easy sourdough starter from scratch
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I’ll show you how easy it is to make your own sourdough starter from scratch with just flour and water! In about a week, you’ll have an active, bubbly starter to use in recipes.

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More Sourdough Guides for Beginners:

What is a sourdough starter?

A sourdough (or wild yeast) starter, is a fermented culture of living yeasts and bacteria that is used to leaven bread naturally. Essentially, the flour is fermented.

A portion of the mother starter is always reserved when baking to be refreshed (fed) with new flour and water and used again and again.

Sourdough starter becomes an integral part of the kitchen that can be used to bake artisan bread, bagels, english muffins, and even pizza crust!

It can be even be shared and passed down to others.

a jar of ripe sourdough starter made from scratch

You don’t need any packaged yeast to make a homemade starter. In fact, starters were used to bake bread long before commercial yeast came into the picture.

You can get some established starter from a friend to be able to bake bread right away. But you really just need a week or so of time to get a starter going for yourself.

I started mine over 5 years ago now, and I’m so excited to show you how simple the process can be!

Two Sourdough Starter Myths Debunked

There are some common misconceptions floating around about sourdough starter.

You can only make one type of bread with a sourdough starter.”

In reality, you can use starter in place of yeast to make any type of bread with any kind of flour.

Many of these breads will not taste sour if baked properly, but they will have a depth of flavor and added health benefits that cannot be achieved with commercial yeast and quick rise times.

Sourdough baking is too much work.

People often have in their heads that sourdough baking is time-consuming and complicated. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The starter is not difficult to care for once you get into a routine, and sourdough baking can be as simple as you want it to be.

a jar of ripe homemade sourdough starter with a spoon

You might be interested in baking bread daily, but more than likely, you’ll use your starter casually, and it will be more than happy to wait in the fridge for you until you are ready to bake again.

Though sourdough doughs require longer ferment times (much of which is hands-off), the process is very similar to baking with yeast. It just takes a little more planning ahead.

You will get into your own groove as time goes on and figure out how deep into the world of sourdough you want to dive.

Why this sourdough starter recipe?

After a quick poke around the web, you’ll notice there are many different ways to start a sourdough starter.

Though every sourdough baker has their own spin on the process, the principles are very much the same.

This recipe is easy to start and maintain and will work wonderfully for the majority of sourdough recipes you’ll come across.

I have kept this starter small in the creation stage to reduce the need for excess flour. You’ll be able to increase the amount of starter once you’re ready to use it for baking.

taking out a spoonful of active sourdough starter from a jar

Recommended Sourdough Starter Supplies

You’ll notice that the flour and water is in gram weights for this recipe. This keeps the consistency of the starter precise and will teach you to become comfortable with a scale for your future sourdough baking projects.

Most bread recipes use weights instead of volume measurements since every person measures flour so differently.

I love using Weck mold jars as containers for my sourdough starter. The jars look lovely and function well.

The rubber gaskets can be left off after a feeding to allow the starter to breath while still keeping it covered with the glass lid.

The 1/2 liter size is perfect for making the starter and storing small amounts of starter in the fridge. The 3/4 liter size is perfect for feeding a larger amount of starter.

You can really use any lidded glass, stoneware, or plastic container with straight walls to store your starter–even a plastic food storage container.

Your container needs to be big enough that your starter has room to triple in size after a feeding without overflowing. It should also have a large enough opening to add flour and water, take out starter, and be cleaned easily.

Your starter will develop best at about 75°F (23°C). Fermentation happens naturally at this temperature but will be stifled if the temperature is much lower than 68°F. (This is also why the recipe calls for warm water for each feeding.)

If it’s a chilly time of year, you’ll want to find a way to keep your starter warmer.

If you can afford it, you may want to purchase a proofer box where you can set the temperature precisely. A proofer would double as a handy tool to control the temperature of your bread doughs later.

