How to Prevent Your Sourdough Starter from Taking Over Your Life

A flip-top jar of bubbly sourdough starter sits on a black table
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Having trouble establishing your sourdough starter? Go here for solutions to the most common starter dilemmas.

I work in publishing and with non-fiction books, after you have compiled enough revisions, you put out a new edition. With a blog, you write a new post. But you can’t delete the old post because you’ve linked to it all over the place, people may have bookmarked it and you have noticed how that post attracts steady daily traffic so you just add more posts until your blog grows unwieldy, just like a sourdough starter if you’re not careful!

sourdough starter
Eleanor ready for action

How I’ve changed as a sourdough starter mom

My sourdough starter Eleanor turned three years old this year. I meant to throw her a party but I was awfully busy that week. Since her birth (February 10th, 2014), I’ve changed my technique slightly. As with parenting, you learn as you go.

To make a starter, you mix flour and water, stir it several times a day until it bubbles to life, feed it fresh flour and water and when it has finally reached maturity, use it to bake bread. You can read about starting a starter here and here, however I have some revisions for those posts:

  • I feed my starter room temperature water. I used to heat up water to about 80ºF to feed my starter. But visiting my daughter recently, I noticed she skips this step when feeding her starter (Eleanor’s offspring). I’ve made this small change too. The less energy I consume, the happier I am. I always have a jug of water out on the counter to use in ferments so I now feed that to Eleanor.
  • I maintain a much smaller starter. My previous posts called for feedings of 100 grams each of water and flour for every 2 to 3 tablespoons of existing starter, following Michael Pollan’s recipe in his book Cooked. Today I mix 40 grams of water and 40 grams of flour with about 1 tablespoon of starter. When I feed my starter, I have just enough discard to make a couple of pancakes, which I eat several mornings a week. These smaller proportions prevent my pile of discarded starter from growing into the blob that ate my kitchen. If you need more starter for something like pizza dough, just increase the proportions of the feedings.
  • I feed my starter quite a bit of rye. I used to feed Eleanor equal parts whole wheat flour and white flour. She prefers rye over whole wheat (picky toddlers…) so I feed her about 25 grams rye and 15 grams white. I don’t get too hung up on the rye-to-white ratio of my 40 grams of flour. I just add more rye than white.
  • I make only as much leaven as I need. In the past when I baked two loaves of bread, I first made a large leaven consisting of 200 grams flour, 200 grams water and 35 grams starter. After the leaven rose and began to fall over a period of about 10 hours, I would add half the leaven to my dough and use the other half as my new starter. But that takes me back up to the larger starter (100 grams each of flour and water) that I want to avoid making. So these days, I make a leaven half as large. The entire thing goes into my bread dough. In the background, I have my smaller starter and I continue to feed that.
sourdough starter feeding
One tablespoon of sourdough starter about to be fed
freshly fed sourdough starter
Sourdough starter after a feeding of fresh flour and water

How to use up all that starter

If you feed your starter daily, you will accumulate a pile of discarded starter. Don’t discard it! I use it up with these recipes:

  • Sourdough crackers. Old starter makes for a tangy cracker. These taste cheesy but contain only discarded starter, flour, oil, salt and baking powder. You can find the recipe here.
  • Sourdough waffles. These too work well with older starter as you add fresh flour and let the sponge sit overnight. That feeding perks up the old starter. Find that recipe here.
  • Sourdough pancakes. The easiest recipe of them all. They work best with discarded starter that’s a bit younger, let’s say a couple of weeks old at the most. Get the recipe here. And here is the vegan version.
  • Soft sourdough pretzels. These work well with discard that is only a couple of days old at the most. Cheat and add a little commercial yeast. Here’s the recipe for these.
  • Sourdough discard vegan chocolate cake. My daughter MK used to make depression-era chocolate cake when she cooked at our intentional community. It’s an easy dessert for a crowd. I sourdough-ized it and use olive oil and brown sugar for more flavor. Find the recipe here. For a carrot cake version, go here.
  • Sourdough discard pizza. This recipe uses a cup of discard and makes two, personal-size pizzas. Make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate to use later if desired. Find the recipe here.

If you don’t want to feed your mature starter daily, keep it in the refrigerator between feedings. Take it out about once a week to feed it.

How I’ve changed as a sourdough teacher

In workshops, when I show people how to start and feed a sourdough starter, they often say things like “It sounds like ‘Who’s on First.’ Which is the discard and which is the starter I’ll use next time and why do I have to remove so much to feed it and why do you make it all so confusing?” I hope people find the instructions below more straightforward.

Remember to take notes as you embark on your sourdough adventure. You will feel terrible later if you forget the details of those early milestones, like what type of flour you used in the first loaf your starter made.

They grow up so quickly.

In the video above, I demonstrate how to make a sourdough starter and how to feed it.

