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How To: Revive Sourdough Starter

Reviving sourdough starter doesn't have to be scary! Don't throw out that old sourdough starter just yet! Revive it with our simple step-by-step guide so you can get back to baking delicious breads and treats in no time at all.

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar...

You're cleaning the fridge mid-September and you come across the sourdough starter you haven't seen since May when the sunshine was calling and the shorts came out.

"Oh my god. FRED!"

Don't worry, you can revive a sourdough starter that's been long neglected in the fridge! Even if you neglected it as long as I did...

May 12, 2021 and September 15, 2021:

  • 126 days
  • ... or 18 weeks
  • ... or 4 months & 3 days

This guide to reviving sourdough starter is dedicated to shorts season.

Neglected sourdough in a container with a layer of black hooch, dated May 12 2021.
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Tips + Tricks

No. 1 --> Almost any sourdough starter can be revived! Don't panic, your fermenty baby is gonna be ok, and you'll be back to sourdough bread baking in no time!

No. 2 --> Take a critical look at your neglected starter, the section below details what to look for. If you have any questions about its status as a possibly healthy starter, scrap it and start fresh!

No. 3 --> Always try to feed your starter with the flour it was raised on. For example, if you've always fed it bread flour, keep feeding it bread flour. The same goes for whole wheat, whole grain, all purpose, rye flour, or gluten-free.

Bubbly sourdough starter in a plastic container.

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Moldy Sourdough Starter

While almost any starter can be revived, I don't play with mold. Fermenting foods takes a little bit of intuition and a little bit of ruthlessness. If something looks, smells, feels, or just could be bad - it finds the garbage quickly.

Look: If your old starter has any kind of mold, toss that bad boy, start fresh with my 24-hour starter recipe, and you'll be just fine! After the mold, look at the hooch - if it has grey or black-ish looking hooch, we're in business! If the starter or hooch is pink-tinged, it's gotta go!

Smell: If the starter smells tangy, like vinegar, alcohol or even nail polish remover, it's safe to use. If it has a musty or moldy smell, toss and start over!

Feel: After a long fridge nap, your starter should be thin and liquid. If it's thick or chunky, toss it and start over!

Bubbly ripe starter.

Reviving Sourdough Starter

  1. Remove the unfed sourdough starter from the fridge and allow it to rest at room temperature for 3-4 hours.
  2. Look closely at the starter, discard immediately if your starter has mold, a pink tinge, or smells musty. These are signs that bacteria have overtaken the yeasts.
  3. If the starter passes the test, stir in the hooch, or pour it off. I prefer to stir it back in to keep my hydration levels correct, but it can be poured off too.
  4. In a clean jar or container, mix 50g of the unfed starter with 50g warm water, stir until combined, then add in 50g flour.
  5. Set aside the fed starter for 12 hours, then feed it again. In a clean jar, combine 50g starter, 50g water and 50g flour. Mark the side of your jar with the height of the starter.
  6. Watch the starter for signs of activity. It may be a little bit sluggish, but you should start to see a few bubbles here and there.
  7. If the starter is close to doubling within 12 hours, wait 24 hours before feeding again. If the starter is not close to doubling by 12 hours later, feed it again - and repeat until the starter doubles within 12 hours, then reduce to a 24 hour feeding period.
  8. Once the starter is revived and doubling regularly, it should be maintained on the counter and fed every 24 hours for 4-5 days. This will help get your starter healthy again before it's placed back in the fridge.
  9. Ensure to feed your starter weekly or bi-weekly once it's in the fridge to keep it healthy and active and ready for sourdough baking!

Sourdough Starter Feeding + Maintenance

There's a lot to sourdough, but there's also not a lot to sourdough! One of the things you'll have to decide is how often you'll be baking. For me, in the fall and winter months, I bake much much more frequently. So I actually use different sourdough feeding and maintenance methods depending on the time of year.

Daily to Bi-weekly Baker

  • you'll want to keep your starter at room temperature and feed it daily. This will keep it warm and active whenever you're ready for it!
  • feed it around every 24 hours. You can play with the feeding schedule a bit, once you get to know your starter and how hungry it is. The starter should be fed after the culture doubles in size and deflates.

Weekly or Less Frequent

  • keep your sourdough in the fridge! This slows down the fermentation time considerably and allows you to feed your sourdough only once a week.
  • simply remove it from the fridge, then stir and feed, and rest for 12-24 hours at room temperature before starting with your recipe. Once the fed starter doubles, it is ready to use!
6 sourdough brownies lined up in rows with one missing a bite.
Check out these delicious sourdough brownies!

More Awesome Sourdough Recipes To Inspire You!

Long-Term Sourdough Storage

If I had been smart, I would have used the remainder of my sourdough from the fridge and revived a backup I saved much earlier last year. But I'm always up for a challenge, so I decided to revive my starter. If that's not for you, check read my post about long-term sourdough starter storage.

Freeze it:

  • Freezing a sourdough starter is a quick and easy way to take a break from your starter.
  • It's quick and easy to do.
  • Requires no feeding until thawed.

To revive the frozen starter simply allow it to thaw at room temperature before feeding it with equal parts of starter, flour, and water.

