How to store sourdough discard and starter » the practical kitchen (2024)

I was recently gifted my very first sourdough starter. I read your post on how to feed and discard starter, and I'm looking at buying a nice container for my sourdough starter to live in. But I don't want to waste my sourdough discard. What kind of container should I be using to store sourdough discard?

New starter, how dis-card?

This is a great question! As with all things sourdough, there is no one "right" way to store sourdough starter and discard. There are a lot of different methods for feeding and storing sourdough starter. The kind of container you use for storing your sourdough starter (and discard) in will depend on how often you use it, how much you feed it, where you store it, and how much you like to keep on hand.

I am an extremely casual sourdough baker. I use my starter maybe once a month to make bread. I mostly use unfed sourdough starter (aka "discard" starter) in recipes to add that nice tangy sourdough flavor. Whenever I feed my starter, I don't throw out the discard. I store the discard in the fridge until I have enough to bake with. When baking with unfed/discard starter, I don't need to worry about the starter being at its "peak." I can use it right out of the container without feeding it. Even if it's been in the fridge.

So, before I answer your question, here's what I'll be going over in this post:

Jump to:
  • Sourdough Starter vs. Sourdough Discard
  • How to Store Sourdough Starter
  • How to Store Sourdough Discard
  • Sourdough Discard is Best Stored in the Fridge
  • Sourdough Starter and Discard Storage FAQ
  • 💬 Comments

Sourdough Starter vs. Sourdough Discard

Sourdough starter and sourdough discard are the same thing. The discard is just the sourdough starter you're not currently feeding or baking with. It's called discard because it often gets "discarded" during feeding. If you don't "discard" some starter during feeding your starter will just grow and grow and grow until you're staring in a remake of The Blob.

BUT! You can also use that discard for baking. Some people will use it right away, in which case it'll still be pretty active. Other people prefer to store their sourdough discard until they have enough to bake with.

No matter what, it's still technically sourdough starter; At any point you can take a portion of the discard out, feed it in a new clean container, and have nice bubbly sourdough starter for making bread.

But if you want to keep your active starter for bread making and your sourdough discard separate, or you just feel wasteful discarding discard, you can hang on to it and use it in a discard recipe.

How to store sourdough discard and starter » the practical kitchen (1)

How to Store Sourdough Starter

Sourdough starter is wild yeast and bacterial culture made from flour and water, which means it's pretty much always in the process of fermenting . As the flour starches break down and become sugars, the wild yeast eats the sugars and produces gas and alcohol (aka "hooch").

When mixed with additional flour and water and kneaded to develop gluten, this gas helps your bread dough rise. But on its own, that gas needs somewhere to go. That's why it's always important to feed your sourdough starter in a container with a good lid that will keep bugs out, but that will still let air escape.

A good container for sourdough starter:

  • Is made from a non-porous material (like glazed ceramic or glass) so that bacteria doesn't get trapped in the walls
  • Has a loose fitting or permeable lid that lets gas out but won't let bugs in
  • Is easy to clean and a spatula can easily reach into all the corners so bacteria and soap residue and stuff don't get trapped and grow mold

I do NOT recommend storing your sourdough starter or discard in a jar with an airtight lid that clamps closed unless you're using your starter more than once a week. Those need to be "burped" (opened) regularly to let gas out.

Sourdough starter can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge. If you're feeding and making bread with your starter regularly (once a week or so) you can leave it out at room temperature. If you're going away for a bit or if you don't use it that often (once a month or less), store it in the fridge. You'll just need to take it out a few days before you plan to use it and feed it a few times to wake it up again.

Just like bread rises faster in warm temps and slower in cold ones, sourdough starter is the same. Decide if your starter should live at room temp or in the fridge based on how quickly it feeds, how often you need to use it, and the temperature in your kitchen!

How to Store Sourdough Discard

Remember how I said sourdough starter and sourdough discard are the same thing? YEP. The best way to store sourdough is discard exactly the same way you store sourdough starter: in a non-porous, easy to clean container with a loose-fitting lid that will let gas escape but won't let bugs in.

Some good options are:

Sourdough discard is basically just any starter you're left with after baking or feeding your starter. Fresh sourdough discard will be very bubbly and active. But, if you're storing your discard for later use, it will not not be very active, it might have some hooch floating on top, etc.

