How to Know if Your Sourdough Starter is Dead

How to Know if Your Sourdough Starter is Dead

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To create homemade sourdough bread, you’ll need a sourdough starter. Every recipe, however, has one keyword: active sourdough starter. True, sourdough beginnings may become inactive or dead, and understanding when your sourdough starter has reached the end of its useful life is crucial.

If your sourdough does not react to feeding, i.e. there is no bubbling when you add flour and tepid water to the mix, it is bread. It may also have a strong, unpleasant odor or turn discolored due to mold growth.

A sourdough starter that has been exposed to temperatures exceeding 140 degrees Fahrenheit is irreparably dead.

Hello there, everyone! My name is Shea, and my mother like sourdough bread. She uses it for everything, from grilled cheese sandwiches to breakfast toast in the morning. Her sourdough obsession inspired me to start surprise her with handmade loaves, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Let’s talk about how to tell if your sourdough starter is dead (and what to do about it).

4 Ways to Know if Your Sourdough Starter is Dead

How to Know if Your Sourdough Starter is Dead

Using a dead sourdough starter will provide poor results. That being said, knowing when your sourdough starter is beyond its prime is critical. The good news is that there are four main signs of inactive sourdough, so you don’t have to worry about a sad loaf of bread.

1. Unresponsive to Feedings

To keep alive, sourdough starts must be fed on a regular basis (usually every 12 hours). When fed, the starter will begin to ferment, resulting in bubbling and rising.

Continue feeding your sourdough starter as normal. If nothing occurs, it may perish.

But don’t get too worked up just yet! You may be able to revive your sourdough starter. Feed your started and put it in a warmer area. Feed it on a regular basis over the following several days. If it begins to respond, it was merely put in a too chilly environment.

If you still see no activity, your sourdough starter has died. It’s time to start again!

2. Unpleasant Odor

Do you want to know whether your sourdough starter is active or not? Take a sniff. A good sourdough starter should have a strong yet pleasant aroma. There will very certainly be undertones of alcohol and vinegar in the mixture.

If you smell your sourdough starter and have to gasp for breath, it has gone bad. A decaying sourdough starter emits a very terrible odor. Some claim it tastes like old cheese or puke.

However, don’t be wholly fooled by the fragrance. This sourdough starter is still viable. In this situation, you may have put it in an overly heated setting, allowing harmful germs to develop.

To repair, just feed your sourdough starter as normal. However, modify the location, ideally to somewhere with temps about 85F. After a few days, check the fragrance again. Is it still unbearably stinky? Begin from the beginning!

3. Mold 

Mold is another key signal of a dead sourdough starter. It may not be the normal fuzzy mold seen on bread, but it will be colorful, and not in a good way!

If you see any unusual colors in your sourdough starter, such as pink, green, or black, it’s time to discard it. While you may attempt to revive it by scraping out the moldy pieces and adding new flour and water, I wouldn’t take the chance.

4. Too Hot

Temperatures exceeding 140°F kill yeast. You will be unable to repair your sourdough starter if it has ever reached this temperature (or above). Toss the batch and start again, but be cautious of the very high temperatures!


How to Know if Your Sourdough Starter is Dead

You now know how to tell whether your sourdough starter is dead and how to revive it. Continue reading if you want to understand more about this fascinating subject. I’ve selected a few questions that you may be interested in knowing the answers to!

Can you revive a dead sourdough starter?

Yes, in certain situations, a dead sourdough starter may be revived. Continue to feed it normally, but make sure it is in the proper habitat. Temperatures around 85F are ideal for sourdough starter. Fermentation will suffer if the temperature is too hot or too cold!

How long until the sourdough starter dies?

It is dependent on how often you feed it. It might be as short as a few days or as long as a hundred years. In reality, the World Record dates back 122 years.

Should I Feed My sourdough starter once or twice a day?

If you intend to use your sourdough starter often, feed it twice a day. If you aren’t using it often, keep it in the fridge and feed it three or four times each week. However, it is primarily dependent on how often you use it, although a recommended feeding plan is every 12 hours.

Why is my sourdough starter GREY?

Because of the presence of hooch or liquid on the top of your sourdough starter, it is most likely gray. This extra liquid does not indicate that your sourdough starter is dormant. It just indicates that you should give it more fresh flour.

If the sourdough starter has a gray tint (rather than gray liquid), it might be an indication of mold forming, and I would discard it.

Final Words

Sourdough starters may perish, although they can be revived if they are moldy or exposed to temperatures over 140°F. Most of the time, incorrect temperatures cause the sourdough starter to become inactive or dead.

Find a temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit and feed your starting on a daily basis to attempt to bring it back to life, or start from scratch for success.

Have you ever resurrected your sourdough starter? How did you manage it? Please share your approach in the comments so that we may try it as well!


Can dead sourdough starter be revived?

Feed your sourdough starter half ordinary flour (bread flour or all-purpose) and half wheat or rye flour to revitalize it (or make it more active). Rye seems to make sourdough starter more bouncy!

How does a sourdough starter died?

The main issue is that when yeast germs consume the sugar characteristics in flour, your starting might perish. Marcus Mariathas, ACE Bakery® Master Baker, shares some useful recommendations to assist assure the success of your next sourdough starter.

How long can a sourdough starter go without feeding?

You may keep the beginning in the fridge for 3 to 4 days between feedings. For optimal results, feed your sourdough starter at least twice a week.

What if I forgot to feed my sourdough starter for 2 days?

The rule of thumb in any kitchen is “When in doubt, throw it out,” however if you just missed 1-3 days of feeding, I wouldn’t worry and throw out your starter. If it’s been more than three days and you have a warm kitchen, you’ll have to make a decision depending on your familiarity with your beginning.

How do I make my sourdough starter active again?

Remove your jar from the fridge and place it on the counter for an hour or two to warm up. The mixture may or may not be bubbly like mine below, but whisk it well to ensure that everything is reincorporated.

How do I know if my starter is active?

If you observe a lot of bubbles on the surface and the edges of the jar, the starter is active. If you notice a few bubbles, this indicates that there is some activity but not enough to bake with.

What happens if my sourdough starter dies?

If your active sourdough starter dies for whatever reason, or if you unintentionally use all of it in a recipe (it happens! ), you may take a spoonful of waste from the refrigerator and feed it for a few days until it revives into a robust starter once again.

Why is my sourdough starter hooch but not rising?

My sourdough starter contains hooch, but it is not rising. If your sourdough starter contains hooch, it means it is hungry and will not rise. The mixture in the jar rises as the sourdough starter eats food and the yeast produces CO2 gas. You will see bubbles growing on the jar’s surface.

How old is the oldest sourdough starter?

The earliest known sourdough starter is said to have come from clay jars discovered in Egypt. Seamus Blackley used yeast extracted from 4500 year old clay pots to produce a loaf of sourdough bread. What exactly is this? Go here to learn more about this 4500-year-old sourdough starter.

How long is too long to leave a sourdough starter?

Unfed sourdough starter may be kept in the fridge for more than a week and up to a few months without turning bad. As long as the starter is kept cold, wild yeast fermentation will slow and they will be “asleep” until they are returned to a warm environment.

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