How to Make Sourdough Starter

You can make a starter for bread at home out of thin air! Learn how to make sourdough starter with this step-by-step recipe.

Don’t miss our recipe for the best sourdough bread in the world.

Stirring the starter

Are you looking to start baking sourdough bread at home? As part of our series How to Make Sourdough Bread (The Simplified Guide), we’re showing you how to make sourdough starter at home! A sourdough starter is essential for making sourdough bread. Though you can order one online or find one from a friend, why not make it at home? It’s simple and requires very little hands on time. Wait for 5 days, and you’ll have grown your own starter—out of thin air!

Buy it: To shortcut the process, you can buy a starter instead! We’ve tested this starter and it works well: Buy a sourdough starter

Watch the video to learn the process!

But first, here’s a video about the process. Watch Alex show you how to make this sourdough starter recipe!

Sourdough bread sliced

What is sourdough starter?

A sourdough starter, also called levain, is a fermented dough filled with natural, wild yeast and a bacteria called lactobacilli. The starter is what makes sourdough bread rise. Instead of using active dry yeast like in other bread recipes, sourdough bread uses a starter. Along with leavening the bread, the starter also brings that classic sour flavor.

A starter is literally full of life! There are 50 million yeasts and 5 billion lactobacilli bacteria in every teaspoon of starter dough. Sound weird? Actually, humans have been doing this for thousands of years; the process is as old as bread itself. For over 5,000 years, humans have mixed flour and water, waited for it to ferment, and then used it as leavening for bread. Ready to take part in the ancient practice of making a sourdough starter for yourself?

Interested in the science behind sourdough starter? Read more here.

Sourdough starter

Background on how to make sourdough starter

Making this sourdough starter recipe is a simple process. You simply mix together flour and water, and then wait, wait, and wait some more for the yeast and bacteria to do their thing! It’s a 5 to 6 day process that mostly consists of waiting. For our sourdough starter recipe, we use a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour to give the start a jump start. Once the starter is active and vibrant, we switch to all purpose flour for regular feeding of the starter.

And that’s right, we said feeding a starter! Since this little dude is alive, you’re going to have to feed him or her regularly. See our post on How to Feed a Sourdough Starter. You may want to give him a name too! (Ours is named Starty. Original, right?)

Scroll down to get our full recipe for how to make sourdough starter, below!

Loaf of sourdough bread

What you need to make your own sourdough starter

Luckily, you don’t need too many special tools for making this starter recipe. (Don’t worry, you’ll need special tools when we get to How to Make Sourdough Bread!) Here’s what you need for making sourdough starter at home:

Active sourdough starter bubbling

What to make with sourdough starter

One more thing before we get down to it: what can you make with starter? Homemade sourdough bread, obviously! Here’s our How to Make Sourdough Bread, complete with printable to make the process pretty simple.

Beyond bread, there are all sorts of things you can make with sourdough starter: pancakes, waffles, cookies, pizza crust, and muffins. Check out some uses here: Beyond the Loaf: The Many Uses of Sourdough.

Related posts

This post is one of three in our series on making sourdough bread:

Sourdough starter in a jar

This recipe is… 

This sourdough starter recipe is vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, and dairy-free.

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Sourdough starter | Best sourdough bread recipe | how to make sourdough starter

How to Make Sourdough Starter


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (241 votes, average: 3.79 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 days
  • Total Time: 5 days
  • Yield: 1 starter

Description

This sourdough bread starter recipe shows how to make sourdough starter from scratch. No need to order online, you can make a starter for bread right at home!


Ingredients

  • Whole wheat flour
  • All-purpose flour
  • Room temperature filtered water

Instructions

  1. Day 1: Use a kitchen scale to add 25 grams whole wheat flour, 25 grams all-purpose flour, and 50 grams of water. Stir to combine. The mixture should look like a thick paste. Cover the jar and place in a warm location for 24 hours. The temperature of your room can have a big effect on the speed at which your starter grows. Ideally, you want to be between 68 and 72 degrees. The starter will not flourish in cooler temperatures.
  2. Day 2: You may or may not see a few bubbles starting to appear in the starter. Either way, discard about half of the starter and add the same ingredients to the jar: 25 grams whole wheat flour, 25 grams all-purpose flour, and 50 grams of water. Stir to combine. Cover the jar and place in a warm location for 24 hours.
  3. Day 3: You will likely see a few more bubbles today. The starter should start to smell a little bit sour (in a good way!) Again, discard half of the starter. Today, you’ll switch to using only all-purpose flour. Add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams of water. Stir to combine. Cover the jar and place in a warm location for 24 hours.
  4. Day 4: You should see a lot more bubbles and the starter should increase in volume. Follow the same process: discard half of the starter. Add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams of water. Stir to combine. Cover the jar and place in a warm location for 24 hours.
  5. Day 5: The starter will be very bubbly and double in volume. It will have a funky sour smell that indicates the magic of sourdough is ready to happen! This starter is ready to use! Follow our instructions for feeding and maintaining a starter to keep it alive on the long term.

