The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Starter Temp Mechanism

CountryBoy's picture

Sourdough Starter Temp Mechanism

It is my understanding that the proper temp for growing sourdough starter is in the 78-80 temp range.  However my house and rooms in winter do not go above 70 degrees.

So do people have sensible inventions or ideas as to how one can achieve that temp range for the nurturing of sourdough starter?

PS: And I have already tested the temps above the fridge and such places.



nbicomputers's picture

if your oven has a pilot light which should keep it warm enough

if not is there a light in your oven the light bulb on will make some heat

if it does not you could get a drop light from an auto or hardware store and use a 60 - 100 w bulb and place the light in your oven being careful keep the light far enough away from your starter

remember the ez bake ovens for kids baked cookies and small cakes just with the heat of a 100w bulb

hullaf's picture

I use my microwave as a mini-environment to get the temperature just right. I boil a cup of water, then put the starter next to it, put a do-not-open sign (privacy please?) on the door and leave it. I also put in a instant read thermometer in a jar of water to check the temp every hour or so (and if need be heat the water again.) I think some posts here have talked about using a cooler too as the "mini environment". Good luck. My house is always below 66F in the winter time, I was raised in Wisconsin.   Anet

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

People have been making sourdough for thousands of years, and for most of that time there really wasn't any effective temperature control.  While a warmer temperature will help, it's not essential.  It'll just take a bit longer to get going at lower temperatures.


How low can you go?  I wouldn't get much below the mid 60's while starting a starter, but that's just a shoot from the hip guess 



ShirleyT's picture


I live in the East Bay, about 20 miles east of San Francisco. I am too cheap to turn the heater on in the winter so the temperature in my house often drops to 60 degrees at night and barely budges from that during the day. I keep my 12 year old sourdough on the kitchen counter. It has not suffered any bad side affects from these cooler temps. My breads turn out beautiful every time!

CountryBoy's picture

Thank you for the feed back on this.


halinva's picture

I'm absolutely new at this and have purchased several books on sourdough as well as a bread machine.   One of the books, which concentrates strictly on sourdough recommends that proofed starter be kept at 85 degrees for 24 hours.  That is pretty hard to do.  Does it really matter that much?

I think I recall that 70 or so years ago my parents used to have a crock that they used to keep on a shelf.  And if I'm not mistaken it contained sourdough starter.

I would appreciate some input on this.


Hal (on the York River in VA)

PS:  I'm really glad that I ran across this great website!

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

"One of the books, which concentrates strictly on sourdough recommends that proofed starter be kept at 85 degrees for 24 hours."

This probably falls under the category of a type II sourdough---one used for acidifiying and flavoring dough, but not so much for leavening. Do the recipes also call for some commercial baker's yeast?

I think most people here use type I sourdough, which is the more "traditional" kind, maintained at room temperature with frequent, or "continuous" refreshment. This keeps the yeast vigorous enough to raise the dough without added baker's yeast.

Both are sourdoughs. But they are different styles, with different microbial profiles, and probably different flavors as well.

ermabom's picture

I am a relatively new baker (started in April 2007) but I created more than one sourdough starters last year and have two going right now. My house is not more than 70 degrees in the kitchen unless I am baking and the oven is on. I have had no trouble with the starters. They just take longer to mature in the winter than they did in the summer when it was closer to 80 in the house.

It is a good thing I didn't over analyze all this when I started or I would have been too scared to try sourdough baking :-)


CaGa15's picture

I have been thinking about it for a week.  I have a plug in coffee warmer that you sit your cup on to keep it warm.  I started with glass and ended with wood.  Everything to reduce the heat to 75 degrees which I think would be a good environment for the starter.  If I had some time I would come up with something but I think we are on the right track!  There are big glass bells that could create a Terrarium from the 70's but there is Condensation.  There must be some people who could help us come up with a simple solution with the correct environment!  How about that!


tricky's picture

I created a very low tech warm spot and I would include photo if I could.  I purchased a hanging light fixture like the kind used to keep chicks  warm. They are very inexpensive.   There is an aluminum hood and it can take any watt bulb that you need.  I'm using a 40 watt appliance bulb.  I hung it with a coat hanger (low tech) over a cupboard door and this hangs directly over my container with the sourdough that is sitting on the counter top.  If the ambient temperature is cool I can increase the heat by draping a piece of tin foil around the bottom of the hood.  I could send a photo of you want one.    Vickie