The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to maintain a starter that is in the refrigerator

Mac's picture

How to maintain a starter that is in the refrigerator

Hello all:

New to sourdough so this, I'm sure, is a basic question.  I have a great starter and made two, really tasty, loafs of sdb.  I put the starter in the refrigerator but am unclear on how to maintain it while it's in the cooler and not being used.  The next question is when I'm ready to bake again what is the procedure to get the starter out of the refrigerator and ready for baking.

 A point in the right direction would be most appreciated.



Yumarama's picture

 Take the starter out of the fridge, feed it a standard feed, give it an hour or two to wake up and start eating, then pop it back in the fridge. Some people think it needs to double then should be put back in when it is at it's peak - so several hours on the counter - others think once you've given it fresh flour/water and it's had a bit of warm up time, it's good to go back in.

 Doing this once a week seems to be the standard although some people have let their starter sit unattended for much longer and it came back fine, although very long periods may mean several feedings before it's back to it's normal, bouncy self.

 As for starting up a bread starter, I myself do the above feed and instead of tossing the extra, I use that to make a separate batch as required for the bread recipe. So my "mother" starter remains safely tucked away in the fridge while the 'discard' is used in the recipe.


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I get lots of email through and many of the emails are from people in trouble.  The usual issue is they aren't taking good care of their starter and it slowly fades and dies.


Dr. Sugihara did research and found that fresh starter survives freezing better than a mature one.  My less formal experiments suggest the same is true of refrigeration.  Neither a refrigerator nor a freezer are some sort of science fiction stasis box where nothing ages.  Your starter is declining as surely as the celery will wilt and decompose.


I usually suggest every two weeks or so people pull their starter out of the fridge, feed it until it is fully vibrant, feed it one more time and then refrigerate it at once.


There are signs when starter is in distress.  It throws off hooch, it takes more than a day or two to revive and/or it becomes  discolored.


If my starter has been in the fridge for less than a week, I find I can just use it.  If it has been in the fridge for more than a week, I prefer to feed it up until it is vibrantly healthy and I have enough to bake.


My prefered feeding regimen is to feed the starter enough to double it's size with each feeding, and to feed it an equal amount of flour and water by weight.  Or about 2 parts of water to 3 parts of scooped flour by volume.


Hope this helps,



holds99's picture

Hello Mac,

My suggestion is to go to Mike Avery's Sourdough Home website and take a look at the downloads available.  They're very reasonably priced and if you're just getting started with sourdough my suggestion would be to download "An Introduction To Sourdough Baking".  It's well worth the small price.  On page 19, VI. An Introduction To Caring For Your Starter you'll find information re: feeding and maintence of your starter.   Here's a link:

I'm certainly no expert but I can tell you from experience you'll save yourself a lot of time, frustraton and flour if you understand how the process works and what you have to do to get your starter cranked up ready to bake.  I just finished revving mine up using Mike's feeding/refreshment procedure and it worked great.  I had a couple of previous "also rans" baking Leader's Pierre Nury light rye bread as a result of not having my starter active enough before mixing it into my dough.  Anyway, best of luck with your sourdough adventures.  Looking forward to seeing some of your postings.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL