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sourdough starter

how to feed sourdough starter

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Now that we have learned how to make Sourdough at home, let’s take another step ahead, and we will learn how to feed sourdough starter.

Feeding the Sourdough Starter means providing yeasts and bacteria with water and the “food” necessary to survive. Refreshment is an easy operation involving kneading the Sourdough starter, flour, and water.

When it comes to maintaining our starter, we have to distinguish 2 types of them:

  • Maintaining Refreshments are used to preserve the sourdough day by day. This type of refreshment is intended to keep our starter alive.
  • Preparatory Refreshments (2 or 3) are needed to prepare the Sourdough for the recipe. In this case, the primary purpose is to strengthen the yeast and stabilize its acidities (lactic and acetic).

This distinction is crucial because, as we will see, the two types of refreshments have different proportions of ingredients and procedures.

HOW TO MAINTAIN SOURDOUGH STARTER DAILY or WEEKLY

Daily (or Weekly) refreshments are essential for keeping the Sourdough alive. It will be necessary to refresh it regularly, depending on how you store it. If you own the Sourdough at room temperature (18°C (64°F) to 22°C (71°F)), you will need to refresh it every day, whereas if you store it in the fridge (+4°C, 39°F), you can extend its storage up to 7 days.

A second factor to consider is the storage method: It may be soaked in water or tied up; this is very important because it will impact the Sourdough characteristics and require specific flour and sourdough proportions.

SOURDOUGH STARTER STORED IN WATER 

The Sourdough is characterized by a lower acidity (absorbed by water and higher humidity when soaked in water.

The first step to refresh the Sourdough stored in this way is to soak it in warm water at 38°C (100°F) and add 2gr/liter of sugar or fructose for 15 – 20 minutes. The water will absorb the exceeding acidity the Sourdough releases during the bath.

Once this time has elapsed, squeeze the Sourdough and knead it with these proportions:

  • 1kg of Sourdough Starter
  • 1kg of Bread Flour W360 (protein around 14% – 15%)
  • 300g of water 30°C (86°F)

The dough should be well-formed, but it will not need to be over-kneaded. Once ready, roll out the Sourdough to about 1cm thick. Roll it tightly and place it in a bowl with cold tap water (19°C or 66°F).

The ideal proportion would be to soak the Sourdough at 3 times its water weight. Now you can keep your Sourdough at room temperature (between 18°C (64°F) and 22°C (71°F)) for 24 hours.

TIED UP SOURDOUGH STARTER

This method is highly used in many bakeries in Italy. It refers to a sourdough stored in a heavy cloth and tied up with a rope.

Following this method, you will have a more acidic Sourdough starter (in particular, richer in lactic acidity and with less acetic acidity). 

In this case, the refreshment begins by soaking the Sourdough in lukewarm water 20°C (68°F) – 22°C (71°F) for 15 – 20 minutes, adding 2gr/liter of sugar or fructose.

I suggest weighing the starter before and after the bath to control better the amount of water used for refreshment. Hence, you know how much water has been absorbed during the bath and adjust the refreshment quantity.

Once squeezed and weighed, you can knead the Sourdough with this proportion:

  • 1kg of Sourdough Starter
  • 2kg of Bread Flour W360 (protein around 14% – 15%)
  • 920 g Water (46% of flour weight) – the water absorbed during the soaking process.

As above, roll out the dough and form a loaf. Then, wrap it in plastic food wrap, roll it up inside a heavy cloth, and tie it up with string or rope.

I recommend leaving the cord slightly loose and allowing the Sourdough starter to “push” during the fermentation. Once ready, you can leave the Sourdough at room temperature (between 18°C (64°F) and 22°C (71°F)) for 16 hours.

REINFORCE THE SOURDOUGH STARTER BEFORE USING IT

Before using the sourdough starter in the recipes, it must be fed 2 or 3 times to strengthen it (producing more yeasts and lactic acid bacteria) and balance its acidity. Moreover, it promotes substances capable of preserving the product over time (if well packaged).

Big (and fat) leavened products (such as Panettone and Pandoro) need 2 or 3 refreshments, whereas 2 refreshments will be enough for simpler doughs such as croissants, bread, or pizza.

