How do you store sourdough starter long term?

Sourdough starter can easily be stored long term with just a few simple steps. Properly storing your starter allows you to keep it alive for weeks or even months between bakes without having to discard and feed it regularly. There are a few different methods for long term storage, but the key things to keep in mind are minimizing air exposure, keeping it refrigerated, and using air-tight containers.

Why store sourdough starter long term?

There are several reasons you may want to store your sourdough starter for an extended period of time:

  • You bake infrequently and don’t want to discard starter between bakes
  • You’re going on vacation and won’t be able to feed it regularly
  • You want to have back-up starter on hand just in case
  • You made too much starter and want to save some for later

Storing it properly allows the yeast and bacteria to go dormant until you’re ready to bake again. Taking your starter out of storage, feeding it, and letting it wake back up is called “reviving” your starter. With proper long term storage methods, you can revive a starter after months of dormancy.

How long can sourdough starter be stored?

Most sources agree properly stored sourdough starter can last at least 1-2 months in the refrigerator. However, many bakers report successfully reviving starters after 4-6 months or longer in the fridge. The viability depends on a few factors:

  • Storage method – air-tight vs loosely covered
  • Temperature – cooler is better
  • Starter health and maturity before storage
  • How frequently the container is opened

A mature, healthy starter that is stored with minimal air exposure in the back of the fridge (coldest area) can potentially go 6 months or longer before needing to be revived.

What are the best containers for storing sourdough starter?

The best containers for long term sourdough storage are airtight to prevent drying out and allow the dormant yeast to survive. Recommended options include:

  • Plastic containers with tight-fitting lids
  • Glass jars with tight-fitting lids
  • Freezer-safe zipper storage bags
  • Vacuum seal bags

Plastic and glass containers are reusable and allow you to easily see the starter. Sturdy plastic containers with lids that seal tightly or clamp shut are ideal. Wide-mouth canning jars also work well.

Zipper bags and vacuum bags provide an air-tight seal to prevent drying out. Allow gases to escape before fully sealing. You can gently squeeze out excess air and slowly zip or vacuum seal.

Tips for using containers:

  • Wash and dry containers thoroughly before use
  • Leave some air space at the top – don’t pack full
  • Label container with contents and date
  • Use smallest container possible for amount of starter

How to store sourdough starter long term

Follow these simple steps for long term sourdough storage:

  1. Feed the starter – Feed your starter as usual and allow it to peak before storing. A healthy, active starter has the best chance of survival.
  2. Remove excess – Discard most of the starter, leaving just enough to store (around 1/4 cup or 50g). Excess can be composted or used to bake discard recipes before storing.
  3. Chill thoroughly – Refrigerate the starter for a few days before storing to lower the temperature and slow fermentation.
  4. Seal airtight – Transfer the chilled starter to a clean air-tight container, allowing some room at the top for gases.
  5. Store in fridge – Place the container in the back of the refrigerator. Clear space in the fridge to minimize temperature fluctuations when opening.
  6. Use oldest first – When reviving starter, use the oldest stored portion first to maximize viability.

Tips for best results:

  • Store in smaller batches so starter doesn’t sit too long before use.
  • Write the date on the container so you know which is oldest.
  • Open fridge as little as possible to maintain stable cool temperature.
  • Store starter in the fridge for 1-2 weeks before long term storage.
  • Clean out fridge before storing to prevent contamination from old food.

How to revive stored sourdough starter

Reviving a dormant sourdough starter is fairly straightforward. Follow these steps when ready to bake again:

  1. Take it out – Remove starter from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
  2. Feed as usual – Discard most of starter, add fresh flour and water, and mix well.
  3. Let sit – Leave starter out at room temperature to revive for 6-12 hours.
  4. Feed again – Discard most, feed remaining starter, and wait another 6-12 hours.
  5. Check activity – Starter should show signs of activity like bubbles and rise before using in a recipe.
  6. Use as normal – Once doubled in size after feedings, the revived starter can be used in any recipe.

The starter may take a couple feedings to regain strength after long term storage. Let it double or triple in size after feedings to ensure it is healthy and active again before baking.

