Help with starter

can some one tell me the purpose of discarding half the starter at feedings?

Good morning @yeastbeast. The simplest explanation to your question is that basically your amount of starter will double in size, more or less, every time you feed it. Discarding a portion of your starter will keep the amount of viable starter on hand to a manageable amount. Otherwise you might find your starter overrunning your kitchen like the “yeastbeast” it is, LOL!

If you are developing a new starter, simply discarding the excess before feeding is the best and proper way to go. That very young starter will not be viable or usable yet. If your starter is well established and you’ve been successfully baking with it, then instead of simply discarding a good portion of it before feeding, make up a batch of sourdough pancakes to use the excess starter. That way there’s no waste of starter. You’ve made yourself something wonderful to eat. I do that with my starter, whom I affectionately have named Cyril. I make up a good batch of sourdough pancakes and then pop them into my freezer. When I have the urge for pancakes, viola! I already have some made and just pop them into my microwave or toaster oven to reheat and enjoy. Best of both worlds! I get pancakes and a manageable amount of Cyril.

Bake on,

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Thank you so much I really appreciate your response I am new to the starter game and Getting it right has been difficult… I Had created my own starter and ended up throwing it out turns out I was just making it too thin I have purchased a live starter from breadtopia and it seems to be working. Just wasn’t sure if moving forward with it that I had to discard half before feeding to not ruin it. Your Explanation gave me a better understanding. I do have one more question though now that I have a starter that doubled in size by raising It self, can I use that directly in a loaf of bread or do I take a portion of it and feed it and use that?

All the different recipes I have looked at have got me confused.:confounded:

You can do either.

For example, if you have 200g of your “mother” starter and a recipe wants 100 grams of starter … you can either use 100 g of your “mother” (then feed mother so no discard :slight_smile: )


you can do a starter “build” take 1 T approx. and weigh. Suppose that weighs 20 grams. Add to that 40 grams flour, 40 grams water (100 grams total). Stir well and let that sit until it floats or is bubbly (4-6-8-10 hours depending on your starter, water, ambient temperature).

I do both depending on if I want discard (and I make some things with discard so sometimes I do want that) … or I am just in a little bit of a hurry and don’t care about having discard.

A slightly more advanced option … the AMOUNT of starter is not really important. For example, you can use just a wee bit, adjust flour and water in the recipe and allow things to happen slower. BUT, this is something to try when you feel comfy with the process and your starter. There are some great posts to read but you don’t need to worry about specifics at this point in your learning:

Challenging Starter Convention

And …

Demystifying sourdough bread baking

There is much confusing info. It is too bad. It is not really that complicated :slight_smile:

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@yeastbeast, our awesome Liz, @easummers, is a much more advanced and adventurous baker than I am. I’ll get there eventually, LOL!

Admittedly I tend to keep things really simple when it comes to my starter. For me, I have one fairly large jar of starter I keep in my refrigerator. I just take the amount of starter my recipe calls for straight out of that jar of starter. Basically I just do Liz’s first example for every bake and I feed my starter as needed, but at least every 2 weeks. I don’t bake all the time and when I do, I slice and freeze my loaves so I just pop slices into the toaster as needed. That’s why I sometimes end up making large batches of sourdough pancakes. If I haven’t needed to bake but need to feed my sourdough I just make pancakes out of what would be considered discard.

That “system” works really well for me. You’ll find your sourdough groove!


…and to add to the cacophony of systems, I almost never discard :smiley:

I feed, refrigerate, bring it to room temp and max expansion, use it for bread or sometimes refeed and let it grow again, then repeat (feed and refrigerate…).

I keep the quantity small and bake 2-3 times a week. One jar in and out of the fridge. If somehow I have too much starter, I make a bread with a lot of starter. If somehow I have only a smear at the bottom of the jar, I feed/grow at room temp maybe two times until I have an inch worth in my jar, then feed and refrigerate.

I do it this way because it’s the habit I fell into, not a particular strategy, but I’m used to it. Though since doing the Challenging Sourdough Starter Conventions blog post and experiments, I have made some breads without bringing my starter to full expansion…e.g. this focaccia

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All the responses you have received are very good. I would just like to add a few thoughts and a reference. Maintaining a sourdough starter is really not as complicated as it may initially appear, especially to some new to doing it.

My starter’s name is Bob and he is 3-1/2 years old. He was started with Bob’s Red Mill AP flour. (I also started one from King Arthur and named him Art. Unfortunately, Art died a horrible death from being cross-contaminated with some fermenting sauerkraut.)

The generally accepted rule is, if you use your starter on a daily basis, keep it on the counter and feed it every day. If not, just keep it in the refrigerator and feed it about once per week. But, it’s not critical! If you forget, especially if it’s in the refrigerator, it will last several weeks without being fed. It may form a liquid on top, sometimes black in color, that can either be discarded or just stirred back in, which is what I do.