I will say that even for big leavened products, we can stop at the second refreshment in case of time needs, knowing that we may slightly lose a bit in their shelf life.

When starting a recipe with Sourdough starter, the first thing to consider is the Sourdough amount that we need to begin with to have the correct quantity for the recipe AND a reasonable amount to store.

That’s why I’ve developed a simple app that will help you know the exact amount of starter you need to refresh to make your recipe… and not run out of Sourdough!

Click here to access the BiancoLievito application.

An essential aspect of refreshing Sourdough is obtaining a dough at a temperature of 24°C (75°F)—28°C (82°F), ideally 26°C (78°F).

For this, we can act on the water temperature and use this empirical formula:

Water Temp = 3 x final temp – room temp – flour temp – heat transmitted by the mixer (for a stand mixer, we can use 14°C).

!! Please note that this formula only works with Celsius degrees. Do the calculation in °C and then convert the result to °F !!

To obtain a dough at 26°C (78°F), imagining to have:

  • Room Temp: 20°C (68°F)
  • Flour Temp: 18°C (64°F)

The water temperature will be 3×26 – 20 -18 – 14 = 26°C (78°F)

REFRESHING THE SOURDOUGH STARTER STORED IN WATER – UPDATED VERSION

After several years of feeding Sourdough (with good results) using a ration of Sourdough to flour of 1:0.9 (1kg of Sourdough and 900gr of flour), I experimented with different refreshment techniques. I’ve been inspired (and documented) by reading some texts that sparked my curiosity to put everything I had learned over the years back into play.

This new method of working starts with these primary considerations:

  • Sourdough stored in the water has lower lactic acidity precisely because of its storage environment. For this reason, during the 2 or 3 preparatory refreshments, we should try to rebalance this acidity.
  • The ratio between Sourdough and flour determines whether or not bacteria can reproduce. Using too much Sourdough and too little flour will result in a limited proliferation of bacteria and an unbalanced Sourdough. In the book “Omnia Fermenta” by G.Battista Montanari, you can read that the best biological conditions (scientifically proved) are obtained when the quantity of Sourdough is between 10%-30% of the total amount of fed dough. Let’s take an example with a 1:2 ratio. If I refresh 100gr of Sourdough + 200gr of flour +80gr of water, I get a total mass of 380gr, of which the Sourdough represents 26% of the total (100gr/380gr)

Here’s what I modified in this new method:

  1. I let the Sourdough ferment out of the water between one refreshment and the next one, 
  2. I use a sourdough-to-flour ratio of 1:1.5 (instead of 1:0.9)
  3. I let the sourdough ferment until it reaches 2 ½ times its initial volume, i.e., initial volume +1.5 times.

Let’s see how to do it.

As a first step, soak the Sourdough in warm water at 38°C (100°F) for 15-20 minutes, adding 2g/l of sugar or fructose. After this time, squeeze the starter and refresh as follows:

FIRST REFRESHMENT

  • 1kg of starter
  • 1.5kg of Bread Flour (W380 – 14-16% protein)
  • 690g of lukewarm water at the correct temperature (see above).

Knead until you have a firm and compact dough, roll out to 1cm thickness, and give 3 folds before forming a ball. Roll the dough tightly, score the surface to facilitate its development, and place it in a large bowl. Cover with a cloth and ferment for 3½ hours at 30°C (86°F) until it has increased 2½ times its volume (initial volume + 1.5). I suggest you place a portion of the dough into a glass, mark the initial level, and use it as an indicator for following the fermentation.

The fermentation time will be long enough for the Sourdough to multiply its microbial flora. The second refreshment is essential when the Sourdough starter is at the peak of its development. Usually, it happens after 3½ hours, at 30°C (86°F).

SECOND REFRESHMENT

  • 1kg of Sourdough starter
  • 1.5kg of Bread Flour (W380 – 14-16% protein)
  • 690g of lukewarm water at the correct temperature (see above).

