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How To Make Sourdough Starter (From Scratch)

If you’ve been making your own bread at home, Kudos to you! If you haven’t but it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, you’re in the right place!

You may have heard stories of sourdough starters being passed down from generation to generation. Even that these age-old starters can be closely guarded, and well taken care of secrets. Luckily learning how to make a sourdough starter from scratch requires neither a centuries-old ‘hand me down’, or any special ingredients.

I’ll show you not only how to make your own sourdough starter, but also how to properly take care of it, use it to make your own sourdough bread, as well as a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up from doing this myself over the past few years. 

This post contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated if a purchase is made through the links provided. For more information please read my affiliate disclosure.

A Quick History of Sourdough

Sourdough bread is essentially the ‘historical’ way of making leavened bread around the world. The very first loaves of bread where likely various forms of flatbread, which were made with whatever flour or grain was available in the region. At some point in history, an ‘unlucky’ (or very lucky depends on how you look at it), baker left his dough sitting in a warm spot for too long, and the water and flour mixture would have started to ferment. What a surprise he (or she) must have gotten when upon baking, a piece of soft fluffy bread was pulled out of the oven.

Sourdough bread was born.

This basic method of using naturally occurring yeasts to ferment flour products was the main method that would have been used up until the early 18th century for baking bread. Bakers would not really have had any control over the yeast itself, but strains ‘local’ to an area would have produced differing tastes and textures, especially when re-using old dough’s to start a new batch.

This eventually led to the creation of making slurry based yeast starters which often contained barley malt, and various flours. These were often referred to as ’emptins’ in old recipe books, and where essentially the scraps of the beer-making process (left-over wort), mixed with flour. It’s interesting that leavened bread and beer were usually produced in the same regions, as the fermentation process for yeast is similar in nature.

In time the ‘Vienna Process‘ for baking and making yeast was invented and bakers would have slowly started using press-yeast, a specially produced yeast meant for baking.

The Difference Between Sourdough and Regular Yeast Breads

As mentioned above, sourdough bread uses ‘wild yeasts’ to ferment a bread dough, while more modern yeast breads use what is knows as ‘bakers yeast’. Baking bread always requires a starter or yeast of some sort, and bakers yeast comes in easy to store, shelf-stable variations that require little work:

  • Fresh Yeast
  • Active Dry Yeast
  • Instant Yeast

Each have a different method of preparation, but in short: both fresh and active dry yeast need to be ‘bloomed’ or activated prior to use while instant yeast may be mixed right into the dry ingredients of the recipe.

a freshly sliced loaf of homemade sandwich bread

Modern breads leavened with bakers yeast (such as this white sandwhich bread) have a tendency to rise (or proof) fairly quickly in comparison to sourdough breads.

While this is convenient in a commercial setting, breads using bakers yeast often have less complex flavors and a lighter structure.

Sourdough breads are more complex in flavor due to differing wild yeasts, have a slightly ‘sour’ taste due to the fermentation process, and are usually a bit chewier then yeast breads.

Wild Yeasts

Naturally occurring wild yeasts, are present literally everywhere around us.  On fruit, in the air, on plants such as wheat, barley, and Einkorn, in dirt and in water. 

When flour is mixed with water and left in a warm environment these wild yeast will slowly start to multiply and ferment and turn natural carbohydrates present in the flour into carbon dioxide. This is the basis of how a sourdough is made possible.

The interesting thing is that, as a starter ferments and is ‘fed’, it picks up strains of yeast local to its surroundings and the flour used to feed it. This means that while you may receive a sourdough starter that is ‘so many years old’ and from a specific region, the starter will take on new local strains of yeast until the old ones have all but disappeared.

Using The Proper Ingredients For Your Sourdough Starter

When making your first batch of sourdough starter at home, it’s important to use good quality ingredients. This is the biggest secret to success.

The very first time I made my own sourdough starter from scratch, nothing happened. Literally. It went moldy on the counter, and I was left wondering how I could have screwed up something ‘so easy’.