Notes

Depending on your room temperature conditions, it might take several more days of the same process to get the starter to be really bubbly and active!

  • Category: Baking
  • Method: Fermented
  • Cuisine: French

Keywords: Sourdough Starter, How to Make a Sourdough Starter, How to Grow a Sourdough Starter, sourdough starter recipe

Looking for more sourdough recipes? 

Once you’ve baked your first loaf of sourdough, there are so many ways you can enjoy it! A few of our fave sourdough recipes are:

Looking for more homemade bread recipes?

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

118 Comments

  • Reply
    Lance Fink
    October 29, 2018 at 9:32 am

    I cannot wait to try this! Before I do, since we are measuring the starter ingredients by weight, do we discard half by weight, byvolume, or does it really even matter? Also, should you cover the starter with a lid if possible, or is plastic wrap better? I made a starter last year and only covered it with a tea towel, thinking exposure to the air would allow more of the natural yeast to be incorporated into it.

    • Reply
      Alex
      October 29, 2018 at 9:49 am

      Hi!

      I’ve grown a starter several times and have not found it to be too sensitive. I just discard about half the starter visually. Same thing regarding covering the starter; there should be plenty of yeast already existing in the air and the flour itself. I have found that you can get a lot of activity after day one or two, and then it settles down for a few days before becoming more regular around day 5. Have fun with it!

      • Reply
        Lance Fink
        October 29, 2018 at 10:06 am

        Thank you!

        I have two more questions (for now). What is the best way to maintain a starter without starting over every time? Are there any alternatives to using the Dutch oven and the banneton?

  • Reply
    Jim Bellomo
    February 2, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    Followed your directions and it will not grow. Smells sour, I get bubbles but not more than a half inch of growth overnight.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      February 2, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      Hi! Do you have a slightly warmer place to keep the starter? It may just be on the edge of really growing!

      • Reply
        Anwar
        April 19, 2019 at 4:20 am

        Hi,
        This is my 2nd try, and yhe starter on the 3rd day will start to have some fluid!! Is that OK? Or that means it’s bad and I have to discard it?

        • Reply
          Alex
          April 19, 2019 at 12:01 pm

          A little fluid is good! If your house is warm, you may want to feed it a little sooner than 24 hours.

          • Cindy Leonard
            October 27, 2019 at 6:49 am

            So glad to read this. I’m housing the starter in the heated kombucha box that stays between 82 and 90. Day 1 it was very bubbly and doubled in size. Day 2 there was a large amount of watery fluid in the middle and smelt horrible. So I’m starting over again and now I will feed her again before bed.

  • Reply
    Jim Bellomo
    February 2, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Last night I put it in my Wolf oven with the oven set to proof so temp was 85. No growth.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      February 2, 2019 at 4:35 pm

      Weird! I’d try discarding all but about 1 tablespoon and trying again for a few more days. Sometimes they are just hard to get robust.

  • Reply
    Cheryl
    February 3, 2019 at 11:25 pm

    On the night that you feed the dough before preparing to proof the next day is it correct that I mix
    1 tablespoon of the starter with the flour and water as it says in the instructions to then discard the rest but then would be out of starter. Need clarification. Thank you in advance.

    • Reply
      Alex
      February 4, 2019 at 9:10 am

      Hi!

      The tablespoon you use to prepare the starter will make enough for the following day’s bread with some leftover to make more starter.

  • Reply
    Lynn
    February 18, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    After two days, it’s started to come alive. I have a reasonably warm kitchen which could be the reason why, so far, it seems to be growing. I’m using a small glass Kilner jar for now. But I’ll need something that’s a little safer to use, just in case the whole things starts to overflow. I’m rather concerned at the prospect of it exploding. My next thought is. What do I call it? As it’s a living thing. I need to give it a name. Has anyone else given their starter a name?

    • Reply
      Rilez
      June 24, 2019 at 11:22 pm

      Yes I named my first little starter Joanna :3

    • Reply
      Marcie LeBlanc
      March 24, 2020 at 9:31 am

      Hi there, yesterday was day 5 of my starter. It had lots of volume, sour smell and bubbles. I discarded all of it but the 1 tablespoon and added the 50g of water and 50g of flour. This morning, no bubbles and no volume :( Is it because my house isn’t warm enough? If so, is there a way to save this batch? Or should I start a new one from scratch. Thanks!!

      • Reply
        Alex Overhiser
        March 24, 2020 at 10:13 am

        It may just be temperature. The starter should be fine, just give it a little more time and it should gain strength.

