The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sourdough starter struggling in London

nicodvb's picture

sourdough starter struggling in London


over the last 12 years I've made literally dozens of starters (both solid and liquid) that have given me a lot of satisfactions: explosive starters and great rise.

In London it's a totally different story: starters are sluggish, they barely double (in Italy they more than tripled) always very slowly. The temperature in the house is more or less the same here as it was there: around 21/22°C.

Suspecting the level of chlorine/chloramine in water I've tried tap water and various brands of bottled water, with better success rate with bottled water. 

As for the flours, in Italy there's a infinitely richer choice of brands and types, while in the UK the choice is extremely limited and technical flours that I had in Italy are just a dream.

Even with wholemeal rye flour the starters are very sluggish and even tend to die.

So, my question to Uk users is: what flours and water do you use for your SD starter?

At the moment (after having tried nearly all flour in major supermarkets) I'm using Allinson "very strong white" canadian flour, that at least resists very well to long fermentation without turning into mud (it was time!).


SourdoughSA's picture

Hi hi.....i'm not from Londen.....but from South Africa......i always use purified water for my cultures, and even when i bake, i use purified water, tap water contains a LOT of industrial chemicals, and that poor culture can't handle that.

I also use a combination of flours when i feed my culture.  Normally i would use a stoneground white 70%, stoneground whole meal 20%, and a stoneground rye 10%, and my H2O will be 120%, because technically rye and w/w absorbs more moist than your white.

So this normally works for me, feeding ratio of 1;1;1,  and my culture is currently 11 years old, and i bake with it on a daily basis.

Insomnia Brendan's picture
Insomnia Brendan

Hi Nicodvb, 

I live just outside London and have only been baking sourdough for two months. I cannot directly answer your question regards initiating starter issues as I bought my starter from Freshly fermented website for £5. It's got a terrific flavour. 

However, I can tell you about a couple of great options for buying great flour. However, they are not cheap options but I think the quality is excellent. 

My previous supplier was Shipton Mill

My current flour and equipment supplier is Bakery Bits

Water - I use boiled water that is left in an open jug for a day or two to evaporate off the fluorine. It doesn't seem to hurt my preferments or starter growth at all doing it this way. I did have one negative experience with direct water but it was in the early days so I cannot be sure it was definitely the water. 

Hope that helps until now experienced bakers comment. 



Robertob's picture


I live in London and use Bakery Bits For Mulino Marino flour and lots of other fantastic flours.  I have not had any issues with my starter, although I tend to use my starter when it’s young.  



nicodvb's picture

with some raisins it's going much better, but it's a bit like cheating, as it's renowned that their surface is loaded with yeasts.