The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help! Sourdough starter has lost it's power!

Penny Rou's picture
Penny Rou

Help! Sourdough starter has lost it's power!

Hi everyone

Please help me! I made a sourdough starter back in April and for the first 2 months it was working beautifully every time. The recipe I used was this:



60g starter (kept in the fridge, taken out the day before and 1/2 discarded + fed so it doubled in size)

Fed with 100g warm water and 100g white bread flour

Left to double in size (usually took about 3 hours)


250g leaven

300g warm water

a very small sprinkle of quick yeast (I know I know, not kosher)

450g white bread flour

50g wholemeal bread flour 

20g salt


Mix together all ingredients except salt

Autolyse for 1 hour

Add salt

Stretch and fold every hour for 4 hours

Pop into banneton and rise in fridge for about 18h


Next day, preheated oven to 250 celcius and baked for about 45 mins or until dark brown and the base sounded hollow.

This was working totally fine and then all of a sudden for no apparent reason my loaves have stopped rising in the oven! Flat as a pancake.

The dough rises beautifully between stretch and folds and in the fridge overnight but as soon as I turn them out and put them in the oven, zilch happens.

What am I doing wrong??




Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

Do you have any pictures of the loaves and the crumb cut to post?  This would help us make more informed suggestions as to what’s going on.


Have there been any changes in water, ambient temperature, flour, etc.?  

lastly, have you noticed any changes in how your starter has been acting?  Any changes in its consistency?  Any changes in how my or how quickly it rises?

Penny Rou's picture
Penny Rou

Here it is! No nothing changed at all! Same recipe, same conditions 

Breadifornia's picture

Sorry you are hitting a rough patch!  If nothing has really changed, it could be something difficult to see that is going on in your starter. You might try some stronger starter feedings (1:2:2 or 1:3:3) for a few days to see if it helps.  Good luck!

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

You mention that your dough is rising beautifully between stretch & folds and during the retard phase.  This kind of indicates to me that the issue is not because of your starter losing strength, but must be something that has changed at some point in between mixing it and baking it.


I’m not experienced enough to know by looking at the crumb whether it’s under proofed or over proofed, but based on what you’ve stated (e.g. mixing all the ingredients except salt before the autolyse) I’m leaning toward overproofed.  If you’re mixing the levain in with your “autolyse”, then you are technically skipping the autolyse step and jumping straight into bulk ferment.


Also, I don’t see where you mention the ambient temperature.  Has your kitchen gotten warmer or cooler since you last baked a “successful” loaf?  A change in ambient temperature of just a couple degrees can alter the time needed for bulk ferment by quite a bit.  If your ambient temperature increases, you will want to cut back your bulk ferment time.


Another thing that can have a dramatic effect on your bulk ferment time is the amount of levain you are using.  Does the recipe call for allowing it to double in bulk before mixing it in to the rest of the ingredients?  Also, the sprinkle of commercial yeast on top of that seems like overkill.  If your starter has no issues with raising, and is capable of at least doubling in bulk, then you should (at the very least) ditch the commercial yeast.


What is the source of the recipe you’re using?

SusanMcKennaGrant's picture

Bummer.  Been there.  As suggested by breadifornia try giving it 3 feedings, 8 hours apart in a 1 (starter):3 (flour): 3 (water) ratio.  Or if it is hot where you are then try 1:3:2.  Also you are using a ton of leaven in your mix. Why so much? right now, its high summer where I am and I've gone from using 20% leaven in cooler weather to 5% which works beautifully in the heat. I'd also forget the commercial yeast.  Good luck.