How do I feed my sourdough starter? | The Perfect Loaf (2024)

Feeding, also called refreshing, your sourdough starter ultimately becomes a series of personal choices. You have to adjust your starter feeding routine to match your baking frequency, the flour you plan to have on hand, the temperatures currently in your kitchen (which fluctuate naturally through the seasons), and also to time your sourdough starter ripening with your daily schedule. In this post, I plan to visit the question I get asked extremely often: how do I feed my sourdough starter?

This post will discuss what I’m feeding my sourdough starter (and will be updated should changes arise) and the schedule it follows. Since I often bake sourdough bread (just about every day!), keeping my starter in the strongest possible condition is beneficial. This means frequent feedings and keeping it at a warm temperature.

If you bake less often or want less commitment, there’s a place for that, too. Please have a look at my weekend bread-making schedule for a low-maintenance way to keep your starter with the possibility of still baking bread on the weekends.

For a quick rundown, check out my YouTube video of my feeding process:

First, Create a Sourdough Starter

If you don’t already have a sourdough starter, head to my easy sourdough starter creation guide to learn to make your own sourdough starter in around seven days. It’s an easy process of mixing flour and water, discarding, and letting the mixture rest until stable and predictable fermentation happens each day.

How do I feed my sourdough starter? | The Perfect Loaf (1)

What is Feeding a Sourdough Starter?

A sourdough starter needs a regular feeding of fresh flour and water to provide it with “food” for its metabolic activities. The wild yeast and bacteria in a sourdough culture use the flour to continue to function, reproducing and eventually creating the byproducts of fermentation we’re after when baking bread: for the dough to rise (through carbon dioxide production) and for the flavor to be created (organic acids and other compounds).

Now that we know what it is let’s look at how I feed my sourdough starter.

How Do I Feed My Sourdough Starter?

I use baker’s percentages to communicate how I feed my starter in the same way I use them to convey bread formulas. All components of my sourdough starter are relative to the flour weight, which is always at 100%. This allows me to scale up or down my starter as needed—to, say, cover a large levain build for a big bake—while still maintaining the same ratio of ingredients.

Currently, I feed my sourdough starter the following ratio of carryover to flour to water:

WeightIngredientBaker’s Percentage
20gRipe sourdough starter carryover20%
100gFlour (70g all-purpose flour, 30g whole rye flour)100%
100gWater100%

I maintain around 220g of starter each day, translating to 20g carryover ripe sourdough starter, 70g all-purpose flour, 30g whole rye flour, and 100g water. I keep my starter in a large 3/4 Liter Weck jar and the jar in my small dough proofer daily.

If kept around 76°F (24°C), this sourdough starter should ripen about every 12 hours.

To give it a feeding, I discard the ripe sourdough starter in the jar down to 20g, add 70g fresh all-purpose flour, 30g whole rye flour, and 100g water. Then, I give it a thorough mix until everything is hom*ogenous. Finally, cover the jar (these are my favorite jars to hold my sourdough starter) with its glass lid—it’s not sealed shut, it just prevents air from getting inside—and leave it for 12 hours.

Adjusting Sourdough Starter Feedings Through the Seasons

Depending on the temperature in my kitchen, I might slightly adjust the amount of ripe sourdough starter I carry over during each feeding. For example, in the extreme heat of the summer, I might drop the amount of carryover starter down to 5 grams to ensure my starter doesn’t ripen too quickly (i.e., discard more starter and use it somewhere else!). More ripe sourdough carryover left in the jar means a faster ripening time. On the other hand, less left in the jar slows ripening.

More ripe sourdough carryover left in the jar means a faster ripening time. On the other hand, less left in the jar slows ripening.

Conversely, in the coldest parts of the winter, I might bump the ripe sourdough starter carryover to 25 grams, even with my dough proofer holding my starter jar and warming to 76°F (24°C).

Can I Save Sourdough Starter Discard?

With each sourdough starter feeding, you’ll be discarding some to avoid it from becoming overly acidic. Most will compost or trash this discard, but you can save it and use it in other recipes! When discarding, I’ll scoop out my ripe sourdough and add it to my sourdough starter discard cache, which is kept in the refrigerator.

Then, I can use this discard later in any delicious sourdough starter discard recipe.

My Sourdough Starter Feeding Schedule

Now that you know what I feed my sourdough starter daily let’s look at its schedule.

With the above flour, water, and carryover ratios, I need to feed my sourdough starter twice a day if kept at a warm temperature. I like to feed once in the morning at around 9:00 a.m. and once at night at around 9:00 p.m. This isn’t a super strict schedule, sometimes I feed a little earlier and sometimes a little later, but generally, I like to keep to those times.

With this schedule, it means I can make the day’s levain early at 9:00 a.m., and in the case of something like my , the levain will ripen and be ready for mixing around 2:00 p.m. In other cases, where I have an overnight levain, I’ll make the overnight preferment at night around 9:00 p.m., and it’s ready for mixing first thing in the morning.

The important thing is always to make a levain or mix a dough when your starter is ripe. This means making the levain with the ripe starter before feeding it.

In my case, I have two opportunities throughout the day to make a levain or mix a dough, at 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Recommended reading: Read on for more detail on my sourdough starter maintenance routine, including the signs I look for when my starter is ready for a feeding.

What’s Next?

How do I feed my sourdough starter? Well, that’s it! I’ll keep this post updated with any changes to my feeding regimen, but if you’re interested in reading more about starters, look at my sourdough starter collection, where I have a collection of maintenance routines, discard recipes, guides, and more.

If you’re having issues with your sourdough starter, check out my roundup of the most commonly asked starter questions I’ve compiled over the last decade: 21 common sourdough starter problems with solutions.

If you want to get baking straight away with your starter, check out these recipes to get a loaf of sourdough bread on your table in no time.

