Demystifying Sourdough – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Sourdough Starter – Why It’s Better For You – And How To Start One

How To Start A Sourdough Starter

There are three main ways to start a sourdough starter. Borrow, buy or trap.

Borrow

My favorite method of acquiring sourdough is definitely from a friend. If you can find someone with a healthy, active sourdough starter who is willing to part with some then you can be baking as soon as the next day! Sourdough is a joyful and loving hobby and most sourdough bakers will be happy to share that passion with a beginner.

Buy

You can also purchase a dried starter from many different sources. My first starter was originally given to me as a gift from my husband before we were married. Little did he know how important that gift would be to our health! There are some really awesome choices for sourdough starter on the market and I will list a few below that I personally trust.


Trap

If you want to get super authentic you can start your own starter by trapping wild yeast off of flour, fruits, herbs or vegetables.

To start a starter with flour you will want to use organic, freshly milled flour if that is available. Organic rye flour is a good choice for starting a vigorous starter. Rye flour tends to have plenty of wild yeast and bacteria and (in my case) makes a sweet smelling ferment.

 

A seven day old rye starter made with freshly milled organic flour.
A seven day old rye starter made with freshly milled organic flour.
5 from 1 vote
Sourdough starter that is active and fresh makes wonderful artisan bread!
Homemade Sourdough Starter
Prep Time
14 d
 

Easy instructions for trapping your own wild yeast and bacteria strains to make a 100% hydration sourdough starter. This process takes fourteen days to complete so plan accordingly. You will end up with a sourdough starter that can be used for baking breads, cakes, tortillas and more!

Course: Baking, Wellness
Cuisine: American, Traditional
Keyword: Fermented, Grains, Natural, Nourishing
Author: Butter For All
Ingredients
  • 1050 Grams Organic Rye Flour Or other organic wheat flour
  • 1050 Grams Water Un-chlorinated, filtered (Not Plastic Bottled)
Instructions
Day 1
  1. Mix 50g of flour and 50g of water into a paste. Store it in a clean locking lid jar with the rubber seal removed. Keep your jar in a draft-free place at room temperature. This is the beginning of your starter!

Day 2, feed your starter once a day.
  1. Remove 50g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 25g of flour and 25g of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

Day 3, feed your starter once a day.
  1. Remove 50g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 25g of flour and 25g of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

  2. You may start to see gas bubbles as early as day three. If not, just keep feeding your starter once a day.

Day 4, feed your starter once a day.
  1. Remove 50g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 25g of flour and 25g of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

Day 5, feed your starter once a day.
  1. Remove 50g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 25g of flour and 25g of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

Day 6, feed your starter once a day.
  1. Remove 50g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 25g of flour and 25g of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

Day 7, feed your starter once a day.
  1. Remove 50g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 25g of flour and 25g of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

  2. By day seven you should be seeing some signs of activity. The starter should be bubbling, smell fermented (slightly sweet, sour, or alcoholic). You may even see it rise after feeding. 

    If there is mold, off color, off smell and little to no activity do not continue the feedings and please see my troubleshooting guide in the body of this article.

Day 8-14, feed your starter twice a day.
  1. Morning: Remove 50g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 25g of flour and 25g of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

  2. Evening: Remove 50g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 25g of flour and 25g of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

Day 15, your starter should be ready to bake with!
    Recipe Notes

    Some people have found that their starter is ready to bake with by day 7. I add an extra 7 days of double feedings to insure that the starter is powerful, active and ready for all the baking projects! 

    Keep in mind, Sourdough is as unique as you are. Results may vary!

     

    Page Guide

    Page 1. Intro
    Page 2. What Is Sourdough?
    Page 3. Bread Terminology
    Page 4. Why Eat Sourdough?
    Page 5. Tools
    Page 6. Starter Recipe
    Page 7. Fresh Starter vs. Discard
    Page 8. Starter Hydration & Feeding
    Page 9. Favorite Recipes
    Page 10. Troubleshooting Sourdough
    Page 11.  Starter Insurance Policy
    Page 12. Using Stale Bread
    Page 13. Recipes You Don’t Want To Miss

    15 Comments

    1. Cynthia Wright

      5 stars
      I have made your cinnamon raisin bread a lot and given loaves of it to others, it is awesome! I did the chewy pancakes once and loved them! The pizza rounds are in the fridge right now and I am looking forward to homemade sourdough pizza this evening. Finally just read your Demystifying Sourdough insruction. I started in a much different way but am certainly enjoying my sourdough journey, and you are definitely an inspiration and a help! Thank you!

      • Hi Cynthia!

        This comment is making my day, thank you! I love to hear how people are using my recipes and I love the positive feedback! I’d also be very interested to hear about your personal sourdough journey, please feel free to share it if you wish. I’m always trying to learn more about sourdough and there are so many personal experiences and recipes that are unique examples of the sourdough craft. Thank you for letting me share mine with you!

        -Courtney

    2. Marilyn M. McIntyre

      I first learned about sourdough through the Tassajara Bread Book back many years when I was a nomadic tree planter. My starter was always happy to sit quietly in a cooler and have since made it a practice to keep and use starter in the refrigerator. But today I found your site and learned so much more about how to use it, save it etc. Thank you. Tomorrow I will make the miniature apple maple pies. I am a very new follower.

      • Hi Raegan!

        Are you measuring by weight or volume? If by weight, then yes your starter is 100% hydration. But if you are measuring by volume (1 cup to 1 cup) then probably not 100% because flour and water will weigh out differently even if they are the same amount by volume. You can easily convert to weight by using the instructions above. Or if you are having success with the way you are doing it then no need to change. I like to keep my starter at 100% so the recipes I write are consistent.