If buying a proofer isn’t an option right now, you can set your starter in the microwave with the door cracked (which will cause the light to stay on for warmth), place it on top of your refrigerator, or wrap it in a towel.

If you don’t have a thermostat in your home, an ambient thermometer might be a game-changer for you.

You can put it with your starter to know for sure that you’re keeping it at a desirable temperature, and it’s very inexpensive. This is also a very useful tool once it comes time to bake bread!

Recommended Ingredients

  • Unbleached all-purpose flour

All-purpose flour is going to be the least expensive choice for creating and maintaining a starter. It makes for a versatile starter since you can use it for both white bread recipes and recipes with wholegrain.

You’ll just want to avoid using bleached flour for your starter.

  • Whole wheat or rye flour

This recipe calls for a small amount of whole wheat or rye flour on day 1 to kickstart fermentation. You can buy a small bag of either of these flours. Choose one you will enjoy using up in a recipe later.

  • Filtered water

It’s possible that chlorinated tap water could be harmful to the balance of yeasts and bacteria you’re trying to cultivate in your starter.

Filtered water is a good choice if you’re on city water. Alternately, you can boil tap water for 15 minutes or let it sit covered at room temperature for 24 hours to remove the chlorine. Well water or spring water would work just fine.

Tips

If you’re not seeing much action with your starter after a week or your starter doesn’t look like mine on a particular day, don’t throw in the towel!

It’s not uncommon for the process to take an extra week or more for various reasons. Keep up the feeding routine and make sure your starter is kept at a desirable temperature.

Before you know it, your starter will get there!

How to Make a Sourdough Starter

Morning of Day 1

On the first morning, start with a clean jar.

Turn on your kitchen scale, place the jar on the scale, and press “tare” to clear the scale to zero. Weigh out 50 grams of whole wheat (or rye) flour and 50 grams of lukewarm water. Stir until combined.

weighing out the flour and water

I like to mix my starter with a slender silicon spatula to reach the bottom easily and keep the edges of the jar cleaner.

Cover the baby starter with plastic wrap or a lid (screwed loosely) and let it sit in a warm area (75°F is ideal) until the next morning.

Morning of Day 2

The next morning, you may notice some small bubbles forming in your starter, or you may not see much action yet.

Remove and throw away 50 grams of starter from the jar which will leave 50 grams remaining.

Note: The extra starter that we throw away is called “discard.”

To the 50 grams of remaining starter, add 50 grams of all-purpose flour this time and 50 grams of water. Stir until everything is combined. Cover and set in a warm place until the next morning.

Morning of Day 3

A starter will commonly bubble and rise dramatically between days 2 and 3, but this is no indication that it is ready for baking. You probably won’t notice any sour smell at this point.

Note: Slide marks on the jar (that aren’t residue from stirring) indicate that your starter rose well and then fell back down due to needing a refreshment.

Discard excess starter until you have 50 grams remaining in the jar (you’ll be throwing away 100 grams this time).

To the 50 grams starter, add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water. Stir to combine, cover, and set in a warm place.

Note: Feeding with equal weights flour and water creates a “100% hydration starter.” This hydration is commonly called for in many sourdough recipes.

Morning of Day 4

Your starter will likely have fewer bubbles on day 4 as it adjusts to the all-purpose flour.

On this morning, you’ll repeat the same steps as day 3:

Discard until you have 50 grams starter. To the starter, add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water. Stir to combine, cover, and set in a warm place.

Morning of Day 5

Between days 4 and 5, your starter may begin to bubble again. It may smell increasingly sour, but probably not in a pleasant way.

It may smell more like gym socks or acetone than delicious sourdough bread since it has not reached the proper balance of yeasts and bacteria.

Follow the same instructions as the previous two days:

Discard until you have 50 grams starter remaining. To the starter, add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water. Stir to combine, cover, and set in a warm place.