  • Reply
    R. Williams
    March 4, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Today will be the 3rd try for me making starter. As a newbie .. should it be thin and runny? Should it smell like beer a little? Do I have to throw out half or can I add to it as I bake daily? Help? I cannot find answers anywhere… ?

    • Reply
      Alex
      March 4, 2019 at 3:15 pm

      Hi! Yes, it will be fairly thin and runny and smell a little yeasty and funky in a good way. If you are baking with it daily, there’s no need to throw it out. If you are feeding the starting without baking, you will need to discard some or else you’ll have way too much! Good luck :)

      • Reply
        R williams
        March 4, 2019 at 8:16 pm

        I’m guessing that the very first day it should be like a paste? I bought a brand new scale and weighed all ingredients and in my jar it’s paste….

        • Reply
          Alex
          March 4, 2019 at 8:17 pm

          Yes! Not much to look at.

        • Reply
          Thomas Carrieri
          May 13, 2020 at 11:32 am

          When you are first growing you say throw a little out…can you be more specific? I’m on day 3 but yesterday I fed it equal parts water and flour…I want continue correctly. Pasquale needs to be fed in 12 hours! Any help!? Lol

          • Alex Overhiser
            May 13, 2020 at 6:00 pm

            Hi! I discard about half of the starter. You don’t need to be too specific.

  • Reply
    R Williams
    March 8, 2019 at 10:34 am

    I give up… obviously I’m doing everything wrong in trying to make starter. 3rd try wasn’t the charm LOL

    • Reply
      Julie
      May 10, 2019 at 5:29 pm

      It took me 21 days to have my starter rise (and double in size) for the first time! Everything I read said it would be ready in a week, or at the most, two weeks. Took me three weeks- I ALMOST gave up. Be patient! (I fed my starter 60 grams of filtered water and 60 I bleached all purpose four once a day ).

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        December 19, 2019 at 7:56 pm

        Julie, flour should be unbleached. ?

  • Reply
    Susan
    March 15, 2019 at 11:05 pm

    I just bought a bag of Einkorn wheat flour (from an ancient, non-genetically modified type of wheat). Do you know of any reason why I could, or why I should not, use it for the all-purpose flour in my starter? I’ve never had much luck making starters, but I’m getting better at making bread since I got a scale sifter attachment for my Kitchenaid. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      March 16, 2019 at 9:46 am

      I think it would probably work great!

  • Reply
    Susan
    March 16, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Cool! Thanks!
    How do I cover the jar, both initially and after it is ready to be kept in the fridge? Should I use cheesecloth, plastic wrap, something else, or nothing? Can the jar be sealed with a screw on lid or will it explode from the gasses in it while it’s still maturing at room temperature? Can it be sealed continuously while it’s living in the fridge? Can it be stored in a plastic container with a locking lid like Lock and Lock?
    Can the bits that are removed while you’re feeding the starter in the first few days be used for baking even if the starter isn’t really mature yet (like, could you throw it into a regular yeast bread recipe for flavor?) And, if I’m baking other yeast breads during the start up week, will my sourdough starter pick up those yeasts from the air in my kitchen?
    Sorry. I have a lot of questions…

    • Reply
      Alex
      March 16, 2019 at 1:52 pm

      Hi!

      I generally cover loosely with a screw on lid — there’s plenty of yeast already on the flour and if you check every day you won’t get any gas buildup. You can store it in the fridge fully covered and secured.

      I think you could definitely add the discard starter to another recipes, but I haven’t tried it!

      Good luck!

      :)

  • Reply
    Susan
    March 16, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks again! I’ll follow your recommendations!
    PS. Your kid is so cute! I am also adopted, and, at 62, only discovered my birth family’s heritage last year. Turns out I’m Irish, so Erin Go Brah for St. Patty’s Day!
    Take care!

  • Reply
    Hazel
    March 17, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    So it’s been 5 days and my starter smells like nail polish remover. And has a few bubbles but isn’t really growing substantially. Does this sound right or should I start over? Is it possible to actually go wrong in terms of safe to eat?

    • Reply
      Alex
      March 18, 2019 at 11:00 am

      Hi! If you get that acetone smell — the yeast ran out of food (flour) and started to break down. You should start over. I don’t think it would be unsafe to eat, but it would be gross!

  • Reply
    Radhika
    April 3, 2019 at 10:52 am

    Hi,

    Thanks so much for the recipe, I am at day 1 now! I wanted to check with you if the process would be much shorter in warm locations? I live in India and the temperature currently is close to 95degrees. After day 1 itself I see quite a lot of bubbles and sour smell. Is something wrong? Please let me know,

    Thanks,
    Radhika

    • Reply
      Alex
      April 3, 2019 at 11:16 am

      Hi! Yes, it may go faster in a warmer area! Once you see it get really bubbly, and then fall back a little bit, you can feed again (as though it is the next day). Good luck!

