Sourdough bread maker

Why Your Sourdough Didn't Rise: Possible Causes and Solutions

Jun 29, 2023Derek Good


Sourdough bread is a favorite among many people, and for good reason. It has a unique flavor and texture that sets it apart from other types of bread. However, making sourdough bread can be a bit tricky, especially if you're new to the process. One of the most common problems that people encounter when making sourdough bread is that it doesn't rise properly. If you've ever found yourself asking, "Why didn't my sourdough rise?" then this article is for you. There are several reasons why your homemade sourdough bread may not have risen as expected. One of the most common reasons is that your starter wasn't active enough. Sourdough bread relies on a live culture of yeast and bacteria, which is called a starter. If your starter isn't active enough, it won't be able to produce enough gas to make the bread rise. Another common reason for poor rise is that the dough was over or under-proofed. Proofing is the process of allowing the dough to rise before baking. If the dough is under-proofed, it won't have enough time to rise properly. On the other hand, if it's over-proofed, the dough can collapse, resulting in a dense, flat loaf. In this article, we'll explore some of the most common reasons why sourdough bread doesn't rise and provide you with some tips and tricks to help you avoid these issues in the future. Whether you're a seasoned sourdough baker or just starting out, this article will provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need to make delicious, perfectly-risen sourdough bread every time.

Understanding Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread is a type of bread that is made from a mixture of flour and water that has been fermented using wild yeasts and bacteria. Unlike commercial yeast, which is a single strain of yeast, wild yeasts are a mixture of different strains of yeast and bacteria that are naturally present in the environment. This mixture of yeasts and bacteria gives sourdough bread its distinctive flavor and texture. When making sourdough bread, it is important to understand the fermentation process. The fermentation process is what causes the bread to rise and gives it its flavor. During fermentation, the wild yeasts and bacteria in the sourdough starter break down the carbohydrates in the flour into sugars, which are then consumed by the yeasts and bacteria. As they consume the sugars, they produce carbon dioxide gas, which causes the bread to rise. One of the key factors that affects the fermentation process is the temperature. The ideal temperature for sourdough bread is between 70°F and 85°F. If the temperature is too low, the fermentation process will be slow, and the bread may not rise properly. If the temperature is too high, the fermentation process may happen too quickly, which can cause the bread to over-proof and collapse. Another factor that can affect the fermentation process is the type of flour used. Bread flour, which has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, is the best type of flour to use for sourdough bread. The protein in the flour helps to develop the gluten, which gives the bread its structure and texture. In conclusion, understanding the fermentation process is key to making successful sourdough bread. By controlling the temperature and using the right type of flour, you can ensure that your sourdough bread rises properly and has the perfect texture and flavor.


The Role of Ingredients in Sourdough Rising

The Importance of Flour

Flour is the foundation of sourdough bread. It provides the structure and texture, as well as the nutrients that the yeast and bacteria need to thrive. The type of flour used in sourdough bread can greatly affect the rise and flavor of the bread. Different flours have different levels of protein and gluten, which affects the dough's elasticity and ability to rise. Bread flour and high-protein flours are great for sourdough because they have more gluten, which helps the dough rise and hold its shape. Using fresh flour is also important for sourdough bread. As flour ages, it loses some of its nutrients and the ability to create a strong gluten network. So, using new flour or fresh flour can help ensure a strong rise in your sourdough bread.


Water and Hydration

Water is another important ingredient in sourdough bread. The hydration level, or the amount of water in relation to the amount of flour, can greatly affect the rise and texture of the bread. Higher hydration levels can result in a more open crumb structure and a lighter texture, while lower hydration levels can result in a denser, chewier texture. It is important to find the right hydration level for your sourdough recipe and adjust as needed based on the type of flour and other ingredients used.


The Sourdough Starter

The sourdough starter is the heart of sourdough bread. It is a mixture of flour and water that has been fermented with wild yeast and bacteria. The starter provides the leavening agent for the bread and contributes to its unique flavor. Maintaining a healthy and active sourdough starter is crucial for a successful rise in sourdough bread. A starter that is too weak or inactive may not provide enough leavening, resulting in a dense and flat loaf.


Role of Sugar and Fat

Sugar and fat do not play a direct role in sourdough rising, but they can affect the flavor and texture of the bread. Sugar can help feed the yeast and bacteria in the sourdough starter, resulting in a sweeter flavor and a more active starter. Fat, such as butter or oil, can add richness and moisture to the bread. However, too much fat can inhibit gluten development and affect the rise of the bread. In summary, the type of flour, hydration level, sourdough starter, and other ingredients all play important roles in sourdough rising. By understanding the role of each ingredient and how they interact with each other, you can create a successful and delicious sourdough bread.


