Day 19 and still not ready


Hi everbody, I'm new to the forum and began my sourdough starter 19 days ago, should I give up and start again?  I am using strong white and rye mix with 100% hydration, refreshing every 24 hours as per instructions for eassy starter, it doesn't smell too fruity but bubbles then ssettles a few hours after feeding......should I start again or persevere?  Thanks

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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 September 20

Hello Janisem,

The fact that your culture is bubbling suggests that it is active.  The fact that it 'settles' after a few hours is possibly not unusual depending on the temperature that you are keeping it at.  The fact that it settles also means that it has consumed the available food and the yeasts and bacteria go into a state of dormancy. 

I am assuming that it is at room temperature.  I am also assuming that by settles you mean that it has risen to some level in your conatainer and has then fallen back down to some degree.

I would make myself a loaf of bread (SourDom's Pane Francesa is a good one to begin with) with it using the following guide line.  The time that you take from mixing the dough to being ready for the oven should correspond with the time that it takes to rise to its peak (a few hours).  About half of that time should be for dough development and bulk fermentation, the other half should be for proving your loaf before baking.  All of this assumes that you are working at the same sort of temperature that your starter has been kept at.

If you wished to slow the process down, then you could use refrigeration to lower the temperature of your dough.  You have to remember that refrigeration does not stop things happening, it just slows it down and because the cold takes time to penetrate significant activity (rising) can take place in the fridge.

In general, the readiness of the loaf for baking should be the response to the poke test.  You need to be bound by the conditions in your kitchen and your starter rather than a time line published with the recipe that you are using or any assessment of the dough doubling in size.

Let us know how you go and remember you have little to lose other than a bit of flour and a lot to gain in terms of beautiful bread.  But whatever you do, don't despair, you will get there in the end.

Keep on bakin'


janisem 2012 September 20

Thank you for your reply Farinam.  I keep it at room temperature which is approx 15-16 degrees c which is possibly a bit on the cool side, it rises, doubling in volume before settling back to its original size.  I'll give sourdom's pane francese a go....nothing ventured, nothing gained.


lenohbabe's picture
lenohbabe 2012 October 30

Hi  janisem  hope this is not too silly an answer in my limited experience " my starter" likes to be in a jar with the lid not sealed.  I use a kilner jar I rest the lid on the clip leaving a gap for air to get in then I cover the jar with a large pastic bag to keep out dust and any pesky  bugs that love sourdough starter as much as us.  My starter was only water and flour and had nothing else added, once I started giving it more air it performed better.   

As I am no expert this is just what I noticed when starting out.  I would listen to Farniham first he helped me with my questions in the beginning.  In fact Farniham  i will be posting a query soon which hopefully you will answer.



lenohbabe's picture
lenohbabe 2012 October 30

Hey Janiisem 

just noticed !! I see we are  nearly neighbours .   I think we struggle more getting our starter going because we are in a cooler climate.  Keep at it  mine took about four weeks to get going.  I have now been using it for around  17 months now and the more you use it the better your bread gets.  Don't be disappointed with your first loaf , mine wasn't very pretty but it sure did taste ok. They look and taste better now.  Any help I can offer regarding "Scottish conditions" just shout.   Reading this site is they way to go as it is full of bakers with unbelievable expertise.  It's my first option site when I have a query.  RegardsLinda
Seaniz 2012 November 6

If your starter is doubling then it's probably ready for its first recipe. To be sure it's capable of raising a loaf try to bring it to 70 or 75% hydration placing it in a jar that will allow it to double in size without making a mess.a firm starter will leave a more permanent record of its size ... It will often take a very long time to lose its volume also.


If it manages to double in your jar within 12 hours, you are good. Bake some bread! Your starter will probably take a while to develop the flavour and vigor that you desire but that's no reason to wait. Bake.

janisem 2012 November 7

Hi Linda

Nice to compare notes with another Scot...... sorry for the late reply!  And thanks for that Seaniz, I'll give it a go.  I have just baked my 3rd loaf and although a bit misshapen the taste is pretty good, I do  much the same as you, keeping my starter slightly open in a kilner jar on a shelf.  I am finally starting to understand the process and have made the polish bread on this site with good results....I'll post some pictures when I can.  I reduced the rye in my starter to 15% for my last attempt and my dough turned out quite wet and stuck  to the proofing bowl (possibly overproofed?), although the overall result and oven spring  was  good with a lovely dark crust, if a bit misshapen.   Considering adding a bit more rye to my starter or reducing the hydration slightly in the recipe.......still not a lot of sourness.  

I've got a lot to learn and am looking for a good book for Christmas if anyone can recommend.  

Thanks for all the great advice, fantastic site.

Seaniz 2012 November 8

Read along below to see how i got a more noticably sour flavour:

I usually mix half my flour and a bit more than half my water with about 100g of my 70% hydration sourdough (or whatever i have left in the fridge) rise overnight at a cool room temp (17C)  for about 10 hours. In the morning I add in the rest of the water and flour and knead it for about 45 minutes by hand, letting it rest whenever it gets too wet or I get tired or too darn stuck (maybe 20 minutes of actual kneading using as little extra flour on my hands as possible). Then I let it ferment for about 3 hours until it doubles or nearly so.

Finally, I split it into loaves, let it rest, shape it and let it rise 3 more hours and it's perfect.

But the other day I let the final rise take more like 5 or 6 hours and it had a much stronger sour flavor than usual. I've also read that a warmer temp during ferments will give you a stronger flavour but that doesn't seem to be true for my sourdough -- my starter has a stronger flavour based on length of ferment NOT temperature.

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