

At the moment you are in the establishment phase for your starter. The yeast may be built up enough to use in bread making, but you are more likely to have better success (which is confidence building) if you wait until your starter has developed a regular pattern. That is likely to be sometime in the next ten days or so.

As regards discarded starter I suggest you take a look at the Sourdough Surprises site. Each month a group of bakers report on their use of starter &/or discard in a wide range of baked goods.

Have you decided what bread you want to try first with your starter? You might find the following helpful:

Susan has clear instructions on her Wild Yeast blog for making Jeffrey Hammelman's basic sourdough, she names her version Norwich Sourdough. Follow all the links to get helpful technical advice from her too.

However, Susan doesn't explain how to prepare the "360g of ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter" called for in her formula.  This is the very question you are asking. Note, your starter is a 100% hydration starter, as you are feeding equal weights of flour and water.

Susan's formula makes 2kg of dough. I think that is a bit big to work with for a first loaf, and so I recommend a half recipe.  To make half the quantity of mature starter (that is 180g)  following the build-up method in Mr Hammelman's book, using a 100% starter, 12-16 hours before you plan to mix the dough, you need to take 18 grams of your 100% starter, which has reached 'peak' and mix it with 90g of flour and 90g of water, and leave it covered at 21°C. The first time you make the levain it is a bit hard to decide when it is ready to use (i.e. 'ripe' in Susan's words), keep an eye out for the first signs of the tide going out, you'll also notice a kind of folding, in the centre. Next time you'll have a better idea. Use 180 grams of this mix, called levain, to make half the quantity of bread in Susan formula. (Hamelman instructs to feed the rest as starter, but I find that I prefer to feed my starter at the same time as I make the levain and keep the starter on its own schedule, independent of the levain, and with no chance of accidently using it all in breadmaking.) 

 You will note that a much bigger quantity of food (flour + water)  is given to a small amount of starter  preparing the Levain, than is given to the starter when feeding it daily. Once your yeast population is thriving they will have no problem 'munching' through that much food, quickly multiplying. (Unlike your kids who just get bigger when you feed them, the bugs in our starters, multiply).  

Let's leave the use of the refrigerator with regard to looking after your starter a few more days, you don't need to do that yet. All this information can be a bit overwhelming. Meantime  no problem storing the discard in the fridge now and using it in something that catches your eye on the Sourdough Surprises site. Just remember it is a 'baby' starter and will not have much yeast power. Also yeast slow down in the fridge. 

Hope this helps, but again, just ask questions if you are puzzled. Mini O and I will help as best we can (we are on similar wavelengths when it comes to getting started along the exciting path of sourdough bread baking) . 

Cheers, Robyn




katarina_kne's picture

Dear all,

Thanks again for helping me. I have fallowed your advices and have not refrigirated my starter yet. I am feeding it 1:2:2 and it peeks in 8 hours (app). My plan now is to feed it every 12h in the same ratio for another week and it can go to the frige.

I have had some leftovers however and insted of discarting those, I decided to try making a white sourdough bread. I used Emmanuel Hadjiandreu's recepie. I have never tasted sourdough in my life prior to this attempt but I have quite liked it :)

Cheers to all, 


Boron Elgar's picture
Boron Elgar

Starters are truly quite delightful to play with, and there is an easy way or 2 or 4 around most problems except a thick carpet of mold, the latter being the only reason I would toss a starter.

I've only got 5 starters going these days, and I've been ditzing around with them for 15 years or so. Over those years I have developed my own preferences and many others have their own methods that work wonderfully. The path to the ideal starter is irrelevant - the end - a functional, stable starter, is the important goal. There are a lot of ways to get there. Some methods may work for you all the time, some may work only some of the time, some may just not work at all for you.

You are in mid-development at 5 days. It takes about 2 weeks to get a really good one off the ground and stable - less if you have begun with a "seed" starter, either dry or wet.

My own method is simple and abstemious with use of flour. I start with a mix of 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoon of water. Let it sit, covered at room temp for 24 hours. If your "room temp" is extreme- very warm or very cold, things may move along quicker or more slowly for you.

Next day, toss all but the dregs of what is in your container. Add 2T flour + 2T water to that container and let it sit out for 24 hrs. Lather, rinse, repeat. Most times you be seeing some action within 24 to 48 hours. your case, you've added way more flour & water than your "growth recipe" called for. There is never any problem with that. Just take a small amount - say a spoonful (or container dregs - you do not need much), Add 2T flour + 2T water to that, and let it sit for a day, and, as they say, "Bob's your uncle." Continue on this path until your starter has been nursed along this way for about 2 weeks, and you should be fine.

The reason why I have, over the years, shifted to very small amounts is is that if a starter goes south for any reason, there is little, other than time, that has been lost. The other reason that I start each refreshment with dregs, is that I want to create multitudes of the bacteria & yeast I seek. If you start your refreshment with huge amounts of the previous build, you have a lot of mouths to feed. If you start small, each and every time, you encouraging growth - lots of food, fewer critters to start with.

