Reviving a Dried & Live Sourdough Starter

Scroll down page to view “Reviving a Live Sourdough Starter” video

Reviving a Dry Sourdough Starter: 6 min. 38 sec. long

Reviving a dried sourdough starter is a fairly simple matter that should meet with success most of the time. This video covers the details but I’ll jot down a few steps here so you don’t necessarily have to.

Note: The following written instructions have been revised slightly since the making of the video. Watch the video but follow the specifics of the written instructions.

  • Soak 1 tsp. dried starter in 1 Tbs. lukewarm purified or spring water for a few minutes to soften.
  • Stir in 1 Tbs. all-purpose or bread flour, cover loosely with plastic and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. While not necessary, stirring again once or twice during this 24 hours will expedite the process.
  • Stir in another Tbs. of flour and 1 tsp. of purified water and let it sit as before. Within the next 24 to 36 hours you will most likely start to see the bubbling action of fermentation begin. (If not, something is most likely wrong and you should try again).
  • Now stir in 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup of water to your activated starter and continue to build the starter with once or twice daily feedings until you have a sufficient quantity to use for baking (amounts vary per recipe). You may double or triple the quantity of starter with each feeding. Feeding with approximately equal weights of flour and water (vs. equal volumes) will result in a good consistency for your starter.
  • Once you have a cup or two of healthy starter, store your starter in a container with a loose fitting lid in the refrigerator. Once refrigerated, weekly feeding is sufficient to keep your starter happy. Just remember to hold back some starter when baking as your seed starter for the next time.

Post your questions/comments below.

Reviving a Live Sourdough Starter: 3 min. 56 sec. long

Reviving a live sourdough starter is even simpler and faster than reviving a dried one. Just view the video and/or follow these steps.

  • Spoon out the contents of the zip lock bag into a small bowl or container.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of room temperature purified or spring water. Mix just until the flour and water are incorporated and you have a smooth consistency. (Don’t use tap water as most tap water contains chlorine which is not good for the yeast).
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 18 – 24 hours. At this point you should see signs of life in the form of some bubbling.
  • Feed the starter again by mixing in about 1/3 cup of flour and 1/4 cup water. Cover and let sit as before for 6-12 hours.
  • You should now have a pretty lively and hearty sourdough starter.  All that is left to do is build it up to the quantity you desire with once or twice daily feedings. See the video entitled “Managing Your Sourdough Starter“.

Post your questions/comments below.

{ 162 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert March 29, 2014 at 10:48 pm

I’m new to baking and am learning a lot from your website. I will be ordering your starter soon. I want to experiment with Quinoa flour and want to know if a starter can be made with Quinoa flour. If so, is there an advantage to doing so, or can I bake with Quinoa flour using a sourdough starter.

Thank you

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Taru March 13, 2014 at 2:34 am

Hi there,
This has been puzzling me for a while. About 4 months ago I got a starter from a friend. I discovered a new passion! I LOVE making bread and so far have had really great results.

Now, my starter is incredibly lively. After each build, I crumb it, put it in a container in the fridge. And no matter how dry – it just grows and grows. Some mornings I open the fridge and it’s taken over – it’s forcing its way out! When I mix it into a build it’s bubbling away and tripling in volume. I am not complaining!!

However, when I told my friend this, he looked really grumpy. His starter ( my “parent” starter) is no where near so lively. In fact he is struggling with it at present. He’s even adding extra yeast to his dough. I almost offered him some of mine, but that might have been rubbing his nose in it!!

So my question is, why is mine so super lively and his isn’t. What affects the “liveliness” of the starter?

I live in the North of England, in an old, cold, draughty house. So it’s not heat!

Of course, I’m delighted with my starter. Just wondered what the influencing factors are.

Cheers
Taru

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Kamenko March 20, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Just got my dried starter from you. Video and the instructions on this website and also printed on the package are clear up until it says that after “reviving starter” I should start feeding it with 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup water once or twice daily (in some comments below your advice is even three times daily) I would like to know if I should, at some point, start to throw away some of the starter and keep consistent ratio between old starter and fresh water/flour mix, example 1:1 or I should follow instructions to the letter and keep adding 1/3 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water into constantly expanding starter.
My concern is that by adding same amounts of fresh flour and water will be at some point insufficient amount of “food” for my starter.

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Ray August 12, 2014 at 1:15 am

I think it was in the sourdough maintenance video where he throws out a good portion of the starter because he had more than he wanted. I do this regularly with mine. My maintenance starter is about a cup so I throw out about half a cup at each feed and feed it about half a cup. When I’m baking, I use the half cup I remove to build up a starter for baking.

