Knowing how to store sourdough starter in the fridge is a handy tool to have in your baker's toolkit.
There are times when you might want to use the fridge to assist you in looking after your sourdough starter - particularly if you need to hit pause on it.
Long term storage on the counter is totally possible if you bake everyday.
However if you have a life outside of sourdough and only bake one a week or twice a month, you may need to store your starter in the fridge.
This article aims to explain how to store your sourdough starter in the fridge, as well as why you would want to and how to bake with your starter out of the fridge.
What Happens To Sourdough Starter In The Fridge?
When you place a jar of sourdough starter in the fridge, the cold temperature will put the starter to sleep.
Your fridge needs to be around 3C. This will slow fermentation down and basically pause your sourdough starter.
The bacteria in your starter will continue to work, but the yeast will basically go to sleep. They will still eat and make your starter rise, but it will happen extremely slowly.
Your starter will still rise and fall. It will even produce hooch if you leave it in there for a very long time.
Benefits of Storing Sourdough Starter in the Fridge
We spend so much time feeding our starter, nurturing it so that it rises within a few hours of feeding.
So why would we then want to stop it from doing this?
There are actually many benefits to storing your sourdough starter in the fridge.
Here are some of the benefits to hitting pause on your sourdough starter by placing it in the fridge:
- you don't need to feed the starter every day when it's in the fridge.
- a sourdough starter in the fridge uses less flour to maintain.
- it can allow you to leave your starter unattended while you're busy with day to day life.
- it can help you to establish a baking routine.
- you can create a more sour starter by using the fridge.
- it allows you to go on vacation stress free (unless you want to take your starter with you).
Many sourdough bakers say that they feel storing their starter in the fridge is less hassle. This can be particularly true once you have a mature starter and have established a baking routine.
You can also freeze your sourdough starter if you want to.
If you have a new starter however, you need to approach the fridge with caution (and I have explained why further down).
How To Maintain Sourdough Starter in the Fridge
Preparing your sourdough starter to go into the fridge is very easy.
I recommend using a 1:2:2 ratio to feed your starter prior to going into the fridge. This means that you feed one part sourdough starter to 2 parts flour and 2 parts water.
This ratio will ensure that your sourdough starter has adequate food whilst it's in the fridge.
So you would take 25g of sourdough starter and feed it with 50g of flour and 50g of water.
You then need to place the lid on the jar and place it into the fridge.
You don't need to wait for your starter to double before you put it in the fridge - otherwise it will have used up all of it's food.
So just feed it, stir and pop in the fridge and it will happily sleep, while slowly snacking 😉
To keep it in the fridge, feed it at least one a fortnight (always discarding before you feed). You don't need to leave it out, you can feed it and put it straight back in the fridge if you aren't going to bake with it.
If you are going on holidays it will survive longer than a fortnight without a feed so don't stress.
If you are looking to store your starter for longer than this, you might consider drying out your starter.
When Is Your Sourdough Starter Mature Enough For the Fridge?
I recommend keeping your starter at room temperature and feeding twice a day until it's mature (you'll find full instructions for establishing a sourdough starter here).
This can take quite a while (at least 6 to 8 weeks usually longer).
This allows your starter to develop a good flavor profile and a strong yeast colony that will rise your bread easily.
If you put your starter in the fridge too soon it will not reach maturity for a long time as the fridge puts it to sleep.
If you can, leaving it on the counter and feeding it daily is always the better option.
So, before you place your starter in the fridge, consider these questions:
- How old is your starter? Is it less than 8 weeks old?
- Does your starter double within 2-4 hours after a feed?
- Are you prepared to feed your starter a few times before you want to bake to ensure it's strong enough to bake with?
If your starter is less than 8 weeks old then the fridge is not the right place for it.
Can I Use Sourdough Starter Straight From The Fridge?
Technically, yes you can use your sourdough starter straight from the fridge.