My ‘normal’ routine is that I feed my base starter (it’s only about 60 grams) ~ 2:00 PM on Saturday with the amount I intend to use. That evening between 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM, after it has doubled in volume, I use some to make a batter for Sunday morning sourdough waffles and some to make a leaven for bread for the coming week. I then just put the remaining sourdough starter (my base) back into the refrigerator.

You might like to watch SOURDOUGH - The Scrapings Method, No Waste, No Discard


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Ok so Ray you lost me when you said you save some to make leven for bread, isn’t starter already the leven?

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Great video. My favorite line: “I’m a busy boy and I just want a loaf of bread”

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It depends on how you keep and maintain your starter. A starter is [naturally] prefermented flour and water which will leaven bread. It is your yeast for the dough.

Now just like you can add yeast straight into a dough or you can build a poolish or biga so to with your starter.

Let us say for instance you want 150g of bread flour starter at 100% hydration but your starter is wholegrain rye and you only keep 50g at any one time. You can build a leaven by taking a little of your starter, feeding it with water and bread flour and when matured you’ll have 150g of leaven built to the correct specifications to go into your dough. But that is not to say if you keep the total flour and water of a recipe and simply add a little of your starter it won’t work. Of course it will. But bear in mind the resulting loaf might be a bit different when it comes to flavour and timings will differ too.

It’s also not a bad idea to preferment part of the recipe if your starter has been a long time between feeds and you wish to make sure it’s firing on all cylinders before jumping into the main recipe. Insurance so to speak.

But as with bread making there’s many ways to the final loaf and no two baker’s will have the exact same procedure especially when it comes to sourdough and starters.

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Great thanks for clarifying…I keep it on the counter and feed daily so it’s always good to go.

I build about 90g of 125% hydration wholegrain rye starter. When matured it gets refrigerated. There it will stay till it runs low and needs topping up again. From that I’ll take a little off the night before I bake and build a levain to the correct hydration, flour and amount for the recipe I’m following. That is generally my procedure. It can be two or three weeks between starter feeds. But the levain is active and bubbly when going into the dough.

However sometimes I wish to bake a bread off the cuff and haven’t had any time to prepare. Not enough time for a special levain build and it hasn’t been too long since my starter was fed. So I’ll take a little starter to put directly into the dough and the watch the dough and not the clock. It works and makes some lovely bread. The only thing I’d say when doing this is that using less starter than a percentage of levain called for would be better for the final dough. A starter is often fermented beyond a typical levain so the gluten structure in a levain will be stronger and the acidity more balanced. This will result in a stronger dough. Use a very high percentage of a well fermented starter might give poorer results when used exactly the same way. So use less starter especially when stored for a long time in the fridge. If you feed your starter and catch it when it’s just peaked (i.e. young starter) then it should be fine.

As with everything there’s often procedures and rules etc that we often follow when learning but once you’re last that stage you learn by experience and you can find your own way of doing things.

Got a nice rye in the go from

Check it out. Has some lovely recipes.

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@yeastbeast, I use a pint Mason jar for my starter. My base is ~60 grams, to which I will feed 30 grams of AP flour and 30 grams of water (100% hydration). Once it has risen, after about 6-8 hours, I will remove 60 grams to use in bread, waffles, etc. The leftover 60 grams goes back into the refrigerator until the next time it is needed. Typically, I will use 40 grams for a waffle batter and 20 grams as starter for a larger leaven to be used the next day for making bread. If I’m only making one loaf of bread, my leaven will consist of the 20 g starter + 50 g bread flour + 20 g rye flour + 40 g water. This makes a 62.5% hydration leaven, which is what I typically use for making sandwich style sourdough bread. For artisan style bread, the hydration level of the finished dough would be higher, 70% to 85%, depending on what I’m making. This process and formula are an adaption of THIS ONE FROM BROD & TAYLOR. You can see photos of MY STARTER PROCESS HERE. Any questions, just ask.

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As I understand it, the purpose of discard, is to keep the starter healthy and reliably consistent. The bacteria living in the starter produces detritus. Increasing percentages of detritus in the starter inhibits bacterial growth and function (it’s ability to reliably produce the gas that causes the dough to rise). By eliminating a certain percentage of the total, whether by adding to a recipe, gifting, or composting, etc., you ensure the detritus level never gets too high, and you get a better chance of getting consistency in flavor and function.

Or… poor feedings = unhealthy starter.

But if your feedings are generally, for arguments sake, 1:1:1 then there’s no difference if you have 30g of starter, discarding 20g and feeding 10g water + 10g flour or feeding that 30g with 30g water + 30g flour.

So two things at play here… You want to give your starter a healthy feed but if you never discard you’ll soon be building far too much.

Sure, you do have to keep a starter fed, but the question was about the purpose of discard.