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Jennifer Niskanen January 27, 2014 at 11:46 am

It says in video to use a tablespoon of both the flour and the water for the first feed at the 24 hour mark but the website and package instructions say only a tsp of water. I just tried it with the tsp of water and TBSP of flour but it is really quite thick. Should I follow what is written or the video? Should I add water now?

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Breadtopia January 27, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Thick is ok, but you can add a teensy amount of water if you want.

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Jennifer Niskanen January 28, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Overnight it became crusty and dry around the edges. I keep loose plastic over it but it definitely is drying out. I fed it another tablespoon of flour and a table spoon of flour, as per the video. I suspect the cold temperature may not be helping. The house isn’t much more than 20C and it’s dry with the polar vortex we are having here in Northern Ontario. A morning in the oven with the lightbulb on changed the smell from dough to something a bit more yeasty I think. Is it okay to leave it in there with the light on or is that too warm?

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Bernee January 29, 2014 at 1:20 am

It does sound like your house is rather cool and dry. You can always stir a little more water into your starter if necessary. The ‘room temperature’ in your oven with the light on is perfect (I did the same thing with mine — only problem was that I eventually burned out the bulb and now have to figure out how to change it!).

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Jennifer Niskanen January 29, 2014 at 3:26 pm

It’s ALIVE, ALIVE! My sourdough starter is bubbly and growing. Putting it in the oven with the light bulb on, and adding the extra table spoon of flour and water did the trick. Hooray! Now I just have to grow enough to try and make bread with it.

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Breadtopia January 29, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Awesome.

Linda January 23, 2014 at 9:14 am

Like your web-site, but having a problem I can’t view your videos for some reason. Know why? I’d also like to print out the directions for drying a starter and reviving a starter. Can you help me on either problem. Thanks.

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Rich December 25, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Hello. I am new to your site so I did not get my starter from you. I am trying to revive my starter using your methods as I could never get the starter to be as active and robust as when I started it. I am using 3oz of flour, 3oz of water and 6oz of starter when I am feeding. The starter is nice and bubbly and does expand but never does double in volume. The total volume when feeding is 350ml and at the peak of expansion is 450ml. The first two days I fed twice a day. The third day I fed 3 times a day. This is day four and I plan to continue 3 feedings. Please advise how to make my starter double in volume as I have read. Thanks. Rich

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Matthew September 30, 2013 at 11:49 am

I ordered your starter about a month ago, I was able to get it started no problem. I took it out of the fridge, feed it, as I was making some pizza dough the next day, and the next day there where little tiny black dots in it, mostly around the container and it had a horrible smell to it. What happened and what can I do to prevent this from happening again?

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Breadtopia October 2, 2013 at 9:12 am

Hi Matthew,

Almost all sourdough starter issues can be answered the same way… more feeding. Larger amounts of new flour and water and/or more frequent feedings. This page on sourdough management may be useful: http://www.breadtopia.com/sourdough-starter-management/

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Lloyd September 24, 2013 at 6:40 am

I had previously ordered the live starter with GREAT results, unfortunately we had a small tragedy and ended up without any starter left. So, I ordered the Sourdough Starter kit (including the container, etc). This time the starter was dried, I followed the directions and although the starter is alive, it isn’t very strong. It doesn’t smell as strong as my previous starter and I am been very disappointed with the results. I never had any issues with the live starter, but the dry starter doesn’t seem to be as strong and even the smell isn’t as strong. Any suggestions?

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Regina September 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I received my live starter yesterday. As soon as I got home around 4:30 I fed it according to instructions. It’s now 26 hours later and I’ve fed it a second time a few hours ago but there are no bubbles or activity. Others seem to see activity pretty quickly. Is something wrong?

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Regina September 13, 2013 at 7:56 am

This morning I am seeing some signs of life!

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denny July 27, 2013 at 9:39 pm

is it okay to drink the hooch? i always pour off the liquid before feeding with fresh water, but i hadn’t seen it called hooch.
like hobos do?

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Sherri Petersen July 26, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Hi!

Well, I finally received the packet of dry starter to replace the “live” starter (that wasn’t), & I have followed the directions to the letter. Every night I’ve been adding unbleached A/P flour & spring water. Also, since it is so hot here (desert Southwest) our house is quite cool, so not really a warm “room temperature.” For that reason, I’ve been keeping my starter in my oven where the pilot light keeps it in the upper 80 degrees f. Is that too warm to keep the starter? I’m asking because I’ve been mixing the starter for 4 or 5 days now, & although it smells good & a clear yellowish liquid separates on the top by morning, there are no bubbles at all. Should I continue to feed it, or start over?? Please help!!!!!!!