A flip-top jar of bubbly sourdough starter sits on a black table
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5 from 1 vote

Sourdough Starter


To start your starter—and for each subsequent feeding—you will need:

  • 25 grams rye flour (2¾ tablespoons)
  • 15 grams white flour (2 tablespoons)
  • 40 grams room temperature water (scant 3 tablespoons)


  • Combine flour and water in a glass jar or bowl. Use a utensil or your fingers. The starter will have the consistency of thick pancake batter. Cover with a cloth, a plate or lid. Set in a warm but not hot spot.
  • Stir daily several times when you think of it.
  • After a few days to a week, you will likely see bubbling. The starter will also develop an aroma that may range from sour, to vinegary, to dirty socks. When you observe both bubbles and an aroma, begin to feed your starter daily. Transfer about 80 percent of your starter to a clean glass jar or dish. Put this aside. Put it out of your mind. This is the discarded starter. Store it in the refrigerator and bake something with it later, such as pancakes. Do not feed this starter…let it go…
  • In the dish that you started your sourdough in, you now have a tablespoon of starter remaining. Add to this fresh flour and water—40 grams of each. Stir, cover with a cloth or lid and set aside.
  • Continue to feed your starter daily and described in the previous two steps—remove most of the starter, add that to the discard pile in the refrigerator and feed the remaining tablespoon of starter fresh flour and water—40 grams of each.
  • After about five days to a week of feeding your starter regularly (daily or even twice a day), it should double in size within about four hours of feeding before slowly falling back down. Congratulations, your virile starter can now bake bread. Think of a cute name.
  • If you want to take a break from daily feedings once your starter is established, store your mature starter in the refrigerator and remove it about once a week to feed it. Let it sit for a couple of hours after feeding before returning it the refrigerator.

107 Replies to “How to Prevent Your Sourdough Starter from Taking Over Your Life”

  1. Thanks for this update! I’m definitely going to try to make the webinar as I’ve always been a bit intimidated by sourdough starters!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Great Polly! Sourdough starter is easy to start and care for but I found it very confusing at first. I wasn’t used to baking this way. Now I love it! ~ Anne Marie

  2. I was lucky enough to be given a well established starter by a friend a couple of months ago. I had always been put off trying sourdough because it all seemed a bit complicated and to be honest, so far I have only made pizza dough with it because it is the best pizza dough I have ever had. I keep mine in the fridge for most of the week, then take it out and feed it two consecutive days – the discard from those gives me enough for the pizza. Now I have to branch out into bread & crackers…..

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Sarah, I remember typing a reply on here but must not have hit send… I thought sourdough was complicated at first until I had done it a few times. Now I tell people it’s easy when you know how 😉 I’m so glad you like you pizza dough. We have friends who make sourdough pizza all the time and it’s fantastic. Easy too. Enjoy your bread and crackers. ~ Anne Marie

  3. Great post very easy to understand! Makes much more sense to me now! Thank you for putting that together 🙂

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      You’re welcome Alexis. I’m glad it makes more sense. I have taught people how to make a starter and they have often looked so confused. I knew I had to come up with a better way to explain it. Thanks for the feedback. ~ Anne Marie

  4. I was also given an established starter a few years ago. I am admittedly quite lazy with it – I feed it when I know I’ll be using it, otherwise,it lives in a jar in the fridge. They are pretty hardy creatures – mine goes through months of neglect (in the summer when it’s too hot to bake), but during the winter, it gets quite a bit of attention. It’s never been too hard to bring it back to life, although the discard I pull off when it’s sat too long ends up in my compost bin.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks for the info, Becky. That’s good to know you can leave it for so long unattended.

  5. Anne Nichols says: Reply

    Hi, I am trying to make sour dough starter for the first time. Thanks for the step by step directions and for your video. I think my starter is ready but the part I am not sure about is that it has not fallen back down on it’s own. When I fed starter today it had risen quite a bit so I think it is ready. Should it be falling back down on its own or with my help when I stir it? 🙂 Thanks.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Anne, That all sounds great. The most important thing is that it rises. It can take several hours to fall back down on its own so don’t feel you have to wait until it does that. It’s just a sign that it’s ready. When you want to use it, just stir it down. Thanks for checking out the video. Enjoy your baking adventure. ~ Anne Marie

  6. Hi Anne Marie,

    I’ve been feeding the starter daily as suggested for about 5 days now but still only a few bubbles and no rising. I’m using 100% white bread flour, 40 g of flour and 40g water. Am I being impatient and should just keep going? or possibly add in some rye flour?


    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Bella. Bubbles are a great sign. It’s alive! You could start to feed it now if it’s bubbling even just a little bit. Sure, try some rye. My starter loves rye. Good luck! ~ Anne Marie

  7. Hi Anne Marie,
    Your site has been my bible as I continue to shift to low-waste, no processed eating so thank you! I’ve never made sourdough before and I’ve started a couple of starter experiments the last few days. I read about using kefir in starter, so I used 40g of homemade milk kefir instead of water and added that to 20g whole wheat and 20g white flour. After 12 hours, it had bubbled and more than tripled in size… smells yeasty and amazing. Do you have any experience with this type of starter? I think I might just try to feed it tonight and see how it does? There’s so little info on this online, I thought I’d check with you! I just can’t believe how quickly it activated, compared to my flour/water starters, I don’t want to feed it or jump to baking sooner than I should.

