The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Unrefrigerated starter lost rising power

Jim S's picture
Jim S

Unrefrigerated starter lost rising power


Pardon the long story, but 15 years ago or so my sourdough starter (1848 + San Francisco mixed) suddenly developed enough rising strength that I stopped adding commercial yeast, and since then I have been making great bread.  I refresh the started over night with 3 C water and 3 C flour, adding another 3 C flour in the AM, and adding remaining flour and kneading  about noon.  One more rise (2-3) hours and I made loaves and let them rise for about an hour, then baked.  

Last month my starter was unrefrigerated for about a week (I live in Santiago, Chile… we lost electricity with the earthquake).  When I reactivated the starter it was still alive, looked and smelled the same,  but had lost its vigor… it no longer produces a strong enough ferment to raise the dough without added yeast.   

 What do you think happened (1) 15 years ago to boost its fermenting power and (2) last month to diminish its power while unrefrigerated?  How can I make it strong again?

 Could it be that I infected the starter with commercial yeast 15 years ago and had a sourdough-yeast starter ever since?  What would happen if I re-introduced commercial yeast into the starter?

I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

Jim S


Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I've seen topics on here and other places on reviving the starter. I remember on a page called reviving the starter or some such topic. He goes into great detail about how to bring your starter back to life. I think that since your starter still shows signs of life all is not lost.

It just needs some intensive care. Frequent, smaller feedings and discards (every 8-12 hours) with lots of stirring. No commercial yeast. Some rye flour.

Do a search here on reviving your starter. I'm sure you'll find what you need. You also might want to send a message to someone like Debra Wink. I'm sure she'll know what to do, if she doesn't chime in.

So glad you survived Chile. Hope all is well. I lost my starter in a home fire recently. Much less traumatic than what happened in Chile but I feel your pain.

longhorn's picture

As Jim said. Feed it.It will be fine within a few days. It was rather unhappy and depleted with a low surviving population of yeast but it will recover. I would do 1:1 expansions (50 grams water and 50 grams flour to 100 grams starter) twice a day (or three times a day). 

Good luck!


Jim S's picture
Jim S


I'll feed it.  And let you know the results.

And thanks for your concern; here in Santiago we had only one broken vase and no damage to the house (wood frame). People in tall apartment towers had a lot of interior damage; the towers are built to sway but the wall board isn't.  Further south the damage was extensive.

Jim S

Jim S's picture
Jim S

I fed it.  About 4 Tablespoons starter with an equal volume of water and 6 T of flour.  In 8 hours it had produced bubbles and a bit of hooch.  I fed it again and it doubled.  I fed it again and it doubled again.  Then, not having time to bake bread, I refrigerated it for a few days and fed it again on Sat. evening; 1 C starter, i C water and 1.5 C flour, 1/3 rye.  It doubled, and I added additional flour and made bread on Easter Sunday.  It rose normally, doubling in 3-4 hours.  The bread is fine, light textured with a good sour flavor.


Jim S.