SD Starter

I am reading too many articles I think and I am confusing myself which isn’t hard. I have used my starter a few times and I dont know if it is ready, smells sour kinda like beer, its bubbly but when I drop some it water it sinks like a rock.

  1. I am a little confused about using the starter. Should I use the starter after I feed it and it has risen in the jar or wait until it rises then falls?

  2. When do you use unfed starter?

Can someone clarify this for me, please


I think it is safe to say that there’s a lot more flexibility than people generally believe in how much starter to use and what state of development your starter needs to be in for it to work.

That said, my rule of thumb for a few years and what I’m used to doing is:
Using and feeding my starter when it’s really bubbly and doubled or more, and in some instances, already starting to fall a tiny bit.

What do I do if is falls before doubling? I usually use it anyway, unless there’s not much in the jar. This has been happening lately with a >10 degree drop in my kitchen. It still works.

What do I do when I am thinking of baking? I take the jar out of the refrigerator, let it warm up and expand, decide based on it’s amount and vigor whether to feed it more or use it then and there.

My way isn’t typical, but it works fine. I did decide I want to try crumpets this weekend though, so I am purposefully collecting discard lol.

I absolutely agree with Melissa about “more flexibility” etc - what she said :slight_smile:

And I think for every baker, there are 3x as many approaches to maintaining and feeding … partly due to different conditions (temp, humidity), flours and water as well as the flexibility thing.

For a long time, I followed what I had read for my first starter (flour and water 100% hydration): took it out of the frig, let it warm a little, discard 1/2, feed. I would do 2 cycles of feeding before using it. And for the record, I used all the discard in various things.

AND, when ready to use, I typically took about 1T of starter, added 75 g flour, 75 g water and let that get bubbly to be my baking levain.

Over time, I realized that my starter is usable direct from the frig. This is baking at least 2 times a week so it rarely goes more than 3-4 days without being fed. AND, unless I’m wanting discard for other things, I just take 100-150 grams of starter and use that for my bake, feed the “mother” and return it to the frig about mid way through bubble up.

And now, I know … even 100-150 grams is more than necessary … BUT if you use less, the bulk is probably going to take longer. For me 100-150 grams is kind of the sweet spot of a 3-5 hour bulk, then into the frig overnight and bake next day. (*I think I get best results flavor and crumb with the overnight frig … sometimes longer)

And when I started several years ago, there were many things that said temp had to be 70-75 in your kitchen for starter to survive. My kitchen is typically 62-68 max even in summer. I often put starter or ferment dough under a little lamp in the winter which raises the ambient temp from 62 to 66-67. One advantage in my kitchen is excellent well water with no chemical or treatment so I’m guessing lots of good stuff for fermentation and nothing to slow or kill.

I would advise against reading everything under the sun at this point in your learning and stick to a simple no knead, white flour sourdough until you have a routine of managing your starter and baking a loaf that you like. THEN start playing with grains, and different methods and things like baguette :slight_smile:

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ok - the weather is getting colder here and I have the windows open alot so maybe that is a problem and I should find a draft free place to keep it when not in the fridge.

Thanks as always for your input


Hi Liz - I feed my starter at 100 % whether it has doubled or not, and I see that it is active due to the smell and alcohol in it.
Getting to making your bulk you never go above 150 grams, for a 3-5 hour bulk. So if your doing say a 24 or 48 hr bulk you would add more correct? I read somewhere that a 40% addition of starter should be the max. Correct or not? The more you add the longer your bulk should be?

Sorry there is so many variables it looks like I more I bake the more I will learn. I never realized there was so much to learn just to bake sourdough bread. But I like it it keeps me thinking, even in my sleep. lolol thanks


a. I never smell alcohol in my starter and it is very mild smelling. I go by activity: bubbly, airy, gluten strands if I pull it. (I typically do not nor do I do float test … did when I was learning)

b. I do not add more starter for a 24-48 bulk. When I said the sweet spot FOR ME was 100-150 grams for a 3-5 hour bulk, I left out some info probably. 100-150 g starter for 400-700 g flour (400 g = 1 loaf, 700 g = 1.5-2 loaves). And that ratio … whatever it is, typically gives a rise of about 30-40% in 3-5 hours (in my cool house with low humidity) at which time I put the dough in the frig and bake next day or sometimes longer. The frig slows things down but does not stop them. I do everything by look and feel of the starter as well as the dough. I only included my numbers (wish now that I had not) as an illustration, not “this is what you should do”.

c. I have no idea about the 40% and honestly, don’t get bogged down in these rules because there are many, many different ways you can do things. There is not 1 right way. Start simple and stick to simple until you can do simple and then add on. Or…you can make yourself crazy.

If you have not yet read the following 2 posts AND the comments … I think they should be required reading:

Demystifying sourdough bread baking

Challenging Sourdough starter convention

I agree with you on over reading. I read a gazillion articles, blogs and posts and got soo confused. I learned that bread doesn’t have to be perfect to taste good :smile:

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“I learned that bread doesn’t have to be perfect to taste good”

GREAT observation!! We all tend to chase perfection, which is elusive … and sometimes forget to enjoy the journey and progress along the way. Kudos for enjoying your bread as you learn!! And thanks for the reminder.