    Thanks again!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks so much Ariel 🙂 Your starter sounds awesome! I haven’t tried adding anything much to my starter except raisins or a bit of kombucha but I know people do do this. I would keep feeding it that way and try making bread. I usually make two loaves but with that starter I would try just one and see how it goes. I can’t guarantee it will turn out but it should make a really good leaven, which should make a nice loaf. Sorry I don’t have a better answer. Happy experimenting. ~ Anne Marie

    2. Hi Ariel how did you make out with your bread and did your keifer idea work out for you long term?

  8. Mary Sommerville says: Reply

    Hi there –

    I’m trying starter for the first time with your 40/40 measurements (used rye and white flour). I even took your advice and named her (Meredith) and she did great … got some bubbling within a couple of days, started feeding her 1-2 times a day, and she was rising well. Two or three days into the feeding, I decided to move the tablespoon of starter that I was keeping into a fresh bowl (thinking the old one was getting manky) … and she died. There was a little bit of bubbling the first day, and I fed her, and then nothing and she went mouldy.

    So I tried again using some of the discard from the fridge (Meredith 1.1) as well as a batch from scratch (Meredith 2.0). The stuff from the discard bubbled a little bit and I fed it, but then it petered out like the original one. The stuff from scratch had a few bubbles last night but I decided to wait until this morning to start feeding her, and this morning there was mould around the edges of the bowl. I’m assuming I should have fed her last night rather than waiting.


    Any suggestions (other than the obvious thing that I just need to try again)? Do you really keep the starter in the same container all the time without washing it?? It would seem like that would get pretty icky after a while. Or is there something different you need to do if you’re trying to revive the discard stuff? Or is there a way of “rescuing” the starter if the mould is just at the edges?

    Thanks for your help!


    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Mary. I love the name 🙂 That tablespoon of starter you’ve set aside, is that from the most recent batch? I haven’t had trouble with mold and I do use the same jar for ages. I just washed mine for the first time in a few months. Maybe that is too long… but I haven’t had trouble. What kind of dishsoap do you use? Any chance it’s microbial-killing? Oooh, what about your water? Does is smell like chlorine? That might be the trouble. What is the temperature like in your kitchen? Maybe Meredith needs a warmer spot. Or maybe your kitchen is too warm??? That might make more sense. There are so many variables. You should be able to revive Meredith after two or three feedings. I bring my cold starter to room temperature before I feed it. That might help. Please let me know how it goes. ~ Anne Marie

  9. 4 says ago I started to make a starter but I missed one seemly important step. I neglected to pour off some of the starter every day and have just been adding the water and flour everyday. It has been bubbling but tonight it looked less bubbly. Can I salvage it by pouring off half tomorrow when I add the water and flour?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Nancy,
      Absolutely. Just pour off a bunch and feed the remaining couple of tablespoons fresh flour and water. That’s great it has started to bubble! ~ Anne Marie

  10. Hi thanks for the recipe. I have followed your instructions but my starter has split into a water layer and a starter layer below. This happens in my counter starter and my fridge starter and as a result I can’t see any bubbles. Should I reduce the amount of water I am feeding it ? Or just stir it in and carry on? Or should o
    Pour off the water layer?

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Many thanks

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Ariana, I get a thin layer of gray water on my starter when I leave it in the refrigerator for a while. I pour that off. I haven’t had that happen to room temperature starter. After you feed it, does it bubble up and then fall back down? Do you feed it every day when it’s on the counter? I would stir it in and keep feeding it. ~ Anne Marie

  11. Hi, thanks so much for this post and your blog. I’ve just started my adventures in sourdough starter and have so many questions! I’m especially happy that you have vastly simplified the maintenance in a way that my brain can digest. Despite a bumpy beginning, I now have an active starter and am starting the twice-daily feedings to get things really going. My question is this: when storing the discarded portions in the refrigerator, should this be stored in the same type of non-airtight container as the active starter?


    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Suzanne, I’m glad you found the instructions helpful. The first time I taught a workshop on sourdough starter, I looked up at everyone and every person looked SO confused! They said it sounded like the “Who’s on First” routine. I tried to simplify the steps. Yes, use an airtight container in the refrigerator for your discard. That will prevent the top from drying out. If you leave the discard in there for a week or longer, some gray liquid may form on top. This is hooch. Just pour it off and continue as usual. Enjoy your sourdough adventure. It’s so fun! ~ Anne Marie

      1. Thank you!

  12. Hi Anne Marie, I just embarked on a new sourdough
    starter adventure using your 40/40 recipe (after a few unsuccessful attempts with other recipes in the past). I’m up to day 3 and this morning noticed my sourdough was quite runny and appeared almost flat (only very small bubbles) and greyish in appearance, but no distinct water… Yesterday it was very bubbly and much more thick before I discarded most of it and subsequently fed it 40g each of flour and water.

    I live in Brisbane (east coast of Australia) and on average it has been 35 degrees Celsius and very humid here for the past few days, so I wonder if that’s affecting the starter/if it’s going through food more quickly/being damaged by the heat? (We don’t have aircon in our little unit). Have you ever had a starter like this before? and what would you recommend? Today I gave it about 40g flour and 30g water to try and correct the texture, but I’m wondering if I may need to feed it again this evening to help it survive! (Or put it in the fridge for a bit??!)

