Sourdough Diary - Beginners please ask questions here

Please feel free to ask questions or talk about your experiences making your first sourdough.


I started with just flour and water on the 26/03/06 and my starter has a nice wheaty aroma, very far from sour. The bread I make with it has a very distinct honey smell to it and it is particulary strong when sugar is added. Will it stay this way or will it eventually obtain a sour flavour? And I should note that I don't want a sour flavour to my bread I'm happy with the way it's going at the moment but I was just wondering...

My first Sourdough, mate you, nor anybody else, needs to hear how to make a brick.


Well, let us hope that I can do better with my first sourdough in quite a while. As the saying goes: jump off the cliff and grow your wings on the way down




Hi, I have started 3 starters for the first time following instructiosn in the below link. I have a Barley Flour Starter a Rye Starter and a Wholement Spelt Starter. My spelt starter appears as if nothing much is happening and it is day 6.  On the first day it was pretty hot and I got alot of bubbles in it - but now it just gets watery with no bubbles.

Any ideas?



Hello Alison,

I assume that, as they did not rate a mention, the other two are going OK.  In that case the fact that the spelt, which has, presumably, been getting the same treatment in terms of temperature and feeding, is not working as well is a bit odd.

A few options.  One is to keep going as is for a few more days to see what happens.

The second is to inoculate your spelt starter with some of your active starters and keep feeding with the spelt.  Or, produce a duplicate of one of your others and then progressively increase the proportion of spelt in the feed over a number of days until it becomes all spelt.

The third is to start from scratch and try again (but probably only after trying the first two options).

Good luck with your projects.


Thanks Farinam.  I will try what you have suggested.

Hi.  I am a  home baker now working part time. I started up a sourdough culture and am somewhat successful so far. Then I stumbled upon this site. There is so much to learn!  The lingo is hard to understand though.  What is hydration, and is there a glossary of terms?  Thanks.

Hello tinkodaat,

This is a link to a beginners guide that you will find right at the bottom of the page.  It contains a link to another site with all sorts of definitions.

Good luck with your projects.


I have had my starter going for a few weeks now and have been pleased with my results until today, when my bagels failed miserably.  I would be cited by the ASPCA and allied groups for cruelty to ducks, if I lobbed them in their general direction.  I think my starter had peaked too far before its use and consequently I produced unleavened bagelettes:-(

I am now resusitating my starter and wondered about cleaning of the container.  I have been careful to keep foreign agents away from it, but the container does show that it has been used constantly for some time.  What do you recommend, please?  Should I alternate containers so that I can keep it a bit cleaner?


You could just take it out into a clean bowl, clean the container and put it back in. But I never bother. Lots of stuff up around the top which I scrape in periodically. Never had an "invasion" of mould or anything, and there have been plenty of dodgy microbiological experiments going on in the fridge where it mostly lives, so I think it's pretty resilient...

Thanks Davo; I know what you mean about "shelf life"!  As soon as I can find a suitable Pyrex jar that can survive boiling water, I'll give it a go.

hello,  i have a mother culture that i have been getting ready for the last two weeks. i am about to put it in the fridge.  i understand that i can keep using small amonts to make my levain, but when my mother starter gets low do i need to take out of the fridge to feed and and rise, or can i feed then put back in the fridge.  Do i also need to remove some of the moher strater before feeding?

thanks ali

Hello Ali,

One option is to replace as you use.  This is the method that I use.  I keep a base stock of a couple hundred grams of stock.  I take out 90g and bulk that up to make my levain and replace the 90g in the stock with flour and water and put it back in the fridge straight away.

If you run your stock down, my inclination would be to build it up in a few stages over a day or two on the bench before returning to the fridge so you are sure that you have built up a good concentration of yeasts and bacteria.  A small quantity of culture will inoculate a large quantity of new feed but it will take some time. This is particularly so if you are baking fairly regularly because activity and growth rates will be much slower in the fridge.

This is why I think the use and replace technique is probably a bit better because you always have a reasonable quantity of fully populated culture available.

Good luck with your projects.



Thanks so much for your help farinam.  Greatly appreciated



Should the interior of the loaf be moist?
[url=]FF_20130331_0001_Sourdough[/url] by [url=]Francis Foley[/url], on Flickr

Hi, I've been reading the beginner's tutorials with great interest as I am keen to try making sourdough*.

