There are a variety of ways to feed, maintain and use your sourdough starter. An active starter is known to produce the perfect rise when baking sourdough bread. Once the sourdough starter rises, that’s when we should question when it is the right time to use our starter in your bread recipe. As you know, sourdough starter must be fed regularly, whether its every few hours, or twice a day. To determine how soon after feeding your sourdough starter is the right time to use it, you’re going to need some guidance, so listen close!
When Should I Use a Starter for Sourdough Bread?
The best time to use your sourdough starter, is once it has peaked. This is normally achieved 3 to 4 hours after it has been fed.
Maintaining sourdough starter at cooler temperatures can mean that they may take longer to reach their peak. Once it has achieved a good rise, the starter will remain there for a couple hours, and then collapse.
Different flour and levels of bacteria, followed by room temp and many other factors affect the rate at which sourdough starter rises.
Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee a solid time to use your sourdough starter, you’ll have to make this decision upon close inspection.
How to Tell if My Starter is at its Peak?
Make it a habit to check your starter every 60 minutes after feeding. An active sourdough starter will have a thick consistency, bubbling on the surface.
If you have a thinner starter, you might have smaller bubbles. These bubbles should be plentiful, and cover the surface of your starter. There are some theories stating that once a starter triples in size, it has reached its peak and is ready to use.
However not all starters reach this height, whilst others rise more.
If you’re wary in judging when your starter is the most active, you can conduct a simple test to help you.
- First find a tall container, preferably with a glass lid, and some markers or elastic bands
- Feed the starter as you would, adding some flour and water and getting rid of any discard. Mark where the top of your starter reaches in the container
- Place it in a warm place to rise, noting down the time
- Review after 2 hours, and keep marking the container
- Keep marking the rise of your sourdough starter every hour, until it starts to collapse. The highest point is the peak
By now you should know how long your starter takes to rise. Once you’re ready to make your bread, use the same recipe and keep the starter at the same temperature for accurate timings, which can work for home baking.
Related Read: Sourdough Baking Temperature Gude
When to Use a Peaked Sourdough Starter?
Once the starter has reached its peak, it will slow down the production of yeast cells, which makes it the perfect time to use your starter. However, as the starter remains at its peak, the lactic acid bacteria will continue to multiply. As a result, the number of organic acid bacteria will increase in your starter.
Leaving the starter at its peak for a couple of hours can be beneficial, as it activates the starter, increasing acetic acid, which provides flavor to the sourdough bread.
Can I Use My Sourdough Starter Straight After Feeding?
While you can use a mature starter immediately after feeding, it’s not always the best idea.
When you feed your starter, you weaken the bacteria, and as it chomps through the flour the bacteria and yeasts multiply, making it a strong starter as gas production begins to create bubbles, allowing the starter to rise till it reaches its peak.
How Can I be Sure that My Starter is Ready to Use?
The main factor to look out for is the starters appearance.
An unfed starter won’t produce bubbles or increase in size. There is an additional test that you can do to ensure that your starter is ready top use, and this is called a float test.
The float test is a way of checking whether your sourdough starter is light and airy enough to make your bread rise and create that perfect loaf.
- Start by filling a glass of water at room temperature
- Give your starter a gentle mix to evenly distribute the bubbles
- Take a teaspoon of sourdough starter and place it carefully onto the water surface
- If the sourdough starter floats, then your starter has peaked enough to make bread
- If the starter sinks, then it doesn’t have enough bubbles, meaning that it hasn’t reached its peak yet.
Sourdough Starter Readiness: Bottom Line
A ready sourdough starter can be a very rewarding accomplishment, but it does require some time and effort.
As long as you learn the patterns of your starter before hastening its use, then you’ll achieve the best results in your baking.
Can I use my starter right after I feed it?
Sourdough starter takes time to eat through the sugar and starches in the flour, which may prevent it from becoming active. This is why it is recommended to wait between 4 to 12 hours before using the starter to bake sourdough bread.
How long does sourdough starter need to sit after feeding?
You can give your sourdough starter frequent feedings, feeding it at regular intervals, whether it is after 8 hours or 12 hours, then allowing it to sit in an air tight container, under cooler temperatures, until it is time to be fed again.
Do you feed sourdough starter right before you use it?
You should wait at least 2 to 4 hours, or until the starter has reached its peak before using it in baking.
How long before I can use my sourdough starter?
Before making sourdough bread, you need to wait 4 to 12 hours after feeding before using the starter in your sourdough recipe.