    You seem to know a lot about sourdough, so any tips you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Eleanor, My starter is also named Eleanor! Yes, the heat and humidity will speed up the fermentation and the thick batter you start with can be very runny the next day. You can feed it a couple of times a day and make a lot of pancakes with the discard (you’ll amass a lot of it). You can also put it in the refrigerator and give yourself a break. I baked a lot last week and needed a rest, so mine is in the refrigerator right now. When I store it there, I take it out after a week to feed it. You can either keep it out at that point, or put it back in the refrigerator. You can go longer than a week also. Starters are very resilient and people tell me they neglect theirs but I like to feed it weekly. I hope this helps. ~ Anne Marie

  13. Hi there. I put together my very first starter yesterday, but at the 100ml amounts. I like the idea of reducing so that there is less discarded starter, so once “it’s alive” can I feed it at the 40/40 level or would I just need to start over and keep the levels consistent? Thanks, Stephie

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Stephie. Sure you can do that. Once it comes to life, just discard most of it and feed it the 40/40 ratio. You’ll have much less discard to deal with. Enjoy! ~ Anne Marie

  14. Hello Eleanor! 🙂 i’m a big fan of your work, thank you for sharing all these recipes with us, it’s really priceless!

    I have a little doubt and would like to know if you can help me. On the first part that I discard 80% of the starter and keep just a tablespoon of it to mix with 40 grams of flour and water. Correct? After I do this, I just keep adding flour and water for +- 5 days until it doubles in size or do I have to discard everyday 80% of the mixture and then add flour and water?

    Sorry if it sounds confusing and hope you can understand my doubt 🙂

  15. Can you make a starter out of Gluten Free flour? And if so can you suggest what type of flour I could use please?

    Love your website….very inspiring.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I have never tried but I have seen gluten-free sourdough bread recipes on the Cultures for Health website. Here is one: I don’t see instructions for making a starter–they sell it. But it shouldn’t be difficult to make one. ~ Anne Marie

      1. Thanks for the link – I’m off to see if I can make it happen! Have a great day!

      2. Kristina De Korsak says:

        You absolutely can make GF starter. I use either brown or white rice, but I have also had success with sorghum (it is just more persnickety).

  16. This is incredibly helpful information! Thank you!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      My pleasure. I’m glad you found the post useful 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  17. You are a lifesaver. I felt so bad to waste too much dough every time I had to feed my starter, and your tutorial helped me understand I didn’t really need to keep a lot of starter. Thank youuuu!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      My pleasure! I found I was accumulating so much starter, I had to scale back on my starter and just feed it enough to keep it going. It has worked out well. Enjoy! ~ Anne Marie

  18. Anne Marie, I am a huge fan! Thank you for being so generous with your ideas, recipes, and knowledge. I have a question that I’m hoping you can help me with. I’ve been baking sourdough bread with einkorn flour for several months and have made some yummy loaves but think I might be overcomplicating a step. Everything I have read says to use freshly fed starter. What I’ve been doing is feed my starter in the evening or morning and then use it the following day to make a loaf. Is this correct or should I literally feed the starter and make the leaven immediately? I really appreciate your help and all the best!

  19. Thanks so much for these instructions and the video! I haven’t made the sourdough yet but at the making a starter phase still. I used the discard collected so far this morning for pancakes and they were soooo good. Thanks again 🙂

  20. I used 25g whole wheat, 15g white, 40g water (all measured on a scale) and the mixture was almost much too dry, almost like very dry cookie dough. We added a bit more water (maybe 10g but I forgot to measure of course) to get it wetter and are going from there.

    Maybe different flours require different ratios of water/flour? The wheat flour was Red Mill stone ground whole wheat flour.


  21. Best piece of sourdough advice was to find some in your town that makes it and ask LOTS of questions!! X-) I was reading everything online. Bought all the equipment, distilled water, (expensive) organic flours. Never made a decent loaf. Asked a neighbor that makes it daily for her B&B and she had me up and going with my starter in two days of feeding it *bleached* (cheap) flour and hard water from the tap. Only thing I needed to buy was a glass jar from the Dollar Tree as I has my starter in a plastic container (that it did not like). I was in tears on day two when the starter overflowed the jar two hours after feeding. Tears of joy, of course.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      That’s awesome about your starter Donica! Great advice. When you learn in person from someone, you can save yourself months of mediocre (or lousy) loaves. Thanks for sharing the tip. ~ Anne Marie

  22. Anne Marie, I just found your blog today by searching for sourdough cracker recipes. I have been baking sourdough wheat bread daily for about three years now. I address the wasted-starter issue by switching to a solid starter; have you ever tried that?