Once again, knead the ingredients, roll out the dough form a ball, and proceed as above, letting the sourdough ferment for 3½ hours at 30°C (86°F)

THIRD REFRESHMENT

  • 1kg of Sourdough starter
  • 1.5kg of Bread Flour (W380 – 14-16% protein)
  • 690g of lukewarm water at the correct temperature (see above).

Knead the ingredients until they form the dough. Take the portion of Sourdough that you will store and weigh the amount needed for the recipe.

For the part that you will use in the recipe: Roll out the dough from a ball and proceed as above, letting the sourdough ferment for 3½ hours at 30°C (86°F)

For the part that you will be storing: Soak it in cold water (19°C (66°F)) and leave it 24 hours at room temperature (18°C – 22°C or 64°F to 71°F) until refreshed the next day.

After 3½ hours at 30°C, the Sourdough starter will be ready to be used!

 

HOW TO REFRESH A TIED SOURDOUGH STARTER – UPDATED VERSION

In this case, soak the Sourdough in fresh water at 20°C – 22°C (68°F – 71°F) with 2gr/liter of sugar or fructose for 15-20minutes. As mentioned above, weigh the Sourdough before and after to see how much water is absorbed during the bath.

Once ready, do the 3 refreshments using this proportion:

FIRST REFRESHMENT

  • 1kg of Sourdough Starter
  • 2kg of Bread Flour (W380 – 14-16% protein)
  • 920g of lukewarm water at the correct temperature (see above) – the water absorbed during the soaking process

Knead the dough and roll it out to 1cm thick. Form a tight ball, incise a cross-cut on the surface, place the dough in a bowl, and ferment for 3 and a half hours at 30°C (86°F) until it has increased 2½ times its volume (initial volume + 1.5).

SECOND REFRESHMENT

Perform the same procedure as described above, but mix the Sourdough in these proportions:

  • 1kg of Sourdough Starter
  • 1.5kg of Bread Flour (W380 – 14-16% protein)
  • 690g lukewarm water at the correct temperature (see above)

THIRD REFRESHMENT

Follow the same steps as the second refreshment, but use the ingredient in these proportions:

  • 1kg Sourdough Starter
  • 1kg of Bread Flour (W380 – 14-16% protein)
  • 460g of warm water at the correct temperature (see above).

Knead all the ingredients, weigh out the part of Sourdough needed for the recipe, and let it rise again for 3½ hours at 30°C (86°F). Wrap the remaining part in a plastic sheet and then in a heavy cloth, tie it with a string, and store it at room temperature for 16 hours.

CHECK IT OUT HOW TO feed your sourdough starter at home [eng sub]

YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT SOURDOUGH STARTER

What do I do with the remaining part of the Sourdough that I don't use?

There is always a part of the previous dough discarded (such as the crust). However, I suggest not to use these parts, especially during the first weeks of preparation, because they can contain bacteria not tolerated by our body.

This is not the case for the refreshments made when the Sourdough is ready and mature. Here the waste parts can be dried first in the air and then in an oven at 100°C (212°F) for about 40/60 minutes and finally pulverized in a mixer.

The resulting powder can be added to the bread and pizza doughs (about 10gr/kg of flour) to enhance the acidic note.

I did the 3 refreshments. How do I store the remaining Sourdough?

After the 3rd, you can let the quantity used for the recipe rise again for 3 1/2 hours at 30°C (86°F). The Sourdough’s remaining part has to be soaked in cold water and left at room temperature 24 hours. The next day, you can decide whether to refresh it again (in this case, you keep it at room temperature) or store it in the fridge and refresh it every 5-7 day

How many times should I refresh the Sourdough before using it?

If you want to make bread, pizza, and sweet doughs that are not too fat (such as croissants), you can make 2 refreshments. In case you want to prepare a cake such as Italian Panettone or Pandoro, I suggest you make 3 refreshments before using the starter in your recipe. How to Refresh Sourdough

How much flour should I use to refresh the Sourdough?

For daily refreshments starter ratio to flour is 1:1 (1kg of starter to 1kg of flour).

However, in the 2-3 preparatory refreshments, the ratio is 1:09 (1kg of yeast and 900gr of flour).

How much water should I soak the Sourdough in?

