How To Make A Sourdough Starter / Homemade Yeast.


Making a sourdough bread requires a sourdough starter. But a sourdough starter can be used for many other things besides a sourdough bread. Just think of it as a yeast replacement. So you can use a sourdough starter for anything from bread to cookies to cakes.

A sourdough starter is wild yeast that you cultivate yourself by mixing water and flour and letting it ferment. Feeding it daily and growing more and more yeast culture. Basically you are cultivating your own yeast.

Wild yeast can be found almost everywhere. It is in your flour and even in the air we breathe. Now what you need to do is just trap this wild yeast and grow it by fermenting it in a container.

As you let the flour and water mixture sit the wild yeast in the flour and in the air will start to eat away at the starches and sugars in the flour. This, in turn, will make the yeast multiply and create gasses which is what makes dough rise or batter.

Making a sourdough starter is quite simple. The only thing that you need to remember is that you have to feed it. Just like a baby. Or as some call it “the monster”.

Now lets get to it!

The Tools You Need

  • Glass jar with lid – preferably one that has a venting function. A mason jar will do just fine.
  • A rubber spatula – for mixing
  • A scale – I would advocate for a scale here. It will help you have more consistent results. Click here to see the scale I use and highly recommend.
  • A large container – This is for your flour blend if you choose to have one.
  • A bowl ( any type of bowl you have will do just fine )
  • Shrinkwrap / Plastic wrap

There are many recommendations on the web about using jars to store the starter in. There is nothing wrong with it but here is a tip:
Use a wide jar for the starter.
It makes it easier to mix the starter, to clean the container and is easier to stack in the refrigerator in a way that saves space.

Ingredients For A Sourdough Starter

  • Your choice of flours to use for the starter. I suggest using a high protein content of 11% or higher sometimes referred to as strong flour ( more about this later )
  • Water – do not use tap water here, get your hands on demoralized water or distilled water ( a bit more on this later )
  • Any type of fruit juice ( This is optional )- Apple, grape or you can even soak some raisins in water the night before. Use fresh natural juice, not FAKE or ARTIFICIAL juice. You can also use some sugar.

Now To The Sourdough Starter Routine

Most recipes for a starter are pretty much identical.
50 grams of flour to 50 grams of water a simple 1: 1 ratio.

After making many sourdough starters I have found that it is better to start with higher water content and then work my way to a 1:1 ratio of flour to water.

If this sounds confusing don’t worry about it. I will give you all the measurments in the step by step below. Trust me. Its really simple.

The question of which flour to use is very individual. Some prefer to use whole wheat organic flour some use rye and some use white flour.

The type of flour you use is a personal preference of taste but if you are new to making a sourdough starter I would suggest to start with 100% bread flour or a high protein flour.

The reason for this is that bread flour has a higher gluten content which will help in these early stages to lighten the mixture with air.

I personally use a 50% bread flour and 50% rye flour blend. I just love the flavor of the Rye flour, it has a more nutty, earthy tone to it. Also, whole flours such as rye and whole wheat will tend to have a more sour flavor to them as well once the starter is fermented well.

Day 1

Do this in the morning.

  • Get a small bowl (like a cereal bowl). using a bowl at first makes it easier to mix as you are starting out with a small quantity.
  • mix 30 grams of flour with 45 grams of water or natural juice (preferably the juice). If you do not have any juice you can add a pinch of sugar to the water. Using juice will help to speed up the fermentation process but it is not a must.
  • Cover with shrinkwrap
  • Puncher a few holes in the shrinkwrap/plastic wrap using a toothpick.
  • Store it in a dark place at room temperature.
  • After about 8 hours give the starter a mix and cover again.
  • Now sit there and wait for it until the next day – you literally have to sit beside your starter and comfort it πŸ™‚ It’s your baby after all.

The texture of this stater at this point should be about the same as a pancake batter- kind of on the watery side

Day 2

  • At this point, there are hardly any bubbles if any in the starter. That’s how it should be.
  • Don’t add any more ingredients.
  • Mix the starter in the morning.
  • Cover again with the shrink wrap or loose lid and store in a dark place.
  • In the evening give the starter another mix, cover, and store.
  • Talk to your starter, ask it how its day was πŸ™‚

NOTE: If you do this in a warm and humid environment there might be a chance that you see your starter already active. If so you can skip to day 3

Day 3 AM

On the third day you are supposed to see some action, that is, there are bubbles in the starter. Hurray!
At this point, we begin the process called “feeding the starter”. Mix the starter.

NOTE: If your starter is not showing signs that it is very active that’s ok. Give it another mix and wait until the next morning. It should be active by then. It could be that you are doing this in a slightly cooler environment and this process will move along more slowly or if you elected not to use any juice or sugar then it will take a bit longer.

IMPORTANT: You will now be transferring your starter to your glass container/jar. Weigh your jar/container before you put any starter in it and mark the weight directly on your jar with a marker on write it down on a white sticker or masking tape and stick it on your container. This will be very helpful later on.