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        April 3, 2019 at 12:15 pm

        Thank you!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 4, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Hi. I’ve used bread flour for my starter. Is that ok ? After 3 feedings and discarding it’s growing substantially. How will I know when it’s ready for use?

    • Reply
      Alex
      April 4, 2019 at 9:36 am

      Yes, bread flour should work great! I’d wait through 5 days of feeding to make sure it’s not and robust before starting to use it!

  • Reply
    katy
    April 26, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    So I started this 5 days ago, and forgot about it. Should I just throw it out or start up with day 2 options? Hopefully round two I’ll be a better mom.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      April 27, 2019 at 10:53 am

      Oh no! It would probably work best if you threw it out and started over — so sorry :( Let us know how it goes!

  • Reply
    Joyce
    April 29, 2019 at 1:16 am

    All the discarding…. sounds very wasteful. What else can we do to utilise them to the fullest?

    • Reply
      Anonymous
      April 8, 2020 at 8:00 am

      Look on the internet for many recipes that use discarded starter!

  • Reply
    Mary White
    May 8, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Can I use all purpose flour to make a starter?

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 8, 2019 at 12:46 pm

      Yes!

    • Reply
      cassie
      May 24, 2019 at 5:17 pm

      make other starters! it becomes a lot, but the starter you were going to throw out you can use as a mature starter for another starter dough.

  • Reply
    Rebecca Ramos
    June 19, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Instead of discarding part of the starter everyday, could you actually use it to make starters in different stages? I could easily see this being used to give away as gifts if you get all that “discarded” started going too. I know you’d have to really keep track of which jar was in which stage…or am I overthinking it and it needs to be discarded lol

    • Reply
      Alex
      June 19, 2019 at 1:17 pm

      Hi! While you are building the starter it’s better to just discard. Once you have it live and thriving, you can definitely use any “discard” to create new batches for gifts!

  • Reply
    Jared
    June 20, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I’ve fed my starter for two days. it still looks like the paste and thick. Is that ok and right?? By the way, I use all rye flour instead of plain flour. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      June 20, 2019 at 9:09 am

      Yes, this should still be ok!

  • Reply
    Christine M
    July 10, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Is filtered water necessary? I live in Ottawa and evidently, our tap water is some of the cleanest around. I’d rather avoid a step if I can, and the need to buy a filter of any kind. Thanks :D

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 11, 2019 at 7:45 am

      Tap water should be fine! Sometimes tap water can interfere with a healthy starter, but no reason not to try :)

  • Reply
    Amanda
    August 29, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Hi I love your website! Great job!! It is so nice to have videos and simple step by step instructions to learn this ancient tradition! Thanks!
    So on the morning of day 3 my starter was bubbly and doubled in size! It was awesome, then I switched over from using half whole wheat flour to using all purpose flour only, Day 4 it had hardly any bubbles, Day 5 it was slightly bubbly and there is a little liquid on top (it did get very warm here yesterday) should I just keep going? Or should I go back to using half and half whole wheat and all purpose flour? I should wait until its all bubbly and doubles in volume again before baking with it right?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      August 29, 2019 at 4:25 pm

      Hi! It’s pretty normal for it to have a really active day and then go back to less activity. I’d switch to the feeding a starter instructions and keep just a tablespoon (with all purpose flour). And yes, wait until it’s bubbly before baking, but hopefully that occurs on the first feeding (though it may take an extra day or two)!

  • Reply
    Zhulieta
    October 3, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    I’m on my second attempt to make the starter. When I use both whole wheat and all purpose flour the starter is bubbly and looks great! The day I switch to all purpose flour only, my starter looks like it starts to die. All bubbles disappear and it just falls flat and looks watery. How do I fix that?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      October 3, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      Hi! This is normal, just keep regular feedings for a few days and it should spring back to life!

  • Reply
    2Biased
    November 11, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    You forgot the link to your video. “But first, here’s a video about the process” But no link.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      November 12, 2019 at 9:29 am

      Hi! The video is embedded just below that paragraph!

  • Reply
    Greg
    December 7, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    You guys over-complicate things. A whole article about how to make a starter? Here’s how you do it.

    Mix roughly equal amounts of flour and water together. No need to weigh them or to be accurate at all. I use about a half cup of each. You can use more or you can use less. Set the mix on a countertop or dresser somewhere that’s between 60F and 90F.

    It will separate. The flour will sink and the water will be on top. That’s OK. Eventually it will start to form little bubbles. That can take anywhere from 12 hours to three or four days. Then it will develop into a sponge and will rise up in the container. Once that happens, let it start to sink back down and mix in some more flour and water, roughly the same amount you started with. The next day, when that mix has bubbled up, discard half of it and add the same amount of flour and water. After doing this four or five times, the yeast will be strong enough to use in your baking.

