How to Make a Sourdough Starter

How to Make a Sourdough Starter

Making a sourdough starter, takes 7 days. Your homemade sourdough starter will continue to grow in strength and health the more that you use it.

Materials:

  • Two pint-sized jars or other clean container
  • Wooden skewers to stir
  • Paper coffee filter or cheesecloth
  • Water
  • Flour

Rye flour is best for growing a new sourdough starter. Whole wheat is second best. Bread flour or all-purpose flour can work, but may take more days to establish the right amount of activity.

Timeline:

Keep your growing sourdough starter in a warm place at room temperature.

Day 1

➔ AM: Add 75g (1/2 cup) flour and 118g (1/2 cup) water to jar—adding flour and water to a sourdough starter is known as “feeding the starter”. Stir well with a wooden skewer so there is no dry flour left then cover loosely with a coffee filter or cheesecloth (secure with a rubber band if needed).

➔ PM: Feed your starter 20g (2 tablespoons) flour and 30 (2 tablespoons) water, mix well and recover.

Day 2

➔ AM: Feed your starter with 20g (2 tablespoons) flour and 30 (2 tablespoons) water, mix well and recover.

➔ PM: Discard half of the starter and feed again with 40g (1/4 cup) flour and 60g (1/4 cup water. Mix well and re-cover.

Day 3

➔ AM: Do nothing. Allow your sourdough starter to continue growing.

Around day 3 or 4, your starter might have a funky smell, this is usual and should change by the end of the 7 days.

➔ PM: Get a second jar, add 2 tablespoons of  your growing sourdough starter then feed 40g (1/4 cup) flour and 40g (3 tablespoons) water. Mix well and recover. The jar of remaining starter can be discarded.

Day 4

➔ AM: Do nothing. Allow your sourdough starter to continue growing.

At this point it is time to begin a rhythm of discarding a portion of sourdough starter and feeding the remainder. This will encourage strong healthy growth.

➔ PM: Discard half of your sourdough starter. To the remaining portion, feed your starter 40g (1/4 cup) flour and 40g (3 tablespoons) water. Mix well and recover.

Day 5

➔ AM: Discard 80% of your sourdough starter. To the remaining portion, feed your starter 40g (1/4 cup) flour and 40g (3 tablespoons) water. Mix well and recover.

➔ PM: Discard 80% of your sourdough starter. To the remaining portion, feed your starter 40g (1/4 cup) flour and 40g (3 tablespoons) water. Mix well and recover.

Day 6

➔ AM: Discard 80% of your sourdough starter. To the remaining portion, feed your starter 40g (1/4 cup) flour and 40g (3 tablespoons) water. Mix well and recover.

➔ PM: Discard 80% of your sourdough starter. To the remaining portion, feed your starter 40g (1/4 cup) flour and 40g (3 tablespoons) water. Mix well and recover.

At this point your sourdough starter should be bubbly and growing consistently. When the volume doubles within 6-10 hours and the smell is pleasantly yeasty and slightly sour, the sourdough starter is ready to use. Day 7 AM, will be preparation to make bread on Day 7 PM.

Day 7

➔ AM: Discard 90% of your sourdough starter—there should be only a tablespoon amount left. Feed this amount 75g (1/2 cup) flour and 75g (1/3 cup) water.

➔ PM: Use your new sourdough starter in a bread recipe. Make sure you have some starter left – never add all of your sourdough starter. After you add the active sourdough starter to a batch of dough, feed the remainder left in the jar with 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water. Leave at room temperature to activate for a new batch of bread, or let it sit out for 6 hours at room temperature before putting in the refrigerator for maintenance mode.

Notes:

  • If your sourdough starter doesn’t have enough activity or the funky smell isn’t gone, repeat day 6 until the sourdough starter volume doubles within 6-10 hours and the smell is pleasantly yeasty and slightly sour.
  • The refrigerator allows your starter to be on “maintenance mode” and will need to be refreshed—discard 90% of old and feed 60g (heaping 1/3 cup) flour and 60g (1/4 cup) water. If kept at room temperature, the sourdough starter needs to be refreshed at least twice/day or every 12-14 hours.
  • When making bread, you will need to take your sourdough starter out of the refrigerator and refresh it—discard 90% of old and feed 60g (heaping 1/3 cup) flour and 60g (1/4 cup) water—8 to 12 hours before mixing it into dough.
  • Feeding your starter 60g (heaping 1/3 cup) flour and 60g (1/4 cup) water makes enough sourdough starter to make one loaf of bread. If you want to make more bread, you will need to multiply the flour and water feeding amounts by the number of loaves you’d like to make. You will also need to use a larger container.
    • For example, for 3 loaves of bread, multiply 60g flour by 3 for 180g flour. And multiply 60g water by 3 for 180g water.

You can receive these instructions in my Sourdough Quick Start Guide in a downloadable PDF here:

Now that you have made your sourdough starter, it’s time to try your first bake! My Sourdough Quick Start Guide also includes detailed instructions for baking a rustic loaf of sourdough bread with photos, illustrations, and timing cheat sheets.

About Me

Jenny Prior owns and operates Living Bread Baker, where she teaches sourdough baking and creates recipes to share through her books and website. Her love of cooking, background in teaching special education, and health journey led her to create this business to help share the joy and wonder of sourdough baking with others.

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