Closed top or not?


Hi, I am just starting down the Sourdough path, which at the grand old age of 59 is no mean feat, and am already confused by the supposedly 'helpful' instructions on starters.

I have one, simple, question: Do I screw down the top of my container or not? Some people seem to suggest I should, and others not.



148 users have voted.


Postal grunt 2011 April 26

No need to be intimidated by a sourdough starter, I  built my starter after I retired at 60, almost two years ago, and it's still going strong, Yeast breads taste dull in comparison these days.

Storage containers for your starter needn't be elaborate or expensive. You can use something as simple as a safe plastic food container (BPA free) or a bowl with a snug fitting shower cap. Using a screw top cap on a glass jar can lead to messes if you overtighten the cap.

IMHE, I've found that it's better to keep a small starter, about 100-150g, and take a 30g or so portion of that to build a fresh starter for each loaf. Your main starter will keep in the fridge for at least a week, maybe more, without feeding if it's around 60% hydration. If you plan ahead, building a fresh starter in two stages, the first small and the second to desired weight, will give you a really lively and flavorful starter.

CayoKath 2011 April 26

Hullo!  You want a loose cover on your starter because the little yeasty beasties come from the air.  I have found the most wonderful starter jar for my purposes (2 to 4 loaves of "regular" bread a week) - a straight-sided clear 2-quart glass canister with a loose fitting lid.  It's perfect because it sterilizes nicely, I can see the starter action when I bring it out of the fridge to warm up, and it's big enough to accommodate enough starter to keep us baking, with room to add to it for those mania times. 

Please don't let the whole starter baking bit intimidate you.  It's really quite easy.  You can be as scientific as you want...or not.  I tend to be not, going more for the homespun goodness effect than artistry.  I've found my little 100% saturation AP starter does just fine with the wonderful recipes herein.

The secret is in the flour.  Get a good one for your starter and you won't regret it.  I tried the "generic" flour and a nice Colorado-grown flour, but have had astoundingly happy results with Minnesota Girl AP.  It makes the most wonderfully active starter in this climate (Colorado, USA) that makes even a hastily thrown together loaf of homestyle oatmeal bread come out with a nice chewy crust and respectable texture. 

Have FUN with it.  There will be failures.  There will be starters gone bad with mold.  It's just how it goes.  The successes and surprises are worth every tossed batch of starter.  PLUS I am firmly convinced a habit of bread made at home with a natural starter is good for your health. 

panfresca 2011 April 26

 Hi Mickie

I've tried it both ways, and the results were the same each way. I have my starters in cheap preserving-type jars - the ones with the wire contraption on the top to lock the lid down. The seal in those is not very strong, but if you have a jar with a stronger seal, the only difference would be a slight variation in atmospheric pressure when the temperature changes.

CayoKath - it's been established that the yeast actually comes from the flour itself, though you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise, as the myth about yeast coming from the air (or grape skins or whatever) is repeated all over the web. As I recall, the experiment has been performed by leaving flour and water in a sterile environment, where it does ferment (ie, yeast multiplies from the mixture itself), and alternatively sterilising the flour and leaving it open to the air, and the mixture then fails to ferment. That's one reason to use different flours in your initial starter, to get as good a variety of different yeasts as possible, as different flours from different locations carry a variety of yeasts.


farinam's picture
farinam 2011 April 28

Hello Mickie,

Age shall not weary them!  There's life in us oldies yet /;-{)}

I think the main reason for covering is to keep out mould spores which I think are more likely to be transmitted from the air.  Some people just use muslin, others Glad/Saran wrap, yet others screw tops.

Mine is a glass jar with a plastic screw top and I just put it on with half a turn and have not had any problems at all.

I guess the potential hazard of a complete seal is the potential for 'exploding' the jar due to generated gas pressure but highly unlikely I would have thought unless you had a very full jar of very active starter with a crown seal such as you might have with ginger beer or other yeasted fermentation.

Just keep bakin'.


panfresca 2011 April 28

Hehe, I didn't think of that! The expansion factor is certainly something to take into account - a really vital starter can expand to four times its initial volume in warm weather. My jars don't have a seal tight enough to inhibit that kind of expansion, so it's not an issue for me, but a screwcap could.

Once the starter gets going, it's dynamic enough to deal with just about anything that could drift in from the open air - but leaving the jar completely open would dry the starter out, something you don't want.

HopesHope 2011 April 28

I'm also 59 and I've had a starter now since October 2010 and going strong.


I would say put the screw cap away cut a piece of clean rag, drape it over the container and secure it with a rubber band.  That's what I do.

Merrid 2011 May 4

The jar I've got my starter in doesn't have a very good seal but it's living in the fridge - I keep it covered to minimise spills and prevent any other odours in the fridge from drifting into the starter.

It's been established that the beasties don't even need a fresh oxygen supply to grow, so as long as the jar is big enough and the mixture small enough to allow for the expected growth, lid on jar is fine and should minimise mould spores and small flying creatures landing in the starter.


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