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Let’s talk about how to feed sourdough starter! Learn how to maintain it so that it is nice and healthy and ready to use whenever you are ready to make delicious sourdough baked goods. 

ingredients for how to feed sourdough starter

You have probably spent the last week learning how to make sourdough starter. Now you have a perfect starter to make all your favorite sourdough bread recipes. But you may be wondering what’s next?

Sourdough starter is a living organism which means it needs to be fed and maintained to stay alive. If you do not maintain the starter properly it will go rancid and form mold. If there are any signs of mold the starter will need to be thrown out and discarded.

I follow the feeding process to obtain a 100% hydration level. If you want to learn more about sourdough starter hydration you can check out this post from a great fellow blogger.  But just know that most sourdough bread recipes follow this hydration level.

sourdough starter

How To Feed Sourdough Starter 1:1:1 Feeding:

Since we follow the 100% hydration level we will be using the 1:1:1 feeding model. This means every time you feed your sourdough starter you will use equal portions of the starter, flour, and water.

It is important to feed your starter with the same type of flour ever single feeding.

How Much Starter You Need and Feeding:

If your recipe calls for 1 cup of sourdough starter you can use the ratio of 4 ounces of starter, 4 ounces of water and 4 ounces of flour for your feedings.

If you need a little more starter use 6 ounces of each every time.

Digital Scale:

Although using a digital scale is ideal for maintaining and feeding your starter, you can also use cup measurements. 

This is probably not recommended by most professionals, but I haven’t had any issues with my starter when I fed it with cup measurement.

The Order Matters:

Always feed your starter by adding the water to the existing starter first and then add the flour. This will help to hydrate the starter properly. 

Methods For How To Maintain Sourdough Starter:

Now let’s dive into the two methods for maintaining your sourdough starter and find which one best serves your needs.

active sourdough starter

.There are many different methods for how to maintain your sourdough starter. We will go through each method to see which one fits the best with your baking needs. 

Refrigerator Method:

If you love baking with sourdough starter, but don’t make a new batch of bread or use it in recipes daily, I would recommend using the refrigerator method. This method allows you to feed it when you need it, which means it’s a lot less of a commitment and is much more low maintenance. 

Simply store the starter in the refrigerator and pull it out when you need it. No daily feedings necessary.

With this method you will follow the 1:1:1 feeding ratio. Then place the fed starter into your fridge until you are ready to bake with it. I sometimes go up to two weeks without feeding my starter.

You will be able to tell when your starter is hungry by a few signs. One of these signs is a clear liquid forming on top of the starter. This is called hooch.

Hooch is a sign that your starter is hungry and is totally normal. It is the alcohol that is expelled as the yeast ferments. You can either remove it and then feed it or keep it in. If you like a more sourdough flavor keep it in. 

When I see the hooch I like to discard the liquid by simply pouring it into the sink and then I feed the starter and place it back in the fridge.

When you are ready to use the starter let it sit out at room temp for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours. 

I sometimes find that the starter may need an additional feeding after you remove it from the fridge, especially if it’s been in the fridge for a couple weeks. After the feeding it should be ready to go!

Countertop Method:

If you use your starter on a daily basis you can use the countertop method. This means you will let your starter sit out on the counter and feed it every 24 hours.

You will have enough starter to make a new batch of sourdough bread or sourdough cinnamon rolls daily with this method. 

Just feed your starter, let it sit out on the counter at room temperature for about 4 hours or until doubled and then use in your recipe. 

doubled active sourdough starter

Do I feed my sourdough starter before using?

If you are using the counter method you will want to feed your starter before using it. Just feed your starter and then place it in the refrigerator.

When you take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit out at room temperature make sure it doubles. If it does not double give it another feeding.

Why do you discard half the sourdough starter?

This is simply done for practical purposes. Because we are feeding the starter with a 1:1:1 ratio, you will be left with a TON of starter. So we discard for pure practicality. It would be hard to use all of that starter every single day unless you owned a professional bakery.

However If you don’t want to throw your starter down the sink you can dehydrate the starter or give it away to friends or neighbors.

The great thing is you can use the sourdough starter discard in many recipes. I even like to add it to pancake or waffle mix for all the added health benefits of natural yeast. 

If you have any questions about how to feed your starter please don’t hesitate to ask or join in on the fun sourdough class where we hold live Q&A’s every month.  

Happy sourdough cooking everyone!

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