The ideal proportion is for the water to be about 3 times the amount of Sourdough: 1kg of yeast should be soaked in 3 liters of water.

How can I tell when the yeast has tripled in size if I store it in the water?

The best solution is to use an indicator. For this, take a portion of Sourdough, put it into a graduated jag, and mark the dough’s initial volume. Then let it rise in the same environment as the soaked starter. When the volume triples, then also the Sourdough is ready

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65 comments about “Come Rinfrescare il Lievito Madre”

  1. Salve.
    Forse ho perso un passaggio ma vorrei sapere come faccio a pesare il lievito dopo averlo strizzato dall’acqua per regolarmi con il quantitativo di farina. ?
    Grazie

    1. Ciao Daniela,
      devi semplicemente tirare fuori dall’acqua del bagnetto i pezzi di lievito, strizzarli bene e pesarli… sulla base di quel peso, aggiungerai farina ed acqua per il rinfresco!

      A presto

    2. SLAVE,
      HO LASCIATO IL LIEVITO MADRE PER 4 GIORNI PRIMA DI FARE IL PRIMO RINFRESCO. POSSO FARE IL PRIMO RINFRESCO O È ANDATO MALE?
      GRAZIE MILLE
      MAURIZIO

    3. Ciao Maurizio,
      lo hai lasciato in frigo o a temperatura ambiente?

      Dopo 4 giorni potrebbe essere acido, ma lo puoi ancora recuperare con il bagnetto e poi un rinfresco con un rapporto lievito:farina di 1:1.2 (1kg di lievito e 1.2kg di farina)!
      Una volta pronto, lo conservi in acqua per 24h a temperatura ambiente!
      A presto

  2. Io sto facendo il lievito madre e ne rinfresco sempre 300 gr di madre.
    Sto sbagliando?

    1. Ciao Andrea,
      sarebbe meglio rinfrescarne di più (circa 700gr), così da non perderlo troppo!
      Per contro, non hai necessità di rinfrescarlo ogni giorno
      A presto

    2. Ciao mi hanno regalato il lievito madre e faccio il pane , non viene soffice, forse sbaglio i rinfreschi, esco il lievito madre dal frigo e dopo qualche ora lo rinfresco ,dopo 4ore impasto il pane , mi puoi dire se è giusto il rinfresco

    3. Ciao Mariella,
      in effetti questo procedimento è sbagliato, in quanto non puoi usare il lievito madre direttamente da frigo.
      Una volta tolto dal frigo, devi lasciare il LM a temperatura ambiente per 24ore e dovrai rinfrescarlo tutti i giorni (ogni 24ore) per almeno 4/5giorni prima di usarlo nella ricetta.
      In questa pagina, leggerai qual’è il modo giusto di usare il lievito conservato in frigo:
      Usare il Lievito Madre conservato in frigo

      Per il tuo caso, sarebbe molto più conveniente usare il Li.Co.Li, ovvero il Lievito su Coltura Liquida che invece puoi usare dal frigo, dopo solo 1 rinfresco!
      Molto presto pubblicherò una guida su come usare il Licoli.. ti avviserò per email!

      A presto

    4. Ho incominciato ma mi sembra complicato. Ma perché poi tu lo conservi in acqua? Se uno lo vuole continuare a tenere nel barattolo di vetro in frigo può andare bene? Sempre di scoperto anche in frigo?

  3. Giuliano Arcuri

    se io ho il lievito che non e’ stato ancora in acqua posso rinfrescarlo e poi immergerlo in acqua.grazie

    1. Ciao Giuliano, non ci sono problemi… rinfrescalo prima come ti spigo qui sopra e poi immergilo in acqua. Tieni conto che ci vorrà qualche giorno prima che il lievito si adatti al nuovo “habitat” per cui ti consiglio di rinfrescarne almeno 700gr, perché tenderà a sfaldarsi un pò i primi giorni!
      A presto!

    2. eugenio parrella

      salve a tutti e scusatemi volevo un informazione mi hanno dato circa 50g di lievito madre in 3 giorni mi è diventato 600g facendo un rinfresco al giorno quando posso utilizzarlo per fare il pane e se il procedimento per il rinfresco che faccio è buono

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