Flour

I learned that since yeast is a living organism, giving it any old flour and water, will not exactly help it grow and multiply. Most often people have all-purpose flour at home which has been bleached and enriched. Freshly milled flour has a yellow appearance, and as such it is commercially bleached with a bleaching agent, (such as chlorine), to give the flour a white appearance. The bleaching process also makes it easier for the flour to develop gluten while kneading.

While this is fine and dandy, bleaching flour may kill the naturally present yeast and other beneficial bacteria. If it doesn’t, the chemical inhibits the growth of wild yeasts that may be introduced through other means (such as through the air or your hands.). For this reason, it is best to use organic unbleached all-purpose or bread flour when making a sourdough starter from scratch.

Whole wheat flour and other flours can in theory also be used, but they may produce of flavors in your starter. Using an un-bleached organic all-purpose flour is my recommendation. – Chef Markus Mueller

Water

While most of us in North America have access to clean, potable tap water, if you live in any urban setting, you may not know that it is most likely treated with chlorine and fluoride for health and safety reasons. This is not a bad thing for us, just bad for the wild yeasts!

While this is done to kill any bad bacteria that can cause disease and other illnesses in humans, chlorinated water also happens to destroy the wild yeasts as soon as it’s mixed into the flour. The easy way around this is to use filtered water, or distilled water in your sourdough starter.

If you don’t have access to filtered or distilled water, you can leave the water sitting out on the counter for 30 minutes or so to allow the chlorine to evaporate. Alternatively, you can also use fruit juice as your liquid to feed the starter.

Making Sourdough Starter From Scratch

Let’s get to the knitty gritty and actually make a sourdough starter from scratch! Keep in mind this is not something you will make start to finish in one afternoon. You’ll need about 4 days to properly let the starter ferment and become active.

Over these four days, you’ll periodically feed the ‘sourdough starter’ (about every 12 hours) with more flour and water to encourage yeast production. you’ll notice the sourdough starter start to become gloopy, bubbly, and slightly sour smelling.

You’ll need:

  • A non-reactive container (such as a wide mouth glass jar or plastic container. Old yogurt containers work well for this)
  • A clean spoon and measuring cup set
  • a clean linen towel or cheesecloth
  • unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • warm filtered water or distilled water (fruit juice such as orange or pineapple juice may also be used for the first two feedings)

(Optional)

  • plain greek yogurt

Using Greek yogurt adds a sour flavour to your starter, but is considered to be ‘cheating’ by professional bakers. Yogurt does not help the starter ferment as is believed by some.

What adding yogurt may potentially do is lower the pH level very slightly of the starter (as would happen when using fruit juice instead of water)discouraging bad bacteria and mold growth and encouraging the growth of wild yeasts.

Day 1

Start by mixing 2/3 cups (85 grams) of the flour in your non-reactive container with 1/3 cup (80ml) of warm water. Vigorously stir the mixture with a spoon to incorporate air. Scrape down the sides of the container with the spoon, and cover the container with a clean linen cloth or cheesecloth. You want the starter to ‘breath’ and be able to expel the carbon dioxide it produces. If the mixture seems VERY dry add another 1btsp (14ml)  of water. The consistency should be paste-like, but not runny.

Set the container in a corner on your kitchen counter and forget about it for a day.

Optional: At this stage you may add 1 Tbsp of plain Greek yogurt to the starter, to help add sourness and decrease the ph level of the mixture decreasing the chances of mold growth. – Chef Markus Mueller

Mixing flour and water in a glass jar to make sourdough starter from scratch

Day 2

After 12 – 24 hours, it’s time to feed your starter again. Over the past hours, the yeast present in the flour/air/water will very slowly start to begin fermentation. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen (especially if your ambient room temperature is under 20C or 68F) this may be closer to the 24 hour mark. Essentially the warmer the temperature the faster the sourdough starter will ferment. You may notice one or two lone bubbles in the mixture.

