How to Fix a Watery Sourdough Starter

I've been feeding my sourdough starter over the past few days with equal parts starter, water, and flour; however, it continues to be quite runny. In the mornings, there's a layer of water at the top. I've tried to start fresh, and am puzzled by what to do next. Thank you!

Janice Moynihan


NewbieBaker November 18, 2020
Hi, I have been trying to make a sourdough starter for about a month and no success. I have thrown out several starters along the way. I'm now at a point where I realize I may have thrown them out too soon, so I'm giving my current starters (2) a longer attempt. They are both runny again, which was when I usually gave up on the other ones. I had an amazing day 1 and 2 and then they keep staying runny with hooch, and have no texture at all. It's so discouraging. No bubbles either. Am I getting anywhere, or should I start over again? I've even tried switching to a "big feed" and doing a 1:2 ratio of starter to food. Nothing yet seems to work for me. I have a thermometer in my kitchen and it's been between 69-74 degrees each day and night. On this current starter I'm using bottled water because I was worried my tap water was killing my other starters. Look at my below schedule, you'll see I had a great day 1 and 2 and then it gets runny by day 3. (This starter is using King Arthur's unbleached Bread Flour... I also have another one with a mix of Stone Ground Wheat Flour with similar results).

Here's my current schedule on one of my two starters:

12-Nov 7am started

13-Nov 6pm rose, bubbles, no hooch
fed equal parts in weight (50g starter, 60 g water, 50 flour)

14-Nov 9am doubled in size, no hooch (photo included)
fed equal parts (50/60/50)

15-Nov 9am did not rise; hooch; no elasticity
fed 20g starter, 100/100 water/flour; counter

16-Nov 7:30pm did not rise, some bubbles
50 g starter, 60 g water, 50 g flour

18-Nov 9am no rise, hooch, runny
50 g starter, 120 g water, 100 g flour
BakerBren March 20, 2020
Equal parts by volume or by weight? Is this starting a new starter from scratch? Runny isn't a problem so long as your recipe calls for liquid/high hydration sourdough starter/culture or you're comfortable converting it to a stiffer culture. Add a little more flour or a little less water if you want it stiffer. There are ways to calculate this, but on a small scale you don't need to do it--just go by feel. Are you getting active bubbling like fermentation is happily progressing? It also sounds like it could be a little overfermented, but I'm doubting that if you are feeding it daily. You could feed twice daily and/or keep it at a cooler temperature if it is overfermenting. Bake on!
Janice M. March 20, 2020
ooh, equal parts by volume. maybe that's the difference. this is only my second go round, so still in the experimentation phase. thanks for your reccos! will test them out this wknd.
Stephanie B. March 20, 2020
If you're a home baker, try doing 1/2c flour to 1/4c water - this makes what's considered a high hydration starter that's about equal parts flour:water by weight, but you don't have to bust out your scale. Or if you want to do more or less amount of starter, just remember that you want to add about half the volume of water to volume of flour.
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