Morning of Day 6

On this morning, you may see evidence that your started rose well and then deflated. It may now have a sweeter, more pleasant, yeasty smell.

immature starter in need of a refreshment

Repeat the same instructions as the previous 3 mornings:

Discard until you have 50 grams starter remaining. To the starter, add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water. Stir to combine, cover, and set in a warm place.

Morning of Day 7

On the morning of day 7, follow the same feeding instructions as the 4 previous mornings:

Discard until you have 50 grams starter remaining. To the starter, add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water. Stir to combine, cover, and set in a warm place.

Note: Regardless of how your starter is bubbling and rising on the previous days, continue the feeding schedule for at least the first 7 mornings. After that time, you may determine whether your starter is ready for baking or needs more time to ferment first.

When can I use my sourdough starter for baking?

As day 7 progresses, your starter may behave like a mature starter after its refreshment:

  • It nearly triples in size within a few hours (which is a typical rise for an all-purpose flour starter at this hydration). It has many small bubbles throughout and on the surface and has an almost “fluffy” texture.
  • It had a pleasant, sweet, yeasty aroma with a hint of sourness at its peak (not an unpleasant smell).
bubbly sourdough starter that has recently begun to fall after reaching its peak in the jar

You can place a rubber band on the jar at the level of your starter right after you refresh it so you can clearly see how much it rises within a few hours.

If your starter is showing these healthy signs after its feeding on day 7, you may transition to a regular maintenance schedule and use it to bake bread! Woo hoo!

Note: Don’t be shy about continuing the morning feeding schedule if you have any doubts that your starter is ready.

mature active starter

Your starter will become even more vibrant and flavorful over the next several months.

Stay tuned for the next post where I will show you how to care for and use your new starter!

See the sourdough starter FAQs below the printable recipe card, and if you still have any questions, I’d love to help if you leave a comment or send me a message.

Next, visit my post How to Feed and Maintain a Sourdough Starter (Easy Refrigerator Method) so you know how to use and care for your new starter!

If you make this recipe and love it, I would be so grateful if you would come back to leave 5 stars and a comment. Your feedback is very appreciated!

Tag your photo on Instagram @aberlehome to show me what you made!

easy sourdough starter from scratch

Easy Sourdough Starter from Scratch

Yield: 1 sourdough starter
Prep Time: 7 days

I'll show you how easy it is to make your own sourdough starter from scratch with just flour and water! In about a week, you'll have an active, bubbly starter to use in recipes.

Ingredients

  • 50g whole wheat or rye flour
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Filtered (or un-chlorinated) water, lukewarm

Instructions

Morning of Day 1: Set a clean jar (1/2 liter or larger) on a kitchen scale and press "tare" to clear the scale to zero. Weigh out 50 grams whole wheat (or rye) flour and 50 grams of lukewarm water. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid (screwed on loosely) and set in a warm place (75°F/23°C is ideal).

Morning of Day 2: Discard excess starter leaving 50 grams remaining in the jar. Stir in 50 grams unbleached all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water. Cover and set in a warm place.

Morning of Day 3: (You may notice significant bubbling today, however, this is no indication that the starter is ready for baking.) Discard excess starter until you have 50 grams remaining in the jar. Stir in 50 grams unbleached all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water. Cover and set in a warm place.

Mornings of Days 4-7 (plus additional days, if necessary): Repeat day 3 feeding instructions each of these mornings. Continue for the remainder of the week even if your starter consistently bubbles and rises earlier. The starter needs this time to become established.

Signs that your starter is ready for baking: When your starter is at least 7 days old, consistently triples in size with many small air bubbles throughout and on the surface a few hours after each feeding, looks "fluffy," and has a pleasant, yeasty, mildly sour smell after rising, it is ready to be used in recipes. If the starter is not showing these signs, continue the morning feeding schedule for as many days as necessary until starter is established.

Notes

  • The development of your starter will be stunted at temperatures below 68°F. You can remedy a chilly home by keeping your starter in a foldable proofer box set to 75°F, in the microwave with the door cracked so the light stays on for warmth, wrapped in a towel, or on top of the refrigerator.
  • I would not recommend using the discard in sourdough discard recipes during this initial phase of creating your starter.

