Drying Sourdough Starter For Long Term Storage

There’s not much to this process. Just smear some fresh sourdough starter in a thin layer over a piece of parchment paper and let dry. Once dry, the starter will easily separate from the paper and can be ground up into small pieces and placed in a plastic ziplock bag.

Store your starter in the freezer for as long as you like. This is not a bad idea, as a routine measure, in order to backup your working batch of starter in case it meets with an unexpected demise.

Note: At the end of the video, I mention that you will find the video for reviving a dried starter below this one. I have since moved it here.

{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

Jesse July 26, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Hi! Sorry if I missed this question already… I know it isn’t imperative that the dried starter be frozen, as I’ve migrated my starter around the world in a dried, non-frozen state… but how long do you reckon I can go without freezing? A month? Couple weeks? I feel good about a week, but not sure about longer.

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Michael July 26, 2013 at 11:48 pm

From what I’ve read about sporulation, I am confident that if kept dry they may never have to be frozen, I think freezing is just security. Last year I gave my brother-in-law a baggie of dried and frozen starter that was labeled “1990″. He’s making a lot of good sourdough bread with it, amazing.

Good Luck

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Barbara Raber July 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Wow! I love your web site. I have learned so much about starters. Made a starter about 6 weeks ago and it is doing wonderful. Have made bread with it 3 times so far and it is wonderful; can’t get enough of it. Next time I pour off some of my “mother” starter, can I use it to make a new starter using flour along with the water? In reading your web site it seems that alot of people swear by rye flour making it even more wonderful!

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Francesco May 5, 2013 at 8:36 am

Hello! Should I dry the starter right after feeding it, or a couple hours later, after it has doubled/tripled in volume? In the video, it looks like the jar is pretty full, but wanted to be sure.

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Breadtopia May 5, 2013 at 9:19 am

Hi Francesco,

After it’s doubled or so would be best so the population of yeast is higher.

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William Hull January 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I just had to toss my very active starter that I made from some of your dried starter some months ago. Accident with a broken jar :(

I had some that I dried myself so I got that going again and it’s been four days of twice a day feedings and very active, more than doubling in four hours or less. The volume is fine for baking now.

Is there a recommended time or number of feedings until I can use it to bake again? Another way of asking does it take some time to get back to full maturity?
TIA,
Bill

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Breadtopia January 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Hi Bill,

I think doubling in 4 hours is plenty indicative of a starter thats ready to use. I’d say you’re good to go.

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Margot October 28, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Well my starter is just dandy, I have never measured anything just add water and whatever type of flour I fancy and thicken and thin the starter depending on what I feel for…… I make bread over a 2 or 3 day period with lots of rises, I use a multi grain porridge in the mix and my secret ingredient….. A can of cream corn at the end, it kicks off the rise like mad and adds a lovely flavour, I also make loose dough, no kneading and a final flour cap to be able to handle the dough and strengthen the rise…… Bake at 425 with water bath in the oven

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Monica in Phoenix September 18, 2013 at 10:40 am

Margot, hope you are still on the website because you have gotten my curiosity up. Your comment “I use a multi grain porridge in the mix and my secret ingredient….. A can of cream corn at the end, it kicks off the rise like mad and adds a lovely flavor” intrigues me. Can you share your recipe? Sounds so good. Does the corn show in the baked bread?
Must it be canned corn or could you puree in a blender/processor?
Thank you, I am so enjoying the learning process of sourdough. So far good luck.

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katy October 28, 2012 at 2:41 pm

could starter be dried at lowest temp in a food dehydrator, or is that too hot?
thank you.

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Breadtopia October 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Yeast dies at 130F, so you’ll need to keep the temp somewhat lower than that.

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Rita Deason October 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I purchased some starter from you awhile back but had to leave me starter when we vacationed in the winter. Now I am having trouble getting it started again. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks for a great website, also. Rita

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Patty April 22, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Hi, Can I put the lid on my jar when storing the starter in the refriderator?
Also, can you mix two jars of starter, if they were made just a couple of days apart?

Thank you, Patty

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Michael April 23, 2012 at 5:29 am

Yes, mine has the cover on, not much activity in the fridge to produce gas.

You could mix the starters, but Dr. Wood of Sourdoughs from Antiquity instructs to toss out a lot of the starter when refreshing it. You could always dry and freeze the excess for the future.

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margot levy April 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Hi there I have a happy little starter in the fridge but I would like to make it more tart, at present I use rye, whole wheat and white flour to feed my little pet but if you have any souring tips I would so appreciate that. M
Also you might be interested I made my initial starter from scratch using an unpasturized sauerkraut juice ( a lactic acid fermentation) to kick it off….went crazy right away, it now lives in the fridge and every victim I can find gets to take home their own pet little……M

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Michael April 10, 2012 at 6:44 am

In my experience it is the particular starter that is more or less sour than others. You can purchase varying starters. Also, if the early fermentation is done at higher temperatures, 85 to 90 degrees, the lactobaccillus is predominant and the result is more sour, but the tradeoff is that the yeast is inhibited and the resulting loaf will be more dense. I am working on a method from Nancy Silverton’s book “Breads from the La Brea bakery” to try to get the type of tough crust and large cells that I want.

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Anita February 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm

I would like to send some starter by mail. It’s cold/winter, so would it be safe to just put some in a plastic bag without drying it and sending it on its way? Would probably be a 3 days trip or so….or do i absolutely need to dry it…???

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Michael February 14, 2012 at 9:39 am

It’s really quite easy to dry. I have sent and received dried samples in the mail. Without drying I would say the odds are for DOA.

