NEWBIE - how to feed the starter correctly?


Hello!  I've appreciated sourdough recipes my whole life but just now creating my first starter that will be used in everyday baking.  I have a question about how to feed the starter.  The recipe I have calls for adding 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk and 1/4 cup sugar for the feeding.  I currently have 3 cups of starter.  Do I add 3 cups of flour, 3 cups of milk and 3/4 cups of sugar?  The recipe says to reserve at least 1 cup of starter after using some, so it would seem that I should feed those amounts for every cup of starter.  It's almost time to feed, and I want to know how to do this correctly.


Lastly, do I have to separate out the 3 cups of starter into 3 separate containers and feed each separately?  Does it matter?


I have a gaggle of kids so there is no such thing as too many baked goods.  I bake bread, cakes, crusts and all manner of yummies so all this starter will go to good use!  This morning's sourdough pancakes were a big hit.


THANK YOU for taking the time to read and respond!  I'm so glad to find this forum!

377 users have voted.


wforrest_s 2011 January 30

I have not added anything but water and flour to my starter because I believe milk might go sour in a bad way over a long period of time.  My starter is water and flour, extras are added for when I prepare to bake.  I use milk and a  tsp of sugar in my bread. There are many ways with sourdough this is just my way.  When I feed my starter it's water and flour to make a thick pancake batter and I don't mind a few lumps. Sourdough is very forgiving and as long as you give it time to work.  I save some starter in a crock in the ice box which acts as a back up which lasts for a month or so and leave the rest on the counter and use it every few days to keep it active.  pancakes, bread, waffles, biscuits.  The basic starter is always water and flour,  I take the starter needed for the recipe and leave some in the bowl.  When I am ready to bake again I add flour and water to the leftovers and in 8 to 12 hours I am ready to start again.

Love this site, 

andrewd 2011 January 30

Hi ubermama,


Like wforrest_s, my start is just water and flour. Extras (like sugar and milk) go in when you're mixing up your final dough.


There are plenty of goodies in the wheat (or rye) for your wild yeasts to feed on. You don't need to add more food in the form of sugar and milk.


Don't worry about proportions of old starter to new ingredients. Aim to have a few spoonfuls (maybe 50-100g) of starter left over after baking, then feed it enough to make your next batch of bread, like wforrest_s describes above.



Blue Northern 2011 February 1

I agree with previous comments - there should be no need to add anything other than flour and water.

Once I've used some starter for baking (usually about 300 grammes for 2 x 1kilo loaves) I'll keep a further 200 grammes of the old starter and throw the rest away (yes, it feels extravagant but otherwise your starter will just get bigger and bigger). To the 200 gr. of starter I refresh it with double the amount of flour, i.e. 400 grammes, and 200 grammes of water - stick it back in the fridge and it'll keep until next time.

So, for me it's refreshed at 1 part starter: 2 parts flour: 1 part water and always in that ratio. It gives me quite a stiff mix but it works well.

GreenSpyder 2011 February 1

Wow, a cup of flour?  That's a lot.  I keep a pint jar on the counter, and put about 10 grams of flour and just enough distilled water to make a plaster-like consistency.  I do this once or twice a day.  Every third feeding I use whole wheat flour.  It will cycle, after feeding it grows, then shrinks back, then I feed it again.  When it starts to outgrow the jar, I toss some out.  I think a lot depends on the temperature of your counter.  I've seen pictures of those who keep their starter to a ping pong ball quantity, and do just fine.  Good luck, and have fun!

Greg Lehey 2011 February 1

I've seen a number of implausible recommendations for making a sourdough starter, so much that I've written a parody on them.

My method, also described on that page: I keep starters of about 50 g and use them up completely each time. Then I take 50 g of the dough from the new loaf, before adding anything else than flour and water. Certainly milk seems wrong to me too, as does sugar. Maybe the author of the recipe thought it's necessary for the lactobacillus, but there's plenty in the air and on the flour. Greg

Kiwi baker 2011 February 1

 I'm with most of the others in this chain, feed it water and flour only.


The formula is weight of starter, 50% in flour and 50% in water ( or there about's I have a very forgiving starter)


In this part of the world we work in grams which makes life and calculations very easy

abuelita23xxx 2011 March 6


You are where I was 2 years ago. I read tons about how to start a starter, feed a starter, maintain one, etc.  on every site I could find. Finally I found the formula that worked for me and have stuck to it. 

 I have kept 2 different starters in 20 gm. amounts (a little too small in retrospect) in old pill bottles in the fridge for up to 6 months between feedings. (The first time this happened I had forgotten all about them for a couple of months. I fed and watered them knowing full well I had killed them, but they came back without a problem.) Now when I want to bake SD again, I take them out, and feed them as mentioned in the above post by Kiwi baker (50% of the starter weight in flour and water, twice a day). This week, or weekend, I am going to bake a couple of loaves of bread, but then my starters are going to be going back into hybernation. They will be fed and watered, then 50 gms. of each of the revived starters will be placed in their containers, and placed back in the butter keeper of the fridge until the next time, when I will do it all again.

 Very important, tho, is using filtered spring water. Don't waste your time with tap water. Heaven alone knows what may be in it!!!

  Since you will be using it so often, and in such large amounts, you will be able to use all of the starter you are making. (If you have to throw any away, though, remember it makes really good compost food.) I would, however, put a 50 gm. batch of well fed, bubbly starter in the fridge "just in case". The more you feed it the more you have to use. But ONLY flour and water! Keep posting so we know how it's going for you. Diana

Stu.magoo 2011 March 7

If you use your starter frequently put in what you take so 1 cup of batter out 1 cup fresh batter in (just water and flour)

Cheers stu

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