The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough starter won't start

FODMAP homebaker's picture
FODMAP homebaker

Sourdough starter won't start

Hello everyone,

I decided to try my hand at homemade sourdough as it is considered low FODMAP, which would help my love of homemade bread baking and digestive issues coexist in peace. Sadly, however, I have already failed two times so far at creating my own starter. I tried to follow two different set of instruction/recipes to create a starter, but both failed around the same time. 

The first recipe:  Start with a 50g flour/50ml water, double that on the second day. From then on each day i would leave about 50g of flour but expand the feed (always on a 1:1 ratio) from 50 to 250 each day to increase the volume. After a week, it was supposed to be lively. In actuality, it was very alive and would more than double in size each day but then on the 5th day it slowed down considerable, and did not rise at all on the 6 day. I tried to refeed it for 7th day, but nothing moved, barely any bubbles.

Second recipe: this was a thicker one, as i had read that it can be more effective, and also just wanted to switch things up. It starts with 1/2 cup of water for 1 scant cup of flour. You would leave 4oz after the first and second, and always refeed it the same 1/2 cup water and 1 cup flour. It explained that on the second day the activity would pick up, and from the 4th day you should feed it every 12 hours. In actuality, it started to rise on the first day, and rose so much on the second that it came out of the jar and I had to switch it to a gigantic one. It probably almost quadrupled in size. I was very exited and thought it was a good sign, and thus started feeding it twice daily right away. After the second day of twice-a-day feeding it looked like it was slowing down again. On the 5th day it did not rise at all. I re-fed it this morning hoping that it would come back, but i doubt it.


Can somebody give some advice with similar experience? I would get it if it never showed any sign of activity, but i am very confused by the fact that it looks SO alive and then two days later...nothing. The first time around i was keeping my flour in the fridge which i thought might have been the reason why it died, but the second time i was not. I keep it on a sort of ledge not too far from a heating source so that it nice and cosy. I willing to take the time necessary to do whatever, but at what point am I just wasting time and flour. 

Any and all sound advice will be greatly appreciated. I've been thinking about doing my own sourdough for a year now, so the last few weeks have been really disappointing. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

I'm afraid you've thrown away two starters that were going through a normal quiet period. Problem with many recipes is that they don't tell you this. Most recipes assume that conditions are going to be just perfect and that your starter will go from strength to strength but in reality a lot of us experience a slowing down which often seems to come to a stop on or around day 4 or 5.

Trick is to keep it warm and ride it out. Either slow down your feedings or even stop altogether until it picks up again.

The first couple of days seem impressive but more likely than not it's from the bacteria you don't want. They're quick off the mark. Eventually they die out and this is the quiet period you're entering into. The starter in this quiet period is becoming acidic to support the yeasts and good bacteria. When they take hold it picks up again.

Many start to overfeed at this stage and some think its dead and throw it out. All you need to do is keep warm, 78°F would be best, and perhaps skip a feed or two. Then slowly begin your feeds again, once activity returns, picking up your feeds the stronger it gets.

Filomatic's picture

This is what I used.  Click through every page to see a day by day process using two methods.  Trust me, it's much harder to fail than succeed.

DivingDancer's picture

What you experienced is normal.  Starters start fast, but only because of bacterial action.  That is why they smell so bad during the first several days.  Trust me, you dont want that in your bread!

As soon as your starter gers past this fast start, and appears to be dead, feed it a healthy amount (I go with 1 tsp of starter, 200 grams of flour, 200 grams water), set it on top of the fridge, and dont touch it again until it doubles.  It may take a few days.  But it will take off.