Sourdough Starter: What NOT to Do |

Sourdough Starter: What NOT to Do

admin January 19, 2012

Image by Matthew Fugel

So you know how screw-ups are as good at teaching you as successes, maybe even better?  Well….

sourdough starter


I poured off the hooch for the first two days, so it “sat out” without fermenting properly.  Then I forgot to feed it for a couple days when it was just over a week old.  When I picked it back up, thinking I’d just feed it and carry on, hoping for more bubbles soon…that is what I found.  Black, fuzzy mold.  Out it went.

Sourdough Starter: What NOT to Do

I immediately restarted the sourdough starter.  This was Sunday morning.  I made sure that I stirred in the hooch each time.  I still noted, on Monday, at the third feeding, that it was gummy and gluey and strange (soaked batters are like this too — it means the gluten is being broken down).  I was worried again…maybe there was something wrong with me or my kitchen (inhospitable to sourdough, perhaps?) and not my technique.  🙁

But then I went into the kitchen late Monday afternoon, several hours after last feeding my starter, and I found this:

sourdough starter Jan 2014


That starter has about doubled in volume due to the bubbles.  That’s some seriously active sourdough starter!

The Major Lesson

Stir in your hooch.

Yes, the hooch is what makes it more sour.  But the hooch is what contains all those lovely yeasties that we are trying to catch.  If you do not stir them in the first few days, when you are trying to get it going, then you are pouring off the yeast and basically opening the starter up to catching bad bacteria instead, which I think is why my starter molded so quickly.

Once your starter is well-established, it shouldn’t make any difference if you pour off the hooch.

*Updated: If you keep your sourdough starter thicker, it won’t produce hooch.  Hooch means you’re either not making it thick enough, or you’re not feeding it often enough.  Use almost twice as much flour as water, and feed every 8 – 12 hours, and you will have a successful, active starter in no time!

This is what I have learned, after finally having 2 years of successful starters, and baking with them!

How’s your sourdough starter going?  Did you make the same mistake I did?

This is the writings of:



  1. Do you have an original recipe for starting the sourdough?


  2. I really appreciate the help you are giving on these starters. I had an established one I bought, but after a couple of months it molded too.


  3. Hello! I’ve been baking sourdough breads for a couple of years now and am enjoying your journey. It is worth the time and effort to learn! I’ve made some of the same mistakes. My greatest success was in reactivating a friend’s starter that looked dead on arrival after 10 months in the fridge with no feeding! Keep at it; it is an awesome way to make a very healthy bread and to save money too (no yeast, honey, etc etc).



  4. Hi Katie,
    I had attempted a sourdough starter a few times, without success. Before I began this time I also consulted one of my favorite cookbooks “The Forgotten Skills of Cooking” your website and my previous knowledge from other attempts. I kept it in my laundry room (its nice and warm all the time), fed it twice a day for the first three days and now I am on the 7th day feeding it daily. It looks good, smells more sourdough-y than yeasty or beery. I am wondering if its strong enough? In the Forgotten skills of Cooking, Darina Allen has a fantastic 2-day loaf baking process that I am going to attempt. Thanks for the pictures, step-by-step. I’ll let you know how my loaf turns out!

    P.S. Although I don’t comment frequently I do read on a daily basis. Keep up the great work! I was wondering if you could do a few blogs on getting one’s hormones/body ready for another pregnancy. We use AP, NFP or FAM and last time I had some troubles getting my cycle back. While I love our age space 3y 4 mo, I would like it to be a little less this time around. My little guy is only a month (June 28) or so older than Jacob, so we are in the same boat. My first pregnancy/birth was hard and really hard on my body. This one was no problem, so I do think the easier recovery will aid in getting my body ready again, but I know pregnancy/nursing and chasing after older children does deplete vital nutrients. I want each of my children to get the best from my body, and be the best they can be and I know that begins with how healthy my body is at conception. We eat a whole foods, high protein, low grain (b/c my husband is GF) almost a modified GAPS diet with our FLCO and elderberry syrup everyday. Feel free to contact me. Sorry for the long comment!


  5. Thank you for sharing this very interesting post with the Hearth and Soul hop!


  6. […] breakfast.  I’ll have some savory protein, a fruit smoothie, sourdough pancakes or toast (my starter‘s doing much better now!), and I might add in some vegetables too.  I will spend this week […]


  7. […] Many people said to ditch the stuff or else your sourdough could become too sour in a bad way. Others said to stir it in at least for the first few days as it helps develop a stronger flavor sooner (and could potentially stave off nasty […]


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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