Why is My Sourdough Starter Runny?

If you’ve ventured into the world of sourdough starters, you’ll notice one thing right off the bat: it’s not as easy as it looks. There are many issues you can run into, from liquid on top of the starter to a problem with the proper rising. But what if your sourdough starter is exceptionally runny?

Runniness is a common problem when it comes to sourdough starters. It is most often caused by feeding in an improper ratio. However, it can also occur from a too-warm kitchen, using flour that doesn’t need as much hydration or lack of feeding.

The good news is that there are many simple solutions regardless of what’s causing your runny sourdough starter. And that’s what this article shares.

Hey! I’m Michelle, and my family and I are big sourdough bread fanatics. So much so that we rarely have leftovers! With that said, it’s unsurprising that I’ve made a few loaves in my lifetime, and it all starts with a top-notch sourdough starter.

Keep reading to discover why your sourdough starter is runny and how to fix it.

4 Reasons Why Sourdough is Runny

There are four main problems that will cause a runny sourdough starter.

1. Improper feeding ratio

Proper ratios are vital to the success of your sourdough starter. If you’re using an improper ratio, the likely outcome is runniness. This can be caused by careless and inaccurate feeding or not weighing your ingredients for accuracy.

2. Kitchen is too warm or cold

Sourdough starter works best at room temperature (70 to 80F). It does not work well in high temperatures (which is why some bakers even place their sourdough starter in the fridge). If your kitchen is above 80F, the starter will overwork, causing runniness.

3. Wrong flour

Some flour, such as white and bread flour, doesn’t absorb water as readily as others (rye and whole grain). While it’s perfectly fine to use these flours to make sourdough starters, you will have runniness if you don’t adjust the hydration.

4. Not feeding regularly enough

Sourdough starter gets hungry. If you don’t feed it enough, it’s going to get upset – or “hangry,” as some might say. Sourdough starter that doesn’t get adequately fed can lead to many issues, and one of the main ones is runniness.

4 Ways to Fix Runny Sourdough Starter

You don’t have to settle for an unsightly runny sourdough starter. With these four simple solutions, you can get your sourdough starter back on track and ready for baking – with a Dutch oven or without!

1. Feed the correct ratio

As I said earlier, ratios are important, people! An improper ratio can cause devastating effects, like runniness. So what should you do? Start by opting for a 1:1:1 ratio. I.e., use 10 grams of starter, 10 grams of water, and 10 grams of flour. 

If that doesn’t work, consider swapping for a 1:2:2 ratio. Here, you will double up on the flour and water. So, if you’re using 10 grams of starter, you will opt for 20 grams of flour and 20 grams of water.

Oh, and by the way – you should be using a kitchen scale for accuracy. Using cups and spoons is not as precise, leading to improper ratios. Kitchen scales are cheap and the easiest and best way to ensure you have the right measurements.

2. Keep the temperature at 70F to 80F

Sourdough starters work best at room temperature, which can hover anywhere between 70F and 80F. Luckily, most kitchens stay at room temp. If your temperature is too high or low, you will need to adjust accordingly (turn on the air conditioner or heater, for example).

Tip: If you’re struggling to maintain a consistent temperature, you can place your sourdough starter in a bread-proofing box.

3. Use less water or add different flour

Some flour doesn’t absorb water, so you don’t need to use as much of it. Try cutting down the water by half. For instance, use 5 grams of water instead of 10 grams. See if this works to fix your runny starter.

If it doesn’t, you might consider switching things up a bit. If you’re dead set on white or bread flour, consider adding rye or whole grain in a 50/50 ratio. So, 50% white flour and 50% rye flour.

4. Feed more often

Sourdough starters should be fed at least once a day, although twice daily (every 12 hours) is recommended. This is especially important during the first two weeks of starting your sourdough starter. 

Can You Use Runny Sourdough Starter?

You can use a runny sourdough starter as long as it is active. Signs of activeness include doubling in size, emitting a yeasty aroma, forming bubbles on the top layer, and passing the float test. However, keep in mind that your sourdough loaf may be less sour than desired.

When using a runny sourdough starter for baking bread, cut down on some of the water in the recipe. For example, if it calls for 180 grams of water, use 160 grams instead. This will ensure you don’t end up with an overly wet dough.

FAQs

As you can see, fixing a runny sourdough starter is a cinch. It almost always has to do with hydration, so ensure you’re using the correct ratios and not overdoing it, especially when using certain flours! If you want to keep learning, here are a few more questions to check out.

Should a sourdough starter be runny?

A sourdough starter should not be runny. In fact, it should be relatively thick, almost like a cake batter. That said, it shouldn’t be too dense and easily pour when you need to use it.

How do I thicken my sourdough starter?

Adding more flour is the best and most straightforward way to thicken the sourdough starter. So, instead of using a 1:1:1 ratio, you will want to use a 1:2:1 ratio.

What happens if you overfeed your sourdough starter?

Not feeding enough can cause problems for your sourdough starter, but so can overfeeding. Overfeeding will halt the process, leading to a sourdough starter that doesn’t grow or bubble, meaning it is less active and undesirable to use in your sourdough loaf.

Sourdough Starter Can Easily Become Runny!

Sourdough starters are notorious for becoming runny, but there are many ways to stop this from occurring. The best thing to do is make sure you’re feeding the correct ratio by weighing your ingredients. Feed your starter every 12 hours and leave it at room temp.

Have you ever dealt with runny sourdough starters? What did you do to remedy the problem? Share below!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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