Managing Your Sourdough Starter

Hi Eric. When I am storing my starter in the refrigerator may I use an airtight cover on it? Should I stir it every day? How often and how much should I feed it when I am storing it in the refrigerator?

Hey Chuck. You are very knowledgeable and I am a newbie at this. Do I need to stir my starter every day if I am keeping it in the refrigerator for my weekly loaf making; and is it okay to keep it in an airtight glass container when I store it in the refrigerator (I just throw a tea towel over it when I keep it on the counter)

All the questions you are asking here are answered in the post that this thread of comments are comments on. Did you read the article at all?

You do not need to stir the starter.
You should not use an air-tight container.
You should feed it whenever you get around to it and probably no less than every couple weeks.

Yes I read the article. But unfortunately I can’t find anything that explains how to properly store it in the refrigerator. It is in glass. This glass container when I have my starter on the counter and am feeding it and baking regularly only has a tea towel draped over it. However I’m now going to hold back and only bake a loaf at a time. I understand how to remove my starter from the refrigerator and get it ready. But how do I store it in the refrigerator? Should I put the airtight plastic lid on it?

@carolyncolmer, DO NOT put an air tight cover on your container of sourdough. Sourdough is a living organism and needs oxygen. An air tight seal will kill your sourdough starter. I keep my sourdough starter refrigerated in this glass jar that I purchased here at Breadtopia:

I feed my starter, who is named Cyril, about once a week. I feed him in his jar and leave him on the kitchen counter for about 7 hours or so with his lid closed. I mark the jar with a sticky note at the level he’s at immediately after I’ve fed him. That way I can watch his progress as he happily feeds. After the 7 hours or so, I just put him back into the refrigerator. Again, please do NOT use an airtight lid on your sourdough. The type of glass storage jar sold here on Breadtopia WITHOUT the use of the rubber gasket seal that usually comes with them, is the perfect environment for sourdough. It keeps out contaminates and allows for proper air circulation. I have found it to be ideal for Cyril.

He’s actually just had his first birthday a couple days ago. I got him as a gift from a dear friend who shared some of her starter with me on February 12, 2018. I lovingly tended to him for a while before deciding I’d be brave enough to try using him to bake bread. My very first loaf of sourdough bread using Cyril was baked in April 2018. The rest, as they say, is history.


I live at 8500ft in Colorado so I add slightly extra water until the consistency is as shown and described in the video. Everything looks great. Then I do the second feeding, everything still fine and it doubles in size. The next morning I did the third feeding and it still looked great. Doubled in size, and the consistency looked firm and strong. But just after 6 hours the bubbles started to go crazy and it dropped 50% and a slight alcohol smell is present and it looks watery like pancake mix. What do I do? Is it ruined?

I did realize that the jar had a rubber ring which may have not let enough airflow so I have now removed the ring and the lid has a good crack for air flow. Not sure if that contributed to it or not?

I should add, the alcohol smell disappeared now after I opened the lid for 20 minutes and it doesn’t taste off, it is just runny. One concern is that at this elevation, if I put the recommended water, it comes out like thick bread dough. I only added slightly more water, like 1.5 tbs extra the first feeding and 2.5 the second and third.

hello I’m new to the whole experience of baking bread and I have started a starter and it seemed to have gone through all the phases that were listed. I did however stop dumping half out before feeding and have been just adding flour and water. Is this why I have yet to make a succesful loaf of bread or is that a different reason? its bubbly and thick. bread wont rise.

Does your starter rise after feeding it?

No it doesn’t :confounded:

You might need to dispose of some so that the amount of flour you feed the remaining starter is a significant percentage of the whole. In other words, your starter may be essentially starving. I think this is all covered in our sourdough starter management video.

If your starter isn’t rising after feeding it, there’s a good chance your starter leavened bread dough won’t rise either. That’s one variable you probably want to get control of first.

I really appreciate the help…so this morning I dumped all but a cup out then weighed out a cup of flour and a cup of water and fed it. If that does it rise should I just start over?

Maybe. Even if it does rise, dump all but about ½ cup and feed that a couple times. In other words, it might take a couple cycles to get the starter up to speed. Once you eventually have a lively, robust starter, it’s a lot easier to maintain it in a healthy state than it can be to get it there in the first place.

I’ve read through the comments and watched the video but I still am uncertain about the difference between discard and replacing the starter that I used to make bread. I only have a small amount of starter that I keep in the fridge (maybe 12 g). I take out 3g every time i make bread. How does that 3 g I remove get replaced so I don’t ever run out? When I feed/wake up my 3g of starter over the next two days after removing from the refrigerator do I take any of the extra and put it BACK in my original tiny jar of starter (the one that originally held 12g) or is that considered only discard? discard I have been keeping in a separate jar to use for pancakes. Or can I put some of that discard back into my small starter jar that I will always use to make bread from. Help!!

Everyone is making way too much of this starter thingy…@homebreadbaker has it right but there does need to be a bit of clarification here. I was reading some of the posts and it sounds like posters are talking about wheat and rye and there is a difference so I thought I would chime in. RYE is a different animal…FOR ME… I only have rye starter, I only feed it once a week until I need more for bread and it is just fine. If I know I am not going to be baking I freeze it in 30 g lumps and it works. I DON’T use the starter for rise (just for flavor) as it it is almost all LAB so I have to spike the dough to get it to rise. I’ll use this mother starter to make my preferment and it usually takes 24 hours to get it to the 4pH level. I don’t use rye mother starter to start a wheat starter (I tried it and it does not work well.) After reading the “Rye Baker” I found out why.

I forgot to add I only add small amounts (like 30g rye & water) when I feed. I guess if you need to see the starter rise to the top of the jar you can add the huge amounts and then figure out what to do with it later. I don’t understand this concept and it seems everyone is “trained” to do this. I don’t sell flour or grain for that matter I only have to buy it so I guess I look at things differently.

To me this “feed, feed feed approach” is wasteful, if a person can “read” their dough during the proofing and final rise they can surely “read” the starter. If someone needs to have starter “ready to go” like in a bakery then yep feeding everyday makes sense.

How do I keep my starter from becoming too sour? Strong cheesey odor.

What is your starter maintenance like? I would expect a strong cheesy odour from a very young starter but that would be coming from bad bacteria often present in the first few days. Once your starter is strong and viable the good bacteria and yeasts should have out competed these bad critters and it should smell pleasant.

So tell us more about your stater. How old is it? How is it being maintained?

I use it once or twice a week. Fed and refridgerated in between. Could it be the crock I keep it in? I have had this issue over a few years even though I make a new starter. Used the same crock.Thanks

I’ve never considered the container it’s in might affect the starter other than staying away from metal containers (i’ve always kept mine in a non reactive, non porous, hard plastic container). Logically if it’s porous then it could effect whatever is kept in it. By crock i’m assuming you mean a small clay-like container.

I suppose the next step would be to find a small jam jar with a screw lid. Clean it out thoroughly then transfer some starter and give it a healthy feed. See if it outgrows the smell.

P.s. How do you know it’s too acidic? Are you only going by this off smell? A starter that’s too acidic needs healthier feedings an making sure you giving it enough to mature but not overly so. Find the sweet spot where it’s active but not passed its peak.

I think in cheese and soy/miso, the microbiological populations in the containers (wood) are crucial to the process and flavor…so this could be the case.