Add 2/3 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water to the starter. Mix vigorously with a clean spoon, and again scrape down the sides and replace the cloth. The sourdough starter should be fairly gloopy and may start to appear gluey.

Day 3

Wait another 12-24 hours. At this point you should start seeing noticeable bubbles trying to break the surface of the sourdough starter. Don’t worry if you don’t, as long as there is no mold, or ‘rotten smell’ everything should be ok.

Feed the starter again with 2/3 cups of flour and 1/3 cup of water. Scrape down the sides of the container, and replace the cloth.

Day 4

At this point another 12 – 24 hours will have passed, and you should be seeing the surface of the sourdough starter look bubbly. The starter may even start to grow in volume, and depending on the temperature may even have doubled in size.

An overhead view of from scratch sour dough starter in a glass jar

Feed the starter one more time with 2/3 cups of flour and a splash of water to maintain consistency. Sit back and wait another 24 hours.

Day 5

This is it! Your sourdough starter should have at least doubled in size by now and smell quite yeasty. If you are still not seeing any visible signs of fermentation or notice a ‘sour’ smell, it’s a good idea to start over and try keeping the starter in a warmer location to encourage yeast growth.

homemamde sour dough starter after fermenting for 4 days. Nice and bubbly!

At this point, your starter is ready to use in a bread or other sourdough recipe, but if you aren’t quite ready to bake, you can store it in the refrigerator.

Storing Your Sourdough Starter

Many people keep their sourdough starters on the counter, but unless you plan on baking every two or three days, I have found it best to keep it refrigerated and dormant to avoid the yeast from losing its strength.

If kept at a warm temperature the yeast will keep eating the carbs in the flour until all the food has been consumed(unless you keep feeding it). The yeast then starts to die and loses its potency.

To avoid this, store at least 1 cup of starter in the fridge in a non-reactive container. The cold temperatures will make the yeast go dormant. They are easily awakened by taking them out of the fridge and feeding again with another round of water and flour.

If the sourdough is left to sit for a long time, a brownish liquid may appear on the surface ( called hooch by some). This is normal, and usually a sign of a little to much water in the mixture. Simple pour it off and continue feeding as normal.

A close up shot of homemade sourdough starter in a glass jar

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How to make sourdough starter from scratch . A close up shot of homemade sourdough starter in a glass jar

How To Make Sourdough Starter

Chef Markus Mueller
Learn how to make sourdough starter from scratch using only natural, whole ingredients. Easy to follow steps for making fool-proof sourdough bread at home without any special equipment.
4.8 from 20 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Fermentation Time 2 d 12 hrs
Total Time 5 mins
Course Baking
Cuisine German
Servings 1 sourdough starter
Calories 303.3 kcal

Ingredients
  

Sourdough Starter Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup Un-Bleached All Purpose Flour Organic is best, but using un-bleached flour is most important.
  • 1/3 cup Filtered Spring Water Chlorine and Fluoride Free

Optional

  • 1 tbsp full fat plain greek yogurt

Instructions
 

Day 1

  • Start by mixing 2/3 cups (85 grams) of the flour in your non-reactive container with 1/3 cup of warm water. Vigorously stir the mixture with a spoon to incorporate air. Scrape down the sides of the container with the spoon, and cover the container with a clean linen cloth or cheese cloth. You want the starter to ‘breath’ and be able to expel the carbon dioxide it produces.

Day 2

  • Add 2/3 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water to the starter. Mix vigorously with a clean spoon, and again scrape down the sides and replace the cloth. The sourdough starter should be fairly gloopy and may start to appear gluey.

Day 3

  • Feed the starter again with 2/3 cups of flour and 1/3 cup of water. Scrape down the sides of the container, and replace the cloth.

Day 4

  • At this point You should be seeing the surface of the sourdough starter look quite bubbly, The starter may even start to grow in volume, and depending on the temperature may even have doubled in size.
    Feed the starter one more time with another 2/3 cups of flour and 1/3 cup of water. Sit back and wait another 24 hours.