  • Pour the 75 grams of the starter into a clean glass container/jar.
  • Add 70 grams of water ( DO NOT USE JUICE ANYMORE JUST WATER FROM THIS POINT ON)
  • add 60 grams of flour
  • Mix well until the water, flour and your starter all incorporated well and that you do not have any clumps of flour. By mixing you are aiding the development of gluten mesh in your starter and incorporating air into the starter as well.
  • Cover it but leave the lid loose so air can escape ( your starter is active and producing gasses. They need to escape )
  • Let this mix sit for about 8-12 hours ( depending on the season or room temperature )

Day 3 PM

At this point, the starter is supposed to nearly double itself and you should see a lot of bubbles, which means that it’s active – a good sign.

Now we will give your starter another feeding

  • Dump out some of your starter and leave 50 grams of it in your jar ( this is where writing the weight of your jar comes in handy so you don’t have to dump all of the starter our and reweigh everything).
  • Add 50 grams of water
  • add 50 grams of flour
  • mix together until all the flour is incorporated and the old sour is evenly mixed.
  • Again, put the lid on but do not tighten, leave it loose.
  • Let sit until the next morning

The texture of your starter should start to thiken up at thispoint as you are now starting to mix 1:1 flour to water ratio

Day 4 AM

The desired status of the starter: lots of bubbles.

Your starter should be showing life and really active. We will now start the feeding you will do daily to your starter.

NOTE: How to maintain a starter depends on how much bread you make. I will have more on this later in the article.

  • Leave in your glass container 50 grams of tarter
  • Add 50 grams of water
  • Add 50 grams of flour
  • Mix together until all the flour is incorporated

Day 4 PM

At this pint your starter should be quite active. And should at least double in size if not tripled.

Give your starter another feeding same as in the morning.

  • Leave in your glass container 50 grams of tarter
  • Add 50 grams of water
  • Add 50 grams of flour
  • Mix together until all the flour is incorporated

The texture of your starter at this point should be thicker and resemble a cake batter but not doughy. This is the texture that your starter should have from now on.

I said “should” because it is not a must as there are starters that you can make more or less liquid.

Day 5 AM

On the morning of day 5 you should see that your sourdough starter has collapsed.

Meaning it rose ( about 3 even 4 times its original volume ) but then collapsed down. You will know this because you wlil see marks on your jar of how high the sourdough starter has reached and you will notice that your starter is now way below this line.

THIS IS OK! Do not worry. This is what is supposed to happen.

your starter has reached its peak and had no more food to eat.

Smell your starter. This is the point where your starter starts to get that tangy, sour flavor. The smell should be somewhat vinigary, but not too strong.

Letting your starter sit for long periods of time between feedings will make it more sour.

To read more about how to make your starter or bread more or less sour you can read all about it here at this link covering this subject.

NOTE: If your notice your starter is not at this point than repeat day 4 once more.

We will use the same feeding recipe but this time you will only feed it once a day not twice like the first 4 days.

  • Leave in your glass container 50 grams of tarter
  • Add 50 grams of water
  • Add 50 grams of flour
  • Mix together until all the flour is incorporated

NOTE: Do not let it sit too long without feeding or else it will go too sour and you will have to start all over again. This is why you must feed it daily

HOOCH ALERT!

You may find a liquid on top of your starter if it has sat around for too long between feedings. This liquid is referred to as “Hooch”.

It is what happens when the yeast runs out of food and it gives off this liquid. It is actually an alcohol that your yeast produced. If you smell your starter you will notice it right away.

There aer 2 things you can do if you find hooch on your starter

  1. mix it back into the starter and give your starter a feeding
  2. Simpley pour it out carfully and then feed your starter

It is not bad to mix it into your starter but if you find that you have a thick layer of hooch I would suggest just dump it out because too much of it can be overpowering.

Day 6

Repeat day 5 feeding schedule

Day 7

On the morning of day 7 give your state another feeding as you did on day 4, 5, and 6,

about 3-6 hour later your starter should triple in size.

your sourdough starter should be ready for baking at this point. you should now do a float test to make sure.

Here is how your sourdough starter cycle should look after 7 days

Float test for your sourdough starter

This is so simple and quick and will give you an indication that your starter is ready.

Take a spoonfull of your starter and puor it into glass of water.

Your sourdough starter should float and should not break up. You know have a starter and you are ready to take on the baking world!

It seems like you are throwing away a lot of your starter every day and this is true. There are many things you can do with your leftover starter. You can read all about it right here in this link.

Do You Really Need To Feed Your Starter Daily?

So it seems crazy to feed your starter every day for the rest of your or your starters life ( depends on who dies first πŸ™‚ )

How often your feed and maintain your starter depends on how often you will be making bread.

Multiple loaves a week

If you make bread almost every day then you will need to feed your starter daily. It is that simple.

One bread a week to once a month

If you bake about 1 bread a week to 1 a month then you should refrigerate your starter.

Storing the starter in the refrigerateor will not stop the starter but will slow it down considerably.

You will now only have to feed it once a week.