    In the morning, I scrape out my entire starter jar with a silicone spatula, then to the dregs I add 38g white flour, 12g whole wheat flour, and 34g water. The <1 gram of starter left over in the jar grows like Topsy, and (after a stir at night) the next morning, I scrape out the entire contents (80g) to become the new leaven, add to 330g flour, 300g water, 3g salt, and mix up a new dough, which that evening I will bake into a small 16-slice loaf in a pan. No excess starter! If I go away for a weekend, I just refrigerate the jar and take it out the night I return.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Jonathan,
      I have only read about it but haven’t tried it. I’d like to. Thank you for the info 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  23. Hey Anne Marie! I have a question regarding the discarded starter, particularly the reason behind discarding it at all. If I were to feed the whole starter rather than discard 80% of it, would that affect the starter fermentation, or would I simply end up with way more starter than I need?

  24. […] ZeroWaste Chef finner du en video på hvordan hun lager surdeigstarter, hvis du foretrekker det […]

  25. Hi Anne Marie! Thank you so much for your posts. I am 5 days in to my starter process. Yesterday (day 4) I had some bubbles, pretty good rising, and a bit of a dry crust. I wasn’t sure if I should be looking for more bubbles so I stirred it, left it for the day. I didn’t see any more bubbles or rising by the evening so I fed it for the first time this morning. 12 hours later I don’t see any changes.

    As you mentioned, this is where I’m getting confused. Should I be looking for any bubbles or rising before I discard 80% and feed it again tomorrow morning?

    I’d love to know a bit about what is happening at a scientific level between the first feeding and when the starter is ready to make bread. I feel by removing 80% each time I am just gradually diluting whatever was creating all the good bubbles and rising I saw on day 4.

    What is happening through the daily discarding/feeding process that encourages the starter to eventually rise and fall within 4 hours? Are the organisms reproducing more and more quickly and after about a week they reach peak reproduction?

    I think this would help me understand the process better.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Jennifer,
      I would wait until you see more bubbles before you feed it again. As your starter develops, the bacteria and yeast reproduce in there until you have enough to make bread rise. But they need food–the fresh flour and water. Have you read Michael Pollan’s book Cooked? He explains what’s going on in the starter. I hope that helps.
      ~ Anne Marie

  26. Anna Pálsdóttir says: Reply

    Thanks soso much for everything you are sharing on your amazing site. Hope to start the new year with experimenting loads in this area 🙂 I’m guilty of finding this sourdough-craziness too complicated, but now I’m just thinking that I have to try!

    One thing I’m wondering and can’t find anywhere explicitly, do you use up the whole ready-for-bread starter and then start a new one all over again? Because I’ve heard of someone called Eleanor and I’m just not quite clear on the transition part from where it’s ready to use to an ongoing starter?

    Hope you get what I mean. Thanks!

  27. […] retried almost immediately after writing this post. This post from Zero-Waste Chef made me hopeful again. Mastering sourdough was on my 5-year list that I wrote […]

  28. Hi Anne Marie – My sourdough discard is taking over my life. I have two containers stored in the fridge. One that is fairly recent, about a week or so old, another that is a couple of weeks old. I’ve made pancakes (great), crumpets (ok), crackers (fabulous) and tortillas (very good), but still the containers keep growing. Question. Can I use the old starter or should I discard it. I hate to waste it, but I don’t want to get sick either. It looks lovely …. Took your sourdough starter class in December and Maggie Mae is doing really well. Too batches of great bread, but it’s that discard – there are just two of us.

  29. Hey there!

    I did your workshop on sourdough starter last year, tried once, it kinda worked, but then I put it on the fridge and forgot about it (ooops), and now I tried a little bit with rye and it super bubbled on the first day, but then after two or three days it got TOO funky, so I thought it would be best to discard everything… I don’t know how to keep it outside the fridge in the summer, since we usually have 28 to 38 degrees here and I don’t want to mess it up, but at the same time if I put it in the fridge, there is no activity. 🙁 What do I do?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Fabiana,
      It will ferment quickly in that heat. Since it was in the refrigerator for a while, I would feed it a few times, twice a day (because of the heat) and then when it smells good and is bubbling, either continue feeding it twice a day or put it in the refrigerator and take it out once a week to feed it and then, if you won’t use it to bake, put it back in there after a couple of hours (after it begins to bubble up). If you keep the starter small (say, 40 grams water, 40 grams flour, scant tablespoon starter from previous batch), you’ll have less discard to deal with.
      ~ Anne Marie

  30. Hi Anne Marie! After months of reading up on sourdough starter (obsessing over it really – it’s so cool!), I finally decided to try my own. The first time around, it developed mold. The second time around, I figured I started feeding it too soon (I thought it was bubbling on day 3 and so I started to feed it, but I think the bubbles was due to my stirring haha). I almost hit 2 weeks when I realized absolutely nothing was happening and that I should ditch it.

    I am hoping this third time is a charm… I am using room temp tap water (that I leave out over night) and unbleached AP flour. I’m on day 5 now and still only get a few tiny bubbles… From Day 1-3, the dough was really thick and almost clumped up into a ball when I would stir it. Starting Day 4, it got really runny and smooth. I know in your directions is says anywhere from a few days to a week is when I should see bubbles. Should I keep going or restart – maybe with a different type of flour? Any input is so appreciated. I appreciate all time and help you’ve provided others through your website/instagram. Thank you!

