The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

How much do you keep?

butterflygrooves's picture

How much do you keep?

I threw my starter out last month because I hadn't been using it and had neglected to feed it for a few weeks...big mistake.  I could have saved it, it looked and smelled fine when I dumped it.

I put together a new starter last night and am curious to see how much starter everyone keeps around.  With my last starter, I kept feeding and feeding it until I had a big jelly jar full.  I'm assuming that's too much, right?  I didn't have a scale at the time so I'm not sure exactly how much I had.

How much starter do you keep?

GAPOMA's picture

When I put away my starter I store it at 65% hydration and I usually keep about 1/3-1/2 cup.  I store it in a small plastic container with a lid and just keep it in the back of the refrigerator.

- Greg

mrfrost's picture

1.5 oz of 50% starter. Refrigerated.

jcking's picture

354g, 75% hydration, refigerated, covered,fed twice weekly.


GaryJ's picture

Hi butterflygrooves,
I keep 100g of 100% hydration starter on the go. I then elaborate it as required.

sam's picture

300 grams at 125% hydration.  At room temp, it ripens in appx 5.5 - 6 hours.  If I am at home I will keep it at room temp and keep feeding it when it is ready.  On workdays when I am away, I keep it at 55F temp, which slows the fermentation enough to where it ripens in appx 12 hours, which is easier to manage.

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

100g to 300g at 50% to 60% hydration, refrigerated. Fed once a week.

If I leave it for longer, and it starts to smell like nail polish remover, I scoop out about 1 tablespoon, and build another starter.  I toss the rest...

placebo's picture

I keep 200 g of 100%-hydration starter in a 1/2-liter jar. At its maximum rise, it probably fills about 90% of the jar. I keep it in the refrigerator and feed it once a week.

BobS's picture

2.5 oz / 70 g 100% hydration. Kept in the fridge in a little plastic container with a lid.

wassisname's picture

... at most.  That's enough to build into a batch (or two) of bread, make some pizza, maybe some crackers, and refresh for next week.

subfuscpersona's picture

50 grams is about 1-3/4 ounces or about 1/4 cup (at 100% hydration). Refrigerated.

Normally bake with it once a week (so it gets fed in the process of building the levain I need for baking). If I'm not baking with sourdough during a week, I'll feed it, keep 50 grams and discard the excess.


polo's picture

......@ 100% hydration. 

breadbythecreek's picture

room temperature fed 2x per day on a 1:4:4 - since I bake small batches, it works for me.  It's like another little pet.

charbono's picture

at 85%.


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I refresh my starter at 75-80% as needed, when it gets down to around 40g. I start with a 150g build and after it gets vigorous, I refrigerate. I then take out about 30-40g to build up a fresh starter for each loaf. Lately, I've been experimenting with two stage builds for the quantity desired. The small amounts for the first stage take as much work as a single stage build but the results from a two stage build are really interesting.

candis's picture

what an eclectic bunch we are!

Janetcook's picture

Not exactly an answer to your question but you have gotten plenty of responses to keep you busy for a long time...

This is just kind of along the same lines of managing starter and I really enjoyed it when I read it so here it is for you too.

This is from an Oct. 2009 thread submitted by 'Rainbowz' and it goes like this:


Not Discarding: Let's look at the math here.



One method of feeding says to discard half your starter and add that much fresh flour/water again. We'll assume we're basically adding about the same amount of flour+water, so doubling our starter each feed BUT not removing the original half because we "don't like to throw anything out". We also keep the starter out and feed twice daily and go one week. 

We'll start on day 1 with a small amount of starter: 2 tablespoons or 1/8 cup. At each feed, we give it an amount of feed equal to the starter, made of 50% water and flour by weight. But for this example, just so we have a better idea of the volume, we'll assume the volume added is calculated correctly to be by weight, so in that 1/8 cup, there's, say, 15g flour and 15g water. This is, in effect, a 2:1:1 feeding ratio. If you prefer to do 1:1:1 or 1:2:2, the amounts will increase even faster.

And just for fun, before you read the rest, take a guess at how much starter you'll have at the end of one week, starting with just 2 tablespoons and feeding twice a day. Ok, got an amount in your head? No cheating, can't look at the end or change your mind, now!

Alright, let's have a look.

  • Day 1, Feed 1: we start with 1/8c starter, just 2 tablespoons, so we add 1/8 c of feed so we end with 1/4c of fed starter. Whew, saved from throwing out 1 tablespoon of starer!
  • Day 1, Feed 2: 1/4c starter + 1/4c feed = 1/2c total starter. No problem here. Good night, little starter, feed you in the morning!
  • Day 2, Feed 1: 1/2c starter + 1/2c feed = 1 cup total starter. Bah, this is easy. Oh wait, our starter is doubling in size so we have too make sure the jar is big enough. So into a quart jar (4 cups) it goes, that should do for a while.
  • Day 2, Feed 2: 1c starter gets 1c feed = 2c starter. Hmm. Hope it doesn't expand past double.
  • Day 3, Feed 1: 2c starter + 2c feed = 4c total starter. Well geez, now that quart is full and it hasn't even expanded yet. OK, into a gallon jug you go.
  • Day 3, Feed 2:  4c starter + 4c feed = 8c total. Wow, that's 2 whole quarts. If it expands to double, this gallon jar will just hold it (hopefully).
  • Day 4, Feed 1: 2qt starter + 2 qt feed = 1 gallon total starter. Gah! I need a big bucket for this stuff now. And I just added about 4 cups of flour to this thing. And we're just barely past the middle of week one. Wonder how long that 5 lb bag of flour is gonna last?
  • Day 4, Feed 2: 1 gal starter + 1 gal feed = 2 gal total. OK, into that big 5 gallon Home Depot pail now. Man, I used 12 cups of flour today alone...
  • Day 5, Feed 1: 2 gal Starter + 2 gal feed = 4 gal total. Off to the store for more flour...
  • Day 5, Feed 2: We now have 8 galons, which need at leasts a 16g container. The kiddy pool would do...
  • Day 6, Feed 1: 16gal.
  • Day 6 Feed 2: 32 gal and you used about  192 cups of flour. And you're just now getting to the end of week 1...
  • Day 7: Feed 1: we now have 64 gal of starter. We better start planning on making bread soon.
  • Day 7, Feed 2: 128 gallons of starter. That's more than your standard bathtub can hold, never mind when it expands. If you want to think about "economy", you need to ask yourself how much flour you are willing to use to feed this exponentially growing monster., never mind where you'll be keeping it in a day or two. Maybe the neighbours are a way and you can use their pool... 

