1 year old sourdough starter behaves differently now


First posting here.  Any help greatly appreciated.


I have a sourdough starter that has been very successful during the last 16 months....the starter used to rise slowly in the refrigerator, reaching full height in about 2 days.  Now it rises very little in the fridge, if at all.  At room temperature it used to take about 6 to 8 hours to double in height, but now it's super fast, doubling anywhere between 2 and 4 hours.  It's very difficult to bake enough to keep up with it.


I'm going to reduce the water and make a much dryer mix.


Could this be natural selection at work?  Have the yeast and bacteria adapted to living hard and fast?  Hydration is at 100%.


 I just can't bring myself to throw it out and start over. 


 My starter smells off and overly acidic only if I leave it in the fridge for more than 3 days.  After a revival period of 3 feedings, and using it to make cookies, crepes, and bread, it's smells great.  Still acidic, as it should be, but acidic in a good way, I suppose. 


Any ideas what I'm dealing with here?  Wish I was a biochemist.





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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 January 10

Hello Brian,

Welcome to our world.

When your starter is in the fridge, does it make gas?  That is, when you dip into it with a spoon does it show 'structure' (like honeycomb) or does it look like a smooth paste?

When you say it smells 'off' can you be a bit more specific - vinegary, nailpolish,sulphur, rotten eggs, vomit etc?

If your brew works very quickly when it is on the bench, its working time in the fridge though longer might also be relatively short - have you checked on what it is doing with any frequency or is there evidence of a 'tide' mark on your container to indicate that it has risen and gone flat?

I keep mine in the fridge and it does not 'rise' to any great degree.  What I do is take 90g and feed with 45g flour and 45g water and replace what I have taken out with the same.  Then back into the fridge.  The timing with relation to when I want to bake depends on the temperature, from a couple of hours when it is warmer to overnight when it is cooler.  On the bench it doubles up just fine.

Sounds to me as if your starter is fine (depending upon further input from you) and it is probably going through a 'seasonal' variation.  As long as it is making good bread I wouldn't panic too much - keep it in the fridge, activate what you need on the bench and enjoy.

Keep on bakin'


bjr72 2012 January 10

Thanks for your input.

During the first 6 months of the starters life, it would actually rise in the fridge.... almost double in volume overnight.  The next 5 months I started baking ALOT more, and rarely put the starter in the fridge... I was feeding and baking almost every 2nd day.  Then about a month ago, I slowed down to baking once a week, and needed the starter back in the fridge.... presently the starter will not rise more than 1/2" in the fridge, but DOES develop some bubbles... a lot of smoothness combined with some bubbles... hard to describe..... I have a time lapse I took of my starter 6 months ago.... maybe I'll post it online.

I guess you're right.... the starter seems fine.... just overly active compared to a year ago.




Hoecake 2012 January 13

Hi Brian,

As did your starter, my homemade starter developed a faster rise as it aged, it's about 6 months old.  I keep it in the ice box also, but after feeding it I let it sit out a couple hours or so [to activate] until it rises about half way, then I put in the fridge.  While there it continues to rise very slowly.  I use it atleast once a week.  So maybe yours, because of the cold temps, is slow to activate.


Or to the opposite, is it possible that your starter works off in the fridge?  The starter consistancy as you describe it sounds like it has eaten all available food and has gone dormant.


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