Day 5

  • Your sourdough starter should have at least doubled in size by now.
    At this point your starter is ready to use in a bread recipe, but if you aren’t quite ready to bake, you can store it in the refrigerator.

Using the starter in a recipe

  • After day 5, if your sourdough is bubbly, smells like sourdough, and isn’t mouldy, it’s ready to use in any sourdough recipe. Simply measure out the amount of starter the recipe calls for and proceed as is required.
  • If using a previously refrigerated starter, simply take the starter out of the fridge a day before you plan on baking. Feed the starter to re-activate it. Once bubbly and ‘active’ it’s ready for use.

Notes

If after 5 Days  are still not seeing any visible signs of fermentation or notice a ‘sour’ smell, it’s a good idea to start over and try keeping the starter in a warmer location to encourage yeast growth.
Keyword homemade sourdough, making sourdough bread, no knead bread, rustic bread

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191 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    Hey there,
    I’m trying out this starter and I’m a little confused. Many recipes I’ve seen call for you to discard a portion of the starter and feed a lesser volume. This recipe tells you to keep piling on the flour which has led me to have to transfer from container to bigger container a few times.
    Is it possible that you may have accidentally left out that part of the instructions? Or am I doing it right?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Ryan, I simply find throwing out part of it wasteful especially in the first few days when trying to get the culture going, you can throw out half if you wish and then proceed with feeding if you find you are running out of container space.

  2. barbara williams

    3 stars
    hi….i see a little bit of a discrepancy in the instructions vs. the actual recipe….in the detailed instructions, you say on day 4 to add the flour and a SPLASH of water….but, in the recipe, you say to add the flour and 1/3 cup of water….i’m making the starter….i’m on day 6, and it’s not doing very well…if it hasn’t doubled by tomorrow, i will start over…but, i wish i knew which info is correct.
    thank you

    • Hi Barbara, Thanks for pointing out the inconsistency. You want the consistency of the starter to be thick and gloopy right after feeding it. As the bacteria break down the starches in the flour it will become thinner. The 1/3 cup measurement given is a ballpark figure and can vary greatly depending on the type of flour used. Whole wheat flour for example would absorb much more water and therefore be thicker, then using the same amount of water with all-purpose flour. Even different brands of all-purpose flour can behave differently. If at day six your starter isn’t showing any signs of bubbling or fermentation of any sort, I agree, I would start over, but I would also try keeping the starter in a warmer location. The warmer the ambient temperature, the faster the starter will develop. Make sure you are using un-bleached flour, and un-chlorinated water (so not city water) to start the starter. Bottled spring water works great in my experience. Hope this helps!

  3. Samar AbuDouleh

    Hello.. Is it possible that starter would be ready to use in day 3? And how to be sure if it’s ready or not. I’m in day 2 and want to make sure I’m doing the right thing.

    • Hi Samar, It is possible yes, though just because it is large and bubbly doesn’t mean it is strong enough to bake with. A simple test you can perform before using is to drop a spoonful of the starter into warm water before feeding it. If it floats it means the starter has created enough bacteria that are creating the air bubbles to allow it to float. If it sinks, I would continue feeding the starter.

  4. The instructions from the “long winded expanded” section don’t match the “recipe”. Day 4 – add 2/3 cup flour and a splash of water versus add 2/3 cup of flour and a 1/3 cup water. Which one is correct.

    • Hi Rick, I apologize for the discrepancy. I would feed it with the 1/3 cup of water. That said, by day four you should be seeing some action in you starter and should have gotten a feel for what the consistancy should be like. 1/3 cup of water may be a tad to much, but this can depend on your flour used etc.

  5. Roberta Abbott

    5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe! I love the comprehensive information on how sourdough works and the historical perspective, and your writing is accessible and engaging. My sourdough turned out great, but I really appreciate you mentioning that your first attempt failed, as did mine. But by using unbleached flour and water where the chlorine was allowed to dissipate, it turned out perfectly. At one point I put a bit too much water and developed hooch and the instructions on dealing with it worked great. Thanks again!