        Hope this helps and I hope you enjoy my sourdough recipes!

        – Courtney

        • Raegan Stegmeier

          Thanks for your reply! So, I tried your burger buns and dutch oven boule. I had them sitting out in our sunroom, which is warmest room in the house. After 4 hours neither of the doughs had barely risen, so I turned our electric fireplace on and set them near it, but not too close. By morning they had somewhat risen. I formed my burger buns and left them to rise, but after 6 hours, there was hardly any change! My dough for the boule was nowhere near as soft as yours. I used 1/2 bleached all-purpose, 1/4 whole wheat, and 1/4 rye flour. After reading some more on your articles I tested my starter by dropping it in water after 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours, and 12 hours. All of the times it sank to the bottom. Please help!

          • Hi Raegan,

            I’m glad you gave me such a thorough description of what’s going on. It sounds like your starter needs some work. An active starter should double or more in 4 to 6 hours. So that means after you feed it, you should see some pretty significant rise within the next 4 to 6 hours at room temperature. Doing a float test is a good measure of how much gas has formed within your starter. So it sounds like very little gas is being formed by the fermentation process.
            How old is your starter? And it would be helpful to know how often you bake with it and feed it. I would also advise you to buy organic flour that is unbleached. Any chemical addition to flour will have a negative effect of the wild yeast and bacteria and could be playing a big role in you starter’s health.

            I would recommend feeding your starter every 12 hours for three days. Start with 150 grams of starter. Remove 100 grams, feed 50 grams of each organic flour and filtered water. Do this each time you feed. Keep the starter at room temperature the whole time. Refrigeration will suppress the activity. After three days of double feedings report back. If the starter is rising to double within 6 hours you are ready to start baking. If not we may need to look into things further!

            I sincerely hope this helps! Please keep me updated!

            Courtney

    3. Jess

      Hello! I am so excited that I have found your site! The information you’ve shared has been so helpful. I began my own starter when I was a teenager (some teens partied on a weekend. I baked) but when I went off to college I wasn’t able to bring it along and sadly it was trashed while I was away. However, I was recently gifted a bit of my mom’s friend’s starter and I am excited to have a second go.

      When I received the starter, her instructions to keep it were to place it inside the fridge and take it out once a week, discard (use) 1 cup, feed with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water, and return to the fridge. I figured if it had been working for her, I’d stick with it, so I followed that schedule.

      I didn’t see much activity, but I tried to bake with it anyway. I took it out of the fridge, let it come to room temp, fed it, and then tried baking with it. I didn’t see much rise, if any. Unsurprisingly, the loaf was short, dense, and weighed about fifty pounds. Seriously, brick loaf.

      I had to find some answers, so I took to the web and found your site. I followed your instructions to get my poor, limping starter back to health. I’ve kept it on the counter and fed it daily, and it has revived so that I see it bubble and grow, and peak a few hours after I feed it. I currently have about 100 grams of starter. I take out half and feed with 25g water and 25g flour. I haven’t braved baking with it again yet, but I am anxious to try.

      Here’s where I am stuck. After it is healthy, if I am not able to use it often, what is the best option for storage? I can definitely use it once a week, I hope maybe more. Should it go in the fridge again? What’s the protocol for feeding/using it out of the fridge? I desperately want this one to last, and I’m so thankful for any sourdough wisdom you can throw my way!

      Jess

      • Hi Jess,

        I’m so happy you found my website! I live for sourdough!

        It sounds like you are on the right track! Getting the starter revived is the first step and it sounds like you’ve been successful with that. Next, you will want to build up that starter until you have about 300g for baking. So go ahead and feed it (when you are ready to bake) with 150g flour and 150g water. Let that ferment and peak. My bread recipes call for about 250g of active starter.

        For storage, feed your starter again with 150x150g and let if ferment about halfway to peaking. Stick it into the fridge. The yeast activity will slow down dramatically but it will still have some sugar to consume so it won’t go hungry. If you are baking often (at least once a week) there will be no need to feed your starter before the next use. When you bring it out, let it peak and decide if you want to use the starter for bread or another project. If the starter seems active, go ahead and add it to a bread recipe. If it seems sluggish, remove some and feed again, then use the discard in crackers or pancakes etc. All starter will eventually rise bread, but you will have to wait a lot longer if the starter isn’t really active.

        Honestly all starters are different and respond to cold storage differently so you will have to use your sourdough sense (it sounds like you have it). The best way to go forward is to just start baking! The more you use and feed your starter the happier it will be!

        The main takeaway would be, don’t let your starter go hungry. Always feed it and let if ferment a bit before it goes in the fridge. If you leave it out it will consume all the sugar quickly and get more sour but it will also be very hungry and might not be as active and happy. Find that balance and feel free to reach out to me with more questions! You’ve given me inspiration to include this info in my sourdough feeding post! Thank you!

        I sincerely hope this helps,

        Courtney

    4. lori kauffman

      Thank you for the beautiful video and web page. So I am on day 12 of the starter build and have a beautiful, active starter. My question now is how do I get to the 225 gms for the bake? How do I build it up?

      Thank you.

      • Hi Lori!

        Great question. It is super easy to build up your starter. Just feed it with equal weight flour and water and let if peak at room temp before using it for baking bread. I always keep at least 300g, usually more. And, I always replace what I’ve removed from the jar (let it ferment awhile too) before putting it to “sleep” in the fridge. To get up to 300 grams just feed 150g water and 150g flour. Once the starter has peaked measure out what you need for your recipe!

        Hope this helps and happy baking!

        Courtney

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