    That’s it. No need to use filtered or purified water or sterilized equipment or scales or measured amounts of anything. You can use enough flour to make the mix into a paste or into a batter.

    Every time you use it, you will be mixing it into new flour and water so whatever you’re making, before adding any ingredients other than flour and water, save a spoonful of the mixed together flour, water, and starter for your next bake. Set that aside in a little container to proof. Then you can add salt or oil or whatever else you want to finish your other work. This is how my grandmother made bread when she was growing up and for decades after. It’s how her grandmother made it and hers before.

    You can use any type of wheat flour, but the best idea is to use a whole wheat flour. My grandmother used rye, because that’s what they grew. They had to make their own flour. If you have whole rye, that will work as well. You don’t need to mix flours and you certainly don’t need to mix whole wheat and all purpose flour.

    If you don’t bake every couple of days, keep it in a covered jar or container in the fridge. You don’t need to feed it unless you’re going to leave it for a few months. You don’t need to feed it regularly.

    When you keep it in the fridge, it will separate. That’s OK. The liquid may turn brown. That’s OK too.

    If you get mold on it, try to pour the mold off or scrape it off and get some of the starter underneath to start a new batch. Discard the rest. You may be able to save it. But you may have to start again. Mold is a bad thing.

    • Reply
      DW
      February 20, 2020 at 5:19 pm

      This was hilarious and helpful!!!

    • Reply
      Karla
      April 20, 2020 at 7:29 pm

      Best advise I’ve received yet. Thank you!! ?

  • Reply
    Lynn N
    December 8, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Why do you have to throw aasy half the starter? Can’t you use it to make as notger starter to give awat

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      December 8, 2019 at 7:09 pm

      You can definitely do this!

  • Reply
    Emily Janisch
    January 6, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    What is the purpose of discarding some of your starter? Is it because you will have too much later down the road? I dont understand why you should discard some everyday…?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 6, 2020 at 8:36 pm

      Yes! If you aren’t using your starter you’ll just end up with way too much if you don’t discard.

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    January 9, 2020 at 3:37 am

    You don’t have to discard it. You can use it for something else. The point is that there are various yeasts and bacteria around and if you get one that works, you want to give it a chance to dominate. So you provide new flour and water for a few iterations until you can see that it’s functioning right. Then don’t discard if you don’t want to. Since my original post, I’ve made several loaves using the starter I just created. I have some pizza dough in the fridge at the moment and have not discarded anything. Just saved a few spoons of sponge each time.

    The very first times you make a starter, you should discard, or pour off, some of the starter until you can get a consistent reaction. That may take three or four or five times until your preferred yeast dominates the reaction. Then you don’t need to discard anything any more. And you don’t need to discard by pouring down the garbage disposal – you can use the discarded bit for pancakes or whatever other thing you want. It’s just that you’re not 100 pct confident that it will contain enough of your preferred yeast to raise your dough.

  • Reply
    Rachel
    January 20, 2020 at 6:11 pm

    how many ounces does the jar for the starter have to be?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 20, 2020 at 8:50 pm

      Hi! A 16 ounce jar is plenty.

  • Reply
    Emma
    January 30, 2020 at 8:52 pm

    Hello! I am on day three, this is the second starter I’ve made (the first one went horrible and smelled so bad I gagged, a different recipe that I shall never look back to), and it’s starting to smell unpleasant. Not horrible, but I would not like to smell it. Is this ok? I also love the descriptive guide, very helpful to a struggling beginner like me.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 31, 2020 at 9:18 am

      Yes, it’s normal for it to spell a little bit funky. Good luck!

  • Reply
    gregt
    January 31, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Emma – you’re getting two things. One is the yeast, one is bacteria. They have a symbiotic relationship – the yeast produces gas and alcohol and the bacteria also eats the sugars like the yeast does, but produces a lot of the flavors and aromas. I’ve sometimes succeeded in capturing only a bacteria and no yeast. But depending on what combo you get, you’ll end up with something that may smell like parmesan cheese or even vomit – they are actually similar odors caused by many of the same molecules. Sometimes that aroma calms down, sometimes not. But the flavor and aroma of the finished bread is not necessarily going to be bad at all. There are many sourdough starters around and you can even trade them on line and all of them have something just a little different to offer. If you haven’t changed the flour/water by day three, take a spoonful of it, mix it with some new flour and water, and discard the rest. Sometimes that kickstarts the process. When I start a new starter, I just use a couple tablespoons of flour and water until I get something I like. I’ve started many over the years, partly because in the summer I don’t bake as much and once I found out how easy it was, I never worried about losing one. And it never mattered to me to have one going for years and years and that’s good, since I’ve moved around the country quite a bit over the past few years. You should be OK. If nothing happens, just try again. Maybe use a different flour – something whole wheat and not something that’s bleached.

