Sourdough Starter Not Rising: 6 Possible Reasons and Fixes

If you’re making a fresh batch of sourdough bread, you’ll need a sourdough starter. Sourdough starter is a blend of bacteria and yeast, both of which are essential for creating the perfect rise and flavor for your loaf.

As straight-up as a sourdough starter recipe might seem, this must-have ingredient can be quite peculiar and sometimes challenging to create. One of the most significant issues people face is their sourdough starter not rising, and there can be many reasons behind it.

Hey! I’m Michelle, and I’ve made my fair share of sourdough starters. I’ve struggled with the sourdough starter not rising – just like you. I’m here to share the six possible reasons your sourdough isn’t starting and, most importantly, how to fix it.

Rev up your sourdough starter engine, and let’s go!

Why Your Sourdough Starter Isn’t Rising and How to Fix It

Many things can stand in the way of you and a perfectly-risen sourdough starter. The good news is that the solutions to these problems are relatively simple, and your starter will be back on track in no time. 

Reason 1: Your Starter is Hungry

A sourdough starter needs to be fed – and often – to rise. Essentially, you can think of your sourdough starter as your new household pet. Only, instead of needing to play and pick up pet mess, your new pal will create delicious loaves of bread for you.

Solution: Try feeding your sourdough starter more regularly. If you’re currently feeding it once a day, amp it up to twice a day (every 12 hours, preferably). Are you still struggling? Consider adding about a tablespoon more starter (equal parts flour and water).

Reason 2: You’re Using the Wrong Flour

While almost any flour is OK for sourdough starters, you won’t get the best results unless you’re using bread flour. Bread flour is undeniably the top pick because of its high protein content, which will create an astounding sourdough loaf every time.

Solution: Swap traditional all-purpose flour for bread flour. However, if you’re switching to a new flour, it’s best to create a brand-new batch of sourdough starters. Switching flour midway can spell trouble for your sourdough starter.

Reason 3: You’re Using the Wrong Water

I get it – at this point, the sourdough starter is starting to sound kind of bougie. And, well, it is. There’s no shame in the sourdough starters game – and it requires the correct type of water. If you’ve been using tap or filtered water, you may be unknowingly halting your sourdough starter from rising.

What gives? Well, tap and filtered water can contain chemicals and other harsh ingredients that stop sourdough starters in their tracks.

Solution: The easiest solution is to give bottled water a try. Bottled water will have the least amount of potential sourdough starter halting ingredients. 

Reason 4: You’re Starter Needs a Boost

Everyone gets tired every once in a while, and your sourdough starter is no exception. If you’re seeing some action from your sourdough starter, but it’s not fully rising, it may indicate that your sourdough starter needs a boost.

Solution: For the next few feeding, double up on the flour but keep the water and starter ratios the same. The extra flour can give your sourdough starter the kickstart it needs.

Reason 5: It’s Sitting at the Wrong Temperature

The best temperature for your sourdough starter to sit in is around 78F. While you can place your sourdough starter in the fridge, having your sourdough starter in cold temperature can slow down – or even freeze – the rising process.

Solution: Move your sourdough starters to a warmer environment. If the inside of your kitchen is below 76F, you may need to find a warmer spot to stash it. Try the windowsill, where direct sunlight slightly warms it up, or in the oven (turned off with the light on).

Reason 6: It Needs More Time

Creating a sourdough starter is a relatively low and slow process. You will need to wait at least a week before it’s ready for a batch of sourdough bread. Needless to say, this is quite a long time to sit around waiting – especially if you’re craving a fresh loaf.

Solution: One of the most common mistakes people make when creating a sourdough starter is not giving it enough time. Continue what you’re doing for a few more days and see if the results change. If it’s been longer than ten days, another issue may be delaying the rise.

FAQs

Now you know the six reasons for a sourdough starter not rising and how to troubleshoot it for success. If you want to learn even more, check out these frequently asked questions by other readers just like you.

Should I stir my sourdough starter?

Whenever you feed your sourdough starter, you should stir it. This means you will stir your sourdough starter once or twice a day. Oh, and by the way – if you see liquid on top of your sourdough starter, it’s something harmless called “hooch” and can be stirred into the ingredients.

How do I know if I killed my sourdough starter?

There are a few ways to determine if your sourdough starter is dead. The most unmistakable sign is that your sourdough starter doesn’t respond to feedings, especially after several days. The other determining factors include mold and an unpleasant odor.

How do I get big bubbles in my sourdough starter?