  • Take the starter out of the fridge and let it sit out for about an hour
  • Once it has reached room temperature give it a feeding ( 50 grams starter, 50 water, and 50 flour )
  • Let it sit out for 15 min and store it back in the fridge

IMPORTANT: Feed your starter on the same day every week

Reviving your starter after refrigeration

When you are ready to bake bread you will need to revive your starter. You will need to do this a day before you start your bread dough. Follow these steps.

  • Take the starter out of the fridge and let it sit out for about an hour
  • Once it has reached room temperature give it a feeding ( 50 grams starter, 50 water, and 50 flour )
  • Let it sit out the whole day and your starter will be ready the next morning so you can use it for your levain.

One bread every couple of months

If do not intend on having a regular schedule for bread baking and you only bake a bread on special occasions then there a coupole of wayt o go about it.

  1. Freeze your starter
  2. Dehydrate your starter

Freezing and reviving your starter

I highly recommend this method if you now you are going to make a bread once every couple of months. Follow these simple steps and you should have a sourdough starer without having to take up a whole week to start a new one.

  • Give your starter a feeding ( 50 starter, 50 water, 50 flour )
  • Let it reach its peak but not collapse. It should triple in size
  • Once the starter is at its peak close it in an airtight container and put it in your freezer

Once frozen your starer will becone inactive but not dead. You will be able to reiveve it back to its previouse form in just 2 days.

Revive your starter after Freezing

  • 2 – 3 days before you intend to make your bread take the starter out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator. Do this in the morning.
  • Let is thaw out in the fridge for 24 hours
  • The next day take the starter out of the fridge and let it get to room temperatures ( this will take about an hour or so )
  • Take 50 grams of your starter, add 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour and mix well.
  • About 8-12 hours later give it another feeding. Again (50:50:50)
  • The next morning give your starter another feeding (50:50:50)
  • On the 3rd day, your starter will be good to go and you can start using it again.

Dehydrating your starter

Another way to put your starter hold is by dehydrating it. It is quite simple to do.

  • Take your starter and spread it out on a sheet of parchment paper.
  • Leave it out to fully dry out ( this can take up to 2 days depending on how humid it is
  • After it is dry crumble the dry starter and store it in a jar.

To find out how you can dehydrate your starter more quickly and some extra great tips you can read our full in-depth article on this subject right here: How to dehydrate starter quickly

Reviving the starter after it has been dehydrated.

  • take 50 grams of your dehydrated starter and put it in a small galls container or a drinking glass
  • Add 50 grams of water
  • Let is sit for about 10-12 hours until all of the dehydrated starter has soaked up the water ( do this at night so you can start to feed it the next morning)
  • The next morning mix the starter well and let it sit for about 3-6 hours ( you should see some bubbles and that it is active )
  • After the 3-6 hours give your starter a feeding ( 50 grams water, 50 grams flour and 50 grams starter
  • Repeat this again the next morning and your starter should be good to go for the next day

Which Flour To Use

As mentione earlier flour use is your prefernce. Using a high protein flour will be easier to work with and you will most likely find that you will need to use less of your starer in your breads.

This is becuase high protien flours will have more gluten in them.

If you are going to go with a flour that has a low protein content in it then blend it with another flour just to give it some help.

I have a couple of sourdough starters that I like to use. One of them is made with up of 100% bread flour and the other is 50-50 rye and bread flour.

The reason I do not use 100% rye flour is because it is very low in gluten and having 50% rye in my starter is good enough to get the desired flavor I’m looking for.

One word of caution. Do not use bleached white flour. First of all it is a terrible flour as it is highly processed and is not a very healthy flour. Second of all, your starer will have a weird smell to it and will take a long time to ferment . Just stay away from this flour.

Which Water To Use

For water I would recommend ( at least when starting your starter ) not to use tap water.

Tap water has additives to it like chloride or floride and these additives have a negative effect on the yeast bacteria.

Instead use filtered, distilled or spring water.

For the rest of the maintenance of your starter, you should use soft water if possible. Most tap water is considered to be Hard Water so try to use filtered water when possible. It is not the end of the world to use tap water though.

Is Old Starter Better Than a New One?

The more mature your sourdough starter the better it will be. Many bakeries have sourdoughs that are many years old. These are mature and aged starters.

By “better” I mean that you will have a lot of yeast culture in this flour and water mixture per square inch or per milliliter or per any measurement you want to use, you get the idea.

A mature starter will also have a more developed flavor, but you don’t have to have a starter that is 20 years old in order for it to be good. Your starter can be mature and ready to use after about a week.

I honestly don’t think that you will be able to tell the difference between a starter that is a month old and a starter that is 5 years old.

So don’t worry about it. After a week your starter will be good to go and after a month it will be just as good as any old starter.

Related Topics

How to dehydrate your starter quickly

How to make your sourdough starter more or less sour

What should you do with your left over starter

Amit

Hi, my name is Amit. I started baking at a young age at my father's bakery. I hope I can answer some of your questions and hopefully you will find some hidden gems to help you out with your home baking skills.

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