Sourdough Starter Troubleshooting | Anwsering All of Your FAQs

Working with a sourdough starter can be the best of times and the worst of times. There are tons of variables when you're starting out and it can be frustrating at times. Lucky for you - we're here to help and have the most frequently asked questions we get every day on sourdough starters


Download our Sourdough Guide and Recipe book today! It's packed with information and recipes to help you get started and be successful with your sourdough starter.


Q. I have been feeding my sourdough starter for 7 days, and it is still not activating properly or getting bubbly enough. What can I do?

A. The most common issue is temperature. Check the temperature in the culturing area and make sure that it is at least 70ºF around the clock. If possible, move the starter to a warmer area (70-85ºF) to speed up the activation process. If your starter continues to be sluggish, read our tips on Caring for Starter Cultures in Cold Weather or contact us for further troubleshooting advice.

Q. My sourdough starter has dark liquid on top. Did I damage it?

A. The dark liquid is a form of naturally occurring alcohol known as hooch, which indicates that your sourdough starter is hungry. Hooch is harmless but should be poured off and discarded prior to stirring and feeding your starter. If a hooch is forming on your starter regularly, increase the feeding frequency and/or move the starter to a cooler spot (70-85ºF), to slow things down.


Q. I accidentally fed my starter with the incorrect amount of flour and water. It is not bubbling. Did I kill it?

A. Sourdough starter is quite resilient. Simply resume normal feedings using the proper ingredients and amounts, and the starter should bounce back.

Q. I accidentally fed my starter with the wrong type of flour. Did I kill it?

A. Sourdough starter is quite resilient. Simply resume normal feedings using the proper ingredients and amounts, and the starter should bounce back.

Q. My sourdough starter smells like alcohol or nail polish remover. Is there a way to fix it?

A. When the sourdough starter isn't fed often enough or feedings are skipped, it is common for an alcohol odor to develop. Increasing feeding frequency can help; however, if the starter has been neglected for a while, it may require more effort to revive it. Consult our article Troubleshooting Common Sourdough Problems for more information.


Need help troubleshooting your sourdough starter? Download our Sourdough Guide and Recipe book today.


download sourdough guide and recipe book


Q. My sourdough starter has grown mold on top or on the sides of the jar. What should I do?

A. Mold is fairly uncommon when working with a sourdough starter, but it can occasionally happen. There are a couple of options for dealing with mold. Either try to save the starter or discard the starter and start over. For instructions on how to save a moldy sourdough starter, consult our article, Troubleshooting Common Sourdough Problems.

Q. My refrigerator was too cold and I accidentally froze my sourdough culture. Can it be saved? 

A. Freezing normally won't harm your sourdough culture. Simply defrost it in your refrigerator then work with the starter as you normally would.

Q. I was keeping my sourdough starter in the oven with the light on to keep it a bit warmer. Someone turned the oven on! Can my sourdough culture be saved?

A. While sourdough is amazingly resilient, heat is fatal for a sourdough culture. You may try feeding it to see if it bubbles up, indicating it is still alive. If the temperature climbed much above 85ºF, the starter is likely dead.

Q. I forgot about my sourdough starter in the refrigerator for several weeks. It looks fine. Can I still use it?

A. Sourdough starter can survive more neglect than most cultures. The only way to know for sure if it is still viable is to feed it. For more information on reviving your starter, consult our article Troubleshooting Common Sourdough Problems.


Now that we've answered most of your frequently asked questions about sourdough starters, it's time to get back to making sourdough at home! Cultures for Health has the best selection of sourdough starters and tools for you to use in your home.

Our Artisan Sourdough Kit has all of the tools and ingredients you need to start making sourdough at home now! This kit includes:

Artisan Sourdough Bread Kit

Trust points for Artisan Sourdough Bread Kit
This sourdough bread kit contains everything you need to get started making beautiful, tasty, artisan-style sourdough bread at home!  Equipment in the sourdough bread starter kit may appear different than pictured. INCLUDED IN THE KIT Each Kit Contains 1 x San Francisco Style Sourdough Starter Culture. 1 x Bread Lame...

  • 1 x San Francisco Style Sourdough Starter
  • 1 x Bread Lame (Scorer)
  • 1 x Baker's Scale
  • 1 x Steel Dough Scraper
  • 1 x Butter Muslin
  • Sourdough Recipes

If you're ready to start or continue your sourdough journey, click here to check out our Artisan Sourdough Kit now!