I am a huge fan of sourdough anything, especially sourdough bread. It is probably one of my favorite types of bread to make at home. In order to make sourdough bread you need a sourdough starter. Sourdough starters are awesome and can live almost forever. As long as you keep feeding it, it will stay alive. In fact, some families still have the starter their ancestors used in the 1800s, passed down from generation to generation.
A sourdough starter is super easy to make at home but it takes 7 to 10 days before the starter is mature enough to use in recipes. And once it is mature it can be used to make sourdough bread, obviously, as well as other yummy recipes. Let’s get started!
How does the sourdough starter work? Where does the yeast come from?
Instead of buying packets of active dry, instant, or rapid-rise yeast, sourdough starters replace those. But where does the yeast come from? Well, natural yeast is all around us, in the air/environment, on our skin, etc. It is also found in the flour used to create the starter.
Ingredients, Equipment, and Best Flour to Use for Sourdough Starters
In order to make a sourdough starter at home you need just 2 ingredients and a few important tools/equipment:
- Flour – It is recommended that you start with rye or whole wheat flour. Spelt and einkorn flours work really well too. Whatever you use, just make sure it is unbleached flour.
- Water – I always use filtered water. A lot of tap water includes chlorine, which can potentially kill your starter, so it is best to avoid tap water.
- Kitchen Scale – This is the one I use but any scale will work.
- Some kind of container like a mason jar or a specific sourdough starter jar.
NOTE: You need equal parts in weight not the volume of flour and water, so a scale is pretty important to have for sourdough starter and sourdough bread.
How to make a sourdough starter from scratch
Day 1. Place a container like a mason jar on your scale and zero it out.
Then measure 100g of flour. Zero out the scale again.
You can use any unbleached flour that you want but rye, whole wheat, spelt, or einkorn flour is usually recommended to start with at the very beginning.
Next, pour in 100g of water, I like to use slightly warm water around 85F/29C.
I like to use filtered water because my tap water is gross and it contains chlorine which can potentially kill the starter.
Give both ingredients a good mix and make sure there are no dry bits of flour.
Loosely cover the jar or container with a lid and then set it on the counter to rest for 24 hours.
Discard and Feed Schedule, Days 2 through 7 to 10
Day 2. After 24 hours it will be day 2 of the starter.
You may or may not see little bubbles already forming in the jar. (pictured above)
Using a spoon scoop out and discard all but about 20 percent of the starter. You can use the discard for something else if you want, or just toss it.
Now repeat the process from day one.
Place the jar on the scale with a little bit of the day 1 sourdough starter and zero it out.
Pour in 100g of warmish water, zero the scale, then scoop in 100g of flour. At this point, you can switch to another flour like all-purpose white flour or bread flour, as long as they are unbleached. Or you can continue using rye or whole wheat flour.
Mix and cover and let sit for 24 hours. Now you will repeat this process for several more days. It will take 7 to 10 days total to have a mature sourdough starter.
How do you know when your sourdough starter is ready?
There are a few ways to tell when the starter is mature enough to be used to make sourdough bread. First is after you feed it, if it rises to about double or more than double after 4 to 12 hours it is ready. And you should see lots of bubbles.
The best way to tell though is to drop a small teaspoon worth of starter in a bowl of water, if it floats, it is ready! This is called the “float test.”
The starter can now be used to make homemade sourdough bread and other sourdough recipes.
If you plan on using the starter every day, just feed it and keep it on the counter. Otherwise, store it in the fridge where you will only need to feed it once a week.
Good luck with your new sourdough starter!
How long does sourdough starter last?
The starter will last indefinitely as long as it is fed properly. Store it on your counter and feed it every 12 to 24 hours if you plan to use it daily, just make sure to leave some starter leftover after using it, so you can feed it and keep it going.
Otherwise, store it in the fridge and feed it once a week.
Fun Fact: The Boudin Bakery in San Francisco has a starter that they have maintained since the mid-1800s.
Here are other recipes you may like:
Sourdough Starter Recipe Only 2 Ingredients
- Some kind of container like a mason jar
- 100 g of Rye or Whole Wheat flour unbleached (3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp)
- 100 g of filtered water 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp
- Then the same amount every day for 7 to 10 days.
Day 1 Sourdough Starter
- Place a container on a scale and zero it out. Then add 100g of unbleached flour, preferably rye, whole wheat, spelt, or einkorn.
- Zero the scale again, then pour in 100g of filtered warmish (85F/29C) water
- Mix both ingredients until well combined. Cover loosely with a lid and let it sit on the counter or in a pantry for 24 hours.
- Scoop out all by about 20% of the immature starter and discard it. It can be used in other recipes if desired.
- Put the jar on the scale and zero it. Then add another 100g of filtered water, zero it, then 100g of flour. This time you can add white unbleached bread or AP flour, or keep using the other flour. Mix until well combined, make sure to get the leftover at the bottom of the jar mixed in. Cover and let sit 24 hours.
Days 3 through 7 to 10
- Repeat the day 2 steps until the starter has lots of bubbles and doubles in size after 6 to 12 hours after feeding it.
"Float Test" for the Mature Starter
- To test if it is done, place about 1 tsp of starter into some water, if it floats it is ready to go. If it doesn't try again in a day or two.
Sourdough Starter Storage
- If you are using the starter every day or every other day, just store it in the pantry or on the counter, and just keep feeding it once per day. Otherwise, store it in the fridge, then you only need to feed it about once per week.
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