    • Hi Roberta. Glad you found the instructions useful in your particular situation. Baking with sourdough I’d a bit of a trial and error process until you get the feel for it and really understand how it works.
      Happy baking!

  6. Hi there,
    When I take the starter out of the refrigerator, how much should I feed it? Can I put it back in the refrigerator straight after?

    • Hi Ann, just feed the starter as you did to originally get it going. It may take a little longer to activate since it also has to warm back up to room temperature. Once you’ve used the starter you can put any leftovers back in the fridge in a clean container.

      • Thank you. It’s day 4 and instead of putting a dash of water I put in the usual amount and now the growth has slowed down. What should I do now?

  7. Do you have a sourdough bread recipe you recommend to use for this starter? I am on day 5 and preparing to bake! Thanks!

    • Hi Claudia, glad to hear you’re starter is doing well and you are ready to begin baking. Make sure you do a float test to see if your starter is ready to go? If a spoonful of the starter wont float it’s not quite ready to bake with.

      I would suggest starting with our no knead sourdough bread. It is quite foolproof and will give you a good understanding of the sourdough baking process.

      Let me know how it turns out! You can tag us on social media @earthfoodandfire

  8. I am getting ready to start the starter. I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time.
    I am going to use your No Knead Sourdough Bread recipe when the starter is ready. My question is can I use a deep cast Iron fry pan with lid to bake the loaf of Bread? I don’t have a dutch oven.
    Thankyou!

    • Hi Shiela, I don’t see why you couldn’t use a cast iron frying pan with a lid. You just want to ensure it is deep enough to properly accomodate the loaf of bread. Let me know how it turns out!

      • I am about to throw my first starter out. It has been 10 days. It does get a few tiny bubbles (less than 10) on the surface. It hasn’t grown at all. It smells good. It does get a thick coating on just the surface. I remove it and it returns. I am clueless why? I used all purpose flour no bleach. I did use 1Tbl .Full fat Greek yogurt. I use distilled water.(should I be using spring water)? I feed once every 24 hours.
        I am hoping the second go around to be successful. I went back and read that you said to feed every 12 -24 hours. How would I know whether to feed every 12 hrs or 24 hrs?
        If feeding every 12 hrs. would this help to encourage growth and bubbles sooner than feeding every 24 hrs?
        Also would it help to replace water with Fruit juice? If so all the time or just a few times? If I use frozen canned juice , do I dilute it with water?
        As far as flour goes would it help to start off using whole wheat flour or 100% stone ground whole wheat flour? I have both. Or should I continue using the Unbleached All Purpose Flour? I appreciate all your help! Thankyou!
        P.S. I haven’t thrown out the old starter yet. And I got a dutch oven just waiting to be used.:)

  9. Thanks for the straight forward approach, I will set this up this afternoon, could you tell me how much starter I would use to make a loaf of bread.

  10. What can I expect if I use gluten-free flour for my starter and bread?

    • Hi Nancy,

      I assume it would work. It would probably depend on the type of gluten free four used etc.

      I have never made a gluten free starter so can’t offer to much insight unfortunately.

      I would simply give it a go and see what happens!

      Chef Markus

  11. It seems like you don’t ask to discard half the starter before feeding is that correct? Yet, still adding the same amounts (2/3 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water) each time. All other recipes I see are asking for discard. Your recipe will be much less wasteful if that’s the case!

    • Hi Wendy, You are correct, Our recipe uses smaller amounts to get the starter started to avoid having to discard some. I simply find it wasteful. By day 5-7 you should be able to start baking with it, negating the need to throw any out because you ‘have to much starter’.

      • Wendy Lai

        Hi Markus,
        So with each feeding we also don’t need to feed the equivalent weight of the existing starter?

