Sourdough starter can be used in place of commercial yeast to make bread rise. If your starter doesn’t rise, you can’t use it to bake bread. This article will explore why a starter may not rise and what to do to fix the problem.
Why Is My Sourdough Starter Not Rising?
Sourdough starters commonly have rising problems and, luckily, most issues are easy to fix.
The Temperature Is too Cold
The ideal temperature for a sourdough starter is between 75 and 85°F. Sourdough starters thrive in warm environments. If you keep your sourdough starter in a cool area it may not rise.
To increase the temperature of your sourdough starter, use warm water (80–90°F) to make its feed. If a warm feeder doesn’t sufficiently heat your sourdough starter, store the starter in a warm cabinet, like a cabinet near the stove, wrap the starter in an electric heating pad with adjustable temperature settings, or put the starter in a proofing box.
Incorrect Feeding Frequencies
If your sourdough starter began to rise and stopped, it might need extra feedings to encourage yeast development. Try feeding your starter twice daily to encourage it to rise.
If the starter has been stored in the fridge, it will need several room-temperature feedings to rise.
Sourdough starters are most effective when made of high-quality ingredients. The flour in your sourdough starter should be unbleached and made without chemicals. Water quality can also affect your starter. Use filtered or bottled water to avoid introducing traces of chemicals into the starter.
An incorrect ingredient ratio can cause a sourdough starter to not rise. Give your sourdough starter a boost by adding a little flour.
When Should I Start a New Sourdough Starter?
You should start a new sourdough starter only after you’ve figured out why the old starter didn’t rise and it’s too late to fix it. If you start a new sourdough starter without fixing the problems, the same mistakes could be repeated.
What Do I Need to Do if My Sourdough Starter Doesn’t Rise?
If the sourdough starter still doesn’t rise after trying the above corrections, try the following additional steps:
Move the Starter to a Cooler Place
If the temperature was an issue with your sourdough starter, you might have moved the starter to a warmer space. However, if you moved the starter to a particularly hot area, it may be too warm.
Sourdough starters need to be kept at 75–85°F, and if the temperature reaches 95°F, the yeast becomes dormant, and the starter fails to rise.
If the temperature of your starter is too hot, move the starter back to a cooler place (but not cooler than 75°F).
Slow Down the Feeding Frequency
While feeding a sourdough starter usually helps it to rise, unnecessarily increasing feeding negatively impacts the starter’s growth. Leave a longer period between feedings and see if the starter rises.
Make Sure You’re Not Missing the Rise
Your starter may rise overnight or when you’re out and collapse by the time you check it. The next time you feed your starter, transfer it to a new container and mark its height before putting it back on the shelf.
Feed the starter in a bowl then place it in a new, clean jar. Tie an elastic band or hair bobble around the jar at the height of the sourdough starter. If the starter goes above or below the band, it will leave marks on the jar, allowing you to track its movement and identify whether it is rising or not.
How to Know When My Sourdough Starter Is Ready for Baking
You can tell whether or not the sourdough starter is ready for baking by how it looks and smells. If you see more bubbles in the starter each day or if the sourdough starter has doubled in volume four hours after feeding, it’s likely reading for baking. A sour smell coming from the starter is another sign that the sourdough starter is ready to bake.
If you’re still unsure whether or not to bake the sourdough starter, drop a teaspoon of the starter into a cup of warm water. If the starter floats, it’s ready for baking.