Lazy starter


Hi everyone,

I did not think that it would ever come to this, but after I went overseas for 3 weeks my formerly loyal starter has descended into a severe sulk! Any advice on the cheering up would be appreciated.

I started the refreshing last Wednesday, taking the container from the fridge and discarding the top layer. I put 20 g into a clean container and started my normal feeding with organic wholemeal rye flour and water (100% hydration). Fed again Thursday am and again Friday am. I normally make my dough Friday evening but the starter did not look fully ripe and I was going out so I left it until early Saturday morning when it looked bubbly and fine to make dough. I made the dough (2 loaves) and set to rise. It was slow but OK so around 3pm I shaped the loaves, intending to bake after dinner.  They just sat there flat in the bannetons from then on, so I put the bannetons in the fridge overnight. Still completely flat in the morning (6 am) so pulled out and put on the bench. Still flat but I baked one at around 11 am in case it would come good in oven- came out like a turkish loaf!  I eventually composted the other uncooked in the late afternoon as it had not risen at all from the morning. This was all happening with ambient temp around 25 C.

I have made hybrid bread since using some of the starter from feeding so we have bread for sandwiches, but the starter overall still looks sullen with only a low level of bubbles.

I can only think that the good amount of bubbles that led me to make the bread was some kind of false effect from an invading yeast and I had hardly any of the original organisms left. I would love to know what the experts think!



302 users have voted.


highsky's picture
highsky 2013 October 2

For longer periods (8 - 30 days) without feeding  you can use the freezer.

Mine was also not happy when it came out from the cold after a long period.

So i started the  feeding for 3-4 days and let it half open in a 28 C temperature.

Worked for me, but use whole meal and strong wheat flour.





108 breads's picture
108 breads 2013 October 11

I usually put my starter in the freezer as well if I will be away for more than a week. When I return, it takes a week of being on the counter, not in the fridge, and being fed twice a day for a week for my starter to become its happy, bubbly self again.

I would keep the starter out and feed it twice a day. Try to keep it in a warm spot. I would give the starter a week or more before using it again.

PetraR 2013 October 18

I have my Starter on the Kittchen counter and my backup starter in the Fridge.

I feed my backup starter every 2 weeks, I let  him warm up a bit, stir him very well ,take half out and feed him, I usually let him sit out for the rest of the day before I put him back in the fridge.

I once forgot to feed him for a month, so I took him out, made sure he got to room temperature before I stir him very well and do the feeding.

The one in the fridge is a thinner consistancy and has a more sour taste than the one that is out on the counter * which my hubby and kids prefer *, so I do use the back up one regulary.

I need to feed him about 3-5 times every 12 hours before he bakes a fine more sour bread that I * German Lady here * prefer.


Do not give up on your starter, give him some time, leave him out and do stir him every so often too to make the little yeasties happy:)

Electricboots 2013 October 21

I tried everything and wrestled with this sick starter for over 2 weeks but it had developed a sinister orange colour and weird smell by the end and even personal advice from Graham did not do the trick so I released it to the wilds of my compost bin and made a fresh start. The new starter was set up Thursday last week and it has developed so well over the weekend that I am going to try a loaf of hybrid bread this evening. I expect to be back baking sourdough next weekend if all continues to go well. The colour and odour of the new starter are much the same as how my old one was before I went away, so I suspect that an infection of an invading organism took control.

I am now thinking that I probably should have started fresh as soon as I returned home and saw how bad the situation was.

aceaston's picture
aceaston 2013 October 24

That orange stuff was probably Rope. You were wise to throw it out. It isn't poisonous, but it isn't considered fit for human consumption either. It's a bacteria that can contaminate flour and flour products, especially if it gets a little damp. It is more likely to occur in whole grain flours and brans or in sours if the acidity drops too low. If you see that orange again, it is likely your flour is infected and you would need to throw all your flour out and wash everything that touches flour throughly and then rinse in a vinnegar solution. If you don't see it again, it was likely just your sour that was infected, due to it's being underfed and becoming too alkalyde. I'm hoping it's the latter.

Electricboots 2013 October 25

Thanks for the advice Aceaston! I don't think the problem was quite as bad as Rope, but it was some type of invader that hit my old starter while it was down. The new starter is coming along really well and I have been making hybrid bread with it this week. I am planning to throw off the training wheels this weekend and go for a regular sourdough loaf. There has been no sign of weird colours or smells in the new jar, fortunately.

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