Knowing how to store sourdough starter properly is very important.
Making sure that your sourdough starter is cared for and stored correctly will have positive effects on your sourdough baking endeavours.
There are lots of reasons to "save" your sourdough starter - from having a sourdough insurance policy to establishing a regular sourdough baking routine.
Whatever your reason, this post will help you to store your starter in a way that suits your baking style.
This article will show you how to store sourdough starter in the following ways:
- Keeping sourdough starter on the counter
- Putting sourdough starter in the fridge
- Drying sourdough starter
- Freezing sourdough starter
- Crumbling sourdough starter into flour
- How to revive sourdough starter
Maintaining Sourdough Starter on the Counter
Leaving your sourdough starter on the counter is best if you are baking every day, or at least every few days.
Leaving it at room temperature means that you don't have to worry about it becoming dormant and it's pretty much ready to use whenever you want to bake.
You get the convenience of being able to bake sourdough whenever you please.
The only negative to this is that you need to feed the starter regularly. It really doesn't take much to ensure you have a well nurtured starter on the counter, but it will take a little time out of your busy day.
Before storing your sourdough starter somewhere other than your counter, I recommend waiting until it's mature.
This can take quite a while (at least 3 to 4 months - usually longer).
This allows your starter to develop a good flavor profile and strong yeast colonies that rise your bread easily.
In addition to this, I don't recommend splitting it into 2 or more starters, feeding your discard or even sharing discard with a friend to make their own starter. Just concentrate on building a nice, strong starter first. I've written more about this topic here.
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.
Similarly, if you dry a fairly immature starter, it's going to take longer to revive it and turn it back into liquid starter.
Storing Your Starter In The Fridge
Many people want to store their sourdough starter in the fridge because it is convenient. It means not having to feed the starter every day.
Storing your sourdough starter in the fridge will means some prior planning when you want to bake.
However, like anything, once you do it a few times, you'll find a method and routine that works for you.
You'll need to feed your starter before you put it in the fridge. This will ensure that the bacteria and yeast colonies in your starter have adequate nutrition while they sleep.
Your starter will still rise and fall in the fridge, but it will be at a much slower rate than if you left it on the counter.
You'll find full instruction for how to feed and store your sourdough starter in the fridge here.
Drying Sourdough Starter
Drying sourdough starter is probably one of the best (and easiest) ways to preserve it.
If stored correctly, dried sourdough starter will last a lifetime!
You'll find full instructions for drying sourdough starter here - including tips to ensure that your starter dries successfully every time.
It depends on your climate as to how long this will take.
It must be completely dry as any moisture will allow mold to form.
I find that as it dries, I break the larger pieces up and it enables the starter to dry through completely.
To store it, crumble it up and store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.
You will be able to share your starter with friends in this way. You can let them know how to get a dried starter going again with these instructions.
If you want your starter to be a fine powder, rather than just crumbled, you can pulverise it with a motar and pestle or in a food processor or Thermomix.
Can You Freeze Sourdough Starter?
You can freeze sourdough starter. It's not really necessary, as it could be argued that drying the starter is an easier way to preserve it.
Nonetheless, it is possible to freeze sourdough starter.
To freeze it, you should place around 50g of sourdough starter into an air tight zip loc bag or jar.
Make sure you label it and date it. Place it at the back of the freezer (where it's coldest and has minimal changes in temperature).
It will last around a year in the freezer.
You can replace it with a fresh batch after that.
When you want to reactivate the starter, take it out of the freezer and let it come to room temperature before you feed it.
Repeat this process every 12 hours until the starter doubles consistently after feeding.
Reviving Your "Back Up" Starters
When reviving your starter from these consistencies, you’ll need to feed them for a few days to bring them back to life.
You may never need them - but it’s good to know that your hard work in getting your starter established will not go to waste if something happens to your starter.
I've written a full guide to activating a dried sourdough starter here.
It might surprise you, but you can get a starter going with a very small amount of "back up" starter.
I have experimented a lot with this and have successfully got my starter growing from just the residue left inside the jar after using it all for a bake.
It only took topping up the jar with equal parts flour and water and it was bubbling.
The same applies for dried starter.
While it's optimal to use a few spoons, even just a few grains of a potent starter will be enough.
If you enjoyed this article, you might like these ideas:
- Have you checked out the Ultimate Sourdough Glossary? You'll find it here.
- Learn how to store sourdough bread to maintain freshness.
- Head here for a full guide on how to store your sourdough starter in the fridge.
- Here's a stress free guide to drying your sourdough starter.
- Looking for advice on activating a sourdough starter - whether it's from a dried starter or one you've purchased? Look no further!