    Ps. I am obsessed with your loaves – they look so perfect and delicious

  31. Hi Anne-Marie!
    So happy I found your Instagram through a friend which led me here. This post totally demystified the whole process for me, which up until now kept me from trying to make my own, so thank you. I started my starter Hector three days ago and he was pretty thick and sticky looking until today. When I checked on him today hector was different…anyway the starter looked like it had split and had a very strong smell. Very runny flour mixture and grey liquid on top. I haven’t begun feeding him because there was not a lot of activity/bubbles. Where have I gone wrong?! Or have I?! Hector lives in a glass jar with plastic lid and came from white flour (what I had at home) + filtered room temp water. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks for reading this either way!! – amanda

  32. Great article!

    Quick question: how long can you keep thé discarded starter in the fridge?

    I add the newly discarded starter to the one already sitting in the fridge from previous feedings, at the moment the oldest is from 1 month ago. Can I still use it?


    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Raphaël, a month is fine. It should make tangy crackers. Enjoy! ~ Anne Marie

  33. Aleksandra Dimova says: Reply

    Hi Anne!

    I tend to enjoy more rye bread and spelt flour breads, do you make those too? Do you have any starters for those, if they follow the same logic, can I just replace the sourdough with rye/spelt in the starter proportion?


    1. Hi Aleks and Anne-Marie (thanks for your inspiring blog!)
      I’m also keen on 100% rye, and wondered if you tried making a starter, and a loaf, with just rye flour?
      If so, I’d love your thoughts, and recipe!
      Thank you

      1. Hi Mary and Aleks,
        Rye flour doesn’t have much gluten so it produces a very dense loaf. I haven’t made a 100% sourdough rye. I’ve done maybe 70% rye, 30% white. It doesn’t rise as much as usual and is harder to work with. It tasted good though. I hope that helps.
        ~ Anne Marie

  34. […] It’s not like me at all. Mind you, I’m only 6 days in. I’m still excited. My starter came alive yesterday. I have to feed it every day now. I named it Oscar. I check on him numerous […]

  35. […] a starter in order to make sourdough bread. It’s really easy, and I made mine by following these instructions. You don’t need the rye flour. I just used whole wheat. When your starter is […]

  36. I have some runny discard in my fridge. What can I do with it and can it stay in the fridge indefinitely?

    1. Hi Hedy,
      You can bake lots of things with it, like pancakes or crackers or other recipes for flat things that don’t need to rise much. I regularly take some of my discard out to bake something and then later add more in when I feed my starter. So it gets constantly cycled and the jar sits in my refrigerator for months. If it were to just sit there without any starter added to it, it would become so sour, you wouldn’t want to use it. You could likely give it some flour at that point though to perk it up.
      ~ Anne Marie

  37. Hi Anne Marie, I have a doubt in storing the starter in the fridge. Do I have to keep it in fridge with a cloth covered or should I screw the lid & store?

    1. Hi Sheeba,
      When I store it in the refrigerator I put a lid on it in. If you use a cloth, the top will dry out and become crusty.
      ~ Anne Marie

      1. Thanks for the clarification.

      2. Hello, I am utilizing this quarantine time to try my hands baking a sourdough. Can you help me share the exact measurements in tbsp( flour to water) Thank you

  38. How long is the discard good for in the refrigerator? Does it need to be used within a certain period of time?

    1. Thank you so much ❤️

  39. Hi! Thank you for so much wonderful information! Would love some advice if possible, my starter was going great! Was up to 8 days of feedings from initial bubbles, was doubling around the 6 hour mark- yesterday, after her feeding, did exactly the same as all days prior,she stopped rising/doubling, I removed and refed a second time and left overnight and still no rise. Not sure where I went wrong when it was going well and strong. Any tips?

  40. Hi there! So I’m into day6 of making my starter. And I’ve got 2 jars going as I’m making one for a friend. I kept some of my discard but haven’t fed it for a couple of days. Do you think the immature discard is dead? Because Now I want to try to experiment and feed it with whole wheat flour. Thanks for your blog.

  41. angie Turnbull says: Reply

    Hi there I have a stack of starter, Probably 1kg! what do I do? do I take a small amount out and start to feed it? I took it out of the fridge 4. If I feed it for 5 days doesn’t the starter double in size each day? I feel a little overwhelmed! help! 🙂

    1. Hi Angie,
      I’d take a spoonful out, feed it a small amount of flour and water and put the rest in the refrigerator to use for one of the recipes I listed in this post (pancakes, for example). Every day, remove most of the starter, put the excess in the refrigerator and feed a small amount of flour and water to the spoonful of starter. Or store the starter in the refrigerator and feed it only once a week. I hope that helps!
      ~ Anne Marie

  42. […] en JETER la plus grande partie, et y a quelque chose en moi qui hurlait NON. Juste… non. Or la fabuleuse Zero Waste Chef me proposait autre chose, soit de transformer ces rejets en craquelins (j’y reviendrai) ou en crêpes ou en gaufres. […]

  43. Hi Anne Marie, I have made the small sour dough starter following your instructions and have used only brown flour as that’s all I can get at the moment but it is bubbling away nicely. Now it’s an active little starter , where to I find the quantities and instructions to actually make it into bread? My discard is bubbling in the fridge too (?) so I’m going to make some pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. Thanks for all the advice .
    Sue x

    1. Hi Sue! Anne Marie’s sourdough recipe is here:

  44. Hei, I wonder if I should start feeding my starter now that I see some minor bubbling or rather wait a bit. I can smell a pleasant aroma, too. I only stirred it together 3 days ago though. Thanks for the reply.

