Starter not doubling in size and bubbles have got smaller



Started my starter 7 days ago.  First 2 days I was getting great activity, after day 4 the bubbled have got smaller nd the mixture appears to be like a batter, separating water, to rectify, I have tipped out half the starter and just added flour and placed in the oven (just with the oven light on to create heat as it is quite cool here in Melbourne).  For the past few hours I can see big bubbles but no activity in the sense that it will double in size.  Any ideas.  I'm desperate for this to work.  The starter still smells fine and there is no mould of anything like that!  Any help would be appreciated.


I lost an old dough given go me by someone to make a multigrain bread by adding self raising flour, so I have no alternative but to make my own starter :)

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farinam's picture
farinam 2011 November 13

Hello mimig,

I think it is quite common for the apparent activity to vary in the early stages of getting a starter going.  Consistency of activity improves with age as the micro population stabilises and forms the right balance of yeasts and bacteria.

You don't say which method you are folowing but you certainly can't go past the great advice in Sourdom's blog following the link just in the panel at the right. 

Using a percentage of rye flour is a good way to give the active population a boost if you are not using it already.

If the hydration is high, the gas bubbles can rise to the surface and escape and so the volume increase is not so great.  The fact that you are getting separation seems to suggest that your hydration might be a bit high so perhaps try adding a little less water.

Let us know how you go and perhaps you could give a bit more detail so that we can diagnose a bit better (perhaps).


mimig64 2011 November 13

 Hi Farinam,

Thankyou for responding.  Basically I am using a starter recipe I found on the Internet, using whole wheat flour & water.  1 cup flour to 1\2 cup water, wait 12hrs, then throw out half and keep feeding.  I have found this to make the starter too wet & have basically stopped adding the water.  I also believe feeding every 12hrs is not giving the starter a chance, hence the reason why I just added a small amount of whole wheat flour.

I have my starter in the oven with just the light on, I am in Melbourne Australia and have found the weather to be quite cool, hence when I found this site, I have followed the basic principals.  Pretty happy so fat, except I am not getting any rise.  The bubbles forming are pretty big but not all over the surface.  I can see 3 bubbles joined together which indicates my starter is doing ok.

Do you thin I should disturb it by taking out half & refreshing with new flour and water?

 I really appreciate the help, I have been at a loss for days and now I am on day 8 and really wanting to get my starter back somehow so I can bake my multigrain loaf!

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 November 13

Hello mimig,

The following link should take you to one of my blogs with some pictures of my starter.

My feeling is that it is best to weigh ingredients so that you have control although obviously it is not absolutely essential.  My starter is 100% hydration and has the consistency of a thick batter - it will flow quite slowly off a spoon and will leave a thick layer (perhaps 5-10mm).

As has been mentioned, using rye flour can be helpful. I use 10g rye and 35g bread with 45g water as my basic feed after removing 90g of starter.  When you are getting your starter going you throw that away but when you have your starter established you use that 90g to build to make your bread.

The oven/light technique is OK but it would pay to check the temperature that it gets to, if you can, just to be sure that it is not too warm.

The higher temperature will certainly accelerate the rate at which the food supply is consumed which could mean that the peak in activity is occurring in quite a short time and that by the time you look at it, it has peaked and gone dormant again.  Perhaps you should try it out on the bench again just to make sure that is not happening.

The main thing is to be patient - it won't happen overnight, but it will happen!


mimig64 2011 November 13

 Hi Farinam,

I can say after looking at your blog, my starter looks nothing like that, it more looks like porridge but with a few big bubbles on top.

Everyone suggests getting bakers flour & rye, not sure where to get this from?  Any ideas.  I may have to start again.  Must say I'm pretty disappointed right now.  The jar & bowl are in the oven with the light on, I might just leave it for 24hrs without doing anything & see what happens.

Your starters look fantastic & that is what I am expecting to see every morning but nothing is happening.  It still smells fine& I am not getting the separation!

I'll wait & see and see what happens.  Fingers crossed, I will get some activity


farinam's picture
farinam 2011 November 14

Hello mimig,

You can generally get bread flour at Safeway.  Laucke Wallaby comes in a 5kg bag and is very acceptable and I generally use that.  Defiance is a fall back position.  There are also a number of other sources from specialist suppliers though the price is generally higher.  Health food shops in most shopping centres would have flours of various types - including rye.

It will look like porridge when freshly mixed or when the gas has all escaped.  I am not sure how often you are observing what is happening but at higher temperatures the action can be quite fast.  That is why I suggested leaving it out and watching it through the day just to make sure you are not missing something.

Hang in there and keep us informed.

I look forward to the Eureka moment!



rayreid0408 2011 November 13

May I suggest a radical approach that always works for me!

Take out one teaspoon full of starter & in a clean jar add one tablespoon of Rye flour two tablespoons of unbleached Bakers flour and one third cup of water mix it to the consistincy of cream, you may need to add a little more water or Rye flour as the case may be to get the consistency right. Now- look for a good place to leave it!! some find the top of the tv or stereo is a nice warm place every home has such a nice warm place, leave it for 24 hrs & re-do the water & flour it will usually double within two feeds.

