My starter has a grey layer on it ok ?



This starter is 6 days old.  As you see, it has a quite grey surface on top.  My recipe for this starter is simple, just same amount of flour and water and fresh the starter  once a day. I tried the same recipe many times , but all the starters had same looking. Does this grey surface mean that my starter has a problem ? 





When stired up , the starter looks like above.  



Here is another question.  After being freshed, the starter begins bubbling up until it becomes double in size.  I guess it takes about 5 ~ 6 hours and  stays there for another several hours then, starts falling down. Should I feed the starter when it shrinks back to the original size or wait for  and keep the next feeding time? ( I have been feeding once a day .)



410 users have voted.


rossnroller 2010 April 7

Hi Moliferno

When the starter begins falling back after doubling in size, it needs feeding (or storing in the fridge until you're ready to begin feeding it up again to get it nice and active for your next bread).  Going by the info you have given, I think it's a good bet that yours requires feeding twice daily at the moment.

My starter is chomping through its feed pretty fast, too, right now. In warmer temperatures, starters are more active - this is the reason mine currently has a shortish feeding cycle, and I'm wondering if it could be the same in your case?

Whatever, I think if you try feeding twice daily you might find that that greyish coating will disappear.



mesourman 2010 April 7

Hi Moliferno,

The grey colour makes me curious. What flour are you using? I'm wondering if that colour comes from rye or something similar?

And Ross, are you sure that it is necessary to feed an active starter more often? I'm guessing that when the starter rises and then collapses, this shows the gluten developing and then becoming over-developed, leading to the collapse. But that could mean that there are still just as many live and active bugs ready to go as soon as you use the starter to make dough. Surely the bugs aren't dying off as quickly as the starter collapses?


I would do the trial myself, except that my starter has gone sluggish, and it may have something to do with changing flours.

Paul B 2010 April 7

The grey color is's called hooch (seriously).  Do a google search on "grey hooch sourdough starter" and you'll find all kinds of information from people more knowledgeable than I am.  You are probably not refreshing often enough or discarding enough when you do refresh.  Good luck!

Geo 2020 June 15

You are correct in that I have not fed it for 2+weeks.  Sitting at room temperature it still shows activity.  I was also using whole-wheat flour.  
I had seen hooch before....but not this grey.

I will feed and continue to use it.



molifemo 2010 April 7



I will try feeding twice a day  when the grey surface forms ...( ususally the grey layer turns up after 3 days...)




molifemo 2010 April 8


The flour  is a kind of wholemeal flour which is from a organic farm .


If  flour is weak for making bread ( I mean,  less gluten in the flour  not thinking other features) , does it affect starter's ability  ?



mlucas 2010 April 8

Instead of refreshing the starter more often you could also try increasing the ratio of "new stuff" to starter, typically by discarding more starter. You didn't say how much starter you were keeping relative to the amount of flour/water added, but a good rule is 1:4:4 or 1:5:5 (starter:flour:water, by weight) for a 100% hydration starter which yours seems to be.

e.g. 1:5:5 - Keep 10g of starter (this isn't much!), add 50g flour and 50g water.
Or 1:4:4 - Keep 15g starter, 60g flour, 60g water.

If you're worried about throwing so much out, you can keep the discard in a separate container in the fridge, as a backup (and can use it to make pancakes once you don't need the backup).

molifemo 2010 April 8

Hi mlucas,


As you said, my starter was 100 % hydreation .


My recipe was like this,


1 day  : 50g of flour and 50g of water

2 day : add 50g of flour and 50g  of water

3 day : add 100g of flour and 100g of water

4 day : keep 100g of starter and discard the rest , then add 50g of flour and 50g of water

5 day : add 100g of flour and 100g of water

6 day ~  : repeat 4 day and 5 day...




rossnroller 2010 April 9


And Ross, are you sure that it is necessary to feed an active starter more often? I'm guessing that when the starter rises and then collapses, this shows the gluten developing and then becoming over-developed, leading to the collapse. But that could mean that there are still just as many live and active bugs ready to go as soon as you use the starter to make dough. Surely the bugs aren't dying off as quickly as the starter collapses?[/quote]

It's not necessary to feed it more often to keep it alive. And a starter that has passed its peak of ripeness and 'collapsed' can still be used to make bread - I've done this a few times. However, my experience is that maximum rise is obtained from a starter at its peak.

lannyripple 2011 January 5

I had grey hooch on my first starter too.  Made some bread with it.  Tasted fine but the dough always seemed WAY over hydrated for the amount of water I was using and didn't want to rise.


I dumped the starter but didn't clean anything clinging to the bowl out and immediately started over with 50g water, 50g flour.  The starter took right away just from the bit of yeast left over from the first attempt.  Another two days of adding 50g+50g and then back in the fridge and normal feeding (once midweek, once on the weekend morning I bake).  Thinking back I was keeping about 1Kg of starter going at the time so I probably did exactly what mlucas suggested above of just keeping 10g of starter and beginning again.


I consider this new sourdough a much better batch.  I still get hooch after its been in the fridge for a while but the color is straw-yellow instead of grey.  The bread dough made now still feels more hydrated (relative to a straight lean dough) but not excessively so like with the other.

joshuacronemeyer 2011 January 7

 You mentioned in one of your follow up comments that you have been feeding it every 3 days... I think that any starter with such a high hydration, at summertime temperatures is going to build up a bit of this stuff.  Don't worry about it.  Like most of the replies say.  Discard everything but a tablespoon of the starter and add fresh flour and water.  You'll be ready to go!  If it really does bother you, I'd recommend storing the starter in the fridge.  You can space out your feedings much further when you keep it in the fridge.

mspulp 2021 February 1

I have been making sourdough on and off for a few years so I know a little. However, my starter has developed some gray tint that never goes away. I've restarted the sourdough several times but it keeps repeating the same cycle which is this: Revive starter from dried chips, becomes active and bubbly, resume normal feeding, bake bread, store in the fridge til the following week, repeat. After several cycles of this I get a grey layer but no liquid like hooch. I scrape the layer off, feed as usual, in several hours it's bubbly and active but grey. Repeat til I get mad, pitch it, and start over again. It's back to normal for a month, then one day, I'll see a tinge of grey, and the cycle starts all over again. Once it turns grey, I can never recover it - even if I save a mere tablespoon and start with a lot of new food. The grey still multiplies no matter what. 

I've done a ton of troubleshooting. I either use organic all purpose or regular flour - I do switch to conventional if I run out of organic. I almost always use Fiji bottled water and store the starter in a clean flip top glass jar. Often keep it in my oven with the light on when it gets too cold in my house which makes it crazy active - often needing to be fed twice per day. I'm super careful about keeping things clean, it doesn't smell "off", and is extremely active. I do not bake with it once it turns grey. It looks like hooch minus the liquid but is dispersed throughout. I've tried feeding it every few hours thinking it was overactive and needed more food. It responds well, rising quickly but still grey. I wouldn't sweat it too much but it keeps happening even with new starters. Any ideas - I'm stumped. Many thanks!!


elizabeth crum 2021 March 6

I have had the same problem as you. I also stopped making the starter.

 I have just started a new batch. Just gave it the first feed. Made pancakes with the dough I removed. I have decided not to put the starter in the fridge.(as I think that could be what turned it grey before.) So I'm just going to bake  more often. Thought I would try Buckwheat pasta made with some of the sourdough.

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