    1. Hi Mila,
      It won’t hurt to wait a bit. I might let it sit for another day. By tomorrow, it should smell stronger. The biggest problem people encounter is feeding it too soon.
      Anne Marie

      1. Wow, that was fast. Thanks. Will wait then. Love from Finland.

  45. Hi! A quick questions- what should the texture of the starter be at the beginning? Mine is almost like a dough like consistency. I used 100 g of AP flour and 100 g of water (might have been a little on the hot side). Thank you!

    1. Hi Michelle,
      It is very thick at first, so thick that if you turn the jar upside down, it won’t come out. And those measurements sound perfect.
      ~ Anne Marie

  46. great. thank you!

  47. Thank-you so much for the tips! I received my first starter and have managed to make it grow. It’s noon here now and its all ready to bake bread but I cant start until this evening due to the 10-12 hour bulk rise time…. if I don’t want be up all night, LOL. Can I wait or do I have to do something to my starter so it doesn’t fall while waiting?

  48. Hi Anne Marie! My starter is made up of all purpose flour and water, I’m having trouble finding any other types of flour. My starter isn’t very bubbly after a few days. I stir her often and have been doing some feeding and discards when more bubbles are present. Should I let her sit longer before beginning to feed her more?

    1. Hi Liv,
      A few days is pretty young. I would let it sit before I feed it again and let it get more established. All purpose will work. You may want to feed her twice because she will go through all-purpose quickly but initially, just feed her once and see how that goes. I find mine rises and falls really quickly and wants more food than usual if I use all-purpose. I hope that helps 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  49. Tammie Frankum says: Reply

    I started a new starter on Sunday. Monday, it was already bubbling and trying to crawl out of the jar, but there was no sour smell. I transferred it to a larger jar, and now it’s not doing anything. It’s day 3. Not sure if I should feed it or let it sit a few more days. Help!

  50. Hi. Just started my first gig, in the 5th day at sourdough starter so I’m a amateur sourdougher. My batch isn’t bubbling and rising like it should.You said on your video that you make pancakes with the starter that’s been spooned off. I made a large one today and it was flat and doughy, not cakey and light like a normal pancake. Should the sourdough starter pancake be like this? Does it mean that my starter is too watery? Should I add more flour? Is making a pancake a valid test for starter success?

  51. I’m curious as to what is the purpose of discarding some and then feeding the remains? I realize it needs the flour to feed off of, and this is the way it has always been done, but why not keep it and just add the flour and water?
    Thanks for this guidance! I’ve only been at this for three days and it’s already so lively! I’m excited to get baking soon.

    1. Hi Kali,
      If you feed the whole thing, it will grow exponentially and take over your kitchen. You’ll start with a spoonful of starter but end up with, maybe half a cup of it. To feed that, you’ll need that much more flour and water. The next day, you’d need even more. I keep my starter small so I don’t accumulate too much discard and I always use it up. I make pancakes at least a couple of times a week. And lately, I’ve been baking cakes. Storing the starter in the refrigerator for a week or so if you won’t bake also reduces the number of feedings and discard.
      Enjoy your sourdough adventures!
      ~ Anne Marie

      1. Oh I see, this does make sense, especially now as I watch this volume quickly growing on my counter. Thank you!!

      2. I have had my starter since 2009 and bake once or twice per week, or sometimes not for a month. I keep it on the less liquid/more solid side in a jar in the fridge. I empty that into a large container on the counter and add just over enough water to make 3 loaves of bread. I leave it for about a day until it is ‘dissolved’/incorporated, then remove about 1/3 cup of that liquid, which I mix with half a cup of fresh flour and put that back in the fridge. I then make the 3 loaves. So I don’t have to feed the starter often and no need to discard any. Thanks for all your info!

  52. I’m working on establishing a starter for the first time (yay!) and I have accumulated about a week’s worth of discard in my fridge. How long does discard last before it spoils and should not be used in other recipes? Thank you for all your helpful information on this blog!

    1. Hi Arlen,
      I keep mine in the refrigerator for months and regularly add to it after feedings and take some out when I want to make something. So it constantly gets recycled. I’ve never tossed any and I’ve had the same starter since 2014. It keeps for months. Some gray liquid (hooch) might form on top. I pour that off, stir up the starter and then use it.
      ~ Anne Marie

      1. Why do you pour off the hooch when most recommend stirring it back in when feeding?

  53. Hi there, I appreciated reading what you have to say here.
    I started a new sourdough culture with rye a week and a half ago, and it’s smelling great and I’ve been able to use some of it but today when I peeked in to feed it, I had fuzzy mold growing on the dry “skin” which formed on the top. I live in a warm, dry climate do I think I need to come up with a better solution then a tea towel over the jar if it is to be sitting on the counter in between feedings. Regardless, I scraped the skin away and underneath the culture looks normal and smells fine. Have you ever encountered this?

