How to Make Sourdough Starter More Active

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Learn how to make sourdough starter more active and to properly maintain your starter for its long term health.

active bubbly sourdough starter in jar

Have you ever had the experience where you start a batch of sourdough bread before you go to sleep and wake up to find that it hasn’t risen at all in the 8-10 hours its been sitting on your countertop? It can be frustrating when your sourdough starter lets you down after all the effort you’ve put into keeping it alive.

But what can you do to boost your sourdough starter so this mishap never happens again? Let’s talk about quick things you can do right now to help boost your sourdough starter. Then we’ll review ways you can maintain your starter that will help keep it active for the long term.

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Why is my sourdough starter not very active?

Sourdough starter can become less active for many reasons, including infrequent feedings, keeping it in a dormant state for too long in the refrigerator, or not feeding it correct ratios of flour and water.

How do I know if my sourdough starter is active?

A healthy sourdough starter should be bubbly and active and doubling in volume within 4 to 6 hours of feeding. When baking with an active starter, your dough will rise and create light, airy loaves of bread. Your bread should also have a slightly tangy flavor.

How long can a sourdough starter go without feeding?

To maintain a healthy sourdough starter, you can go approximately 1 week between feedings if stored in the fridge. If you are storing your starter on the countertop at room temperature, you will need to feed your starter approximately 2 times per day.

How do I know if I killed my sourdough starter?

Sourdough starter is almost always able to come back from being neglected. Try the quick tips below to revive your starter. However, if your starter has mold growing on top or has a pink or orange/red tint, it has been contaminated and you will need to throw it out and start a fresh sourdough starter.

sourdough starter not active

Quick Tips on How to Make Sourdough Starter More Active

  1. To revive your sourdough starter or make it more active, try feeding it with half all-purpose flour and half wheat or rye flour.
  2. Feed your starter more frequently to boost its activity. Keep your sourdough starter at room temperature and feed it twice a day, 12 hours between feedings, discarding half of the starter before each feeding. Repeat the twice daily feedings for 3-5 days until you notice signs of activity.
  3. Your starter may benefit from feeding it a ratio of 2 parts flour to 1 part water
  4. Before using your starter for a recipe that requires rising, such as bread, take the starter out of the fridge and feed it. Allow 4-12 hours for the starter to become active and double in volume before making the recipe.

Sourdough Discard Recipes

Try my sourdough discard recipes for Blueberry Sourdough Bread with Streusel Topping, Sourdough Pop Tarts, or Einkorn Sourdough Cornbread to use up your sourdough discard so nothing goes to waste.

sourdough pop tarts using sourdough discard

Long Term Tips on How to Keep Your Sourdough Starter Active

Feed starter at least once a week

The number one key to maintaining an active sourdough starter week after week and year after year is to feed it regularly. Your starter is a living thing and it likes to eat. It gets hungry just like we do. The refrigerator slows down this feeding frenzy, but it won’t go completely dormant. To keep your starter happy and active, you should take it out of the refrigerator at least once a week, use or discard half of the starter, and feed it equal amounts of flour and water to replace the amount of starter that was discarded.

Example: If I used approximately 1 cup of sourdough starter, then I would feed the remaining starter with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.

feeding sourdough starter in jar

Always feed your starter before putting it away

After using your sourdough starter for a recipe, make sure to feed it before placing it in the refrigerator. Putting a hungry starter straight into the fridge will decrease its activity and overall health.

Let starter become active before placing in refrigerator

After feeding your sourdough starter, loosely place a lid on top or cover with a towel or coffee filter. Keep starter at room temperature until it becomes bubbly and active, about 4 to 8 hours. You may then tighten the lid and place it into the refrigerator where it will be in a more dormant state. When I was first getting started with sourdough baking, I would feed my starter and then put it straight into the fridge. Needless to say, my sourdough wasn’t rising and all my bread was flat and dense.

Evaluate quality of ingredients

If you continue to have difficulty maintaining an active sourdough starter, it is a good idea to look closer at the ingredients you are using. Some sources of water, such as tap water that has high levels of chlorine or other chemicals, can inhibit your starter from fermentation. In addition, bleached flour can also have a negative impact on your starter.

Fermented Sourdough Recipes:

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