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I have a batch of sourdough that I've been maintaining and feeding for months, and currently trying to save from spoiling after repetitive periods of laziness, where I left the batch unfed for more than two days. It leavens the bread dough just fine and the bread dough smells nice after 12 hours of fermenting, but the sourdough starter itself smells a little off, or I simply haven't liked its smell as of lately. I noticed that with regular feeding and care, though, that undesirable smell is weakening and it's starting to smell more acceptable as time goes by. My hope is that this is the good guys slowly overtaking any bad guys (the ones responsible for the off smell) as the weeks go by, and that sourdough starter can be saved after periods of irresponsibility toward the lovely pets. =)

Now, with that introduction out of the way, my question is: What is the sourdough to flour to water ratio that I should use if I only want to feed my sourdough once a day, or every 24 hours, instead of twice daily or every 12 hours, and still have it stay healthy?

For example, should I be adding 200 g fresh flour and 200 g water (for a total of 400 g) to 200 g of sourdough once a day? Or is it better to use a 2:2:1 ratio of 240 g fresh flour and 240 g water to 120 g of sourdough when one's feeding every 24 hours?

Thanks for any help or tips with this.

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I am using as little as 10-20 % old starter, e.g. 100g flour, 100g water and a teaspoon old starter, which is somewhere around 15g, plus/minus. To be honest, I usually eyeball the ratios, aiming for the just-right consistency of the flour/water mix, then add the starter. A few percent deviation is ok.

Don’t forget that the growth in your starter is roughly exponential, so if you want to double the time to maturity, you need significantly less than half of what you would use otherwise. And the environment also plays a role, during summer heat or near the radiator a starter will grow and collapse way faster than on the counter on a cool spring or autumn day.

If you need longer phases between feeding, I suggest parking your sourdough in the fridge and feeding it only once a week.

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  • Thank you for your answer. Just to be absolutely sure, the 15 g sourdough to 100 g flour and 100 g water is about your sourdough-starter maintenance or feeding, [not] the mix you leave to ferment then put into the oven later to bake bread, right? I ask because I'm just not used to such a huge amount of "food" for the sourdough starter. The recipe I used months ago to start growing a sourdough starter said to take 50% for baking, and top-up that 50% with fresh flour & water. So its sourdough:flour:water ratio was basically 2:1:1! Yours is about 1.5:10:10! – Rok Apr 1 at 19:09
  • Yep, I have a small “permanent” jar of starter separately, which I use to make a (slightly) larger amount for baking. Unfortunately I don’t have the time of daily baking, so this works best for me. And yes, I know that the ratio is different from the typical “use half, top up” method many e.g. American sources favor. – Stephie Apr 1 at 19:13
  • What I understood is that perhaps that jar is in the fridge or so, but when you "feed" that jar, for example, do you still give it about 20 times its weight of an equally split mix of water and flour? Or 10 times its weight in fresh flour, and 10 times its weight in water, roughly speaking? I mean, that's how you maintain your sourdough starter batches generally? – Rok Apr 1 at 19:19
  • Exactly. I always use that ratio. I have one batch that gets fed regularly (daily, if I have time to bake or fear it may get “sluggish”, once a week if parked in the fridge, sometimes not even that often). And for baking, I take a spoonful of that and add it to what later goes into the dough. The benefit is that I can play with the flours for the bread and still keep a stable starter. – Stephie Apr 1 at 19:24
  • Thank you. This is very helpful. However, if you're adding 200 g of a fresh mix to about 15 g of sourdough, then after 24 hours, you have about 215 g of sourdough. Does that mean that you take 200 g of that the next day (or after a week) to bake with? And you top up the remaining 15 g with a fresh mix of 200 g, and so on? And if so, then out of curiosity about your baking, how much fresh flour and water do you add to that 200 g of sourdough to prepare some dough for bread? – Rok Apr 1 at 21:03

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