How to maintain a sourdough starter
A sourdough starter can be maintained either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. There are pros and cons to both methods. Maintaining a starter at room temperature means your starter will be active and ready to bake faster than if stored in the fridge.
However, it’s quite a commitment to keep it at room temperature because it will need very regular feedings – at least every 12 hours. Storing a starter in the fridge on the other hand means you can wait for much longer between feedings.
Room temperature sourdough starter maintenance
Room temperate is the best temperature for a sourdough starter in the sense that the yeast will multiply best in a warmer environment. This is particularly for a new starter. Room temperature is between 21°C and 26°C/ 70°F and 80°F.
However, because the fermentation process happens quickly in these temperatures, it must be fed regularly to stop the yeasts and bacteria from running out of food.
If you keep up with regular discarding and feeding at room temperature, the lactobacillus colony in the starter will thrive and you’ll have a healthy starter. As they thrive, the amount of lactic acid they produce will inhibit mold growth and harmful bacteria.
If you miss feedings while storing the starter at room temperature, the chance of mold and bad bacteria growing in the starter is very likely.
When storing a starter at room temperature you will need to feed it daily. How many times daily depends on the feeding ratio you are using.
At a ratio of 1:1:1, you will need to feed it at least twice daily, if not more. The best way to maintain your starter at room temperature is to feed it twice a day at 1:2:2 (once every 12 hours), or three times a day at 1:1:1.
These frequent feedings may need to be increased even more if the environment is very warm. You will need to gauge your own environment and see how the starter rises.
Sourdough starter maintenance fridge
Once your starter is well established, it can be refrigerated when it isn’t being used. Feed it beforehand and let it sit at room temperature for an hour or two, then place it in a sealed jar in the fridge.
A feeding of 1:1:1 can be used if you plan to use your starter again in the next day or two. Use the ratio of 1:2:2 if you don’t plan to bake for a week.
When you’re ready to bake with the starter that has been in the fridge, you can give it an extra feed before creating your starter for the bread. This will ensure the starter is in peak condition after being in the cold fridge.
If you’re planning to start making a sourdough bread recipe, remove the cold starter from the fridge the evening before and feed it 1:2:2 and leave it at room temperature overnight. The next day you can feed it and use it as you need to for the recipe.