The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

maintaining sour dough starter

dhwsmith's picture

maintaining sour dough starter

I store my starter in the refrigerator, using it perhaps once a month.   I find  it separates into a darkish liquid on top and a floury slurry below.  I refresh it very occasionally until I'm going to use it, when I refresh it more, always mixing everything together.   Since with refreshment I always have too much, I'd like to know if I can pour off and discard that dark top liquid, or should I just discard some part of the well-mixed whole?

Ford's picture

I do not discard the "hooch".  Other people do.  I think that to maintain the hydration you should mix it together then discard half.  I keep mine at 100% hydration so, I refresh in the ratio of starter : flour : water = 1 : 1 : 1, by weight.  That said, do that which works for you!


ElPanadero's picture

The dark brown liquid is called "Hooch" and is a sign that your starter is not being fed enough and is in a state of poor health. You should feed it ideally at least once per week. If you are worried about how much the starter incresases in volume when you feed it (i.e. if you are not discarding but just adding more flour/water to it) then my advice is to drastically reduce the amount you are keeping and work with preferments when you want to bake.

As an example, suppose you have a recipe that wants 150g of starter.

You can keep say 30g of starter in the fridge and once per week discard 20g of it, then feed the remaining 10g with 10g flour and 10g water to bring it back to 30g. These are tiny amounts.

When you want to bake you take 20g from the 30g and use that 20g in a preferment. The remaining 10g is fed again to bring it back to 30g and is put back in the fridge.

With the 20g you add 20g flour and 20g water making a preferment of 60g total. You leave this out at room temperature overnight. Next morning you take that 60g and add 60g flour and 60g water making 180g in total, again leaving this at room temp. Once that has risen, peaked you can use that in your baking recipe.

Hope that makes sense


PetraR's picture

You do not need to discard the brown liquid * hooch * just stir it under before you take half out and feed your Starter.

I would say a starter can go up to 2 weeks in the fridge without feeding but I feed mine once a week if I keep it in the fridge.

dabrownman's picture

rye starter is going on its 8th week in the fridge with no maintenance and no hooch separation.  Nearly 8 weeks ago it went into the fridge at about 100 G and is now about 50 g as I use about 7-8 g a week of it to bake with buildi9ng a levain from that small amount each week.;  I used to maintain a liquid starter in the fridge and had all the same problems you do - but no more

Happy baking

emkay's picture

I learned from dabrowman that I can keep my starter in the refrigerator for many weeks without feeding it. My starter is 75% hydration and 50% rye/50% all-purpose flour. It's no maintenance and a light colored hooch barely begins to appear around week 7 or 8.  A couple days before I want to bake I take out 10 g starter and feed it at room temp 2 or 3 times and then build my levain. 

To answer your question, you can just pour off the hooch and scrape aside any dark layer of starter to get to the lighter colored starter underneath.