overactive starter


I decided to make a sourdough starter about 4 months ago following the recipe in Betinett's "Crust" book.

I made it up, fermented it as prescribed then baked my first loaves with great success, refreshing the remaining ferment and keeping it in the fridge.  Not baking the bread very often, I refreshed (or fed) the ferment about once a week.  The next time I baked some bread it was incredibly slow to prove (the baked loaf was dense after a 20hr prove), so I decided to allow the ferment to become more active, keeping it at room temerature for a day or so.  After this, I continued to refresh it every few days, and keep it in the fridge.  It was now noticeably more active and the next batch of loaves I made overproofed to the extent they had almost become liquid.  Needless to say I couldnt turn them out to bake and had to throw them away. I have since made successful loaves out of the ferment, but it seems to be very active to the point it's climbing out of the bowl even in the fridge.  Once I refresh it and put it straight back in the fridge, it doubles in size overnight and needs knocking back.

I really want to slow it down a bit and make it a little less active, so does anyone have any advice on how to achieve this?


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farinam's picture
farinam 2013 December 16

Hello baker-dan,

You don't give an idea of quantities but maybe if you reduce the ratio of  new feed to stock it won't  go so ballistic.  But just because it has peaked, it doesn't mean you have to feed it again.  When the food runs out it just goes dormant until some more turns up.

On the other hand, some people would kill to have such an active culture :)

Let us know how it goes.


baker-dan 2013 December 17


My ferment weighs 800g.  When I refresh it, I cut it down to 200g (and bake with the rest or just discard it), add 200g water and 400g flour to restore it to 800g.  It mixes to a stiff dough, then I refrigerate it, and it has doubled in size by the next day......

Luckily I actually work as a confectioner in a Bakery, so have access to excellent quality flour at ridiculously cheap prices.

farinam's picture
farinam 2013 December 18

Hi Dan,

 That is quite a high proportion of feed and could be the reason that you get so much rise.

What some people do with a stiff starter is just to take a piece from their bread dough and put that into the fridge and then use that as the starter for their next loaf.  Sometimes just as is to inoculate the dough or sometimes do a build with a feed to increase the mass and get the activity going the night before.  Sometimes this involves increasing the hydration as well to 100%.

I use a 100% hydration starter and keep a stock of maybe 250g.  For a single loaf,  I take out 90g and feed that up with equal amounts of flour and water to double the mass and also add the same amount  into the stock to maintain the quantity.  That happily sits in the fridge for a week (or more) without attention and has a mousse like structure but doesn't expand a huge amount.

Good luck with your projects.


108 breads's picture
108 breads 2013 December 24

I generally keep anywhere from 10g to 150g of starter. I feed only twice a week and then just a little. If I want to use more in a recipe, I build it up for a few days. If you only make bread once or twice a week, there's no need for 800g of starter. Just feeding the starter will eat you out of house and home.

dinasavta@gmail.com's picture
[email protected] 2013 December 24

Hi there!

I usually keep my starter in the freezer in the form of a frozen tiny ball.When I want to bake,I defrost it overnight and feed it rye flour and water 3 times a day -all the time leaving it on the kitchen table covered by a gauze cloth[to catch more wild yeast]-for 2 days.Of course I liquify the ball first after defrosting it.

I find this is best for those of us who don`t bake every week,or regularly.

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