  • Reply
    Marion
    February 12, 2020 at 7:17 am

    Hi,last night I started my stater for next day bread making, so far it doesn’t seem to double I’ve got 5 more hours to go.
    What do I do if it doesn’t double

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      February 12, 2020 at 9:01 am

      It needs to be very bubbly and active to be used in the sourdough. Move it to warmer area if you want to speed it up!

  • Reply
    Sequoya
    March 8, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Is the float test appropriate to tell if the sourdough starter is ready to use?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 9, 2020 at 9:33 am

      Yes, the float test will work!

  • Reply
    Chin
    March 14, 2020 at 1:09 am

    I had my starter ready but be away for the next 3 days. Can i keep my starter? and how should i keep my starter.
    Please advise.

  • Reply
    Heather
    March 20, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    So I’m on day two with my started and both day one and day two after measuring out the flour and water and then mixing them together the consistency is very dry and not like a thick paste at all. I’m assuming I’m adding too much flour but I’m measuring it out with a scale and doing the amounts your recipe says. Not sure what I’m doing wrong.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 20, 2020 at 4:56 pm

      That’s so weird! You can definitely add a little water to loosen it up.

  • Reply
    Heather
    March 20, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    I have been I just didn’t know if that would ruin it or not. It looks like it is growing and getting bubbles so hopefully it works! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Shelley Q.
    March 21, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    What is the appropriate way to transition from Day 5 “Ready to bake” to the feeding schedule of twice a week, or as often as bread is being made. This is the part that I find is always left out between Making a Sourdough Starter and Feeding a Sourdough Starter.

    Do I go straight from Day 5, bubbling and healthy, into the fridge? Do I use the starter and put the remainder in the fridge? Do I feed and then refrigerate? This is seriously where every blogger and cookbook writer just expects us readers to guess right. I would greatly appreciate a little guidance here.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 21, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      Bubbling and healthy can be used in the sourdough, or straight into the fridge for feed schedule. Once the starter is alive and well, there’s a lot of room for flexibility in your schedule. Enjoy baking!

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    March 22, 2020 at 8:02 am

    After trying many recipes for sourdough, I finally found success with yours! It came out great but I am always looking for ways to improve. I was curious if I were to add sugar, or garlic, what stage would I add it at? Also, my daughter has new braces and really struggles with the tough crust. How can I get a softer crust?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 23, 2020 at 8:12 pm

      Glad it worked!

      For mix-ins like walnuts or garlic, add on top of dough before folding in step 5. I’m not sure if sugar would work, but you could try the same.

      If you’re looking for a softer crust, store it in a plastic bag rather than wrapped in cloth!

  • Reply
    Dianne
    March 23, 2020 at 7:53 am

    Pay day 1, was good. Day 2 was great. Day 3 using white a/p flour, nothing happened and fell flat. Day 4, went back to w/w and a/p flour. It is day 5 and nothing going on? Kept in same space the whole time, so I know that is not the problem because it was fine day 1 and 2. Using same room temp bottled water and same flour. What do I do?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 23, 2020 at 8:01 pm

      Sometimes the starter just doesn’t take! I’d start over — sorry it didn’t work!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    March 23, 2020 at 9:34 pm

    Shelley – take Alex’s advice – there’s a lot of flexibility. You don’t need to feed twice a week if you use the starter every couple of weeks and store it in the fridge. That will keep it alive. When you make your dough, mix the starter and water and flour and make a sponge. When that’s bubbly, put a little aside for next time and then finish your dough. I usually let it sit out for a day to make sure it’s active and then just pop it in the fridge until I want it. If you don’t use it for a while it will get a dark liquid on top. That’s fine. Just mix it back in when you use it.

    Jennifer – you want your starter to be only flour and water. So if you make a sponge with it, just use those two ingredients and once it bubbles, save some for your next adventure. Then add whatever you want. If you add during your first rise, depending on what you add, it may affect the time. It’s usually easiest to add mix-ins once the dough has risen the first time. Except for sugar, which can be messy and which I add right away.

    If you want a softer crust, you can store in a bag but that will just soften the hard crust you already have, it won’t really be a soft crust. Alex’s recipe is giving you a delicious artisanal bread with a crispy crust.

    To get a softer crust from the get-go you need a different technique. Best is to use the tangzhong technique, which is what makes those breads in Chinese and Japanese shops so soft. To do it, you mix some flour and liquid and cook it into a custard that you fold into your dough. Measuring by weight, you take five to ten percent of your flour and mix that with five times that amount of liquid – either milk or water. Cook that on the stove to make it into a custard. You will have slightly less flour in your recipe but that’s won’t matter much. You will also have a lot less liquid and that will matter so you need to make that up. Depending on your preferred hydration, make sure you use enough water to get that same level with the reduced amount of flour.

