How to Start A Sourdough Starter
Day 1 - Invite the pioneer microbes. Mix equal parts (20g each is enough) flour and water into a straight sided transparent container. We recommend using whole wheat or rye flour. Stir well. Cover loosely. An extra stir later in the day will give it a boost.
Day 2 - Feed the competitors. If you see bubbles, discard half and stir in equal amounts flour and water. If not, give it a stir and wait another day. Cover loosely.
Day 3-7 - The great battle. Repeat the discard and feed cycle for at least a week until your starter doubles within 24hrs.
The sourdough yeasts and lactobacillus will eventually win the battle, bring peace to your starter and retire to the work of rising your bread. If your starter can double in volume within 6 hours from 1:1:1 feeding, you have a starter ready for a bake.
- Keep your starter warm. Ideally in the Goldilocks Zone (75-82oF / 24-28oC).
- Use warm, filtered water.
- You can use unbleached white flour, it just might take a bit longer. You can transition to feeding with white flour after your starter is established.
- If it is very bubbly in the first few days and smells strongly, it isn’t ready to bake. These are pioneer bacteria and yeasts that are not good to eat. Give the sourdough bacteria time to make a home in your starter before baking.
- Back your starter up by drying it after you've been feeding it for a month or more.
- Twice-a-day feeds will make your starter even more active. Try it after day 4.
How to Feed & Care For a Sourdough Starter
With proper care your sourdough starter will be very active and help you make your best bread. Don’t worry! Sourdough starter is robust stuff and you will get to know your starter by experimenting and making mistakes
Initial instructions to feeding a starter:
- Discard all but a small amount of your starter. 20g is a good place to start until you figure out your needs.
- Combine equal parts flour, water and starter. Ex 20g Flour, 20g Water, 20g Starter
- Stir until no dry flour remains in your jar. You will have a thick paste.
- Observe how long your starter takes to double in volume at different temperatures. You will need to know this to plan your bake schedule.
If a starter is kept on the counter, it should be fed at least daily.If kept in the fridge, feed once a week or so.
To prepare starter for a bake:
- Look at the recipe you are using to find the amount of starter you need.
- Increase the amount of starter, flour, and water in your next feeding to ensure that you will have enough starter for your recipe, plus ~20g left over for future use.
- Feed your starter several hours in advance of when you want to bake.
- A starter is ready to use for baking when it has at least doubled in volume.
- Always keep some backup starter in the fridge or in a dry form.
- Experiment with the feeding ratio, feeding frequency, flour types and temperatures to get to know your starter.
- Keep your starter jar where you can see it so you remember to feed it.
- Use clean utensils and keep it covered to prevent contamination.
- Pink colors in the starter or any fuzzy molds are a sign of contamination. We recommend tossing, washing your jar well, and replacing it with your backup starter.
- A bit of clear liquid on top is ok. It is a byproduct of fermentation called “hooch”. You can stir it in or discard it. It is a sign your starter is hungry and needs feeding.
- A bit of drying on the top of the starter is fine, just give it a stir.
How To Backup a Sourdough Starter - Dry It!
Accidents happen. You might use up all the starter you have in a dough. Or some unknown beasties might get introduced to your starter, throwing off the ecosystem. This is why you always want to keep a back-up starter.
The easiest way to create a back-up is to dry it.
Take active starter and spread it out on a sheet of parchment paper as thin as possible. Leave it to sit out in a dry environment for a day or two until fully dry. It will look like a cracker. You should hear a snap when you break it.
Fully dried starter will keep for months in a sealed container in the cabinet and indefinitely in a freezer.
- Fall and Winter is the best times to make dried starter because the air is dry and there are fewer critters who might be attracted to your project.
- An even easier way to collect small amounts is to set aside the dried starter that got smeared on the lid of your starter jar. A few days worth will give you enough for a back-up. The silicone lid on the Sourhouse Starter Jar makes this really easy.
How to Refresh A Dried Sourdough Starter
Refreshing dried starter is sooo easy.
Cover a few grams of dried starter with filtered water. 3-5g of dried starter is plenty, it is powerful stuff. 5-10g of water is enough if you need a number. Let it soak overnight in a covered container.
Next day, add enough unbleached flour to make a thick paste. 5g of flour is enough to start. Stir until there is no dried flour. Cover.
You will likely see a few bubbles the next day. Stir in equal parts flour and water. Cover.
You should be ready to go. Feed daily by discarding all but a small amount of fresh starter and adding equal amounts of flour and water. This is a basic 1:1:1 feeding ratio.
- Keep your starter warm. Ideally in the Goldilocks Zone (75-82oF).
- Use warm (let’s call it Goldilocks Water), filtered water. • Keep it out of direct sunlight.