Is my starter dead?


Hi there, 

I started my sour dough starter on Friday evening using 175g strong white flour and 175ml tap water and mixed with 4 chopped up green grapes. (I'm following Paul Hollywood's sour dough starter recipe here). 

By Sunday it was bubbling away so I thought everything was fine. On Monday the bubbling had died down and so I decided to feed the starter by discarding half of it, and adding in 100g flour and 100ml water. I gave it a good stir and put it back in the jar. Since then, no more bubbles, and a layer of liquid has formed on top of the starter (see picture). According to the recipe I'm following it is supposed to be good to use in a dough now, but since it isnt bubbling and looks like not much is happening, I'm scared that its dead.

Should I risk using it in a dough or just start over?





282 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2013 April 17

Hello Rachel,

I would think that you need more time to get a starter going than just a couple of days.  I would suggest that you follow the method that SourDom gives on this site on his beginners blog.  You can build on what you have or start from scratch but I have found that the blended flours of wheat and rye is a good reliable source of the yeasts and bacteria that you need.  It will go through stages as the balance of the creatures change as the acidity of the sourdough develops but press on regardless for the week to ten days that it can sometimes take to get a good mature starter.

Good luck with your projects.


CHRISGREEN1066's picture
CHRISGREEN1066 2013 April 18

Hi Rachel,

How are you getting on with your bread making. Like you I started recently because of Paul Hollywood and have been enjoying it. I bake bread most days. I have struggled with sourdough but seem to have resolved some of my problems. Having read your post about your starter I was left wondering if you had resolved it ? Chris

SteveTwigg's picture
SteveTwigg 2013 April 19

I started with Paul Hollywood's recipe (my first attempt).  Mine started bubbling from time to time but in the end I threw it, as it looked lifeless.  I started my next one using equal amounts of stoneground, unbleached white flour and bottled water.  On about the 4th day I introduce some wholemeal flour.  It has now started bubbling well.  I am hoping I will be able to bake this weekend.  I also used 'Kilner' jars, as Paul Hollywood suggested, and 2 of them have cracked - possibly due to the build up of gas!  I am now leaving them slightly ajar.

Yaz 2013 April 19

I started two sourdough starters at the same time to see which would be better, Paul Hollywood's and Hugh Fernley Whitingstsll's.  Initially,  Hugh's bubbled away and grew tremendously.  I fed it and it turned to sludge exactly like your picture.  BUT - Paul's started bubbling away so I fed them both......and now I have two jars of sludge! WHAT'S GOING ON and how can I fix it!!

Electricboots 2013 April 19

Hi guys,

I have been down this road of sludgy starters and I only get it with white wheat flour- I have been told that it happens because white flour is too low in nutrients to keep the beasts fully fed and active. The outer coat of the grains holds the nutrients and is not there in white flour. That liquid hooch on top is a sign of starvation too. Try taking a tablespoon of the mix at the bottom and add to 50:50 by weight wholemeal rye flour/water. You will probably need to feed at least once per day to keep up the nutrients and hopefully it will come good after a few days of care.  Rye based starters are really mousse-like and seem to be OK in the fridge for a week or more without feeding once they settle down. Just use 20 g rye starter to kick off a white wheat starter mix (same 50:50 by weight). You might need to feed a second time before baking. Use all the wheat starter in the bake as they don't hold over and just go to sludge if kept in my kitchen, no matter what I have tried.

Farinam has good success with blended wheat & rye but I have never tried this myself.

I keep my starters in straight sided plastic storage containers so if there is a bit of extra gas it just lifts the lid with no damage.


Marie Bright 2019 January 19

This is a week and a half already and my starter is doing nothing at all.  It smells nice, tastes fine and there are 'some' bubbles but not a whole lot.  Last night I mixed in a cup of rye flour and 2/3 c water, after discarding some from the original plastic tub and now my mixture is in a glass mason type jar.  I have it sitting by our fireplace because our home is not warm and rather on the chilly side.  Please help!  Do I have to throw it out?  I am so frustrated and feel it is taking too long but if I can save it, then I will.

Kandace 2019 February 12

I was having the same problem until I watched a Utube video on how to make the yeast.  Every morning I would take 3 tablespoons of the starter and put it into another clean jar, add 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, and 1/3 cup of warmed filtered water.  After doing this for about 5 days, my starter finally bubbled up nicely.

By the way, it doesn't hurt to also add 2 tablespoons of flour and one tablespoon of water in the evening too (without dumping any out).  It seemed to speed up the process.


I have about 1/... 2019 March 11

I have about 1/2 tsp.of Carl's dry starter left. How do i preserve it? freezer?

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