The Science Behind Sourdough Rising

Yeast and Bacteria

Sourdough bread is made using a combination of wild yeast and bacteria present in the starter. The yeast and bacteria work together to ferment the dough, which causes it to rise. Yeast is responsible for producing carbon dioxide gas, which gets trapped in the dough and causes it to expand. Bacteria, on the other hand, helps to break down the carbohydrates in the flour into simple sugars, which the yeast can then use as food.


Fermentation and Bubbles

Fermentation is the process by which the yeast and bacteria in the starter convert the sugars in the dough into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. As the gas is produced, it gets trapped in the dough, forming bubbles. The more bubbles there are, the more the dough will rise. However, if there are not enough bubbles, the dough may not rise properly.


Gluten Development

Gluten is a protein found in wheat flour that gives bread its structure and chewiness. When the dough is mixed, gluten strands begin to form. As the dough is kneaded, these strands become stronger and more elastic. This is important for sourdough bread because it allows the dough to trap the carbon dioxide gas produced during fermentation, which causes it to rise. To ensure proper gluten development, it is important to knead the dough thoroughly and allow it to rest before shaping and baking. Over-kneading or under-kneading can both result in a dough that does not rise properly. Overall, the science behind sourdough rising is a complex process that involves the interaction of yeast, bacteria, fermentation, and gluten development. Understanding these factors can help bakers troubleshoot issues with their sourdough bread and achieve the perfect rise.


Temperature and Time Factors

Room Temperature

Room temperature plays a crucial role in the sourdough rising process. The ideal room temperature for sourdough fermentation is between 70-75°F (21-24°C). If the temperature is too low, the fermentation process will be slow, and the dough will take longer to rise. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, the fermentation process will be too fast, and the dough may overproof. To ensure the room temperature is ideal, you can use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. If the room temperature is too low, you can place the dough in a warm place, such as an oven with the light on, to encourage fermentation. However, be careful not to let the temperature get too high.


Oven Temperature

The oven temperature is another critical factor that affects the sourdough rising process. The ideal oven temperature for sourdough bread is between 400-450°F (204-232°C). If the oven temperature is too low, the bread will not rise properly, and the crust may become too hard. On the other hand, if the oven temperature is too high, the bread may burn or become too dry. To ensure the oven temperature is ideal, you can use an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature. It is also essential to preheat the oven before baking the bread.



Preheating the oven is an essential step in the sourdough baking process. Preheating the oven allows the oven to reach the ideal temperature, ensuring that the bread will rise correctly. The ideal preheating time for the oven is around 30 minutes.


Oven Spring

Oven spring refers to the final rise of the bread in the oven. During oven spring, the bread rises quickly due to the high temperature of the oven. The ideal oven spring should be around 20-30% of the final loaf's volume. To ensure proper oven spring, it is essential to preheat the oven to the ideal temperature and to score the bread before baking. Scoring the bread allows it to expand during oven spring, resulting in a more even rise. In conclusion, temperature and time factors are crucial to the sourdough rising process. It is essential to monitor the room and oven temperature, preheat the oven, and allow for proper oven spring to ensure a successful bake.


Common Sourdough Rising Issues

Sourdough is a finicky beast, and even experienced bakers can sometimes run into issues with getting their loaves to rise properly. Here are a few common sourdough rising issues and how to troubleshoot them.


Not Rising

If your sourdough isn't rising at all, there are a few potential culprits. The first is that your starter may not be active enough. Make sure that you're feeding your starter regularly and that it's doubling in size within a few hours of feeding. If your starter isn't active enough, it won't have enough yeast to properly leaven your bread. Another potential issue is that you're not giving your dough enough time to rise. Sourdough can take longer to rise than commercial yeast breads, so make sure that you're giving it enough time to do its thing. If you're in a cold environment, you may need to let your dough rise for longer or find a warmer spot for it to rest. Finally, make sure that you're using enough starter in your dough. If you're not using enough starter, your dough won't have enough yeast to properly rise.


Weak Sourdough Starter

If your sourdough starter is weak, it won't have enough yeast to properly leaven your bread. There are a few potential reasons why your starter might be weak. First, make sure that you're feeding your starter regularly. If you're not feeding it often enough, it won't have enough food to grow and thrive. Additionally, make sure that you're using the right kind of flour to feed your starter. Whole grain flours tend to be more nutrient-dense and can help keep your starter healthy. If your starter is consistently weak, you may need to start from scratch with a new starter. This can be disappointing, but it's important to have a healthy starter if you want to consistently bake good sourdough.


Gummy Crumb

If your sourdough has a gummy crumb, it may be underbaked or overhydrated. Make sure that you're baking your bread for long enough to fully cook the interior. Additionally, make sure that you're not adding too much water to your dough. Sourdough can handle a higher hydration level than commercial yeast breads, but there is such a thing as too much water. If your crumb is consistently gummy, you may need to adjust your recipe or baking technique to get the results you want. Overall, sourdough can be a difficult bread to master, but with some troubleshooting and practice, you can get the results you want. Make sure to pay attention to variables like temperature, hydration, and feeding schedules to get the best possible loaf.