What to look for when reviving starter:

  • Bubbles and rise
  • Sour aroma
  • Increased volume
  • Decreased density

Troubleshooting an inactive starter:

  • Give it more time at warm room temperature with a couple extra feedings
  • Try adding some rye or whole wheat flour for extra nutrients
  • Stir the starter vigorously to wake up the yeast
  • If no signs of activity after 48 hours, discard and begin a new starter

What to do if mold appears

It’s fairly common for some mold growth to occur on sourdough starter during long term storage. A small patch of mold isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. Follow these steps if mold appears:

  1. First, check for smell – moldy/rotten smells mean the starter has likely spoiled and should be discarded.
  2. Look for changes below surface – if mold goes deeper than surface, starter is unsafe to use.
  3. Cut away mold – use a clean utensil to remove any visible surface mold.
  4. Transfer to new container – move remaining starter to a clean container in case spores linger.
  5. Feed as normal – discard most of starter, then feed remaining portion.
  6. Allow to revive – check for signs of activity before using again.

If mold reappears after removing surface mold and feeding, it’s best to discard the starter and begin again with a new culture.

Tips to prevent mold:

  • Use air-tight storage containers
  • Make sure containers are thoroughly dry before use
  • Remove excess liquid before storing
  • Refrigerate for 1-2 weeks before long term storage

Storing sourdough starter in the freezer

In addition to refrigerator storage, some bakers freeze sourdough starters for even longer term storage. Freezing essentially stops fermentation and preserves the yeast in a dormant state. Here are some tips for freezer storage:

  • Use freezer bags or airtight freezer-safe containers
  • Press out excess air before sealing
  • Wrap container in plastic wrap or foil for extra protection
  • Freeze starter at least overnight before long term freezer storage
  • Store for up to 6-12 months
  • Thaw completely in fridge before reviving starter

The freezing process can damage some yeast cells. Starters stored frozen for over a year may have difficulty rebounding. For best results, limit freezer storage to 6-12 months and keep stored starter below 0°F (-18°C) if possible.

Drying sourdough starter for storage

Drying sourdough starter creates a dormant, shelf-stable product that can be stored at room temperature. To dry starter:

  1. Spread active starter thinly on a clean surface like parchment paper.
  2. Allow to air dry for 6-8 hours until completely hardened.
  3. Break into pieces and grind into powder with mortar and pestle.
  4. Store powder in air-tight containers in a cool, dry place.

Don’t use extreme heat when drying as high temperatures can kill the yeast. Room temperature air drying works well. To rehydrate, add water and allow time to revive just like refrigerated starter.

Tips for drying starter:

  • Dry very thin layers – 1/4 inch or less
  • Turn over halfway through drying
  • Avoid humidity and moisture
  • Powder can keep 1-2 years sealed at room temp

Common questions about storing sourdough starter:

How long can sourdough starter be refrigerated?

Refrigerated sourdough starter can be kept for 1-2 months before needing to be revived or discarded and restarted. Keep refrigerated starter in an airtight container and use older portions first whenever taking some out to bake.

What temperature should sourdough starter be stored at?

The ideal storage temperature is 35-40°F (2-4°C). This cold refrigerator temperature slows fermentation to a crawl. Store in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks before long term storage. For freezer storage, freeze at 0°F (-18°C) or below.

Do you have to feed sourdough every day when storing long term?

When storing sourdough starter long term, you do not need to feed it daily. Feed the starter well initially before chilling and storing. The cold temperature prevents the need for regular feedings. Revive the starter with a couple feedings when ready to use again.

Should sourdough starter be stored in the fridge or freezer?

For storage up to 2-6 months, the refrigerator is ideal. For longer term storage of 6 months or more, the freezer is recommended. Refrigeration slows fermentation. Freezing stops it completely but can damage some yeast when thawed.

Can you freeze sourdough starter without killing it?

Yes, you can successfully freeze a sourdough starter without killing the yeast, though some loss of viability may occur. Use air-tight freezer bags or containers. Limit freezer time to 6-12 months, and thaw completely in the refrigerator before reviving.

Is it OK to store sourdough starter in a jar?

Yes, canning jars with tight fitting lids make excellent airtight containers for storing sourdough starter in the refrigerator or freezer. Make sure jars are very clean and dry before use. Leave some headspace above the starter and seal tightly.

Key takeaways

  • Mature, healthy starter has the best chance of surviving storage
  • Minimize air exposure by using airtight containers
  • Refrigerate 1-2 weeks before long term storage
  • Store in back of fridge and open door minimally
  • Let stored starter revive at room temp with a couple feedings
  • Discard and begin fresh if starter shows no activity after 48 hours


With proper storage techniques, sourdough starter can easily be preserved for weeks or months without constant care between bake days. An air-tight container and consistent cool refrigerator temperature are key to creating an environment where yeast and bacteria remain dormant. Always revive starter fully with discarding and feeding before using again in recipes. With a little planning, your sourdough starter can be paused when not in use and revived with full flavor when you’re ready to create your next loaf.

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