        • Hi Wendy, you don’t need to feed the weight of the existing starter each time as you would end up with an enormous amount of starter. At each feeding feed the starter with 2/3 cups flour and about 1/3 cup water. You want the consistency to be like a thick pancake batter.

        • Victoria garcia

          Hi Markus,
          I started your starter just over 24 hours ago, I have only fed it once but it seems to have almost doubled in size already, should I continue feeding it as it is or should I discard some before I feed it again?,
          Victoria

          • Hi Victoria, I would simply feed it as the recipe says and maybe move it to a larger bowl.. Keep in mind it will shrink again as you mix in a new feeding.Keep us posted!

    • I’m at day 5 tomorrow and ready to bake. I’m use bread tins this time. At what temperature do you recommend baking it at?

      • Hi Nichole, I would suggest baking it at 375 for 20 minutes, then lowering the temperature to 350 and baking for another 40 minutes. Check the bread after the one hour, it should sound hollow when tapped or have an internal temperature of 210+ when using a thermometer.

        Enjoy! Chef Markus

  12. Any advice on maintaining this starter . It worked so perfect for me. I have it in the fridge for now. Now what do I do if I wold like to reactivate it?

    • Hi Holly, to maintain the starter you simply take it from the fridge and feed it again as you have been. Wait for it to become active again and then use it in a recipe. Any leftovers can again be refrigerated or left on the counter and be fed again if you plan on baking more often.

  13. hi can you please give me some advice,, I’m on day 3 and mine has some water on top, it is bubble looking but with a layer of water on top, what did I do wrong? must I through it away and start over or must I add more bread flour? hope to hear from you soon.

    • Hi Susan, I don’t think you did anything wrong and you don’t need to throw it away. I would simply scale back the water you add at the next feeding. The mixture should be like a thick pancake batter, not thin or runny. Sometimes when water collects at the top it’s simply a sign of to much water, or that it wasn’t mixed in well enough. As long as it’s bubbly smells sour and isn’t mouldy, you are good to go!

  14. 5 stars
    Hi there! SOooo stoked about this starter! Thankyou! The instructions were super easy and at the end of day 5 (had to give it one extra feeding) my starter was floating! Made 2 beautiful loaves of your no knead sourdough! So… after baking I had a small amount of starter left (maybe 1cup) so I fed it with the same amounts of water and flour and now it looks like I need to feed it again about 12 hours later. I am thinking that it will need a few days before it will pass the float test again is that right? I am not putting it in the fridge because I am excited to try more recipes as soon as it is ready so just wondering exactly what I need to do now while it’s on my counter…

    • Hi Shannon, if you have a picture of your bread tag us on social media! (@earthfoodandfire) we live seeing our readers’ creations!

      As for the starter, you simply need to feed it once or twice to get it going again. Do a float test to be sure but it should be fine now that it has matured.

      Happy baking!

  15. This is my second attempt at sour dough starter. The last recipe call for very warm water. I am on day 4 of your recipe and it doesn’t rise or increase in volume. I mixed up the two recipes and I now know that the water I used for the past two days was too hot (100 C). Should I continue or start over?

    • Hi Lorraine, I’d be happy to help you troubleshoot.

      I just want to double check, you’re using 100C water(boiling?) If so that is way to hot. Even 100F would be to warm.

      The ideal temperature range for sour dough starter to ferment is between 68F and 72F. At this temperature range it will take about 10-12 hours to fully ferment. Between 72F -80F things will go significantly faster. Above 80F your getting into the danger zone of killing your yeast especially once you hit 90F and up.

      I would suggest trying with cooler(barely like warm) water and trying again.

      Cheers, Chef Markus

    • Chef Markus…my first time making a starter! Excited, now on on my 5th day ,all has gone well,good smell,doubled in size on the third day,ready to us today…but didn’t pass float test.
      What to do now?
      Feed,not feed?
      Help,please!
      Maria

      • Hi Maria, sorry for the delayed response, we just moved and I didnt have Internet for a few days.

