Some advice on my starter would be greatly appreciated!ues

sorry its on its side!

Hi everyone

Sorry to ask what I am sure will be totally silly, basic questions. I am a total beginner to sourdough and am at the making a starter stage.

I have followed the beginners "how to make a starter " guide on the site and am now at day 8 (very helpful and informative btw!). Problem is my starter looks very weedy compared to the day 7/8 starter in the pictures (see pics attatched). I livein London, where it is quite cold at the moment (4-5 deg C outside, adn I guess the kitchen is about 15-19 at best, colder at night). I have used flour from Shipton Mill (ie not just any old supermarket stuff), using the rye/white flour ratios suggested. Starter smells "fruity", no mould, doesnt smell unpleasant.

Do i just need to persist a bit longer with the same flours/ratios, or is it worth trying some wholemeal as well, or in substitute of the white or rye component?

Sorry once again to ask such basic questions and thanks for reading the postand (hopefully!) giving some advice



237 users have voted.


gongoozler 2013 February 11

Hi Paul,

Your starter looks as though it's going fine to me. Just keep on feeding until it's really lively.

The mxture in the photograph looks rather thin. I find my starter seems to respond better when kept fairly thick i.e. 100% hydration (equal parts flour/water by weight).

Your first few loaves may not rise that well but don't be discouraged, they will improve.

Happy baking,


chel 2013 February 11

Hi Paul

I agree our starter looks a little thin. If you're refreshing with equal flour and water, is it doubling in volume, as it looks like its reached the top and deflated back down. If you have the time check it regularly over the next 24 hours and see if it doubles. I live in Scotland, so I have similar temps. My cultures is refreshed twice daily and doubles in volume every 12 hours. When my jar looked like your in the past it had used up all the avaiable food souce (I use Shipton mill flour too, its good). Don't want to tell you how to suck eggs but try and keep a clean jar, I move a teaspoon to a clean jar weekly, to stop mould etc. If your cultures isn't doubling in 24 hours and mine wasn't at day 7-8, leave it for 36 hours between refreshes for a couple of days to give it a chance and change your hydration slightly, maybe 100g flour and 105g water. I've found it helps my culture when the weather is slightly cooler. I use bottled water, not sure if its necessary. Don't worry about wasting too much flour, its only for a short time. Now when I refresh I keep a tbsp culture then add 30g (5-6g rye and 24-25g white) flour and 32g water. In the summer I keep less than a teaspoon as it doubles much quicker and reduce the water slightly. You just need to hang in there and experiment to see what suits you.

Hope this was a help


shasta's picture
shasta 2013 February 11

Hello Paul,

No silly questions here, we've all been where you are in this process at some point.

I too agree with the others that it appears that your starter is to thin to see much rising between feedings. The cooler temps are most likely slowing down the process as well.

Feeding equal amounts by weight and watching it closely between feedings to see if it rises should get you where you want to be. I would not change or add other flour types until the starter is well established. I'm in the U.S. and don't know the brands in the UK but as long as you are feeding a strong protein white bread flour you should see results. Again with the cooler temps thing will react slower. You may only need to feed once a day. If a clear liquid (hootch) appears on the top of the starter between feedings, it would indicate the need to feed more frequent.

Hang in there and best of luck!

humphriespaul 2013 February 11

Thanks so much everyone-

I'm adding 100g water, 30g rye and 70g white flour at each feed, which is in the evening when I'm in from work, about 9pm. It's quite like thick batter at the point just after the feed. I managed to feed it a bit earlier yesterday evening and watched it until 11 pm, but could see no change/reaction at all. This morning it's thin looking as per the photos, with a little more volume and bubbles.

Should I try feeding twice a day? Is it running out of food between feeds and hence looks so thin?

Thanks again for the advice!


gongoozler 2013 February 11

Okay, so your hydration (thick batter) seems fine. Temperature maybe? I made myself a simple warming cabinet which I find perfect for starters and preferments, maybe you could use an airing cupboard or something similar. Warmth definitely makes a big difference, especially in the early stages of developing a starter. Somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees C is perfect IMO.

I live in Shropshire (although I'm a Londoner by birth and upbringing) and I suspect that there are plenty of wild yeasts floating around up here. This may not be the case in London but the bubbles indicate that you are definitely getting yeast activity so I guess it is just a matter of keeping on feeding regularly. You might try marking the level on the outside of the jar with a felt pen to make it easier to judge how much the volume is increasing. IIRC mine (2 years old now) doubles in about 4-6 hours at 25 degrees C.

Shipton Mill flour is certainly excellent. I've also had success with Wessex MIll French Bread Flour (T65) and Dove's Farm products. I'm currently getting good results with Marriage's Extra Strong Canadian but to be honest I don't think the brand of flour makes that much difference to the rising: that's more down to the type of flour - wholemeal always seems to rise less than white. I use bottled water but, like Chel, I'm not sure that it matters.

Let us know how you get on.



grandmamac 2013 February 12

I live in Scotland and have an unheated kitchen which is colder than yours! It only warms up when it's sunny or the door to the living room is open. I haven't been baking long.

When I'm going to bake, I bring my starter into the living room to become really active. It starts bubbling much more quickly and doubles nicely. I can't use my airing cupboard because it has a vent in to the pump for the boiler. I'm not sure it would be good for the culture.

My starter was really thin when I started it but has bulked up much more over time. Is there somewhere warmer you could put it at night even if it needs to be in the kitchen all day?


shasta's picture
shasta 2013 February 12


You could try feeding twice a day, I don't think it would hurt and could just help. More importantly try to maintain a steady temp in the range that gongoozler mentioned above. The little critters in the starter are just like us, they like a good food supply and mildly warm weather.

Other than that its just a waiting game to let them build up numbers and strength.

humphriespaul 2013 February 12

Thanks for all your help and advice -

I have cleaned the jar today and transferred 2 tablespoons of the starter and re-fed tonight. Trying to keep near my boiler , which is the warmest bit of the house (kitchen is 16 degrees today!).


Will keep you posted.... thanks everyone

Best wishes


humphriespaul 2013 February 18

Hi everyone

After all of your advice I moved the starter onto the worksurface above my bioler and just kept persisting, as had been suggested. By day 13 it was bubbling up nicely and doubling in volume. 

I made leaven from it last night as per the tartine country bread recipe and now have 2 loaves having a retarted final rise in the fridge. Plan to bake them tonight. The dough seemed OK, but this is my very first time trying to make such hydrated dough.........

Will post some pictures of the bread when its done, so you can share in my success ..... or more likely - failure!

thanks again, one and all


humphriespaul 2013 February 18


Hi all

Here is my first attempt. 1st attempt at tartine basic country loaf. Haven't cut the loaves yet - leaving to cool overnight. Had some oven issues with the first one - temp dropped to 140 C! my fault entirely. Used La Cloche to bake the loaves. Not as radical oven rise as in the book, but may improve with experience/more mature starter?

Thanks again for all the advice - its been good fun baking today!



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