When To Throw Away Sourdough Starter: Dos and Don’ts

When asked, people will give you varying opinions on whether you should keep or throw out your sourdough starter. However, below we explore this question in more detail below.

When Should I Throw Away Sourdough Starter?

You should throw away your sourdough starter if it smells funky and it is so unbearable that you can’t even stand the smell. If it changes its color to pink or orange that is a sign to just toss it. Last but not least if there’s any mold that resembles mold like on old bread then it is time to throw it away. 

You don’t usually have to feed your starter every day and most times you can still Salvage your starter. But there may be times when you may even forget about your starter which can lead to your starter going bad or they’re being built up because the yeast is no longer able to feed. But I want to emphasize this, there are Bakers out there that will do anything to save their starter and most would just take off the top that’s going bad and continue to then feed their starter.

So when you are deciding on if you should throw away your starter it will highly depend on how comfortable you are with risking it in the case it may be bad. 

We explain how the starter works and what you need to do in order to use it at its best. All this is explained below!

When Is The Best Time To Use Your Starter?

The best time to use your starter is when you notice your starter is starting to rise and a dome starts to form at the top of the liquid and continues to increase in height. After a while, the dome on top starts to reduce and gets flatter. That’s when it’s usually at its Peak and is very active and ready to be used to bake bread.

The key thing to catching the peak at the right time just when you’re about to bake is really timing your starter so it’s active on the right day. For example, if you are not planning to bake you probably wouldn’t feed your starter less frequently versus if you know you’re going to bake you’d start to feed your starter more frequently so that way it’s as active as possible when you are ready to bake. You can start feeding more frequently about 3 days before so it’s ready.

Can I Feed My Sourdough Starter Sugar?

Sourdough starter is made with water and flour in a glass jar or container that you would usually leave out so it can naturally grow yeast. Sugar is mostly used if using package yeast. But it is not necessary to use sugar in a sourdough starter as that is not a common practice. 

If you do decide to add sugar to your starter it is considered to be a bonus and can possibly speed up the process of rising your starter. But it is not required in order to have a good starter. This will come down to preference if you prefer to add sugar to your starter. Some do like to add it for an extra kick.

Can You Keep Feeding Sourdough Starter Without Discarding?

It is possible to keep feeding sourdough starter without discarding but that really depends on how much you’re feeding your starter. On average most will feed only 20 to 30 G of flour and water if it is going to be used or feed it about 5g if there are no plans to use it.

If you don’t manage the amount of feedings that you’re adding to your starter you will end up with an excess amount. A good idea is to only add what you need to use. The key is keeping only a small amount of starter in the fridge and then when you’re ready to bake you would then add the amount of flour and water that the recipe requires. 

How Does A Starter Develop Into Yeast?

Water and flour help the starter create the yeast and necessary bacteria needed to make a good starter. The more frequently you feed your starter which is adding more water and flour to the starter the more it develops. Once you feed the starter bubbles start to be created on the side and top of the jar. 

As it rises a dome will form on top and that’s a great sign that the starter is officially growing. Once it starts to deflate then it is at its peak to be used. 

I believe Bettie from Bettie Baker has a great formula for creating a starter with the right amounts that you will see explained below.

The most common way to add to your starter would be using the 1:1:1 ratio of equal amounts of water and flour.

1= Starter amount

1= Flour amount

1= Water amount

There are ranges of other ratios that you can use but this is the minimum that you would use if you wanted to add more.

For example, if there is 10 G of starter remaining in the jar you would then add 10 G of flour and 10 G of water as a minimum.

The amount of feeding that you add will vary based on if you’re baking or not. Less will be added if not baking and more feeding will happen if planning to bake on a certain day. 

If you need more starter here’s how you would do it: 

According to Bettie Baker, you would increase the ratio in the second position from 1:1:1 to 1:2:2 ratio which would be now 10 (original starter in a jar):20 (flour):20 (water)  

Here are a few ratio variations you can do when making and feeding your starter:

Starter Starting Point (Grams) ex.Ratio for FlourRatio for WaterRatio for StarterTotal Amount Of Starter In Jar 
10g1 (10g)1 (10g)1(10g)30g
10g1 (10g)2 (20g)2 (20g)50g
10g1 (10g)3 (30g)3 (30g)60g

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