The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

To feed, or not to feed?

Troodledoodle's picture

To feed, or not to feed?

I have a book on sourdough baking, "Do Sourdough" by Andrew Whitley. In it, he says that there is no need to worry about dumping parts of your starter, or regularly feeding it, just keep it in the fridge, and when you want to use some, take it out, let it warm up, and go. Now this is completely contrary to everything else I've read! So who's right? I have a jar of starter in my fridge, it's gone a week without feeding or disturbing, am I doomed to failure if I continue to neglect it??

drogon's picture

I've never subscribed to this feed + discard regime. I also use my starters directly from the fridge (or used to when I was only making a small number of loaves at a time - now I need to bulk it out before mixing/kneading)

If your starter is wheat or spelt based I'd probably refresh it after a couple of weeks - ie. take half out, use it to make pancakes/crumpets then top up with equal parts flour & water (assuming a 100% hydration starter) Rye seems to be more robust though.

Also, read this: for a similar take on it all.


AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

If you need to feed your starter to make your bread rise then what is making your starter rise? Whether feeding your starter or putting your starter in your recipe they are both feeds. Why might one feed their starter?


1. A recipe asks for recently matured starter and everything has been taken into consideration you're using mature starter. In which case you can just as easily take a little off and build with that.

2. Your starter is with one flour and to a certain hydration and the recipe calls for starter built to different specs so again you can take a little off to build with.

3. It hasn't been used in a while so you wish to insure it is healthy.

4. Your starter is slow and you wish to activate it for a better rise which is tied into reason one for timing purposes.


But all that aside there is no reason why you can't use it straight from the fridge. Just allow for adjusted timings.

dabrownman's picture

bread twice but I do want to make sure my bread baking is consistent and that I have as much control over the process  as I can.  I also have to take into account that I am lazy and do not want to be tied to maintaining a starter and I don't want to throw anything away - especially food and I don't want to keep much on hand - no more than 120 g..  So that is why the No Muss No Fuss Starter and levain builds came about.

This week's Friday bake is from a bit of starter, 10 g, that has been stored in the fridge un-maintained for 16 weeks.  To say the least it isn't at its peak and if I used it in a bread directly it would take forever and I would have no idea what shape the starter was in and if it was ready to do its work.

In the summer, I like to be around 10% pre-fermented flour for the SD levain because of the AZ heat and the temperature of my kitchen 86 F at 9 AM this morning. More than that and the dough over ferments and over proofs too easily even when in the fridge.  So i use a 3 stage build to get to the right levain amount  but the most important reason for the 3 stage build is to make sure that the levain is exactly the way I want it when it goes into the mix.  i want it peaking after the 3rd feeding within 4 hours and I want to retard it for 24 hours afterwards.

The 3 stage levain build gives me the confidence and the control to know exactly how things should happen during gluten development, bulk ferment and proofing stages.  Otherwise i am hoping for the best and hope is never a good a good thing when doing something consistently well:-) .

But you could do the same thing by using your starter each week right from the fridge too.  If you topped up your starter after use, you would just have to get it all figured out  so that you got the same results you want each bake.  it just  takes time and experimenting.  SD is very forgiving as a general rule,

You just need to decide what works best for you and how to get there.

Happy SD baking 

Ford's picture

I feed my starter before using it to wake up the cold inactive starter and to build the starter to the amount that I need for the day's bake.  However, do that which works for you.  I'll not try to convince you to do otherwise!


Troodledoodle's picture

Wow, I am so happy I joined this forum! Thank you all so so much for your comprehensive and helpful replies, I'm really enjoying learning from your experience.

vasiliy's picture

I keep mine in the fridge.  Sometimes I feed it a day before I make a pre-ferment.  When I do feed the starter, I don't discard anything, just add some flour and water (and never measure those).  The rest of the time, I just use the old starter from the fridge to make pre-ferment.  It may take warmer room or stove temp (never above 100 F) or longer fermentation time, but it works.  Also, when I do use some of the starter, I add more to it to replace what's been taken.  Considering I bake a few times a week, it is fed regular. However, I did let the starter sit in the fridge for a week or two without feeding and then just used it with some feeding a day before, with no problems.  I think starters are quite forgiving if you don't neglect them too much.