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Breadtopia July 27, 2013 at 4:57 am

Yes, the upper 80′s is too warm. Cool is better. You can pour off the liquid and add more flour but not much if any water to stiffen up the mix. Then leave it at your room temp. With a stiffer (thicker) starter, that’s more dough like, it’s easier to see the results as it traps the bubbles (from fermentation) more and gets more sponge like. You can try this and if it doesn’t work, start over. It’s a good thing you’re following the instructions because there’s enough dry starter for 3 tries.

If you have to start over, just leave the starter at whatever your room temperature is and keep the mix a little on the stiff side.

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sharon ellis July 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I have tried to access your video and nothing happens. :(

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Breadtopia July 27, 2013 at 4:59 am

Hi Sharon,

Which browser are you using? 
A few people have had issues but the vast majority can watch them without problems. The issues have been mostly around the Internet Explorer browser
They should play fine in Firefox, Safari and Chrome. Chrome is probably your best bet. If you go to http://www.google.com/chrome and follow the instructions for installing Chrome, you should be fine. Otherwise, most of our videos are on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/breadtopia

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sharon August 9, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Everything is working jut fine now. Had to take a trip to the computer store. I’m up and running and making bread starter sometime this week. Getting excited again. Love this site. :)
Thanks again for all your helpful information. Breadtopia you’re the best :)

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Sherri Petersen July 8, 2013 at 12:47 am

Hi!!

I recently ordered your Sourdough Bread Starter through Amazon.com. It arrived in my locked mailbox yesterday late afternoon, but I didn’t pick up my mail till this morning after it had sat in my hot mailbox overnight. Unfortunately, it’s the height of summer here in the desert Southwest, where at 12:10a.m. it is still 88 degrees outside after a high around 100 degrees. Had I known the starter was in the mailbox, I would have made a special trip to bring it in last night, but I didn’t expect it so soon….
I had a very difficult time mixing the live culture into the specified amount of flour and spring water to get a smooth mixture, even though I sifted the flour to remove lumps. I’m concerned that the too-warm temps along with the dried too-much live culture could make this a difficult starter to get going?

Finally, can any recipe calling for sourdough starter use THIS starter once it’s been fed, comes alive, and has expanded sufficiently to have enough left over to keep the starter going? Thanks ever so much for your help. It is very much appreciated.

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Breadtopia July 9, 2013 at 8:30 am

Hi Sherri,

It might take longer to get going, so give it an extra day or two to respond. Yeast will survive up to about 130 degrees, so hopefully the mail box didn’t get that hot.

Yes, this starter can be used in any recipe that calls for sourdough starter.

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Marisa July 7, 2013 at 8:43 am

I just wanted to attest to the strength of your sourdough. I had it in the fridge for over nine months without feeding. I followed Dr. Ed Wood suggestion about washing the culture (Classic Sourdoughs). I did this twice – I started yesterday. Today the culture is so active that it looks like it will overflow my container. I put in 1/2 c whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup AP, both were KAF. I really believed I would have to dump my culture but it was a matter of patience and hope. And most of all the strength of the original culture.

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Erin May 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I received a dried starter and followed their instructions which said to add flour and water and let it sit for 3 days, stirring occasionally. It bubbled a lot at first but now the activity seems to have ceased and there is a layer of clear liquid (hooch?).
Does the hooch kill the yeast or can it add to the flavor of the sourdough? Does 3 days seem too long for a starter to go without feeding? Im worried I may have killed it.
I appreciate any advice

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Breadtopia July 9, 2013 at 8:39 am

Hi Erin,

The instructions say to feed it daily. If you do that, then hooch most likely won’t form and the bubbling action will only increase. The hooch won’t hurt. Just pour it off and feed the starter daily until it’s lively and spongy.

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Jalyn April 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Hello, I bought sourdough starter and the ingredients said add flour. What kind of flour I will add, bread flour or all purpose flour?. I hope you put an specific kind of flour. Thank you. I hope this will work.

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Breadtopia April 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Either one is fine.

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Leona April 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I have been making bread for many years and sourdough several times over those years. Recently, a friend gave me a starter that uses instant potatoes in the recipe. Do I need to continue using instant potatoes that I don’t usually buy or can I use another recipe for sourdough or do I need to start a different kind of starter?

