I'm following this recipe to make a sourdough starter for the first time.

The recipe says to wait 3 days before the first feed. On the morning of day 2, the starter had increased 3 times in size. By the evening of day 2, it had reduced in size back to about 2 times the original volume.

My question is: what's the best way to judge when to feed the starter? If it is reducing in size now, does that mean it is "hungry" and running out of food? Or should we expect a couple of rise & fall cycles before the first feed?

Is feeding time best judged by time elapsed, or by volume of the starter?

  • Related discussion with a commentary in this question. FYI - there is generally a "surge" in bad bacteria growth within the first 2 days of a new starter, which is likely what you saw. They create acidic waste which then leaves "sour" conditions that select the right bacteria and yeast to keep it going. I would imagine the recipe you link has a high failure rate; I outlined some of the issues in determining optimal feedings in the question I linked.
    – Athanasius
    Feb 26, 2016 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


For sure this method will work, but it can be risky starting with grapes as you're introducing more than just airborne wild yeasts. With so many bacteria strains active in a new starter, it very well might rise and fall multiple times, but an established starter will have one rise and fall cycle every 12-24 hours unrefrigerated, and then will need feeding.


Judge your feeding by the time elapsed. It is unclear which bacteria will win the battles for the ecological niches in the first few days, but if you want to get a starter of the type the recipe author suggests, you have to provide the conditions he prescribes. Else you will end up with something entirely different (and possibly stinky). Don't feed the culture you have, feed the one you want to have - by the tried and proven time/temperature combination prescribed.

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