How to Maintain Your Active Sourdough Starter

Congratulations! You have successfully developed an active sourdough starter. You have gone through the tedious sourdough starter development process that was time consuming, flour intensive, and filled with many points where you asked “is this ever going to be active”. After making your first sourdough loaf you may ask, do I have to continue to feed this starter twice a day forever? 

Short answer: No.

Long answer: No. Follow the following steps:

  1. Feed your starter as you have during the development process
  2. Leave your starter out at room temperature for 1-2 hours
  3. Put your starter in the refrigerator. This will slow how fast the wild yeast consume the flour and keep your starter active.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 again in a week when it is time to feed the starter again

If you want to use your refrigerated starter to make a new loaf,

  1. Take out the sourdough starter 12 hours before you plan to make your sourdough
  2. Feed your starter
  3. Leave it out at room temperature (assuming room temperature is 68-85 degrees Fahrenheit)
  4. 12 hours after feeding the starter, use your starter for a new loaf
  5. Feed your starter again. You have two options after feeding:
    1. Make another loaf
    2. Enter low maintenance mode (the above 4 step process)

Refrigerating your starter slows your starter’s flour consumption and how much time you spend feeding your starter while keeping your starter active and ready to use in as little as 12 hours.

4 tips to 50% faster sourdough starter development

Sourdough starter after less than 3 hours.

To create my active sourdough starter, I followed one of the many sourdough starter tutorials (see here for the one I used). After following the steps for 7 days as the tutorial and many others state, I did not have a fully developed active starter. After aggregating information from a number of sources and through trial and error, I found four tips helped rapidly speed up the development of the starter:

  1. If your kitchen is less than 70 degrees, wrap the container with your starter in a towel. Using the same principle as the blankets in your bed, wrapping your starter in a towel will maintain the heat and keep the temperature more stable.
  2. Put your starter into the oven (turned off). This will eliminate any chance of a draft in your kitchen impacting your starter. Your oven will also hold a more stable temperature.
  3. Feed your starter with unbleached all purpose flour. Bleached all purpose flour will work but since it has less wild yeast in it, it will take significantly longer to develop. Once you have an active starter, feeding the starter with a bleached all purpose flour is fine.
  4. Use warm water when feeding. I found using water around 80 to 85 degrees fahrenheit worked well.

When I followed the four above tips, I saw a significant increase in growth and significantly more activity leading to a 50% faster time to an active starter.