However it is not advisable to do this because you will be using a sleepy, inactive starter.
This can cause many sourdough bread problems.
It's much better to wake your starter up before you bake.
The way you do this, will depend on how long your starter has been in the fridge. And how it responds to being woken up.
Less Than 2 Weeks:
If you fed your starter 1:2:2 before placing it into the fridge and it has been in the fridge for less than 2 weeks, you shouldn't need to do much to wake it up.
If it's only been a few days, just placing the jar on the counter and letting it warm up should be enough (this is because the yeast and bacteria will not have consumed all of the food yet).
So bringing the starter to room temp and seeing if it rises is the first step.
If the starter rises, you can generally bake with it as is.
If it was closer to 2 weeks, I would advise discarding and feeding at least once before you bake.
More Than 2 Weeks:
If your starter has been in the fridge for more than 2 weeks (but less than 6 months) it will be sleepy, but it shouldn't take much to get it going.
Take it out of the fridge and take 25g of the cold starter. Place it into a clean jar and feed with 50g of flour and 50g of water. Let it double. Then repeat.
If it doesn't double, repeat the process until it does.
6 Months +
If your starter has been in the fridge for more than 6 months, it will more than likely be in bad shape.
It may have a layer of black or dark purple hooch and it will smell horrendous.
However, as long as there's no mold present, you can revive the sourdough starter easily.
You'll find a full guide to reviving an old sourdough starter here.
What If I Leave My Sourdough Starter in the Fridge for a Long Time?
Your starter will survive for quite a while in the fridge, even if you forget to feed it or you go away.
It may develop hooch (meaning it's hungry) and become quite sour but you will be able to revive it by discarding and feeding when you're ready to use it again.
People have been known to revive a starter from the fridge after 2 years or more. So as long as there is no mold, there is always hope.
Something to keep in mind is that you never need to add anything to your sourdough starter. You might hear about adding pineapple juice or raisin water to get your starter going. But there is no need to do this.
If your starter isn't rising after being in the fridge for a long time, you can try some of these tips to boost it.
No - you need to take it out, discard & feed then use at its peak (when it doubles). It will be sleeping in the fridge - and if you waited for it to double before you put it in then it’s used all it’s food & will be passed its peak.
No, you don't need to. Once your starter has doubled, it's used up all of it's food (flour and water) so you increase the chance of the starter making hooch or getting mold. As per the instructions below, just feed and put the lid on and then straight into the fridge.
If you've fed your starter before placing it into the fridge, it should be able to last 2 weeks comfortably without feeding. The starter will still be in good condition if just left for this amount of time. It will last much longer in the fridge, even years, without food. However when you take it out of the fridge it will need a lot of nurturing to get it back to peak condition. You'll need to follow these tips to reactivate your old sourdough starter.
If you found this information on how to store sourdough starter in the fridge useful, you might like these ideas:
- Here is some handy information if you need to revive a starter that has been in the fridge for a very long time.
- Best Time to Use Sourdough Starter
- If you're looking to store sourdough starter long term, drying it out might be a better option.
- Looking for some ways to boost your sourdough starter? These 5 tips for strengthening a sourdough starter will help.
How To Store Sourdough Starter In The Fridge
- Jar with Lid
- Digital Scale
- 25 g Sourdough Starter
- 50 g Flour
- 50 g Water
- Before placing your sourdough starter into the fridge, you need to feed it. I recommend feeding your starter with a 1:2:2 ratio before you place it into the fridge. This just gives it a little more food and ensures it won't go hungry.
- Take 25g of sourdough starter and place into a clean jar. Add 50g of water and 50g of flour. Give it a really good stir to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed through.
- Place the lid on the jar and screw in place.
- Place the jar of starter at the back of the fridge (where it's cold) and leave it there for as long as you need to. It's best if you feed it at least every 2 weeks (if even if you're not using it). However it will survive for quite a while without feeding.