I can see that the total time needed is not huge, however it does look like I need to be at home all day to end up with a loaf in the evening because there are lots of little jobs to do scattered through the day. What I'd really like is to have a loaf ready to eat on a Saturday lunchtime, however I do need to go out a couple of times each Saturday morning for the kid's sports.  I am home on Thursday and Friday afternoons from about 3:30 so I am wondering how much of the process I can bring forward to those days, and keep the dough in the fridge overnight, so that all there is to do on Saturday morning is the bake? Is this possible? How would I adjust the timetable given in the beginner's tutorial to make this work?

*I already make yeast breads, homebrew beer, cheese, chutneys, jams etc, so sourdough seems the obvious next step!


It depends on your proofing time/temperature and method but you can make your loaf on Friday, shape it and retard overnight in the fridge. It's best to let it warm up a bit in the morning before putting it in to bake but then the oven has to warm anyway. You can fit this in with your Saturday morning timetable but remember to allow for time for the loaf to cool. That's always the hardest part!

When I was starting, I worked to the method used in Azelia's Kitchen which gave very reliable results. She makes a levain at lunchtime, mixes the bread at 7ish,folds and shapes over the course of the evening, then puts it in the fridge overnight. I've been experimenting with not using the fridge at all since then but may have to go back to it soon. I"m told there is a more pronounced flavour if the loaf has spent time in the fridge.

Hello all, I'm new to the forum and have been having fun with my first few sourdough loaves, following the recipes in Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters. I've had what I think are pretty good results and like that, other than when getting the starter going at first, there is no wastage, even with long(ish) gaps between loaves and storing in the fridge. I'm getting the impression that folk here do a lot of intermediate refreshments and discarding of excess between loaves to keep their culture active. From my very limited experience (but also Whitley's advice), it seems this isn't so necessary. Am I missing something here?


I’d say I’m frugal starter feeder. I’ve had no problems in feeding my starter once after a week in the fridge then using it to leaven 12-24hrs later. I can’t remember the last time I had to dump off excess starter. I am baking a loaf a week on average, though this is on the rise due to my continual enjoyment of the sourdough experience.
My starter maintenance is very simple.
Remove ripe starter for baking.
Feed starter if it is low (less than 200g) and wait for it to start to show early signs of bubbles, then place it in the fridge.
A week passes. 24hr before I'd like to create a dough, I remove the starter from the fridge, let it come to room temperature (or not) then feed to around double it’s volume and leave at room temperature.
I use a 50/50 – white/wholemeal @ 100% hydration for my starter.

Hi Tom. I lent my copy to my daughter but I thought Whitley keeps a lot of starter in the fridge and just takes out what he needs to bake. He is so experienced and bakes often but I think I remember he writes that it's easy to culture a starter.

I'm just a beginner and I like I just keep a small amount of starter on the kitchen worktop at the moment and refresh it every day. There's a little waste but I like to keep it in an active state. I had problems in the winter when it was too cold in the fridge. Now it's getting warmer, I may revert to keeping it in the fridge to cut down on the refreshing. It took a while for my starter to develop the consistency and flavour I like. Now I've got a little experience, I would be more confident about starting again. Whitely has a great set up to keep dough and starters warm and active, I don't .

There are lots of different methods in sourdough baking and it's worth trying them to see what fits in with your life and how you like your sourdough loaf to taste and look. I don't like too hard a crust (aging teeth!) but others do. 

I've followed the advice to dry a thin layer of starter on parchment paper and store the flakes. If my starter dies, I would use them to kick-start a new one to save time.

I started a wholemeal wheat sourdough starter, and used it sucessfully for 6 or 7 months.  I fed it with whatever was at hand (even leftover porridge).  It seemed pretty resilient and relaible.  Suddenly though, it started behaving like commercial sachet 'yeast'.  It consumed feeder very quickly and made hooch in 6-8 hours.  I tried re-feeding a micro amount of starter, but it was even more yeasty and less sourdoughy.  Then I let it progress to alcoholic, thinking it might kill off the yeasts and leave resistant sourdough organisms.  No luck.  What should I have done?  


My guess is the feedings. Regular consistant feedings of a good flour equals healthy consistant starter.

inconsistent feeding of what was on hand would not promote longevity. Just my two cents worth.