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Breadtopia April 8, 2013 at 10:24 am

Is the starter your friend gave you currently healthy and ready to bake with? If so, you can keep it healthy by just feeding it flour and water when needed. No need to use potatoes.

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Jeanette April 2, 2013 at 11:10 am

I ordered your dried sourdough starter, but being new to bread-baking, I thought I’d best watch your video, in addition to the directions on the package. But the package reads “Soak 1 tsp dried starter”, while your video tells me “1/2 tsp”.
I tried it with 1/2 tsp starter & 1 Tbs warm water (I am blessed with excellent well water), then added 1 Tbs flour. My mix looked more ‘biscuit’ than ‘thin pancake’ mix. So I added a bit more water and a bit more flour, just enough to look like the one in your video.
Today my mix sits there, no bubbles, but it does smell good.
Should I start over, & if so, is it 1/2 or 1 tsp?

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Breadtopia April 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Hi Jeanette,

Don’t start over yet. Add more flour until the mix is thicker than it is now. It should be more like shaggy wet dough than pancake batter. Keep it at room temp for anywhere from a few hours to a day and see if you get more obvious good results (bubbling, rising, spongyness).

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Jeanette April 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I must have jumped the gun, as I just caught a whiff of the mix. I fed it again, talked nice to it and and hope to coax it along. Thanks!

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Sheri February 22, 2013 at 5:37 am

About how much dried starter would 1/2 tsp be in grams?

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Anne February 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Hi,
My live starter arrived today and I’m excited to get started. Quick question about the water:

We have a well, and the water is conditioned by a whole house system, passing through salt and limestone. No chlorine, of course, but would this be suitable? Or should I go buy some spring water. Is purified water the same as distilled?

Thanks!

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Breadtopia February 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Hi Anne,

You should be fine as is.

If I’m wrong, we’ll send you some more starter :-).

Eric

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Anne February 12, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Wow, you were so right! My water must be just fine. I have probably a cup of wonderful, bubbly, spongy starter after two feedings — first at 4 p.m 2/11, second at 11 a.m. 2/12. Now I have it in a big (turns out probably way too big) jar in the refrig, ready to increase to the point where I can make a loaf of bread. Off to watch the video about maintaining the starter.

Thank you so much!

One question: this has a distinctive smell, but I would not at all describe it as a “sourdough” smell. Is that OK?

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Breadtopia February 13, 2013 at 6:36 am

Probably

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Shelly January 2, 2013 at 10:38 am

Would your preference in buying starter be live or dried?

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Breadtopia January 2, 2013 at 11:54 am

There isn’t a big difference, but I’d go with live since it’s faster and a bit easier to revive and build a sufficient quantity to use for baking.

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lilli December 23, 2012 at 9:05 pm

help! i want help developing a gluten-free sourdough bread recipe!

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Lisa October 19, 2012 at 9:31 am

I ordered starter from Amazon. It came in the mail a couple days when I added flour and water. It started right up! Less than 24 hours later it had become spongy and bubbly. I’m now ready to bake with it. I had made a starter a couple years ago but neglected it and it passed away. However, having this starter, I can compare the two and can see that my original starter was never that good to begin with. I’m excited to make bread that will actually rise :)
One question. How do I go about making some of the starter gluten free-ish? (I know it will always have a little) I’d like to make some breads that don’t contain wheat flour. How do I start converting the starter? What recipes can you give me for good wheat free bread?
Thank you

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Breadtopia October 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

Hi Lisa,

I would just take some of the starter you have now and put it in its own container and start feeding that with whatever gluten free flour you want to use. Keep your original so you’ll have it to go back to if necessary. This site has very little if anything on gluten free bread baking. Maybe some day but in the mean time, there must be some great sites out there that make it their main focus.

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Patty September 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I do not have a starter . How do I get that?

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Rebecca September 11, 2012 at 8:17 am

So I neglected my starter for several months. Pulled it out of the frig 7 days ago and have been feeding (doubling it) 2x/day. After 7 days, it has started to produce lots of smaller bubbles – up until now it’s just been a larger bubble here and there – but still NO RISE.

Is it done for, or should I just be more patient?

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Dave W September 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Rebecca, I have restarted starter much more starved :) than yours several times. I have found this http://wegottaeat.com/tina.hyde/recipes/the-ugly-tale-of-the-long-forgotten-sour-dough-starter to be very helpful.
Good luck

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