The Fresh Loaf

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HELP: what do I do with the 'hooch'!

tigressbakes's picture

HELP: what do I do with the 'hooch'!

Hi all,

Well, I finally arrived back in my kitchen and I am ready to go (unfortuantely I have a bunch of work I have to get done before I can even think about baking). But of course I was very excited to see the condition of my starter - and I want to refresh it so that hopefully I can work with it tomorrow.

It smells fresh, but it looks like potato soup with about 1/4 or so of clear liquid on top - I think it is called the 'hooch'?

According to Peter Reinhart, I am going to keep a cup of the starter and get rid of the rest. He doesn't say anything about the liquid - what should I do shoud I pour it off first - or mix it in before I take out the discarded starter? Or don't do either and just take out the required amount of discarded starter?


Help - i am raring to go but I don't want to make a mistake!

JMonkey's picture

Yep, that's hooch. It's nothing to worry about, really. It just means that your starter is getting a little tired and is producing alcohol. You can pour it off or stir it in, as you wish. It shouldn't hurt anything.

That said, if it's producing a significant volume of alcohol, you'll probably want to refresh it a couple of times to get it back to prime condition before using it. The stuff is a bit hungry, that's all.

How long had it been in the fridge since the last feeding?

leemid's picture

I have not had this issue since drying my wettest starter up to 100% hydration. It works as good as ever. I also keep a very dry starter at about 50%. I use the dry for loaf bread, the wet for quick breads.

 This last Saturday I made the best bread of my life, and one of the best I have eaten. It is my modified version of Ray Shirvis' Rye Bread (, using the firm starter. My 12 year old daughter, who doesn't like multi-grain bread, but likes sourdough, loves this rye/ww combo. I hated to give it away, but I made one loaf for my brother-in-law w/o caraway seeds, and one with for me. Of course, the little one doesn't like caraway seeds, so I get to eat the whole thing!

tigressbakes's picture

I think that I will poor most it off (since it is quite a wet starter to begin with).

JMonkey - its been in there about a month - and it was only a month old starter.

I will feed it for a couple of days before I try using it again. 

 Pulled a biga (not SD) I had out of the freezer so at least I can try baking something before my SD starter is ready again!


leemid - I'm going to check out your recipe when I have a moment - thanks.  Also very interesting about keeping a dry starter. I will have to try it much to learn!

bwraith's picture


Hooch will develop after a while with a thick starter too. I agree you can just pour it off. It's no big deal. After a month, I would probably need to refresh the culture about 3 times in a row to get it back to full strength.

A thicker starter will also develop hooch eventually, but it happens a little more slowly. Generally, a thicker starter will last longer in the refrigerator. If you tend to use your starter less than every couple of weeks, you may want to thicken your starter up substantially before putting it in the refrigerator, so it will keep better. You can always bring it back to whatever consistency you prefer to work with in your recipes very quickly, since you have to revive it and refresh it a few times if you've let it sit for a long while.

I've found I need to do one refreshment if I've let it sit a week, two if I've let it sit two weeks, and maybe three if it's a month or more old, just to give you an idea of how a 100% hydration would behave. It would have little hooch at the end of a week, a touch of hooch at two weeks, and a very noticeable amount after a month or more.


Willard Onellion's picture
Willard Onellion

I have read advice that covers all of the responses you have received. Some say pour it away; others say doing so will upset the liquid balance.

I have done it both ways and it works just fine.


tigressbakes's picture

I kinda like the word 'hooch' sounds like my starter was havin' a little party while I was gone!

alchemy's picture

Pour off the hooch. Discard some of the starter and then refresh it several times at periodic intervals.Tigressbakes, are you keeping your starter in the fridge?

zolablue's picture

...for anyone interested, I typed Maggie Glezer's firm sourdough recipe at this link.  I also posted a link to photos of my starter at work.  It is just another way to do it - nobody has the best way, just a different way.  I find it all fascinating even though much of the science goes beyond my understanding at this point, darn it.  But I'm trying to get it all soaked into my noggin.  As time goes on you do learn what works for you and why you like a starter or not.

redivyfarm's picture

This exchange is very helpful to me. I'm a baker who has wondered if her six month old potato water starter was dead or dying!  I didn't understand refreshing the starter multiple times to renew the yeast growth.  It is working right now with a 1:1:1 ratio plus one teaspoon of sugar. I'm hoping the second or third feeding will do the trick.  I refrigerate it for weeks at a time and leave it out for a week or so at a time in a haphazard manner! I don't want to give up on this culture because the taste and smell of it is just what I'm after.

I also hate to throw out any excess as I feed the starter which is ludicrous because I buy my flour from a grocery/restaurant supply in 50# sacks.  I have over 200# on hand just because I want to try different types of baking! I will reconcile myself to discarding extra starter with spent nutrients with some difficulty or--- I will use it in place of the liquid in recipes to give them a flavor boost.  Has anyone tried this?

Although I have always stirred the hooch back into the sourdough starter, I have noticed that added vinegar or ascorbic acid as suggested in some recipes (for a more intense sour flavor) seems to inhibit the leavening action in the loaf. The liquid that rises on my starter in the refrigerator is quite vinegar-y.  I will experiment with pouring it off in future.

 I'm inspired to try the wild yeast starter so I have a little jar with rye flour and fresh grapefruit juice in its infancy.  I have high hopes for this starter!

Happy baking, all!

tigressbakes's picture

All of your comments are really helpful.

I am just about to deal with my starter now. Yes, alchemy, I have kept it in the fridge while I was away. But based on what everyone has said this is my plan:

  • take it out of the fridge and pour off the hooch
  • refresh it based on the formula I've been follwing from BBA - keep one cup of the starter and add 4 cups of flour and 3 cups of water
  • keep it out of the fridge and refresh the same way tomorrow
  • see what it looks like on Thursday, possibly bake with it - or refresh one more day
Meanwhile, I took a non-SD biga out of the freezer that I had and made a great raisin and walnut loaf from Hamelman's Bread. I put a bit more stone-ground whole wheat flour and a little less white and it is delicious! I highly recommend that recipe.
tigressbakes's picture

well yesterday I did save the 1 cup of starter and added 4 cups flour and 3 cups of water.

I started to see some life today and I refreshed it again. This time I took out 1/2 of the starter and then added equal parts flour and water to equal the weight of the retained starter.

Lo and behold, I have to travel back to the city tomorrow for work, so I put it back in the fridge. But I will be able back and able to refresh it again on Sunday - I think by then it should be ready to bake with.


thanks for the help everyone.