Big bubbles are the dream of anyone creating a sourdough starter. The best way to do this is by feeding it regularly. If it’s runny, consider feeding it with just flour once or twice. Stir it and keep the lid slightly ajar to allow oxygen inside. Ensure it’s in a warm enough environment (not too warm).

Is Your Sourdough Starter Not Rising?

Sourdough starter can be a bit hassling, especially when it won’t rise. Luckily, the solutions to this sticky situation are simple. Most of the time, it simply needs more time and feeding. However, it may be an issue with the flour, water, or temperature.

How do you deal with sourdough starters not rising?

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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  • Elizabeth Ratliff

    Thank you for your site. I hope I can figure this sour dough thing out. I bought starter at a local bakery and put in the fridge. Took it out for several hours prior to mixing in equal parts flour and water as directed by recipe on jar. Gave it a thorough stir then covered it and put it in a warm place for 7 hours but still not rising?.??. I’ll start running through your suggestions if it doesn’t rise. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hi Elizabeth!
      It may be too soon for it to start rising. If you still don’t see movement after 12 hours, it’s time to troubleshoot using my suggestions. Hope it works out! Sourdough starter can be tricky, but don’t give up.

      Reply
  • Diana Lupinacci

    I created a sourdough starter, and all seemed ok, until I tried to bake a loaf.
    My starter rose but was very sticky and almost impossible to form into a loaf.
    I tried baking a loaf in the oven, and the baked loaf did not rise. The result was
    a flatter bread that tasted great. Help???

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Oh, no!

      Sorry to hear that.

      Doesn’t sound like your starter was active enough.

      Reply
  • Annette

    I am in the process of starting a sourdough to mature. I used a mixture 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup of bread flour. I put half cup of not too warm filtered water, it rose the 2nd day. I discard half and feed the above same amounts. It did not rise at all on the 2nd and 3rd day. This morning it will be 4th day and I have to feed it at 10am but when I got up this morning it had not rised at all again. I keep in oven and during the day it stays warm at 90 degrees at times but during the 24 hrs it stays inn oven and maintains temp around 70 degrees. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
  • Jen

    My starter consistently produces hooch within a couple hours in the fridge and does not rise. I tried doubling the feeding, then when that didn’t work I started feeding twice a day. Neither helped. I want to change the flour, but from what I understand, I would have to just throw out my starter and start brand new. Is that correct?

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hi Jen,
      Yes, you’ll need to start from scratch with the new flour. This will be the easiest solution.

      Reply
  • Jess

    Hello so when I feed it do I discard too ?

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hey Jess! Yep, only keep about 1/2 of it. Discard the rest.

      Reply
  • Andrea

    So I started a sourdough starter and it’s 24 hours later and hasnt moved. Do i still feed it? Or do i wait for some action.

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Keep feeding it!

      Reply
  • Sue Poincelot

    My starter is a couple weeks old and it smells amazing and has lots of bubbles. It’s not rising! It even pasted the float test. I am at a loss!

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hey Sue,
      Sorry about your luck. Have you tried giving it a “boost,” as I’ve recommended in this article?

      Reply
  • Louisa

    My starter is 6 days old. Day 3 it smelled like vinegar so I fed it twice a day. I’m on day 7 and it still won’t double and smells slightly vinegary. Please help 😣

    Reply
    • Michelle

      HI Louisa,
      Sorry to hear about that. Are you feeding it the correct amount? Are you using all-purpose flour?

      Reply
  • Manda

    My starter has been doubling every 12 hrs consistently for the past month or so. It has been 3 day since my feeding and there is no activity. Only changed I made is using a different brand of whole wheat flour. I switched from 365 organic whole wheat to Bob’s Mill stone ground organic whole wheat flour. Is my starter dead? How do I get it active again or do I need to start again? Per your suggestion of doubling up the flour.
    Wouldn’t yhat make the starter too dry? Thank you in advance for guidance

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hi Manda,
      Switching flour can cause trouble for your sourdough starter. I’d start fresh.

      Reply
  • Jenni Lenz

    I have sourdough starter that was given to me my husband’s Aunt Helen gave me about 25 years ago. She got in Alaska and she told me it was over 100 years old. I refreshed it yesterday and took out my cup to make sourdough bread and put the rest in the jar that normally use. Today my husband went in the refrigerator to get butter and there was a glob of dough looking substance and he found my sourdough bubbling over. What can I do?

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hi Jenni,
      Bubbles are a*good* thing and show that your sourdough starter is active. How’s it looking today?

      Reply