Focaccia Pugliese (Focaccia with Potato)

Jalapeño-Cheddar Sourdough Bread

Easy No-Knead Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Starter FAQs

I have an in-depth sourdough starter FAQ with many questions and answers, but below are a few related to how I feed my sourdough starter.

How long after feeding my starter can I use it?

How do I feed my sourdough starter? | The Perfect Loaf (8)

It depends on how you’ve fed it! If you feed it by carrying over a large percentage of ripe sourdough starter, it will be ready earlier. On the other hand, less carryover means it will take longer to ripen, assuming it’s kept at the same temperature.

Why do you use rye flour in your sourdough starter?

I like using whole-grain rye flour to increase fermentation activity for a lively and strong starter. It’s not mandatory, but a preference of mine: it results in a starter with the performance and flavor characteristics I’m after. If you’re making a levain when baking, this will likely have a larger impact on a single bake (both in terms of flavor and fermentation performance).

Do I have to feed my sourdough starter twice a day?

No. You can scale back to once a day or even scale up to three times a day, whatever works for you and your schedule. I like to feed it at least once a day to keep it strong and ready for baking. If you aren’t baking for a while, you could store your starter.

Do I have to discard my sourdough starter?

It would be best if you discarded some portion of your starter each time you feed it unless you want to continue to let it grow. Eventually, you need to discard the used “food” (flour and water) that’s been used to sustain your starter during the last fermentation period. This discard can be used to make sourdough waffles, pancakes, cakes, or many other things!

How do I feed my sourdough starter? | The Perfect Loaf (2024)

FAQs

What is the best amount to feed sourdough starter? ›

So, a sourdough feeding ratio is the relative amount (referring to weight) of old sourdough compared to fresh flour and water. Typical feeding ratios are 1:2:2 or 1:3:3 (old sourdough: fresh flour: water). However, even extreme ratios like 1:50:50 would still work.

How do you feed a large amount of sourdough starter? ›

Common feeding ratios for sourdough starters include: 1:1:1 Ratio: This ratio means using equal parts of flour, water, and starter by weight. For example, if you have 100 grams of a starter, you would feed it with 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water.

How much sourdough starter is needed for a loaf? ›

Ingredients for one sourdough bread loaf
  1. 500 grams of bread flour.
  2. 330 grams of lukewarm water.
  3. 50 grams of active starter (fed)
  4. 9 grams of salt.
Dec 9, 2021

What temperature should the perfect loaf starter be at? ›

It's important to try and keep the mixture warm during this time. A temperature between 78°F (25°C) and 82°F (26°C) would be ideal. Once you see sufficient maturity in the mixture, perform a feed with your typical flour and water quantities.

What consistency should my sourdough starter be when I feed it? ›

When starting to build your starter you can leave it a bit thinner but once you start making bread you will want it THICK, You want your sourdough starter to be the consistency of thick pancake batter. if it's too thin add a scoop of flour. If it is too thick add water to find the right consistency.

Do you have to discard sourdough starter every time you feed it? ›

With each sourdough starter feeding, you'll be discarding some to avoid it from becoming overly acidic. Most will compost or trash this discard, but you can save it and use it in other recipes!

Should I stir my sourdough starter between feedings? ›

It is important that you stir the sourdough starter every day in the morning and in the evening. Feed the starter. Add 60 g flour and 60 g lukewarm water, stir well to combine, and let sit out for 24 hours.

Can you overfeed your sourdough starter? ›

When you overfeed a starter, the culture will multiply more quickly, leading to a stronger and more active starter. It's important to note that overfeeding can also have negative effects on a sourdough starter if done excessively or too frequently.

Can you use too much starter in sourdough bread? ›

The more starter you use, the faster your dough will ferment - resulting in a less sour loaf. Of course the amount of starter is actually a ratio in relation to the flour - so 50g of starter to 500g of flour will ferment at a much slower rate than 200g of starter to 500g of flour.

What should sourdough starter look like after feeding? ›

There is a short window of time when your starter is as its peak, which is when it's at its most bubbly and active and has grown in volume the most; this is a glorious thing to see. It should be a lovely glutinous consistency, with a thickness like a thick mini pancake batter, and full of bubbles as you stir it.

What is the best flour for feeding sourdough starter? ›

All-purpose flour works great for feeding starter, but adding a little whole grain flour can help give it a boost if needed.

What is the healthiest flour for sourdough bread? ›

Compared to whole wheat flour, rye flour is said to be the most nutrient- and amylase-dense option for a sourdough starter. Overall, it has a lower gluten protein content than wheat flour, which means it produces slack, sticky, and dense doughs.

How to increase the amount of sourdough starter? ›

Even if you only had 10g of starter and you wanted 200g of starter, you'd just have to feed it at 1:10:10 which would mean adding 100g of flour and 100g of water to that 10g of sourdough starter.

What is peak to peak feeding sourdough starter? ›

The Peak-to-Peak feeding method is a technique for reducing the acidity of a weak, acidic sourdough starter. It is accomplished by discarding and refeeding your sourdough starter as soon as the starter peaks, with three to five short-interval feedings.

Should sourdough starter be feed by weight or volume? ›

If you're feeding a sourdough starter by weight, the ratio of starter to water to flour is 1:1:1. So If you're using 50 grams of starter, add 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour. If you want to feed a sourdough starter by volume, the ratio of starter to flower to water is 1:1:1.75.

What is the minimum amount of sourdough starter to keep? ›

All you need to do is take 20g of the starter you already have and then feed it with 20g of flour and 20g of water (so 1:1:1). Then you'll have a 60g starter, which is considered a smaller amount. You can of course reduce these amounts even further if you wish, but this is a reasonable size to keep waste to a minimum.

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