Dry it:

  • A bit more involved than freezing, but kinder to the yeast in the starter.
  • Requires no special tools.
  • May take a bit longer to revive than a frozen starter.

To revive the dried sourdough starter, mix equal parts, by weight, of the dried starter and warm water. Allow it to completely re-hydrate the starter and then feed it with equal parts of starter, flour, and water.

📖 Printable Recipe

Bubbly sourdough starter in a plastic container.
Yield: 1

How To: Revive Sourdough Starter

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Do you have a sourdough starter that you've been meaning to use, but it's just sitting in the back of your fridge for months? All you need to do is follow our simple instructions and before long, your forgotten sourdough starter will be revived and ready for baking delicious bread and treats in 3 days or less!

Ingredients

  • 50g unfed sourdough starter
  • 500g flour, divided
  • 500g water, divided

Instructions

  1. Remove the unfed sourdough starter from the fridge and allow it to rest at room temperature for 3-4 hours.
  2. Look closely at the starter, discard immediately if your starter has mold, a pink tinge, or smells musty. These are signs that bacteria have overtaken the yeasts.
  3. If the starter passes the test, stir in the hooch, or pour it off. I prefer to stir it back in to keep my hydration levels correct, but it can be poured off too.
  4. In a clean jar or container, mix 50g of the unfed starter with 50g warm water, stir until combined, then add in 50g flour.
  5. Set aside the fed starter for 12 hours, then feed it again. In a clean jar, combine 50g starter, 50g water and 50g flour. Mark the side of your jar with the height of the starter.
  6. Watch the starter for signs of activity. It may be a little bit sluggish, but you should start to see a few bubbles here and there.
  7. If the starter is close to doubling within 12 hours, wait 24 hours before feeding again. If the starter is not close to doubling within 12 hours, feed it again 12 hours after the initial feed- and repeat until the starter doubles within 12 hours, then reduce to a 24 hour feeding period. When the starter has reached the 24 hour feeding cycle, it is ready to bake with.
  8. Once the starter is revived and doubling regularly, it should be maintained on the counter and fed every 24 hours for 4-5 days. This will help get your starter healthy again before it's placed back in the fridge.
  9. Ensure to feed your starter weekly or bi-weekly once it's in the fridge to keep it healthy and active.

Notes

moldy sourdough starter

While almost any starter can be revived, I don't play with mold. Fermenting foods takes a little bit of intuition and a little bit of ruthlessness. If something looks, smells, feels, or just could be bad - it finds the garbage quickly.

Look: If your starter has any kind of mold, toss that bad boy, start fresh with my 24-HOUR STARTER RECIPE, and you'll be just fine! After the mold, look at the hooch - if it has grey or black-ish looking hooch, we're in business! If the starter or hooch is pink-tinged, it's gotta go!

Smell: If the starter smells tangy, like vinegar, alcohol or even nail polish remover, it's safe to use. If it has a musty or moldy smell, toss and start over!

Feel: After a long fridge nap, your starter should be thin and liquid. If it's thick or chunky, toss it and start over!

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

15

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 127Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 4g

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Lydia

Monday 7th of November 2022

Am trying to revive mine today to get ready for winter baking. Mine has been in the fridge since April, I fed. It had greyish hooch and smell c like vinegar. I used mostly rye flour, hope that is ok. Waiting to see what happened after 22 hours. Thanks for your post. It’s very helpful!

Ally

Monday 7th of November 2022

It should be just fine! Good luck!

Ps. I'm happy we're back in winter baking season LOL

Erin Christensen

Tuesday 16th of August 2022

Hi there! I’m so thankful you have this post! I’m reviving mine and I poured out the hooch and scraped as much off as I could. I fed it and 24 hours later, I now know it’s supposed to be 12, it was hoochy on top again. I fed it less than 12 hours today and it’s hoochy. Am I doing it right? Im doing equal parts of of starter, water and whole wheat flour. Do I need more water? This is what I’ve always done though but im wondering if I need more because I poured off the hooch.

Ally

Saturday 3rd of September 2022

The small amount of hooch you poured off won't overly affect the hydration of your sourdough starter, eventually, it will get back to 100%. If the starter has hooch on top it's cause it's hungry, just keep up what you're doing and it will bounce back!

Danielle

Monday 18th of April 2022

when we let it sit, do we put a lid on it? Thanks!

Ally

Tuesday 19th of April 2022

Yes you can put a lid on it, ensure it's not airtight though!

lettie

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

Is there any discarding done at all during this reviving process? Thanks for your answer in advance!

Ally

Tuesday 25th of January 2022

Yes, you'll be discarding all but the 50g of starter you use every day. You can save the discard in a container in the fridge and bake discard recipes, like in sourdough discard brownies!

Krystal-Kay Hawkins

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

Once I have my starter revived, how do I scale it up for bigger bakes? Do I use the same ratios of starter, water, flour in larger equal increments?

Ally

Tuesday 25th of January 2022

When you're ready to scale your starter, add equal amounts of starter, flour and water! You could do 100g starter, 100g water and 100g flour - just be aware that it multiplies super fast so you can end up with way more starter than you need!

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