There are loads of books and blog posts that detail the “proper” way to maintain a sourdough starter. However, I think the best way is one that works for your schedule. Here’s how I maintain my starter in an easy, practical way that fits into my schedule.
The person that gifted me my sourdough starter (Thanks Abbott!) suggested adding equal parts starter and new ingredients every 24 hours. The new ingredients are just flour and water. The flour I use is a mixture of King Arthur Flour (KAF) bread flour and whole wheat flour. To make refeeding easier, I keep a container of 50% bread flour and 50% whole wheat flour on the counter.
I refer to the addition of new ingredients as splitting or refeeding my starter. I maintain a liquid starter at 100% hydration, so it has equal parts flour and water. Every split or refeed of the starter has equal parts of starter and new ingredients which is a 1:1 split.
I’ve tried 3 different ways to maintain my starter:
- Feed 1:1 with 50/50 KAF Bread flour/ KAF Whole wheat flour every 24 hours
- Feed 1:1 with 50/50 KAF Bread flour/ KAF Whole wheat flour every 12 hours
- Feed 1:1 with 50/50 KAF Bread flour/ KAF Whole wheat flour and hold in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Since the activity of the yeast and bacteria depend a lot on the temperature which fluctuates widely with the seasons, some people depend on the appearance of their starter, instead of the elapsed time since the last feed. I use glass jars for my starter because I like looking through the sides, however, traditional crocks are opaque and the baker only sees the top of the starter. Here are a series of pictures of the surface of my starter over 12 hours.
And, with the benefit of transparent sides, here is a short video of my starter in the 12 hours after being fed. You can see it doubles in volume about 3.5 hours after feeding. It reaches maximum volume after 5.5 hours, and then begins to recede. After 12 hours, it’s still very active and passes the float test.
In my kitchen, at 63-68 degrees F, after 24h the starter does not pass the float test. Using a 1:1 feed with 50% bread flour and 50% whole wheat flour, my starter floats 12 hours after being fed. As a test to see if the starter from the 24h split has a lag in the next passage, I split the starter from the 24h and the 12h split with 50% bread flour and 50% whole wheat flour. After 12h, both starters floated. So, the starter is fine to split after 24 hours, but not for leavening bread.
Some weeks, I don’t have the time to maintain my sourdough starter every 12 or 24 hours, so I put it in the fridge for a few days, and revive it with a series of 12h feeds before baking a new loaf.
How do you maintain your starter?