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

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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 wheat flour, fruits, herbs or vegetables.

To start a starter with flour you will want to use organic, freshly milled flour if that is available. Four that still has some of the hull with help you start a vigorous starter quickly.

Organic whole wheat or 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.

Again, any organic flour will work, but those that are milled with the hull start sourdough cultures quickly.

 

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 2 votes
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 Flour Rye, Whole Wheat, or Heirloom Grains work well
  • 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!
  • To build your starter up prior to baking just add a larger amount of flour and water to the last feeding. If you need 250g of starter, add at least 125g each flour and water!

Gluten Free Sourdough Guides

Whole New Mom – Super Easy Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

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
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Monika

Thursday 9th of July 2020

Please help me my sourdough bread always comes out sour . i did float test . how can i get no sour sourdough bread . Thanks

Butter For All

Saturday 11th of July 2020

Hi Monika,

You need to work on your starter. Feed it every 12 hours to help balance the bacteria to yeast. A bacteria heavy starter will be more sour. You want to encourage the yeast by feeding it more often. Watch this video where I explain how this works - https://youtu.be/M2w1f5sjAvc

Hope it helps,

Courtney

Beth

Thursday 9th of July 2020

Hi thank you for sharing. Is there anyway to print all the pages in one document without cutting and pasting?

Butter For All

Saturday 11th of July 2020

Hi Beth,

I don't have this available to print at this time. But I may create a PDF in the future since I've had a lot of requests! Get on my mailing list and I'll make sure you get notified when it becomes available. Thanks for the feedback!

Courtney

Erin Cork Woolfolk

Monday 22nd of June 2020

Hi! I've been following along with your sourdough guide and had what I thought was a great starter after 2 weeks of feeding it. There were lots of bubbles and it was doubling in size after being fed. I used it to bake your whole wheat sourdough bread, but the bread didn't rise very much when baked. The bread dough had doubled in size overnight when left out, like the directions say it should. I put it in the refrigerator for about 24 hours before baking. I put the dough in the oven cold straight out of the refrigerator, should I have let it come to room temperature before baking?

Butter For All

Wednesday 24th of June 2020

Hi Erin,

I'm so sorry to hear it. It could be that the starter isn't strong enough to do a cold ferment (YET). Yes, if it didn't rise in the fridge, I would let a new starter come to room temp and rise before baking. Or even better, try shaping the dough and leaving it to proof again at room temp next time. You could also sub up to 50% bread flour if the WW is still too dense! Let me know how it goes!

Courtney

Emma

Monday 25th of May 2020

Hi! We received starter from a friend of ours who has been making bread for years. We've had it for almost a week now and have been feeding it but after about 3 days of normal results it now looks really soup-y every morning and hasn't grown at all..did we mess it up or is it salvagable?

Daria

Saturday 6th of June 2020

Hi,

I am new to this. I started with 50/50... on day 2 you tell us to remove half and add in 25/25... next day we remove the 50 and add 25/25 until we need to feed twice a day. Doesn't it rise? You have a photo posted with it overflowing :( is this starter for one time only? 50 grams in total? What about recipes that say 125g? :( now what? Thank you!

Butter For All

Wednesday 27th of May 2020

Hi Emma,

It's salvageable! Just keep feeding it. Every 12 hours. The yeast/bacteria ratio probably changed due to the flour/water/environment you are using. It might take a bit of time to equal out again. Let me know how it goes.

Courtney

Carol Warner

Saturday 16th of May 2020

Hi Courtney, So by day 15, you have a strong starter ready for baking but it’s only around 50g. You need 250g of starter, and add 125g each flour and water...would this increased volume weaken the starter? And if it’s a whole meal starter, is it okay to change to white flour or 50/50 white/whole meal? ~Carol~

Butter For All

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Hi again, Carol!

That is exactly what you do. You build the starter to the desired amount before using it. It actually does the opposite, and strengthens the starter by giving it plenty of food! Once your starter is established you can use any flour to feed it, but I keep mine with AP and save my nice whole grain flour for bread! Note that different flours may have different results so it's best to watch your starter and judge based on how it reacts!

Hope that helps!

Courtney

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