Now let's keep in mind we began with just two tablespoons. Only about 40 gallons of that is water, the other 80 gallons is flour That's SIXTEEN five gallon drums. You will be running to the grocery store and buying out their flour supply in no time. That won't be cheap. 

Or you can discard a couple of tablespoons of flour at each feed and keep the starter at a fair size for your needs. Whether that's keeping it to 150g (about a half cup) or a little bigger because you bake a lot. But you'd be a bakery pumping out hundreds of loaves to be using up 128 gallons of starter.

Need a larger amount of starter for your baking day? Take one feed's discard and build that up to that amount. 

And how close were you in your guess?


And what of the future in our "no discarding" scenario? In three more days, you'd have 8,192 gallons.

By the end of week two, if you wanted to refrigerate it now so you only feed once a week, you'd need a fridge big enough to hold 2,097,152 gallons. yes, that's over 2 MILLION gallons. If you go one more week, you're at over 34.3 BILLION gallons. And of course, truckloads of flour delivered daily to feed this monster.

Now obviously no one would go that far before realizing that NOT discarding is insanely expensive but it may not be obvious how FAST this adds up when you're looking at your 2 Tablespoons of starter and thinking it's not worth throwing that extra tablespoon of flour out. Even by about day 4 you'd have got to the point where you'd need to throw out just under 1 gallon of starter to get back to a decent amount, so you'd be tossing at least 7 cups of flour away. Removing 1 tablespoon per feed over that same time is just 1/2 cup of flour.

Which is actually more economical and less wasteful? Which will give you enough extra starter to make pancakes for the family vs pancakes for the local school board?



Yumarama's picture

and was pretty much meant to be. I also want to reassert that the numbers in there are rather loose but still make the point about the speed starter could increase if you're not reducing or using some up every day. Of course, if the starter lives mostly in the fridge, the timeline slows down enormously but the exponential math stays the same.

I myself keep 50g of 100%: 10g:20g:20g which makes about 1/4 cup which gives me 40g of excess to use up at feeding time. This is 10g more than most Hamelman recipes need and if I did a recipe that wanted more, I could easily work that 40g up in a feed or two: 200g at feed one, 1000g at feed two.

And butterfly, please consider the idea of drying some of your starter, once it's good and strong again, so if you ever do have an accident, you can get the flakes back up and running in no time.

Happy baking,





butterflygrooves's picture

Hi Paul!  Thanks for the tip on drying my starter once it gets going again. 

I was fortunate enough to have happened upon your blog when I got my last starter going, your step by step account of Wally and PJ helped tremendously.  I am once again following that same story to get this new starter going.

Janetcook's picture

and I loved it when I first ran across it and still do!  Glad you took the time to spell things out in a way that paints a delightful picture.  It worked wonders on the anxiety I felt each time I tossed a bit of starter into the trash!



butterflygrooves's picture

Janetcook, I didn't go that crazy last time, LOL.  I'm guessing I had around 2 cups of starter but thought that was probably too much.  I'm still very new to sourdough and starters and feel so out of touch with what I should keep and throw out, how to build it up for a bake, etc.

Thanks for the laugh though!

Janetcook's picture

I am very new to this too and when I was questioning like you are I ran across Rainbowz figures and somewhere else I saw something similar using drawings along with the words and I can't find it now....

but once I read and saw those 2 pieces my hesitancy at tossing excess starter diminished exponentially and I learned to mix up only a bit at a time like others have said.

My counter starter weighs in at about 30g and is fed 2x a day - 5:10:15...(5g starter:10g water:15g flour).  When I bake with it, which is several times a week, I simply build it up which goes quickly since it is kept at room temp. - much more lively than a refrigerated starter.

I also learned how to use the discards by using them in English Muffins. ( I simply put the starter I use to toss into a container and put it into the refrig. and at the end of the week I have enough for an EM recipe I found here.)

:-)  Happy Baking  :-)

paulheels's picture

What is the english muffin recipe you found, that you use your SD starter for?  The only one I can find is the one that uses yeast packets.





Yumarama's picture

There's no problem using your current recipe for most anything, you're simply using the old discard/excess starter as a flavourful replacement for the flour and water in the regular recipe. So if you have 200g of excess starter and you know it's 100% hydration, you can switch out that 200g with 100g of the flour and 100g of the water called for in the original recipe.

Of course, there may be a logical limit to how much of the flour and/or water can be replaced so use a reasonable amount, like perhaps up to 30 or 40%. I'm sure someone here has a better idea how much you can generally get away with, keeping in mind that flour already well used up by the yeasties is a bit different from fresh.

Janetcook's picture

Here is the link to the thread with the recipe that I have used with my discards.