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Michael February 12, 2012 at 10:26 am

In the late 1980′s I got very interested in baking sourdough bread. I bought starters from around the world through Ed Wood’s “Sourdoughs from Antiquity” and had great success. (http://www.sourdo.com/) I even made an olive bread by culturing yeast that occur naturally on grapes (thanks to Nancy Silverton of L.A.’s LaBrea bakery and Julia Child). As a safety net, I dried samples of all of my cultures. Then I became busy professionally and didn’t bake for a while, plus my wife is on a gluten-free diet. I recently decided to do some sourdough baking so I revived a dried and frozen “Saudi” culture. Came back to life as original, very tart. The label on the baggie from the freezer read “Dried March 1992″. Wow.

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SunGold August 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Amazing that it lasted that long! I made a starter just two months ago and it’s as flavorful as any San Francisco sourdough I’ve ever had. This is fun!!!!

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Debbie January 30, 2012 at 10:12 am

I have a very simple question. I am about to use my starter for the 1st time, exactly how do I replenish or feed it in order to keep it going? Thank Debbie

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Linda January 22, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I am thinking of freezing some of my starter, and in reading your instrructions, I did not see if it matters if it needs to be fed or not. Can you please tell me, thank you.

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Breadtopia January 23, 2012 at 6:01 am

Hi Linda,

As long as it’s healthy when you dehydrate it, it doesn’t matter if it’s been fed recently.

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JJ Lewis August 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I would love to have the whole wheat starter recipe! :) I have been making breads of all kinds for years trying many starters. The one I use now I feed with flour and water. I am really interested in making Salt Risen Bread…..does anyone have a good recipe?

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George Brock August 26, 2011 at 4:07 am

the issue of making salt rising bread is that it works at a very high temperature (115-120 degrees F) and uses hydrogen instead of CO2 to make it rise. the culture if you can call it that is milk based and is unpredictable until you figure out.

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Breadtopia August 8, 2011 at 9:43 am

I would use flour and water only to revive or feed starter. The main thing sugar does is speed up the fermentation process. So unless you’re in a hurry, I’m not sure there’s much need for it. Most of the time I’d rather slow the process than speed it up so more flavor has a chance to develop.

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Jean August 8, 2011 at 9:23 am

So, for a flour/sugar/water fed starter, would you recommend reviving it with a combination of flour/sugar/water in the same proportions as my normal feed, or still just use flour and water to revive? Thank you SOO much!

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Jean August 7, 2011 at 11:19 am

My sourdough starter is fed with flour, sugar and water. Most of the starters that I see being discussed are fed only with flour and water. Can mine be dried and stored in the same way?
Jean

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Breadtopia August 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Hi Jean,

Sure, the sugar shouldn’t change anything about the way starter can be dried and stored.

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Breadtopia January 23, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Hi Miriam,

That’s really interesting about how your grandmother and her mother stored their starter. Makes sense coming from that time. I think that may be how Flemish Desem starter and bread is managed, starting with balls of starter stored in flour.

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C. Miriam January 19, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Wow, what a neat ‘foodie’ site. My sourdough starter is 52 years old. It was 20 years old when my friend gave it to me and her mother gave it to her – oh yes, she lived in California. You are correct that the taste takes on the local area. When living in the Iron ranges of upper Minnesota the starter took on the most ‘hearty’ flavor [the manganese / iron?] compared to living in Central and Southern MN [shale / lime] ‘smooth / light’ taste. I have frozen my extra sourdough. It is great to hear it can be dried also. My grandmother use to make a ball with the starter I gave her and put it in her flour can with a few inches of flour over it when she wasn’t using it often. She said that is what her mother use to do. Never tried it. I do let cream go bad to the point of putrid chunky every few years and use that for my milk addition. My recipe came with 1 milk, 1 sugar, 1 flour. Stir and leave set.
Tried potato water but it never got foamy bubbles like it does with the milk.
I came to this site looking for the nutritional value of sourdough, thinking it may have some of the good probotics in it…can’t do to much yogurt and no kefer. We make plenty of sourdough items pre winter to ward off any cold germs. Works every year.

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Breadtopia January 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Hi Glenn,

I guess I didn’t mention temps partly because I neglected to. But also because for almost all the recipes and purposes I cover on this site, any semi normal room temp will suffice. I know some bread books call for a precise temp for this that or the other, which may be important for trying to accomplish their specific objective, but I’m a lot looser than that. Sometimes when I look at a recipe and it has you jumping through all kinds of hoops, my eyes roll back in my head and I’m off to the next one. This site is mostly for beginners and I don’t want people to give up before they get started. I usually just focus on recipes and methods that are pretty easy and forgiving.

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glenn ashworth January 11, 2011 at 7:42 pm

First thanks for the great site….my question is: why don’t you mention what temp you would like a starter that has just been fed and getting ready for a batch to be at while it reconstitutes? Also what temp to leave the first proofing in the bowl after you start the batch…some books suggest a “proofing box” to keep them at 80F or so…your instructional videos which are great, don’t seem to mention temps???
Thanks again,
glenn….

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Breadtopia September 30, 2010 at 7:51 am

Hi Brain,

I’m not aware of any methods. The dry starter would have to revive and gain strength before it would leaven effectively. I’d be surprised if it would work since it takes several days for this to happen.

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Brian September 30, 2010 at 6:29 am

Hi there!
Just wondering is there any method of using this type of dried sourdough in in a bread dough without having to revive it? or would the flavour be completely compromised?

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George Brock April 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

thanks for all the helpful ideas on the web site

I was especially grateful to be able to replace the bottom of my la cloche at a reasonable price

I have a sourdough starter that consistently will leaven 100% whole wheat; let me know if you want to try it

the variety of no knead recipes offered is a welcome addition to my arsenal

{=}==

George

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