The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Question... how long can I use?

somegeek's picture

Starter Question... how long can I use?

I brought my starter out from the fridge, fed it and left it to rise at room temp for 12 hours. It rose ~250% and started to fall. I fed it and placed it in the fridge. Over the course of five days, it rose 100% in the fridge. I brought it out this morning, removed half and fed it and placed it in my oven w/ the light on to rise for use later today.

Question is, is there a window of how long you can use your starter after feeding and placing in the fridge? Would it eventually rise the 250% it did at room temp in the fridge?

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, somegeek.

I read two questions in your message:

1. For how long after the last feeding is a refrigerated starter suitable for use?

The answer depends in large part on whether you have a firm or liquid starter. A liquid starter (typically 100% hydration, or more) has relatively little "food" for the beasties. Once they have exhausted it, they need to be reactivated by feeding before the starter is good for use. How long does this take? I really don't know because I generally don't keep liquid starters refrigerated.

A firm starter is certainly still good for use after 3 days, assuming you warm it up before mixing the dough. I will confess to having used a firm starter that had last been fed two weeks before, with very satisfactory results. I do not recommend making a habit of that, though.

2. Will a refrigerated starter continue to expand, just like one kept at room temperature, even if it's more slowly?

Again, this applies to firm starters. (Liquid starters don't expand in the same way.)The refrigerated starter may grow some, but once it has cooled, the yeast slows down to the point expansion stops. Where it stops probably depends on how warm it was when it went into the frige, how active it was, how cold the frige is and the volume of the starter you are chilling.

I hope that helps.


fancypantalons's picture

Well, at least in the BBA on the topic of his liquid "barm", Reinhart suggests a roughly 1:2:2 feeding with 6 hours at room temperature, followed by 3 days in the fridge.  I haven't switched my new starter over to that schedule yet (I'm planning to keep it on a 12 hour 1:2:2 cycle for the rest of this week, so that the culture has a chance to really establish itself), but I certainly intend to switch to that schedule, or some variation thereof, as it better fits my lifestyle of baking mainly on the weekends. 

I'd just make sure you feed it 6-8 hours before you want to use it so it has a chance to pick up a little steam and peak right when you want to use it.