How to store sourdough discard and starter » the practical kitchen (2)

When you feed your sourdough starter to get it ready to use in another recipe, you can feed the remaining discard so it becomes your new, active starter. Or, you can choose to collect and store the discard for baking (a small amount of discard is perfect for making sourdough discard scallion pancakes or soft sourdough beer pretzels). If you want to store the discard for later, instead of discarding it, I recommend just stirring it back to your main sourdough container.

You should be feeding your starter for baking in a new, clean container, so your main sourdough container really is your sourdough discard container! See? I told you they were the same thing.

If you're still confused, let me explain what I usually do: I take the starter I'm feeding out of my main sourdough container (meaning what's left in the container is technically my "discard") and feed it in a clean bowl or small jar.

Since I usually need to feed my sourdough starter a few times in a row to build up its strength, I keep feeding it in a clean container at room temperature, and add any discard from each feeding back to my main sourdough crock, which I keep in the fridge.

You can read more about this method in my post "how to maintain a small sourdough starter."

Depending on what method you use for feeding, you might have a lot of discard or a little discard from each feeding. If you follow the Tartine bread method for using and feeding your starter, you'll have very little — if any — sourdough discard. If you follow King Arthur Baking's sourdough instructions, you'll end up with a lot of discard, so it's definitely worth not letting that go to waste!

Sourdough Discard is Best Stored in the Fridge

Because sourdough discard is not as active as the starter you're feeding to use for bread making, and because you don't need it to be super bubbly and active, it's safest to keep it somewhere dark and cool where you don't have to worry about temperature fluctuations.

The cold temperature of the fridge also slows yeast activity so that the discard doesn't produce quite as much gas. But you'll still want a lid that lets air escape so those gasses don't build up over time!

How to store sourdough discard and starter » the practical kitchen (3)

Note: The flavor of your starter will change slightly depending on what temperature it's stored at. If it lives primarily in the fridge, it will develop bacteria that thrive in cold temps and vice versa for a starter kept primarily at room temperature.

Sourdough Starter and Discard Storage FAQ

What's the best sourdough container for storing sourdough starter and discard?

IMO, there is no "best." The most important thing to look for in a sourdough container is that the lid is not airtight and allows the gas produced by the starter as it feeds to escape. Other than that, it really is up to you. If you want some specific recommendations, I have a list of my favorite sourdough containers here.

What happens if I store my sourdough starter in a jar with an airtight lid?

Sourdough starter produces gas as it ferments. If you store it in a jar with an airtight lid and aren't opening the jar regularly to let that gas out, pressure will build up inside the jar or container and can cause it to crack or explode. Yikes!

What kind of container should I feed my sourdough starter in?

You can use any bowl, jar, or container as long as its clean. Something with clear, straight sides is helpful so you can easily see when your starter has doubled in size is ideal. These glass sourdough starter jars from Challenger Breadware are designed specifically for feeding starter — with plenty of line markers on the side to to make it easy for you to track the rise and fall of your starter.

Do I need to feed my sourdough starter in a separate container? Can't I just feed it in the container I keep it in?

Depending on what feeding method you use, you don't need a separate container, but I find it makes it a LOT easier. It's also more sanitary, less likely to result in mold growth, and gives you more control over the feeding process.

I left my sourdough discard out at room temperature for a few days. Is it okay?

As long as your kitchen isn't too warm (I'd say 78°F or higher) your starter/discard will be fine stored at room temperature for at least a few days without feeding. The flavor will get more acidic the longer it sits.

Too long at room temperature without feeding and you risk your sourdough discard starting to grow mold (usually fuzzy) or bad bacteria (red, orange or pink streaks). If that happens, you need to throw it out. (King Arthur Baking has some good sourdough troubleshooting visuals here.)

How long can you keep sourdough discard?

I've kept mine in the fridge for up to 3-4 weeks without feeding and used it in sourdough discard recipes and it was just fine. As long as it's not growing mold or bad bacteria, it's safe to use. It won't give you any rise, but it will add flavor!

Remember: Sourdough starter and sourdough discard are pretty resilient! As long as your sourdough discard isn't growing mold or bad bacteria, you can take a small portion out and feed it several days in a row to get it back to being a bubbly, strong, active sourdough starter.

Have a question about storing sourdough discard? Leave a comment below!

For more of my product roundups, reviews, and gift guides click here. For a master list of my favorite kitchen tools click here.

