sourdough discard: What is it?

Sourdough Discard part 1: What is it?

If you’ve taken a look around this site or attended one of my classes, you will have encountered the term “discard” or “sourdough discard”.

So I want to give you a quick overview of what sourdough discard is and briefly talk about what I call the 3 activity stages of sourdough starter. Read below or watch the embedded video.

For a more complete introduction to sourdough, check out my Sourdough Quick Start Guide here:

Sourdough Stages:

  • Just Refreshed
    • This is the stage after you take a tablespoon or so from an older batch of sourdough starter then feed it fresh water and flour.
    • See an example of refreshing here: What is a Sourdough Starter?
    • At this stage, the starter is a thick paste and smells like raw flour.
    • The sourdough starter is not active and cannot be used for baking yet. If refreshed to use in a recipe later, it is left at room temperature for 6-12 hours, depending on room temperature. If refreshed to simply maintain its health for the week, it is put into the fridge for the next 7-10 days when it is recommended to refresh again.
  • Active
    • This is 6-12 hours after the starter is refreshed. Once active, it will stay active for 1-4 hours, depending on room temperature.
    • At this stage, the starter is at least double in volume, has large bubbles, and has a ripe fruit smell or fresh wine depending on the starter chemistry.
    • An active starter has yeast primed for use in sourdough bread recipes. Most bread recipes will ask for an “active” starter or assume its use.
  • Discard
    • This is approximately 12-24 hours after the starter was refreshed, or 6-12 hours after it became active.
    • At this stage, the starter has fallen to a smaller volume, looks like a thick liquid, may have some very small bubbles, and has a more sour smell or overripe fruit. A really old batch of discard will smell like acetone or nail polish remover.
    • Discard has many uses, which I’ll give an overview of in a future post. The yeast is too depleted to use in a sourdough bread recipe and will not rise in the timing of the recipe. It can be used for a discard bread recipe that has a specific formula and timing to follow.

Bottom Line

Just like in your life, it’s never to late to make a fresh start… or starter in the case of sourdough discard!

Check out the rest of the series!

Part 2: How do you save it?

Part 3: Why keep it?

Part 4: How do you use it?

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