Why Is My Sourdough Starter Runny?

When it comes to sourdough starter, consistency is a common problem. Do you want to know why your sourdough starter is runny and watery?

Sourdough starters can be runny for many different reasons, all of which can be fixed with relative ease.

You may have a runny sourdough starter for the following reasons:

  • The starter isn’t being fed regularly enough.
  • You need to add less water to the flour you are using.
  • You have a warm kitchen.
  • Your ingredients are not weighed accurately or measured by volume.
  • Feeding ratio for sourdough starters.

Is A Sourdough Starter Supposed To Be Liquidy (Or Runny)?

Having a loose, runny starter is normal, as this texture is a byproduct of the starter’s hydration and feeding flour.

It is more likely that a starter with a high hydration-i.e., a lot of water compared to total flour-will be liquidy/runny than one with a lower hydration.

Generally speaking, the more hydrated a starter is, the more fermentation activity you’ll see, assuming all else is equal.

Problems With Watery Sourdough Starter

When sourdough starters are runny or watery, they may not behave properly. It becomes runny if you let your starter sit for too long after feeding it.

You may find it a bit challenging. Sourdough starters that have too much water will not perform optimally.

When your sourdough starter is runny, you may notice the following problems:

  • Mold grows on it, and it needs to be disposed of.
  • It seems like it’s separating or produces hooch more often.
  • There isn’t as much bubble as you would expect.
  • It does not rise much or have aerated textures.
  • An overwhelming acetone or nail polish remover smell.

How To Fix A Watery Sourdough Starter?

You might have runny or watery sourdough starter because of the following factors. You can fix them all easily.

1. Maintain A Regular Feeding Schedule For Starter

A starter that has not been fed for a long period of time (even 24 hours) may become more runny than it should be.

It is ideal to feed your starter every 12 hours if it is left on the counter. If you are still in the establishment phase (first 4 weeks), this is particularly important.

You can reduce the likelihood that your starter will be hungry by feeding it every 12 hours, which will prevent it from producing too much hooch, which will cause it to become runny.

When you first feed a sourdough starter, it will be stiffer than normal, but will loosen up as the starter ferments.

However, when it peaks it should be aerated and mousse-like. In this case, letting it go back down and not feeding it may make it runnier.

2. Change Your Flour

Your sourdough starter will benefit greatly from the flour you choose.

If you use unbleached white flour for your sourdough starter (either all purpose or bread flour), it is perfectly fine. Unlike wholegrain or rye flour, white flour does not absorb as much water.

The water required for your starter will be slightly less if you use all-purpose flour or bread flour. It doesn’t always work, but it can make a difference sometimes.

You may be able to solve your problems with a runny sourdough starter by adding whole grain flour, such as rye or whole wheat.

A blend of bread and rye flour (e.g. 50% bread, 50% rye) or rye flour alone could help test the effect.

3. Check The Temperature

A sourdough starter’s fermentation and growth are greatly influenced by temperature. Your starter won’t rise if it’s too cold.

When it gets too warm, your sourdough starter will use the flour and water you feed it too quickly. Your starter will become runny and watery as a result.

Hooch can also develop if you don’t feed your starter enough during the warm weather.

Maintain a constant temperature in your starter – between 24°C and 28°C is ideal.

You can use a bread proofer, yoghurt warmer, or even a bread proofer to artificially create a constant temperature for your sourdough starter.

Creating constant temperatures can be achieved in a variety of ways. Sourdough starters are also more likely to runny with high humidity.

4. Weigh Ingredients By Weight

It’s so important to weigh your ingredients for sourdough starter.

It’s possible that you will end up with a watery sourdough starter if you use cups or spoons to measure the ingredients.

Due to the fact that volume measurement is not universal or accurate, it is not in accordance with a 1:1:1 ratio.

5. Sourdough Starter Feeding Ratio

Sourdough starter consistency can be affected by the ratio you feed it.

Generally, you should feed your starter 1:1:1. For example, if you had 50 grams of starter (after discarding), you would feed it 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water.

You can use any amount of starter with this ratio. As long as you feed it flour and water at the same rate, it will be fine. Therefore, you can use 125 grams of starter and feed it with 125 grams of flour and 125 grams of water.

The ratio may need to be increased if your starter is runny. It can be done at 1:2:2 – you would need to double the flour and water.

For very runny starters, use a 1:2:1 ratio instead. Therefore, you would feed it 100g of flour and 50g of water for every 50g of starter.

As it ferments, it will become a little thinner, but at first it will be quite stiff to mix. After feeding it, you may have to stir it around 1 hour to make sure all of the flour is dispersed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is My Sourdough Starter the Right Consistency?

When making a sourdough starter, what consistency should it have? The ideal consistency of sourdough is the consistency of peanut butter when it is warm.

It should be quite thick after just being fed. There’s nothing wrong with it if it seems a little dry. In the process of fermenting, the starter absorbs the flour and thins out just a bit.

It should be thick, airy, and mousse-like when it is at its peak. Depending on how runny or watery your starter is, you may need to tweak it a bit to make it thicker.

How Do I Know If I Killed My Sourdough Starter?

There is no doubt that sourdough starters are highly resilient. You can probably revive your sourdough starter as long as there is no visible mold on it. It’s possible to revive a sourdough starter that has a thick layer of black hooch.

Can You Use A Runny Sourdough Starter?

In general, it’s better to use a thicker starter for sourdough, but thinner starters can also be used.

Sourdough can definitely be made with a regular feeding and if it shows all the signs of baking readiness (and none of the issues described above).

To counteract the extra liquid in thinner starters, you might want to reduce the water content in the recipe a bit.

This recipe will result in a dough with a much higher hydration level if the liquid is not reduced.

Due to this, it will ferment more quickly, be at risk of overfermentation, and become difficult to shape. There is a risk of getting wet, sticky dough.

Is Sourdough Starter Supposed To Be Liquidy?

Sourdough starter is generally referred to as liquid sourdough starter; it differs from a stiff sourdough starter (such as sourdough starter).

You should still be able to pour liquid sourdough starter, but it should not be runny.

What Flour Is Best To Use For A Sourdough Starter?

As long as the flour isn’t bleached, you can use any type of flour for a sourdough starter. Your starter should be made with all-purpose or bread flour, but you can also use whole wheat or another whole grain.

Sourdough starter consistency can be affected by the flour you choose, and a white flour will likely result in a runnier starter unless you adjust the water amount.

What Consistency Should My Sourdough Starter Be?

The ideal consistency for your sourdough starter is peanut butter. When it reaches its peak, it should be pourable but have an aerated, mousse-like texture.

Final Words

In the event that you are not overfeeding your starter with water, then the reason your starter is runny is because it has reached maturity.

Your starter becomes runny if it sits too long after feeding. As the sourdough ferments, the gluten gets more broken down.

If you are fixing a wet sourdough starter, make sure you use it just after it reaches peak fermentation—or after it has doubled and passed the float test.

When the house is really warm and the starter is very active, it could take as little as 2 hours, but when the house is really cold, it may take 8-10 hours to complete this process.

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