sourdough bread

Sourdough Starter Not Rising and How to Fix It


Sourdough baking is so much fun once you get the hang of it. But ask just about anyone who bakes with sourdough how it all started out and chances are they’ll tell you it wasn’t easy. It definitely comes with its fair share of challenges. I’ll be the first to tell you that I had a lot of issues getting started. At first, I tried making my own sourdough starter. I failed so many times I’m not even sure how many times I tried. It felt like such a waste too with none of them working out for me. Little did I know, I could’ve still used those mixtures. Eventually I just decided to buy a sourdough start just so I could start baking. After baking quite a bit, I’ve figured out a lot of things and learned how to troubleshoot. So here I am, sharing the wealth with you.

sourdough bread

One of the most common issues that many bakers face is a sourdough starter that refuses to rise. If you find yourself in this predicament, don’t worry I have you covered. In this troubleshooting guide, we’ll explore the possible reasons behind sourdough starter not rising and what you can do about it.

This post is all about troubleshooting sourdough starter not rising.

Understanding Sourdough Basics

Sourdough is the oldest form of leaven dating back to ancient Egyptian times. It is said to be traced back to 2000 BC. It requires very little ingredients to make – just water and flour. Before diving into troubleshooting, let’s quickly review the fundamentals of a sourdough starter. A sourdough starter is a symbiotic mixture of flour and water that captures wild yeast and bacteria from the environment. Each sourdough is unique because of its environment and the wild yeast it captures from it.  These microorganisms work together to ferment the mixture, creating bubbles caused by carbon dioxide, which causes the starter to rise.  When the starter starts to rise, it’s almost time to bake. You’ll want to wait until the starter is at its peak rise and most active. But what if it doesn’t rise? What do you do? Let’s take a look at the possible reasons behind why your sourdough starter isn’t rising.

[RELATED POST: What’s the Best Sourdough Starter Jar?]

Possible Reasons Your Sourdough Starter Isn’t Rising

too much sourdough starter

There are a number of reasons as to why your sourdough starter isn’t rising. What I recommend doing is going through each reason to see if it fits your scenario.

Insufficient Feeding

Sourdough starter is essentially a living being. It’s full of bacteria and yeast that are alive in your jar. Since they’re alive, they need to be fed. Its food is the sugar and carbohydrates that come from the flour. 

If you’re keeping your starter out on the counter, make sure you are feeding it regularly, ideally once or twice a day during its active phase. Use equal parts of flour and water by weight to maintain the right consistency.

Incorrect Temperature

As with most ferments, sourdough starter doesn’t like the cold. It likes to be nice and cozy. Yeast and bacteria thrive in a specific temperature range (typically between 70-75°F or 21-24°C). Keep your starter in a warm environment, and avoid extreme temperature fluctuations. 

Poor Flour Quality

Opt for high-quality, unbleached, and organic flours. Whole grain flours or a mix of whole grain and all-purpose flours can provide more nutrients for the microorganisms. Having an unbleached flour is SUPER important. Bleaching agents (such as benzoyl peroxide or chlorine dioxide) are commonly used to make flours appear whiter, and the bleach actually makes the flour more acidic. Using bleached flour isn’t good for your starter, so avoid using it.

Chlorinated Water

Avoid using water straight from the tap. Tap water contains chlorine to kill off harmful bacteria that may enter our water supply.  It’s not selective though in what kinds of bacteria it goes after. Chlorinated water can hinder the growth of beneficial microorganisms. 

Use filtered or dechlorinated water for feeding your starter.

Starter Contamination

Be sure to keep all equipment that comes in contact with your starter clean. So wash all utensils, your hands, and even the jar clean at all times. Contamination from unwanted bacteria or mold can hinder the growth of the desired microorganisms.

Underdeveloped Starter

If your starter is relatively new, it might need more time to establish a robust community of yeast and bacteria. Be patient and continue with regular feedings.

Overly Acidic Environment

While sourness is a characteristic of sourdough, an excessively acidic environment can inhibit yeast activity. Adjust the feeding ratio or feed the starter more frequently to maintain a balanced pH.

Lack of Aeration

Stir your starter during feedings to introduce oxygen, which supports yeast activity. You shouldn’t just put the water and flour in without stirring. It needs to be pretty well combined. Use a loose lid or covering with a cloth to allow for gas exchange. What I usually do is place a paper towel over the mouth of the jar, and then slip the ring of the mason jar around the top. By putting the ring of the mason jar on top, it keeps the paper towel in place.

Too Much Starter

Having too much starter in your jar can be more time consuming to take care of. It’ll require a lot more flour and water for each feeding. Although there are people that don’t discard their starter prior to feeding, common practice is to discard and then feed your starter. This helps to make it more manageable and balanced between the starter, water, and flour.


Reviving a sourdough starter that’s not rising requires a bit of detective work, but with patience and careful adjustments, you can bring it back to life. Remember, sourdough baking is as much an art as it is a science, and each starter is unique. Experiment with the suggested solutions, and soon you’ll be enjoying beautifully risen loaves of sourdough bread. Happy baking!

This post was all about sourdough starter not rising.

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