        If the starter doesnt float yet easily doubles in size, you can always try a loaf of bread and see what happens. The float test is simply a measure of the amount of air bubbles in the starter.you want to do the float test before feeding the starter.

        Otherwise you can keep feeding the starter and try a float test after 10-12 hours.

        Good luck!

  16. 5 stars
    Hey Chef Markus!
    I’m on day 3 of my starter, which I’ve been feeding every 24 ish hours. It’s doubled in size and has a bubbly surface, which I’ve attributed to the warmth of my kitchen, but now I’m concerned that the container will overflow! Can I simply split the starter in half and into another container without any problems arising? If I were to split the starter in half into ~250 ml each, would I keep feeding it 2/3 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water, or would I have to adjust the measurements?

    • Hi Michelle, you can easily and safely split the starter and keep feeding both, give some away, discard some, whatever you prefer. Just make sure to use clean bowls/spoons to do the work.

      Glad to hear your starter is doing well!

  17. Hi Chef Markus!
    I noticed that you studied at the NSCC! Are you from NS? I am… Cape Breton, actually ?
    Anyway, I’ve been RESEARCHING how to make sourdough starter! Your site & instructions seem the most clear … and I’ve read most of the comments, which also help.
    So … thank you for all your wonderful info.
    Started my starter this evening … wish me luck!
    Kathy

  18. Once I take it out of the fridge to feed it again – how soon will it be ready to use make bread again? Can you walk through the process of using it again after being stored in the refrigerator?

    • Hi Alison, once the starter is out of the fridge, you need to feed it and let it warm up and double in size again. Do a float test and if the starter floats its ready to bake. If not then keep feeding it till it’s strength is rebuilt. The starter should be used in a recipe once it’s doubled in size (floats) and is ready for another feeding.

  19. I’ve been playing with this start recipe for 6 days (second attempt). Reduced it by half and continued the “feeding schedule( 2:1 flour water).” Regardless, it doesn’t seems to want to take off. I’m using unbleached flour, distilled water (95° at interdiction) and keep the medium at a fairly constant 80° environment. It smells like a “delicate sourdough” bread. No signs of mold or bacteria, but gas bubbles and density are not good. It doesn’t float and the bubbles are limited. Each morning there a crust at the top of the mix. There doesn’t seem to be the “growth” everyone is talking about.
    Comments, solutions, placations?

    • Hi Raven, I’d be happy to try and help. It could be the water you’re adding at 95F is to warm and killing some bacteria before it cools down. Given that you are also storing it at a fairly high temperature (80F) you may simply be keeping it to warm. Generally speaking yeast will stop growing and begin dying at 95-99F, but keeping it at a constant 80F may be to much.

      I have found the ideal temperature range for having the bacteria thrive in the starter is 68F-72F. At the lower range it can take 10-12 hours for the starter to double at the higher range that time is easily cut in half.

      I hope this helps!

  20. Virginia Shain

    Hi. Thanks for the recipe. I’m on day 4 at this time but have a question about using after it’s been in the fridge for storage. You say take from fridge the day before, feed it and use the next day. Do i feed it again after i use some and leave it out for a day before return to fridge? O?r do i not feed it and return to fridge.?Or not feed again and return to fridge? Thanks.

    • Hi Virginia, I would make sure to feed it for minimum of five days before attempting to bake. You can also do a float test to see if some of the starter floats in water..if it sinks it’s not ready and needs to be fed more.

      As for refrigerating, once the starter or any amount of starter is refrigerated, it goes dormant. You then need to wake it back up before it becomes active again. This is done by taking it from the fridge, feeding it, and letting it sit. It should become active and bubbly again.

      Once it’s active you (do a float test again first to determine it’s strength), you can use it in any recipe that calls for starter.

      Whatever starter is left over, you can feed and keep on the counter as before( ie:. if you plan on baking again soon), or refrigerate it again. It’s a good idea to add a little spoon of flour to the starter before refrigerating to give the bacteria some food to stay alive as they slowly go dormant.