Also organic rye flour works better than wholegrain flour. When you have it doubling every day or twice a day you can start leaving it in the fridge till you want to use it, take it out in the morning & feed it then when it rises BAKE.

Enjoy the experience Ray.

mimig64 2011 November 14



Ive just purchased the plain bakers flour, tipped out most of the culture & added 50/50 water & flour!  Hope this works, couldn't get any rye :(


I'll repost in 24hrs....fingers crossed!

HopesHope 2011 November 15

Unfortunately Wheat will not give you the rise you are looking for.  If you want the rise while you are making the actual bread, you can use wheat gluten, and it will provide you with the rise.    


You can use plain flour [which you have] or bread flour as well and it works well, and when you are actually making the bread, use your wheat flour, mixed with the white flour, unless you want a full wheat, then use the wheat gluten.  3 tablespoons of wheat gluten to a bread recipe works great.






Merrid 2011 November 16

Mimig is talking about STARTER, not dough. White bread (high protein) flour is perfectly good for starter development - I use nothing but, as I don't much like the flavour of rye or the heaviness of wholemeal. Rye and wholemeal may hasten the development of a starter as they have a different mix of nutrients. You don't need much rise in a starter anyway - it's just a rough guide to activity. You also don't need added wheat gluten when making bread, if your technique is right.


And you should be careful when talking about "cups" and "tablespoons" to say what sizes you are using - they are NOT the same the world over. That's why recipes on this site are stated in grams, as weighing is much more accurate and doesn't rely on a mythical world-wide standard of volumetric measuring equipment and method.


Mimig, I wish you well on your starter journey - your starter is still very young and you will need to be a bit patient for it to reach maturity. I don't think you need to use the oven at this time of year, even in Melbourne - your starter will develop very nicely at temperatures even as low as sub-10 degrees C, although it will be slower than at higher temperatures. If you keep it warm and only feed it once a day, it might be that it's already run out of food by the time you check it 24 hours later. Farinam is right - you should leave it out and check it more often, say every 12 hours. You'll get a better idea of what it's doing then. And I hope you are covering it after you feed it? If you let it dry out on top that will hinder the activity.


Also, if you can't find a local health food shop that sells rye and aren't able to travel in your local area to see what you can find in the way of bread-making supplies, you can always look online. There are a number of suppliers on the eastern seaboard that will home deliver, and if you buy in bulk it will still work out cheap enough.


mimig64 2011 November 16

 I can say my starter is not bad, I gave some to a friend and man, here's is FANTSTIC.  I think it's the heat factor, my place is quite coldish, yes, in Melbourne! Unsure how to keep it warm.  I have purchased a jar now as I am nearly at my wits end.  Fall back plan is for my friend to give me some of hers :(. Not the same thing as growing your own

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 November 16

Hello mimig,

I find it a bit hard to believe that your house would be too cold for your starter - unless of course you live in a refrigerator :)

Our house is well insulated and stays quite cool but I have no problems even in the wintertime. Things do move a little more slowly then.  Mine was on the bench overnight and went gang-busters.

If you have a thermometer, then perhaps you could check what your room temperature actually is.  If you don't have one and the house has a heating system, then the controller will usually tell you the room temperature.  Air conditioning could do the same depending on the type.

Whilst it is nice to grow your own, it is also no embarrassment to get some from your friend - after a while it will be just the same as if it were yours - IMHO.

Hang in there.  I am sure it will all come good in time.

BTW, I sent you a couple of private messages.  Not sure whether you got them but, if you look at the top of the page it should have a messages indicator and you click on the link to go to them.


mimig64 2011 November 16

 Hi Farinam

I didn't get your private messages, sorry.  I watch my starter, believe me, I watch it ALL the time and if you think I have gone mad, I speak to it...hahahaha, so it is cool here, I sterilized the jar with boiling hot water for 10min, emptied it and dried it.  Put the continuing saga of the starter, fed it with the flour/water mix as recommended on this site.  Lo and behold,as the jar was still pretty warm, started getting Loads of bubbles, but surface ones.  Now what i think is happening is the starter is active and only then heat is applied somehow.


I now have the starter in the study, with a lamp on it and wrapped in a possum wool beanie, I mean I can't do much more than this, surely????

Waiting now for the miracle....


HopesHope 2011 November 16

Even if the house is cold the starter will take longer, but it will always work.     


If the lamp doesn't work, you can always purchase a heating pad and place the jar on that, or find a closet and put the starter in there...   Which is what I did when I started because I live in Canada, and our winters can be quite harsh.  It took mine almost a complete month before it took off and performed the way it should.


Don't give up, you just have to find the right place in your house for it. 

mimig64 2011 November 21

 Hey gang,


I have liftoff, I must say I have many bubbles below the surface & can see activity, it smells fruity & am pretty excited.  It only happened when I used the rye flour which I havef found at the health food shop!

Just want to make my multigrain bread & maybe a normal sourdough as I love it, but don't have a recipe!  An suggestions on a tried & successful sourdough recipe?

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