I stumbled on the concept of a stiff starter from Northwest Sourdough Baker
and have kept a high hydration starter (100% hydration) since I started baking.

Was wondering what notable differences do Stiff/Liquid starters have with one another
(apart from the obvious hydration percentages).

Note: It's noted that stiff starters have a higher acidity when baking,
but I also wonder if anyone has experience working with stiff starters.

As of posting, I've started a stiff starter, will update if I have anything to update.

1 Answer 1


So it seems that there's not a vast difference between stiff vs liquid starters if we're comparing it's usage for home bakers like myself.

However, from experimentation, there's subtle differences in the way that you feed, store and refeed the starters that have yield different results in the final baked product.


Stiff starters, also known as pasta madre (italian for mother dough) is typically used in panettone. Due to the richness of panettone, isn't isn't easy for gluten development in a rich mixture as compared to plain sourdough bread (as noted when trying to make sourdough brioche/cookies vs bread etc).

The obvious differences between stiff vs liquid starters in the final product.


  • can generally be keep longer in the fridge if wrapped (doesn't develop hooch/grey skin)
  • due to the lower hydration of the starter, dough shaping is a bit easier/more forgiving
  • has a more sour taste (Edit: Taste may be related to feeding routine/build-up of lactic acid bacteria. credit: @Reverent Lapwing)


  • use in rich doughs, bread loaf pan (develops tight texture, very enjoyable to eat)


  • need to kept in an airtight container to prevent hooch (you'll still have it, but its less dominant than compared to a loose sealed container).
  • turns grey within 5-7 days, which should still be usable
  • haven't found it as sour compared to stiff starters
  • need to be precise with water hydration (I tend to get more liquid doughs)

Recommendations: use for sourdough, wholewheat etc

  • 1
    Interesting. I always was under the impression that stiffer = less sour. Which would also match my experience.
    – Stephie
    Dec 17, 2020 at 9:11
  • I should preface that I tend to use my stiff starter less regularly than my liquid (longer than a week) - however, I haven't tried where I use a stiff starter immediately after being fed/refreshed. I've also read that washing/bathing the stiff starter has an effect of reducing sourness
    – Denis Tsoi
    Dec 17, 2020 at 11:57
  • 3
    I think acidity is a function of feeding regimen, rather than hydration.
    – moscafj
    Dec 17, 2020 at 12:12
  • 1
    According to King Arthur's website, lower water content slows the growth of lactic acid bacteria and the result should be less sour, not more. However large, spares feedings promote the development of bacteria, so the effects might cancel each other. kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2022/02/22/… Feb 25 at 21:42

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