    Or more easily, just keep your original proportions exactly the same but make the custard based on that. For example, say you were making a loaf with 500g of flour and you wanted hydration of 70%. That’s 375g water. Still do that. Separately you calculate that 6% of 500 is 30g of flour so you measure out 30g of additional flour that you put into a saucepan. Then you add five times as much water, or 150 grams of water. Cook that into a thick paste and cool it. When it’s cool, throw it in your bowl with the rest of your ingredients and make your bread normally. The bread and the crust will be MUCH softer and the good thing is, your bread will also last longer. You can experiment with different proportions and different ingredients. I’m sure there’s some info about that technique on this site. I used the ratio above this afternoon as a matter of fact and it’s now rising in the fridge over night. Rather than soften a thick, crispy crust, you’ll make a softer crust to begin with.

    But that wasn’t the point of this particular recipe so apologies to Alex.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 23, 2020 at 9:36 pm

      Hah! Thank you for the reply!

  • Reply
    Katie
    March 24, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Hi there– I started making a starter about almost a week ago, When I woke up on day three, it seemed to have doubled or tripled in size and be very active, but ever since then, it doesn’t hasn’t been expanding like it did previously, even though I’ve been feeding it the way mentioned in your tutorial? Did I miss the peak? Is there a way I can revive it, or is it best to start from the beginning? I’m surprised that it could be ready to bake with that quickly if it tripled in size after only 2-3 days. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 24, 2020 at 3:11 pm

      This is normal! It often gets a burst of life after 2-3 days and then calms down a bit. It should regain vigor after day 5!

  • Reply
    Marcie LeBlanc
    March 24, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    Is it necessary to discard all of the starter except the one tablespoon the night before starting the bread? I feel like my starter was doing really well until I did this step. Could I just take the 80g for my bread from my starter when its nice and bubbly and sour? Thanks!! :)

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 24, 2020 at 8:13 pm

      Yes, that would work. For our regular feeding, we only use 1 tablespoon because a fully mature starter will grow rather quickly!

  • Reply
    Bryanna Fuller
    March 24, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    Hi! I am making my first starter with a (modified) version of your recipe! I am using a mix of Italian wheat bread flour and normal bread flour, it is the only flour I have since everything at the grocery stores is sold out. I chose to do half and half for the first day. I am wondering why you switch to only all purpose flour on day 3. Should I not be using bread/wheat flour after the first couple days?
    Also, what do you think is most important to make great sourdough bread? The flour used in the starter or the flour it is fed with or the flour it is cooked with? This question has been killing me so any expertise you have would be great!
    Thank you!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 24, 2020 at 8:14 pm

      Hi! The whole wheat flour at the beginning is useful to get the starter going, but not necessary once it’s active. The quality of the flour in both the starter and the final dough are important and will adjust the final outcome. Good luck!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    March 29, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    Hi there! Two quick questions: I just found your post, but I’m already on Day 3 of making the sourdough starter recipe from King Arthur Flour’s website. I want to transition to your guide because you call for less flour, and flour is hard to find in the grocery stores right now (and because your bread looks amazing!). I’ve been feeding the starter 113g of flour and 113g of water. Is it okay if, starting tomorrow, I discard half of my starter and transition to using your amounts of 50g flour and 50g water?

    And second question: I only have whole wheat flour and bread flour right now. Do you recommend that I feed it the bread flour only? Or a mix?

    Thanks!
    Emily

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 29, 2020 at 7:53 pm

      Yes, you can switch without issue! I’d do a 50/50 mix of bread and whole wheat.

  • Reply
    Emily
    March 29, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    Hi there! Two quick questions: I just found your post, but I’m already on Day 3 of making the sourdough starter recipe from King Arthur Flour’s website. I want to transition to your guide because you call for less flour, and flour is hard to find in the grocery stores right now (and because your bread looks amazing!). I’ve been feeding the starter 113g of flour and 113g of water. Is it okay if, starting tomorrow, I discard half of my starter and transition to using your amounts of 50g flour and 50g water?

    And second question: I only have whole wheat flour and bread flour right now. Do you recommend that I feed it the bread flour only? Or a mix?

    Thanks!
    Emily

  • Reply
    Chris
    April 1, 2020 at 5:05 am

    Hi
    I tried this and have completed the first shaping. It;s a mess ;(
    while I used rice flour to coat the dough and my hands, when i tried to shape with the dough scrapper, it was all messy and sticky. It’s nothing like yours…what could have gone wrong. I followed all the steps ritually. THank you

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      April 1, 2020 at 8:52 am

      Hi! Is your starter relatively new? The bread may have needed more time to proof. Also, the bread flour is important for strength, depending on your brand you might need a higher percentage.

