Can I use a sourdough starter straight from the fridge?

Can I Use My Sourdough Starter Straight From The Fridge?

Can I use a sourdough starter straight from the fridge?
Updated on
January 17, 2023
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

Using the fridge to keep your starter is a great way to save waste and time when you don’t bake daily. It’s the perfect environment for home bakers to store their sourdough starter! But is a starter ok to use straight away? Let’s see if we can use a sourdough starter straight from the fridge.

You can use your starter straight from the fridge, providing it’s active. An old starter or one that’s not been fed for a while will need refreshing before use to re-activate the yeast and lactic acid bacteria inside. 

Can you use my starter straight from the fridge?

Yes, you can use a sourdough starter from the fridge without refreshing it. A starter stored in the fridge works just the same as if left on the counter. It still rises, although not as high, and it can be a lot slower. After feeding, we would leave a starter at room temperature for 3-4 hours for the bacteria to multiply. As the process is slower in the fridge, we should wait 2-3 days before using it.

A straight-from-fridge starter can make great sourdough bread. If the starter has been in the fridge for a day or two, the bread should be similar to a warm starter. But if not, the result won’t be quite as good as what a warm starter will make. Expect a slower rise, weaker gluten structure, less oven spring and a more acidic aroma. These are signs that the starter is weak as it’s exhausted its food supply.

Should I bring sourdough to room temp before baking?

A cold starter will lower the final dough temperature and slow down the levain. We can counteract this by warming up the water used or bringing the starter up to room temperature. If you don’t do this, your bread will just be slower to rise!

How to prepare a recently fed starter

If the starter has been fed and left in the fridge within 48 hours, letting it warm up can be a good idea. This allows the yeast and organic bacteria to consume the flour. These will replicate, creating more activity in the starter.

Preparing a starter that’s been in the fridge for a week

If the starter has been left for more than a couple of days, it shouldn’t matter if you warm it up or not. You will be able to bake using the starter when it’s cold. However, you might want to warm it to increase its activity before making your dough.

Preparing a starter that has spent more than a week in the fridge

If it has been left for over a week in the fridge without refreshing, then we might want to change tack. If the starter has consumed its food, risen, collapsed and left dormant. It won’t be as active as one close to its peak rise. In this case, it’s best to refresh the starter again to restore its activity. You might be able to make a decent loaf without refreshing it, but I recommend you feed it before using it to make bread.

Why timing the rise of a sourdough starter is important

After a starter is fed, it has its lowest concentration of yeast and lactic acid bacteria. Fresh flour and water have naturally diluted them. The existing yeasts and bacteria feed on the sugars that are derived from the flour, and they multiply. The starter increases its yeast and lactic acid bacteria content alongside producing gas. The higher and higher a starter rises, the more leavening qualities it will have. 

Depending on the temperature, the starter will reach the top of its rise in around 3-10 hours. It will sit at its peak for a while – usually 1-2 hours. At this point, organic acids multiply whilst yeast content stays roughly the same. Then, as it runs out of strength to retain the gas, the starter collapses.

After the starter collapses, it can still be used, yet it won’t be as effective as one that’s taken at its peak. It will also be more acidic. The same thing happens when a starter is left in the fridge. It just doesn’t rise as high!

How long does a sourdough starter last in the fridge?

If a starter is left in the fridge for more than a week without feeding, it will have risen to its peak, collapsed and started to deteriorate. After this, it will need to be refreshed to bring it back to life. The older the starter, the more refreshments will be needed. A starter will keep for up to a month unfed in the fridge. If longer than this, it is likely to get infected by mould.

How to stop a starter from dying in the fridge

Take the starter out of the fridge once a week. Feed it in the morning and place it in a warm spot. In the afternoon, remove some of the starter for making bread (or discard it). Feed again and place back in the fridge.

Ending thoughts on using a sourdough starter straight from the fridge

To use your starter straight from the fridge, you must keep it active by feeding it regularly. Refreshing an old starter or one that hasn’t been fed for a while will require more time and effort. But you can get to the desired point of activity with regular care.

If you’re wondering if it’s okay to use your starter straight from the fridge, yes! Remember that your inactive sourdough starter might take longer to rise than usual. See my beginner’s sourdough recipe to get started.

Further reading:

Can dough go bad in the fridge

Sourdough starter not rising

Sourdough starter feeding methods

Frequently asked questions about using a starter straight from the fridge.

Can you just bake sourdough starter?
Yes, although why would you want to do this? It will be overly alcoholic and acidic. It will have a weak structure and taste bland without adding salt. Sourdough bread is best made with 10-50% of starter with flour, water and salt added.

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  • My friend recommended this website to fix my sourdough issues, I think it’s fixed now thanks for your work Gareth

  • Avatar for Christopher Lucchesi
    Christopher Lucchesi

    I want my bread to have more of a sour taste. What do you recommend I do to get it more sour? I fed my starter then put it in the fridge for three days and I would like to bake with it after the three days directly from the fridge, will this be okay?

    • Hi Christopher! For more sourness, allow the starter to sit at its peak before refreshing a few times. This will increase the acid bacteria to make it sour.
      Many bakers find joy by 1/2 – 3/4 proofing their bread at room temperature before placing it in the fridge overnight and then baking. This will develop acids too. You can also tweak the balance between acidic and lactic acids, see: How to make a sourdough more sour for more about this.

      Yes, you can leave your starter in the fridge for three days and use it. You might want to leave it out of the fridge for a couple of hours before you use it to allow the yeasts and bacteria to multiply a bit.

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