Enhancing the Sourdough Rising Process

Feeding the Starter

One of the most important factors that affects the sourdough rising process is the health of your starter. To ensure that your starter is healthy and active, it is important to feed it regularly. A good rule of thumb is to feed your starter at least once every 24 hours, or twice a day if possible. When feeding your starter, make sure to use room temperature water and flour that is unbleached and unbromated.


Using a Proofing Box

A proofing box is a great tool to enhance the sourdough rising process. A proofing box provides a warm and humid environment that is ideal for the yeast to grow and multiply. You can easily make a proofing box by placing your dough in a covered container with a damp towel or in a plastic bag and placing it in a warm spot in your kitchen. Alternatively, you can purchase a commercial proofing box that provides precise temperature and humidity control.


Scoring the Bread

Scoring the bread before baking is an important step that helps the dough expand during the baking process. Scoring allows the bread to release steam, which prevents it from bursting during baking. To score your bread, use a sharp razor blade or a bread scoring tool. Make sure to score the bread just before baking, and make shallow cuts at a 45-degree angle. By following these tips, you can enhance the sourdough rising process and boost your chances of success. Timing is also an important factor to consider when making sourdough bread. Be patient and allow enough time for the dough to rise properly. You can also use a banneton to shape the bread and a slash to create a decorative pattern on the surface. Finally, use the float test to check if your dough is ready to bake. If it floats, it is ready.


The Art of Sourdough Bread Making

Patience and Experience

Sourdough bread making is considered one of the best bread making methods. It's an art that demands patience, experience, and attention to detail. The natural fermentation process, regular feeding of the sourdough starter, and precise temperature and timing for dough rising are all crucial aspects. With practice, you can achieve the perfect loaf of sourdough bread. Experience is key when it comes to making sourdough bread. The more you practice, the better you will become at understanding the nuances of the fermentation process. You will learn how to adjust the temperature, hydration, and fermentation time to produce the desired flavor and texture of your bread.


The Benefits of Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread is not only delicious but also has several health benefits. It is more nutritious than regular bread because the fermentation process breaks down the gluten and phytic acid, making it easier to digest. Sourdough bread also has a lower glycemic index than regular bread, which means it won't cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Eating sourdough bread is a sensory experience. The flavor and smell of freshly baked sourdough bread are hard to resist. Sourdough bread has a tangy, slightly sour flavor that is unique to this type of bread. The crust is crispy, and the inside is soft and chewy. One thing to note when making sourdough bread is the presence of hooch. Hooch is a liquid that forms on the surface of the sourdough starter when it is not fed regularly. While it may seem off-putting, it is a sign that your starter needs to be fed. Simply pour off the hooch and feed your starter, and it will be back to its bubbly, active self in no time. In summary, sourdough bread making is an art that requires patience and experience. The benefits of sourdough bread are numerous, including its nutritious properties and delicious flavor. If you are new to sourdough bread making, don't be discouraged if your bread doesn't rise at first. With practice and patience, you will soon be producing beautiful, delicious loaves of sourdough bread.


Sourdough Bread Recipe

Making sourdough bread can be a fun and rewarding experience. However, getting the perfect loaf can be challenging, especially if you're new to sourdough baking. Here's a simple sourdough bread recipe to help you get started.



Ingredient Amount
Bread flour 500g
Water 350g
Mature starter 100g
Salt 10g


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread flour and water. Mix until well combined.
  2. Add the mature starter and mix again until well combined.
  3. Add the salt and mix until well combined.
  4. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, perform a series of stretch and folds. Repeat this process every 30 minutes for the next 2 hours.
  6. After the last stretch and fold, cover the bowl and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. The next day, preheat your oven to 450°F (232°C) and place a Dutch oven inside to preheat as well.
  8. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the Dutch oven.
  9. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape it into a ball.
  10. Place the dough onto the parchment paper and score the top with a sharp knife.
  11. Carefully place the parchment paper and dough into the preheated Dutch oven.
  12. Cover the Dutch oven with its lid and bake for 30 minutes.
  13. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  14. Once done, remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a wire rack.

Tips for Success

  • Use a mature starter that has been recently fed and is at its peak.
  • Make sure to preheat your Dutch oven before baking to ensure even heat distribution.
  • Use parchment paper to prevent the bread from sticking to the Dutch oven.
  • Steam is essential for a good rise, so make sure to create steam in your oven by placing a tray of water on the bottom rack.
  • The length of the rise time will depend on the temperature of your kitchen and the strength of your starter. Keep an eye on the dough and adjust the rise time accordingly.
  • If you're not ready to bake the bread after the overnight rise in the refrigerator, you can remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before baking.

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