  54. Thank you so much for your great content! Actually, I started following your IG for Zero-Waste-Reasons (obviously :-D), but recently, I really enjoy everything sourdough. At first, I started maintaining a starter for producing discard-recipes like your tasty crackers, pancakes, and just an hour ago vegan sourdough pasta (probably never gonna go back to normal). I was really frightened of all the steps and compilations for baking sourdough bread though. Eventually, I ended up baking two loaves this weekend which turned out messy and complicated (too high hydration level, almost 100% whole-grain rye flour, no patience, wrong lamination,…) but also really tasty! I learned a lot out of my mistakes for the next time, or at least I hope so.
    Regards from Germany! -Hergen

    tl;dr – Thank you!

  55. I am Very Very Happy to have stumbled across your site, I believe through another site posting a recipe I was exploring about making sd discard pound cake. I do my utmost to be “zero waste” in all things and have thus saved 3 jars of “discard” of varying ages (about 4 weeks old to current week) which have never been fed. Since they are really sourdough starters and from what I have read in your blogs they just need to be fed to bring them back to life, right? My dilemna is by feeding and bringing some of the discard back to life, I am again creating more discard! My question is whether just a little food (flour and water) added to just under the amount of discard needed in a recipe a few hours before, make it viable enough to use, thus avoiding creating more discard? I will experiment if needed, just prefer to not create more waste in doing so if you already have the answer!! Thanks for your expertise!!

  56. Nicoleta borcos says: Reply

    I always make too much and now my freezer is kinda full. I don’t get it, it sits in the fridge after being fed, right! And than you have to take it out and use it in baking within few days as that’s when it’s at its peak or do I have to make a leaven with it.
    I don’t understand the leaven part, and while I’m trying to do that I end up with another batch of sourdough starter.
    The confusion starts with the amount of flour needed to bake a small loaf and the amount of starter needed for that.
    I have managed to bake a few times and it has been amazing. But changing quantity to adjust to how much bread I actually need leaves me with extra sourdough starter.
    Definitely need more research on this one 😖😅

  57. […] Flour: I explain this in the sourdough starter recipe, but this is my starter and is based off a blog I found as I was looking for an easy and tasty way for a beginner to create a starter. I’ve used […]

  58. Exactly what I needed! Thank you!

  59. Novice fermenter here! I regularly make Kombucha and have a very healthy scoby hotel that lives in a cupboard above my refrigerator. I am very interested in starting my own sourdough and your website is a great resource, very informative! A friend of mine who gave me my original scoby was telling me that she had a sourdough going on her counter and it negatively effected her scoby. I was just wondering what your experience is with keeping the two (scoby and sourdough). How do you store them, are they in the same room?

    1. Hi Kristina,
      I’m glad you find my sourdough posts helpful. I store kombucha, ginger bug and sourdough starters near each other (out on the counter) and I haven’t had a problem but everyone’s kitchen is different. I do keep them on a different counter, away from sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables though. I don’t know if that is necessary but I do it just as a precaution. So you might want to do the same thing with your kombucha and sourdough, especially when you’re just starting out. I hope that helps.
      ~ Anne-Marie

  60. Andrew Hopkins says: Reply

    Hi, I know this will sound terrible, but I have been trying to make a sourdough starter and it turns into madness within 8 hours then by 48 is dead, and I really need some help! By the way, I live in Australia, so my kitchen room temp is around 80°F.
    So, 250g at 150% hydration of wholemeal rye will fill a 60oz glass jar after the first 50% discard and feed within 32 hours, it’s a monster, filled with the most voluminous bubbles, that the slightest tap will send it crashing back down the jar!! But move onto stage two of keep only 75g and use a 100% hydration feed (of varying mixes of rye and AP, from the day 1 discard) and it just reuses to budge! Nothing no movement, no bubbles, complete hero to zero!
    I have read your blog about “did I kill my starter” but found no solace 🙁. Can you enlighten me at all?
    Many thanks 😊

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Your starter sounds like a teaser! What if you try doing 100% hydration when you make it and continue with that? Also, they really like rye flour so maybe the 100% rye sets too high of an expectation for future meals and your starter has a temper tantrum when you reduce the rye. I’m just hypothesizing that those might be problems… But I would try a mixture of flours to start, with 100% consistent hydration throughout the process. Also, after you feed the new starter the first time, I would keep that first jar on the counter along with the one you just fed. If the one you just fed doesn’t react, you may have fed it too soon, in which case, take a bit out of the original jar and feed that. See which jar does better. I hope that helps! I have a free sourdough starter class on March 27th at 10am but I think that’s 4am in Australia. It’s on my workshop page.
      Good luck!

  61. Maria Nevett says: Reply

    Hey Anne!! You are such an inspiration.

    I’ve been following your recipes for making sourdough starter and bread. It’s been a while I’m on it and I’ve been checking other peoples recipes now. I feel like there’s an infinite amount of info out there.

    I’m sure you know about this and if by any chance you don’t, I wanted to send you the scrapings method for the sourdough starter which avoids enormous amounts of discard!

    –> The method :

    Have a lovely day.

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