Again, this is what works for me Your mileage may differ. I use AP for some starter, WW for others, and always have at least one rye starter going, too. BUT - I bake a lot of bread. My starters are stable enough that I can toss 'em in the fridge and forget about them for weeks at a time, and still bring them back within one or two refreshments. I never get too attached to anyone starter, but when I do find a really good one, I dry some of it and save it for seed to begin again, if necessary.

I am sure others here have mentioned the most inexpensive way of getting a dried seed starter - Friends of Carl - All you need is a postage paid SAS envelope. Take awhile, and the good folks there are happy to accepts donations, as it is a labor of love, but it never hurts to remind even the most seasoned of sourdough junkies, that these good deeds are still around. Check them out at:

Good luck to you.

katarina_kne's picture

Dear Boron,


Thanks for the answer and proposal.

I will take a spoon of my starter and put it in a small container and feed it the way you said. I am curious in learning other ways of growing starter. 

I would just like to check if I understood the process correctly:

for the next two weeks I should daily toss everything have in a jar  (or keep small amount) and add 2 tablespoons of flour and water? 

Another thing I don't understand is how will I bake with this starter since I obviously have such a small smount of the culture ( and recepie might call for as much of a 100g)?

Thanks in advance and, again, sorry if my questions are stupid.

vtsteve's picture

and build it up for each bake. If your formula calls for 150g of starter, and you're using a 1:1:1 feeding schedule, then the final build would be: 50g 'seed' from your storage starter, 50g water, 50g flour.

I don't even keep 50g between batches, so I would add another stage: 20g 'seed' starter, 20g water, 20g flour -- use 50g of this for the final build, and keep 10g to feed as your storage starter.

Discard and feed is only for the storage starter, to keep it from choking on its own wastes (acid and alcohol).

My weekly bake uses about 6kg of starter, and it only takes a couple of days to build it from my 30g storage starter.

Muskie's picture

I keep 30g of 100% hydration starter (fully active, not just being created) in my fridge. If I don't use it for a week I feed it 10g of flour and 10g of water. I then proof it in my smoker @ 92F for 4 hours.

When I go to bake bread, I take all of that starter and add to it 15g of flour, and 15g of water. There is another interesting conversation going on as to whether all of those ingredients and starter should be brought to the same temperature before combining...currently, I just take them at whatever temperature they're at and combine.

I then put it in my smoker @ 92F for 4 hours. So now I have 60g of starter, which should have doubled by this time.

Now the next step is based on your recipe. You're recipe might call for 150g of starter, or as much as 250g, bottom line is that your starter, or levain as its also called, shouldn't become more than 25% of your recipe. So figure out what your final number of grams is supposed to be. Let's assume you want 150g.

If my recipe calls for 150g, I want to make ~185g. Firstly, when you combine it with the rest of your dough, you will likely lose a few grams. Secondly, before you combine it with the rest of your dough, you're going to take 30g away and put it back in the fridge. That 30g becomes your storage starter, or mother as its also called.

So we have to get from 60g to 185g, and we want to do that in 2 additional feedings.

So, after the first 4 hour fermentation, I'd feed it with 30g of flour, and 30g of water. Back in the smoker @ 92F for another 4 hours.

Now in the last feed I give it 33g flour and 33g of water, making it 186g total. Back in the smoker for another 4 hours.

After the 12 hours of fermentation I would separate 30g to put back in the fridge as mother, and then use 150g in my recipe. If there is any leftover, just add it to your recipe.

IMO, this makes the starter develop additional flavor, which is passed on to each loaf made with it. It also means there is no wasted starter. On the downside, if you somehow muck up the fermenting process you could be left without any starter to work with. I just make sure I don't muck up. Easiest mistake to make is to forget to take the 30g to put back in the fridge...;-]


, then feed it 30g of flour and 30g of water. At that point I have 120g of starter. Again in the smoker @ 92F for 4 more hours. Feed again with 75g flour and 75g of water.

Muskie's picture

It was a fragment that had scrolled off the bottom of the window, it should not be part of the comment at all.

Boron Elgar's picture
Boron Elgar

Never hesitate to ask a question around here. No matter how experienced or inexperienced we are in bread making, there is always something new to learn.  This is an ideal place to question.

Yes, you are correct that while you are creating the starter, toss all but the scrapings left in the container.  You do not need much at all to seed the next step.

In order to create enough starter for a recipe, whether for a biga, pre-ferment or main dough, you just take your fully refreshed and vigorous starter at its peak, and mix some of it into the amount & ratio of flour to water you will need for the recipe. 

Note that my own recommendations for the initial starter put your creation at 100% hydration (that means you have the same amount of flour as water). Take that into account when you make the build for your recipe. If you need 100g, put a spoon or so of active starter into a bowl with a smidge less flour and water than the 100 gram total you will need.

I started a ferment early this morning. I put in a few spoons of active starter, about 2 cups of flour and enough water to make a stiff dough into a bowl. I mixed it and left it to sit, covered, until I was ready to make my main dough this evening. Although I started with a tight and relatively small ball of dough, my this evening it had risen most of the way to the top of the bowl, was soft as can be, and in pouring it into the mixer bowl, I could see the terrific gluten development that had already begun.