A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that contains wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria. These microorganisms are responsible for the fermentation process that gives sourdough bread its characteristic flavor and texture.
The difference between an active sourdough starter and a not active one lies in their fermentation activity and ability to leaven bread. Here’s a breakdown:
Active Sourdough Starter: An active starter is one that has been recently fed and is at its peak fermentation activity. It is full of lively yeasts and bacteria, ready to leaven bread. When you observe an active starter, it will typically have a bubbly and frothy appearance. If you take a small portion of the starter and drop it into water, it should float.
Not Active Sourdough Starter: A not active starter, also referred to as an unfed or dormant starter, is one that has not been refreshed or fed recently. Over time, the yeast and bacteria in the starter consume the available nutrients, and their activity slows down. As a result, the starter becomes less frothy and the bubbles diminish. It might also develop a layer of liquid on top, known as “hooch,” which is a sign of inactivity. A not active starter may not have enough strength to leaven bread effectively until it has been refreshed and brought back to an active state.
To maintain a sourdough starter, it’s important to feed it regularly by discarding a portion and replenishing it with fresh flour and water. This feeding process provides the microorganisms with fresh nutrients, allowing them to stay active and healthy.
If your starter is not active, you can reactivate your starter by discarding a portion of it and feeding it with equal parts flour and water. Repeat this process over several feedings, allowing the starter to regain its vigor and activity.
What would your bread look like if you used a started right out of the fridge?
I did this experiment for you. Loaf on the RIGHT – with starter from the fridge. LEFT – active starter.
As you can see, loaf on the RIGHT is a lot flatter.
Here is a crumb shot: