Making sourdough from scratch is really difficult and needs a lot of care for the sourdough starter to come out right. When you put in all that effort and patience into making a sourdough starter, you will at least expect it to end up being good enough to use.

But when that sourdough starter ends up being a bad one you will obviously feel bad about it since you tried hard to take care of it. There are numerous ways on knowing how to tell if your sourdough starter is bad and we will help you known these signs.

How To Tell If Your Sourdough Starter Is Bad?

Making your very own sourdough starter will take a lot of time. They usually need about one to two weeks to be complete. But sometimes due to some circumstances, the sourdough starter will turn up bad. If you end up baking your bread with that very sourdough then you will surely get an upset stomach when you eat that bread.

Sourdough Starter Is Bad

It is best to keep an eye out for the various signs that show that your sourdough starter may be bad. If you do see the signs, it would be wise to just throw it out and start over by making a new sourdough starter and try to do it right. This is why you need to notice the below methods to tell when your sourdough starter is bad:

Method 1: Temperature

If the temperature in the room goes way below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, then you need to check how your sourdough is doing. The extremely cold temperature will most likely kill the yeast in the sourdough. Although some people do like putting their sourdough starters in their fridge, only when they turn it down a bit so that it isn’t too far off from 70 degrees.

Yeast can also die at extreme heat around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. There may be times your sourdough will survive winter but die out in summer or the other way around.


You can never be too careful when it comes to the weather being too hot or too cold for your sourdough starter. That is why keeping it around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, whether it goes below that or above it by little amounts, should be fine for the sourdough starter.

Another mistake that occurs is when you leave your sourdough in the oven to get enough heat for it to start swelling up. But if by any chance you forget that container of sourdough int there and pre heat the oven when you are about to bake another item, then the sourdough will get ruined while being inside the oven.

Method 2: Mold

You need to check your sourdough every single day and look for signs of bacteria or mold developing. Of course, some bacteria are welcome during the process of making sourdough. But there are bacteria that should not appear in sourdough.

If you notice the mold on your sourdough developing into an orange or pink color, then that mold is the bad kind. This mold will appear in a streak or tinge forms. It might not look like your ordinary fuzzy gray mold.

This is a sign that your sourdough will lose its ability to fight against any bad bacteria. By then you should know that your sourdough is already spoiled and you need to throw it away.

Method 3: Hooch

Hooch is a type of liquid that forms and sits on top of the sourdough. This happens when the yeast starts fermenting because the sourdough starter is not fed and stirred with the proper additions of water and flour every day. The hooch basically turns alcoholic because the yeast has fermented for so long.

Generally, this hooch will not immediately make your sourdough go bad. But the longer you continue to neglect your sourdough and forget to feed it regularly, this hooch will end up being the reason your sourdough dies eventually.

Sourdough Starter Is Bad

This hooch can appear in different colors. It will start off with being a transparent or clear color, or even a camouflaged color of the sourdough. The more you neglect to feed it, the darker the color of the hooch gets.

But dark colors like brown or gray are not necessarily the signs that you killed your sourdough. Instead, if the hooch turns into an orange or pink color, your sourdough is considered to be spoiled and must be thrown away.

Method 4: Stirring

Metal spoons or other utensils for stirring your sourdough when you are feeding it is completely normal and safe. However, among the different metals used to make utensils, you need to avoid aluminum and copper strictly.

Sourdough Starter Is Bad Stirring

These metals will leave a reaction in the sourdough and make its condition go bad. If you accidentally use spoons or stirring sticks made of aluminum or copper, then you shouldn’t trust your sourdough starter to continue surviving in a healthy way. You should throw it out and try again.

Method 5: Exposure

Keeping it in an oven is a good way to prevent micro organisms in the air particles from coming into contact with your sourdough starter. These micro organisms will create a bad kind of bacteria that creates a harmful mold on the sourdough. This will weaken the sourdough and ruin it. 

Sourdough Starter

The only way to know this has happened is when you see a drastic change in the texture of the sourdough. And when sourdough is fermenting, it will generally form bubbles on top. If you check regularly and see no bubbles are to be found anymore, then you can know that the sourdough has been invaded and is no longer alive or active.

Some people like to make their sourdough starter in air tight jars since it protects it from these micro organisms. Keeping it safely in the fridge also works as protection, but you might want to keep it covered up because the sour stink of the sourdough will make your fridge become smelly.

Final Words

When you decide to make a sourdough starter from scratch you need to consider if you are able to give it the attention and care it requires. You need to be able to keep feeding it with little amounts of water and flour every single day. It would also be wise if you made the sourdough during a season that is neither too hot nor too cold.

After taking all those precautions and avoiding the things that could make your sourdough bad, you can end up with a good sourdough to make your bread with.

Hope our “how to tell if your sourdough starter is bad” article helped.