Sourdough Starter FAQs

1. Why do I have to discard half the starter each feeding?

If you don’t discard the excess starter, you’ll face two problems. Firstly, you’ll end up with way too much starter as you add more flour and water each day.

And secondly, there will be too high a ratio of starter to the flour and water you are refreshing it with.

Once your starter is established, you can use the excess in recipes specifically formulated for discard. (Or simply use up the extra to bake any recipe.)

Until your starter is active, there’s really not much you can do with the excess except toss it, add it to your compost pile, or feed it to your backyard chickens. Thankfully, the amount is small with this recipe.

2. Can I make more starters with the discard?

Later when your starter is established, you can separate off a portion of your starter to gift to someone else anytime you want!

You will even be able to take a portion of your starter and convert it to a wholegrain (or part wholegrain) starter if you want two different starters to use in your kitchen.

In the meantime, it wouldn’t be practical to feed separate jars of baby starter to try to get them all going at the same time. Just focus on cultivating one starter and go from there.

3. Why is there brown liquid floating on my starter?

Brown or gray liquid is called “hooch” and is a byproduct of fermentation. It’s a sign that your starter is ready to be refreshed, so you may notice it when your starter is hungry for a feeding.

Simply stir the liquid back into the starter and continue discarding and refreshing as normal.

4. Why is my sourdough starter separating?

Same answer as the previous question, if a starter is hungry for a feeding (or has been neglected for a while) gray/brown liquid can form in the starter and the starter can separate into layers.

Simply stir the starter back together before discarding the extra and refreshing it with flour and water.

5. What is the best flour for sourdough starter?

Unbleached all-purpose flour is practical for a starter because the starter can be used for both white bread recipes or for breads with whole grains. It is inexpensive to purchase.

Organic flour and bread flour are fine to use as well, but definitely avoid bleached flour.

Starters do really well on wholegrain (wholemeal) flours also, and many bakers choose to use a particular ratio of white and wholegrain flour (rye is common) to control certain characteristics of their starters.

Wholegrain flours will make a more vigorous, slightly more sour starter.

These flours don’t have as strong of a gluten structure, so a starter like this probably won’t rise and bubble quite as much in the jar, but that is not a problem in this case.

It’s fine to mix or change flours in a sourdough starter anytime, though a starter might take a few feedings to completely adjust to changes.

6. Why is my sourdough starter not bubbling or rising?

It may not be bubbling or rising for a couple of reasons. It could be that your starter needs more time to develop before it will consistently rise and bubble in the jar.

If kept around 75°F, your starter could be ready to use for baking in as little as one week. You may find that you need to continue the feeding schedule for another full week or longer before it’s ready.

Another possibility: your starter may be bubbling and rising in the jar after feedings, but is deflating and needing a feeding much earlier than you realize.

In this case, the bubbles will have popped, but you’ll notice streaks higher on the jar where your starter was previously sitting. It could very well be ready to bake with at this point, it’s just telling you it’s ready to be stored in the fridge or fed more frequently.

7. Why does my starter smell bad?

An unpleasant sour smell (like gym socks or acetone) can be present when a starter is not mature, or if the starter has been neglected for a while.

A bad smell doesn’t usually indicate that a starter has gone bad. Regular feedings will balance the acid levels in the starter to resolve this.

8. How long does sourdough starter last?

If you continue to care for your starter with regular feedings, it should last indefinitely!

9. How do I know if I’ve killed my starter?

It’s very unlikely that you’ve killed your starter and more likely that it just needs continued consistent feedings, a warm environment, and more time to mature.

Gray or brown liquid on the starter is a normal occurrence. If you were to ever see colorful mold in your starter, that would be a reason to start over (this is uncommon, though).

Pouring hot water in your starter would certainly kill the yeasts and bacteria you’re trying to cultivate.