      You then repeat the process as needed.

    • Shifali Malhotra

      Hello, so I started yesterday around 10 pm and in 17 hours I have double the quantity of what I started. Is it okay to double up so much and should I continue feeding the same quantity as mentioned in your recipe? Thank you!

      • Hi Shifali, going 17 hours between feeding is quite long, I would recommend shortening the time to 8-12 hours as mentioned in the recipe. Depending on the ambient room temperature yes the starter can double that quickly. It will collapse down again as you feed it for the next round. An active starter is not a bad thing.

  21. I have read in many blogs that we need to discard the flour and water mixture before feeding it. But in your blog I didn’t find any sort of discard .
    Do we need to feed the dough continually everyday without discarding it?? I am eager to make and learn the process of starter making but quite confused.

    • Hi Leena, the reason this guide doesn’t call for any discard is because this recipe uses smaller amounts of flour and water. After day five you should have about a cup and a half of starter. Other recipes use larger quantities that may cause most bowls or containers to overflow.

      I also find discarding it is a waste of perfectly good flour. If you do need to split or discard some I would much rather feed and get a ‘second’ starter.

  22. I started my starter on Tuesday and am on day 4 and the consistency looks right and I have large bubbles forming but it has not doubled in size and is not passing the float test. I have been feeding once daily smells yeasty. Do you ever find it that you need to go beyond the 5 days?

    • Hi Lori, yes it may be you have to feed it more then five days…that is the minimum in my experience that it takes to get it going. Try moving it to a slightly warmer location to help speed up the growth of the bacteria.

      • Day 8 and my sourdough floated this morning at 6 am but did not float a couple hours later so I fed again. Is this correct?

        • Hi Lori, it’s difficult to say, I would think this could be due to the natural growth cycle (and subsequent death) of the bacteria as it feeds. It not floating could be you waited to long after feeding it and some bacteria started dying. I would try feeding it again and if it floats again then bake with it.

          • Yes, floated again this morning and is proofing! Time will tell – thank you for your tips!

          • I did weigh everything so I am interested to see if I am close to your ingredient weights. Science project continues!

  23. Stephanie M.

    Hello! How large of a container would you recommend using for this? Thank you!

    • Hi Stephanie, I usually use a 750ml yogurt container to make my starter. By the end of the 5 days its usually full. This gives me half the container to bake with to test it’s strength, and then I keep feeding the remaining starter to help it grow stronger.

  24. Hi Markus,

    Similar to another commenter, I have a starter that looks more like it should on day 4 based on your description, but it’s only on day 3. Should I proceed through all 5 days, as directed? It’s getting so big I might have to discard half of it at the end of the third day.

    Also, in case someone is reading this, and perhaps you’ll think it’s kind of neat too: I have a cold house. I microwaved a cup of water and then put my starter in there and closed the microwave to keep it at a reasonable ~70 degrees Celsius. Obviously seems to have worked quite well…

    Thanks, in advance, for your input!

    • Hi Aja, the reason for your starter being so active is likely the higher temperature environment you created by heating some water in a microwave. (Great idea by the way if you live in a colder climate!!) I would feed it for 5 days as this seems to be the minimum length of time I have seen a starter be fed before it is strong enough to bake with. You can always do a float test and see if a spoonful of starter will float in a cup of water. If it does it should be ready to bake with.

      If you have a very large amount of starter, you can use some of the excess to make some of these recipes that require starter but arent bread!

      Happy baking!

  25. Mohan Anand

    5 stars
    I’ve reached 8th day of my starter, I’ve noticed all the activities in the starter, but after putting it in water it’s not floating, hence not ready for baking. Please advise

    • Hi Mohan, if the starter is not floating it means there is not very much gas in it (hence it sinks), which could indicate that it hasn’t had a lot of fermentation. I would keep feeding it till it does float, or very easily doubles in size in 12 hours or less. Keep in mind the cooler the temperature it is stored at, the longer it will take to become strong and active.

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