When I first began working with my sourdough starter, I never imagined that one day I would master such a mysterious process. From my years of teaching people to bake sourdough, I have heard so much confusion about the starter. Some people have asked me about using potato flakes in their starter, some have insisted it needs to be fed every day, and others assume each feeding needs to be precisely weighed. All of these concerns are valid, but one of the most common questions I hear is: why is my sourdough starter not rising?
There can be many reasons why a sourdough starter isn’t rising. Almost every factor you can imagine affects your starter: temperature, volume of ingredients, time, choice of ingredients, and consistency. This is why it is so helpful to understand all of these factors in detail as you troubleshoot your sourdough starter. For more help with your starter and tips for success, check out my other blog on this topic.
Why is my sourdough starter not rising?
If your starter is too cold, it will rise very slowly, or not at all. Because the cold slows fermentation, this is why I place mine in the fridge when I want to wait a few days before feeding it. Ideally, your starter will be over 70 degrees when you feed it. If your starter is on your counter, it may not be rising because it is cold in your kitchen, it is resting beside a drafty window, etc. I would take a look at your fermentation location to gauge temps.
If you think temperature is your issue, try moving your starter away from windows and drafty parts of the house. This can be challenging in the winter especially, but placing your jar near the stove top/oven or near your fireplace or wood burning stove is a great solution. Just be careful to keep your starter from getting too warm!
Problem: Too much starter
For a high rise in your starter you will need a high ratio of flour and water to starter. If you have too much starter in your jar to begin with, you cannot achieve this ratio.
Try discarding most of your starter and leaving just a tablespoon or so left, give it a really big feeding and wait for the rise.
Time can be tricky with starter. There are a number of factors at play here: time since your last feeding, time the starter has been out of the fridge, and age of your starter. Learning the timing of sourdough starter comes with lots of experience, mistakes, and practice.
Remember, any time you are not actively using your starter, it can live in the refrigerator. If you accidentally leave it out for a few days, just discard most of it, give it a big feeding, wait for it to become active, and bake or place it back in the fridge.
The ingredients you use to feed your starter are just as important as the ingredients you use to bake your sourdough. If you are using low-quality ingredients, this will be reflected in the performance of your starter. If your starter is needing a little pick me up, try feeding it with organic rye flour.
Solution: Learn Sourdough Starter Ingredients
These are the only ingredients you should be using for an active, bubbly result.