Cooking TipsSourdough

How to store sourdough discard and starter » the practical kitchen (2024)


How to store sourdough discard and starter » the practical kitchen? ›

Sourdough Discard is Best Stored in the Fridge

How should I store sourdough discard? ›

Sourdough discard is a wonderful component to many of my daily recipes, but it does occasionally get ahead of me. If you want to avoid wasting that flavorful discard, it can be stored on the counter for 1-2 days, in the fridge for about a week, or even in the freezer for months!

Does sourdough discard need to be at room temperature before cooking? ›

Yes you can use sourdough discard straight from the fridge, you don't need to let it come to room temperature if you don't want to. What is this? If you are using it straight from the fridge it may be a little stiff or thick, so you'll need to ensure you mix it really well.

How long does sourdough discard stay good in the fridge? ›

Sourdough discard only lasts a day or two at room temperature. As such, it is best to keep your discard in the fridge, where it will last for up to one week. Of course, you can only rely on it lasting that long if you store it correctly.

How do I store my sourdough starter? ›

If you need your starter to take a nap or be babysat, just stick it in the fridge! I have kept my inactive starter or “discard” in the fridge for six months and brought her back to life in three feedings. Make sure you store it in a locking lid jar, that is essential!

What is the best way to store sourdough? ›

How to Best Store Sourdough
  1. Cloth Bag or Tea Towel. Cloth bags and tea towels are nice options that hold in some of the moisture but also allow your bread to breath. ...
  2. Cut Side Down. This is the method I used when I worked at a natural bakery. ...
  3. Paper Bag. ...
  4. Beeswax Wraps. ...
  5. Bread Box. ...
  6. Freezer. ...
  7. In the Fridge. ...
  8. In Plastic Bags.
May 26, 2023

Should sourdough starter go in the fridge or counter? ›

Storing Your Sourdough Starter In The Refrigerator

This reduction in hydration helps the starter hold up extremely well in the fridge.

Does sourdough discard have to be active to use? ›

It can be at room temperature or come directly from the fridge. The texture is less bubbly (if bubbly at all) when compared to fluffy active starter. Sourdough discard is not active enough to make bread dough rise, and despite its name the “discard” does not have to be thrown away.

How do you know if sourdough discard is bad? ›

You can store mature sourdough discard in the refrigerator indefinitely. As long as there is no mold, it is good to use. It may develop a grayish liquid on top called “hooch” which can be poured off before use or stirred in. If you stir it in, the flavor will become more sour.

Can you leave sourdough discard out overnight? ›

If you're feeding and making bread with your starter regularly (once a week or so) you can leave it out at room temperature. If you're going away for a bit or if you don't use it that often (once a month or less), store it in the fridge.

Can you use day 1 sourdough discard? ›

Remember, you can't use the discard from your homemade sourdough starter for the first 7 days. You can use sourdough discard in all kinds of sourdough discard recipes, including these no wait sourdough recipes, overnight sourdough discard recipes and sourdough discard recipes that use up a lot of discard.

Do you have to discard sourdough starter every time you feed it? ›

With each sourdough starter feeding, you'll be discarding some to avoid it from becoming overly acidic. Most will compost or trash this discard, but you can save it and use it in other recipes!

What to do with a lot of sourdough discard? ›

What to do with sourdough discard? Don't throw it away! Instead, use it to make delicious and nutritious treats like pancakes, waffles, muffins, and bread. Sourdough discard is a great source of natural yeast and flavor, and can add a unique tangy taste to your baked goods.

How to store sourdough starter discard? ›

Store it for future baking: You can store sourdough discard in an airtight container in the refrigerator for future baking with sourdough discard recipes. When you're ready to use it, let the discard come to room temperature before using it to bake. I will keep sourdough discard in the fridge for about one week.

Should I stir my sourdough starter between feedings? ›

stir your starter in between feedings - try stirring it twice in between feedings and really give it a chance to get oxygen into the mix. This will help to activate your starter without too much effort.

Should I close the lid on my sourdough starter? ›

Should I Cover My Sourdough Starter Jar? I like to keep mine covered loosely to keep anything from falling inside the jar and the starter from drying out. The lid does not have to be airtight.

How do you revive refrigerated sourdough discard? ›

First, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Then, feed it with equal parts flour and water (by weight) and let it sit at room temperature for a few hours. After that, it should be ready to use in your baking!

Can you freeze sourdough discard and use it later? ›

For best results, use sourdough discard that came from a mature sourdough starter. If you have a new starter, you can use the frozen discard to add flavor to any baked good, but you may not have success if you plan to revive into an active sourdough starter.

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