Video Q&A #3: Sourdough Starter, Feeding and Using

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Welcome back to our Video Q&A series! Today’s question comes from Tami:

“I’ve seen your sourdough starter videos and have my own starter sitting on the counter now (started 8 days ago). It doesn’t take 12 hours to double, more like 3 to 5. Should I still wait the full 12 hours before feeding it again, even though it “falls” by that point? And I know you said “several weeks” for it to be ready. It smells good and sour now, will two weeks be enough? Thank you, and thanks for all the free resources! I really appreciate them!” — Tami

You’ll see my answer in the video above or below in the print notes.

By the way, you can learn how to make your own sourdough starter in our free video and instructions here.

1. Should she add another feeding?

You have to consider the starter’s behavior. If it is smelling sour and fresh and exhibiting normal sourdough starter behavior, there’s no need to add another feeding.

Normal behavior is: doming up, bubbling, then falling and producing hooch, all while smelling like a good old sourdough starter. By that I mean, it doesn’t smell bad or anything.

If you notice off smells, it could mean the starter is going too long without food, and adding a feeding to break up the long 12-hour span would be helpful. This tends to happen in very hot weather, not normal room temperature conditions.

2. When can she use the starter?

It sounds like you can use it right now! It is doubling in size after each feeding and seems to have been doing so for a few days. You want to see it doing this for three feedings in a row. Then go ahead and use it in pancakes, waffles, english muffins or other free recipes here on the blog. When you’re ready to graduate (and what fun that is), you can grab our Sourdough A to Z eBook or try out the Sourdough eCourse.

I’d suggest letting the starter mature more before using it in a full-on bread recipe. Keep up with regular twice daily feedings, keeping the starter at room temperature. After a few more weeks, it will be strong enough to put it in the fridge for a week or two — if you want to take a break from it, that is. ;)

Do you have other advice for Tami? Please share!

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Comments

  1. says

    When can you use the starter for bread- after the 3 weeks? Would you suggest a pint or quart jar to store the starter in? And, one more question: what do I cover it with- a cloth?

    Thanks! I’m eager to get my starter going!

    • says

      Heather — Three weeks is good. It really depends on how well the starter is doing. If you see consistently good behavior, go for it!

      What container is up to you and how much starter you’re keeping around. You want the starter just after being fed to be able to expand up to three times in volume without spilling out. I tend to use a bowl on the counter with a plate on top. A loose cover is best, as the starter needs airflow.

  2. says

    Hi Wardee ~~ I’m into my second week of my starter and somehow got the braincramp that after week one that I only needed to feed it once a day … oops! That said, once I do a feeding it seems to be coming back alive just fine. I’ve master culturing and making butter successfully in these past two weeks thanks to your instruction, so just have a lot going on at once with the menu planning, downloads, etc. This video is very timely.

    Off topic … I’m going to be ready to order more coconut oil. Which brand do you use?
    Should I post this questions somewhere else? Thanks!

    • says

      Christine — I probably can’t help on the coconut oil. Mine is a white label from a natural food warehouse in Eugene — Hummingbird Wholesale. It is excellent unrefined coconut oil, but there’s no brand. :(

  3. says

    Hi Wardee, First “a big thank you” I have my starter about a month or so and now I know why my bread didn’t come out, it was to soon, too new! I have watched this video twice now and this time I realized that’s why my bread didn’t turn out. I made the starter and jumped right into making bread! LOL Know, I know. When is the best time to put it in the refrigerator? How long after having it sitting out fermenting? Thanks again, Love your Blog, Love your Name and Love your tips. :0) Can you mix flour’s? Wheat and White or is is better to stick to one? I have so many questions…

    • says

      Juliette — You can start storing it in the refrigerator when it is at least 4 weeks old and has been performing well for most of that time. I feed mine, give it a little time (half hour?) to get eating and then put it in the fridge when there’s still a lot of food left to consume for the duration of the refrigerator time. It will still eat, just more slowly.

      You can mix flours. :)

  4. Jessica says

    What if your starter has bubbles, but isn’t doubling in size? My starter has bubbles and within a couple hours I have 1/2 inch of hooch on top already. My kitchen is quite warm…perhaps too warm? I am feeding in the morning and at night before bed. I just started it about 4 days ago. Is it okay to stir it up during the day between feedings?
    Thanks for the help!

    • says

      Jessica — A starter doesn’t always double in size. You could miss it, for one thing — it has already collapsed by the time you’re seeing the hooch. Also, if it is more liquidy, it doesn’t double. If you keep a thicker starter, you’ll see more height on it.

      I wouldn’t stir it in between feedings. The organisms are doing their thing and they prefer not to be disturbed. :)

  5. Patricia says

    Hi Wardee:
    I have the same question as Jessica. i feed my starter once a day, looks bubbly but not doubling in size. My kitchen tends to be on the cooler side. Am I underfeeding it?
    Thank you,
    Patricia

    • says

      Patricia — If it is otherwise doing everything normal (bubbles, hooch), I’d try making it thicker. You should get more rise. If you can put it in a warmer location, that will help, too.

  6. says

    I successfully made a sourdough starter, but my attempts at baking with it were pretty bad. I’m not normally a sourdough fan except in the best of cases – can you recommend a good recipe for reluctant sourdough bakers?

    Great Q&A, thanks!

  7. Robin says

    My starter is 8 days old and I’ve been faithfully feeding every 12 hours. It seems to be doing well but I am not seeing any hooch. Is that normal?

    • says

      Robin — That can be normal, yes. The hooch is produced toward the end of the feeding cycle and you get a lot more in warmer temperatures. You’d probably see hooch if you fed every 24 hours. If you’re getting the bubbles, doming, and fresh/sour smell, it is doing well. :)

  8. says

    I think my starter is dead….it bubbles but it doesn’t double in size anymore. I had in the refrigerator when we had a house fire…With everything going on I completely forgot to feed it for about 4 weeks.

    Is there anything I can do to resurrect it or do I need to get a new starter?

  9. Brittany King says

    I just received some sourdough starter and have no idea what to do with it. I’d love to win the sourdough book.

  10. Emily Lansing says

    What it be okay if I fed my sourdough starter with milk instead of water? I would love to find another way to use my soured, raw milk!!

  11. says

    Hi, I just want to say, love reading the post & your advice. I use to make sour dough bread when my kids were little as something to do with them & teaching them how to bake etc. Five years ago I opened a soup kitchen & I’m always looking for ways to make our budget stretch. Just recently I started making the bread again for everyone at the soup kitchen & they love it, now we are going to teach those who want to learn (because some have ask) how to make their own. I’m so excited! BTW, if i can make sour dough bread, anyone can lol just keep trying. Thanks Gina, AKA (the soup kitchen lady).

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