  • Reply
    Amy Higgins
    April 2, 2020 at 7:17 am

    Hey there! I tried to make starter last week. While I was feeding it with whole wheat flour and AP flour it actually performed well with little bubbles and increasing in volume some at the end of day 2/beginning of day 3. I started feeding with AP flour only on day 3/4/5 and noticed that there were very Few bubbles and the volume did not increase at all. By day 5 of no expansion and the starter Was smelling a little like nail polish, so I decided to toss it and try again. I’m on day 3 of the second attempt and I feel the same thing is happening again! Not as active when I add the AP flour. By day 3 I should see a little more volume, no? Certainly by day 4? I really want to make this work so I would appreciate any and all suggestions. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Amy Higgins
      April 5, 2020 at 11:18 am

      You GUYS! It’s working!!! I kept feeding it and it took about 8 days total. It was doubled in size and very bubbly this morning. I fed it this morning and it’s already doubled in volume about 3 hours after ? going to make dough today to ferment overnight. Sourdough tomorrow! ???

  • Reply
    Rick
    April 11, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    Hello, I started mine about 24 hours ago. Still looks like the solids are on the bottom with the liquid on top with no bubbles. The temperature has been around 65° in the day and 60 overnight. Should I wait for it to change before I start feeding it?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      April 11, 2020 at 3:45 pm

      I’d just go ahead and feed it. At that temperature though, it may take a few extra days to get really strong!

  • Reply
    Rick
    April 12, 2020 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for the advice. I fed it and it started bubbling yesterday. It grew about double overnight with a lot more bubbles. It looks like the liquid is now on the bottom

  • Reply
    Angela Rivera
    April 19, 2020 at 7:55 am

    Hello there! Thank you for the recipe.
    I’m in my 3 day and I have almost 4 time the volume. I don’t know why but it is crazy…. could I use the sourdoughs now?

    Thanks
    Ángela

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      April 19, 2020 at 10:02 pm

      If it’s still strong tomorrow you should be good to go!

  • Reply
    Juhii
    April 21, 2020 at 11:46 am

    Hii by mistake on 3rd I added 50 gm of wheat flour nd 50 gms of all purpose flour I was only suppose to add 50 gms of all purpose flour plus little more thn 50 gms of water. do I have to start over again .1 more thing my 2 nd day starter was with bubble but 3rd day there were no bubble

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      April 21, 2020 at 12:20 pm

      Hi! It’s normal for the bubbling to slow down on the third day. You can just add more water to the starter — you just need it to be equal parts.

  • Reply
    Juhi
    April 21, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Thank you so much .nd what about the 50 gms extra wheat flour which I added on the 3rd day is that fine.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      April 21, 2020 at 12:52 pm

      Just add 50 grams extra water!

  • Reply
    chaya
    April 23, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    Would this starter recipe work with whole grain spelt flour? Thank you

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      April 23, 2020 at 8:15 pm

      It should, but I haven’t tested it!

  • Reply
    Kelly
    April 24, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for the helpful recipe! I’ve been following your advice for 6 days. I have been feeding my starter daily in the morning. Last night, I checked on it and it had nearly doubled in size and finally passed the float test for the first time! I wasn’t ready to start baking since it was quite late. I fed it again this morning and have been monitoring it today but I fear it won’t be ready for baking until late again. How can I make some adjustments to get it on a different schedule? I may be over thinking this but could use some advice! :)

  • Reply
    Stephanie Holtz
    April 26, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you so much for your instructions, my friend had given me some of her starter but I didn’t know to feed it so it died and I had to start from scratch. This is my first attempt at sourdough, at baking really lol but it turned out really good. I named my starter “Jack” as in “See Jack help me make bread” lol

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      April 27, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      Haha! Glad it worked out!

  • Reply
    Gloria
    May 13, 2020 at 4:41 am

    So cool that everyone’s into sourdough now – my starter is about 10 yrs old – he’s called ‘Stay Puft’, y’know, from ghost busters, lol.
    Rye is a great thing to feed your starter, even if you don’t want to make rye bread. This is because it contains a really good balance of nutrients for a healthy ratio and partnership between the yeasts and the LABs. Even a small spoonful in mostly white flour, will ensure an active and healthy starter. I’ve been feeding 100% rye for a few years now – then I just make my bread from whatever flour I fancy.
    When I started it, I dropped in two currants, as they have a good yeast on them, as well as some LABs. As soon as it bubbled, I took them out.
    If you want to take a break from breadmaking and still keep your starter, it will freeze well – just feed it immediately before freezing.
    Happy breadmaking!

  • Reply
    Mike
    May 31, 2020 at 10:50 am

    I have a question about making the starter. You say to cover the mixture. Do you mean cover air tight? I have seen other starter recipes that say to cover with cheese cloth so that it is exposed to the air and natural yeasts in the air. Can you please comment on this? Thank you

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