Help, what is happening with my Starter?


I received my sourdough starter about 2 weeks ago, starting reviving as per instructions and it doubled in size in day 2 or 3.  Since then I have been feeding every day or every second day along with discarding some of the original contents.  The smell went from vinegary to nice and there has been minimal amounts of bubble activity but no doubling since the initial time.  After discarding some starter, adding water and flour (a mix of rye and white organic) it has some small bubble activity, no rising, and the next day a layer of watery stuff appears on the top.

Yesterday I started following the recipe from the beginner's guide by  taking a teaspoon of starter, adding water and flour and setting aside for 24 hours, BUT it has not risen, just stayed the same since I mixed the ingredients yesterday morning.  Actually went the same as it does in the previous paragraph.

The recipe (Pane Francese 1) calls for 1/2 cup starter (so that means the starter I set aside yesterday should have doubled to include in this 'production'.  

The question:  What am I doing wrong?  Does the starter have to double in size before every baking?


Thanks in anticipation and frustration!

92 users have voted.


shasta's picture
shasta 2013 January 28

Hi floreal,


In order for a starter to double between feedings it has to be of the right thickness. It isn't really doubling as much as it is rising due to bubbles of gas trapped in the starter. If it's too thin it will bubble and or look foamy but won't rise.

Typically a starter will rise if it has equal amounts of flour and water in it by weight.  This is known as 100% starter because the amount of water is 100% of the amount of flour. Example 200g of water to 100g of flour

If you feed your starter with equal amounts of flour and water by volume you end up with a wetter starter.  A set volume of water is heavier than the same volume of flour.  Typically it varies a bit depending on how airy the flour is but starters fed this way will have a water content that is 150 to 166% by weight to that of the amount of flour by weight. Most just say 166% starter.

If you are not already doing so, I would recommend the use of a kitchen scale to standardize how much you feed your starter by weight. If you feed every time equal amounts by weight you should see the starter thicken and rise between feedings.

The clear watery liquid you spoke of is called hooch and is an indication that your starter needs to be fed. A starter kept at a room temperature of 70° F or 21° C, will need to be fed 1 to 2 times a day.

I typically feed mine twice daily or every 12 hours.


Good luck with your starter and baking.

floreal 2013 January 28

Thanks for your reply.

We are having temperatures in the high 30's here, so should I be putting it in the fridge between feeds?

I need to get scales as I have been adding to the Starter by eye.  Why is it important to get equal amounts every time you add to the Starter?

Can I use some of the Starter even if it doesn't seem to have much activity?


shasta's picture
shasta 2013 January 29


I see this and your other post regarding your successful attempt! Congratulations again! Hope I helped.

Temps in the 30's C is toasty indeed. How often are you feeding while you have it in the fridge? You could try using cold water to keep the temps down for part of the day if you wanted to keep it out.

The main reason for to get equal amounts is for consistency. The more consistent you are with feeding and measuring for your bread, the better the results will be, Also, you were looking for it to rise between feedings which you would see occurring more with equal amounts by weight. Bottom line, as long as you keep feeding it and it seems active, it should work for you. Starters are usually tough stuff.

Best of luck with it.



Post Reply

Already a member? Login