How to Make, Store, & Care For a Homemade Sourdough Starter

Making your own sourdough starter might sound like something only expert, artisan bakers do. Or hippies. Clearly, an average person couldn’t do such a remarkable task, right?

Wrong. The average person could. In fact, you could. Making a homemade sourdough starter only takes flour, water, and a little patience. It’s much easier than you think and doesn’t require any special skills. 

And once you take your first bite of a freshly baked sourdough loaf, all crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, homemade by you with your very own sourdough starter, you’ll be hooked.

Don't let sourdough starters intimidate you! Follow these steps and you'll be a pro at making, storing, and caring for your sourdough starter.

What is a Sourdough Starter?

Homemade sourdough starters are also known as wild-caught starters because they harness the fermenting power of natural yeasts and bacteria present in the air of your own home and in the flour you use. This might seem like an intimidating science experiment at first, but it’s really a straightforward process.

A sourdough starter is just a thick liquid mixture of flour and water that’s been fermented with natural yeasts and bacteria. When a little is mixed into bread dough, the starter slowly ferments the whole dough, producing delightfully fluffy loaves that are downright irresistible and superior to other breads.

The best news about homemade sourdough starters is that yeasts and bacteria are pretty resilient critters. This is a problem with stubborn bacterial and fungal infections, but it works to your advantage with a sourdough starter.

Because microbes are so resilient, sourdough starters are very easy to care for and maintain. They’re kind of like low maintenance pets. Give them a little food, water, and attention, and they’ll reward you with an active starter that makes the most amazing bread, muffins, and more.

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How to Make a Homemade Sourdough Starter

To make a sourdough starter, you’ll need two basic ingredients: flour and water. Filtered water works best since high amounts of chlorine can hinder microbe growth.

Though you can make a starter with really any type of grain flour, I prefer to use whole grain rye for a bubbly, potent starter. Using a grain other than wheat adds an additional nutrition profile to my bread, too. But if you don’t have rye, use whole wheat or even unbleached, unbromated white flour.

To begin, take 1 cup of flour and combine it with 1 cup of water in a medium-sized glass or ceramic mixing bowl. You want it to be the consistency of pancake batter, so add a little more water if necessary. For my rye starter, I use about 1 1/4 cup of water to 1 cup of flour.

Making your own sourdough starter is easier than you might think with these simple steps

Then cover it with a lint-free kitchen towel or layers of cheesecloth. You want air to circulate around the mixture, but you don’t want bugs in.

If you can set it by an open window, that’s perfect. If not, choose a place that stays at decent room temperature with good airflow.

Every day, add an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour and equal amounts (or a pinch more) of water. This feeds the good bacteria and yeasts and prevents mold from taking over and spoiling the starter.

In fact, we call this process of adding fresh flour and water “feeding” the starter.

If your starter is in a very warm place or you’re getting it going during the hot summer, you’ll likely have better results by feeding it in the morning and in the evening. Warmer temperatures mean more active microbes, and more active microbes need more food.

See? Just like a little pet!

What a Healthy Sourdough Starter Looks and Smells Like

If you forget to feed your new starter while you’re trying to get it going, you may very well end up with something like this that will need to be discarded:

Follow these simple steps to make, store, and care for your own sourdough starter! You'll learn how to not let it get moldy and spoiled, like this one.

That’s a neglected starter gone bad and overrun with mold. Because I didn’t feed it for a couple of days while it was out in our warm kitchen, the beneficial yeast and bacteria couldn’t keep the bad mold at bay.

A neglected starter will not only look gross, but it’ll also smell awful. Like, sour milk meets moldy produce awful. You won’t want to use it.

However, so long as you keep your mixture fed and in good air circulation, after about 5-7 days, you’ll get a bubbly, nicely fermented mixture that looks like this:

Learn how to make, store, and care for your own sourdough starter with these easy steps

It will smell pleasantly sour and show no signs of mold or spoilage. You’ll likely notice a beer-like scent and should see bubbles all the way through the mixture.

Once your starter is fully fermented, you are then ready to bake with it or store it. You’ll find links to yummy recipes further down this post. 

For easy printing and referencing, you can also find a printable recipe card with instructions at the very end of this post. 

Do You Need to Discard Half of Your Sourdough Starter?

Many sourdough starter recipes instruct you to discard half of the sourdough starter batter every day during the fermenting process before adding more flour and water for the day.

This isn’t bad advice; I just don’t find it necessary most of the time.

Discarding half of the sourdough starter does two things:

  1. It makes sure the growing microbes have plenty of food to eat since more of the starter batter will be made up of fresh flour and water.
  2. It also reduces the amount of starter you end up with. Because no home baker needs a whole gallon of sourdough starter.

Most of the time, following my instructions and not discarding will give you a happy, bubbly starter. But if your starter doesn’t seem enthusiastically bubbly, you can try the discarding method and see if it helps perk things up.

This homemade, bubbly sourdough starter was so easy to make

How to Store a Sourdough Starter

You can store your sourdough starter in either the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter. Wherever you plan to store it, it’s best to first transfer it to a jar with a lid. I keep my starter in a half-gallon mason jar.

If you plan to bake daily, you might like storing your starter on the counter. You’ll need to feed the starter once (in cool weather) or twice (in warm weather) a day to keep the microbes happy and healthy. Your starter will always be active and ready to use.

If you don’t plan to bake daily, storing your starter in the refrigerator will probably work best for you. You’ll need to plan ahead just a bit when you want to bake, but you won’t have to feed it daily and end up drowning in starter.

I keep mine in the refrigerator for that reason. After I use it for mixing up doughs and batters, I feed it a little and then place it in the refrigerator to snooze. When I need it, I pull it out, feed it again, and let it warm up at room temperative for a few hours before mixing.

I know a starter is ready to use again when it’s been at room temperature for a few hours and very bubbly after feeding.

Feed your homemade sourdough starter before baking for a bubbly starter

How to Care For a Sourdough Starter

How you care for your starter depends on how you store it. As mentioned above, starters stored at room temperature will need fed daily, or even twice a day if it’s warm. Starters stored in the refrigerator should be fed about once a week, but this will probably happen naturally if you bake regularly.

When you feed your starter, you simply give it fresh flour and water just like you did when you were making it in the beginning. This keeps the microbes fed, happy, and in balance, which in turn keeps your starter going indefinitely.

You don’t need to use the same flour every time you feed it. I usually use rye for my starter, but I’ve used whole wheat, oat, and unbleached, unbromated white flours when I haven’t had rye flour handy.

Once you make your starter, you never run out and start all over. You’ll always leave at least 1/2 cup starter in the jar when baking. Then, when you add more flour and water, that remaining starter will ferment the new flour and water mixture, replenishing the starter you used in your recipe.

After baking, if you don’t have much starter left, simply stir in some flour and water so the remaining microbes have a boost of food. Before baking, give it some more flour and water to get it really active and bubbly. This will happen quickly with countertop starters but might take a few hours for refrigerated ones.

A finished sourdough starter is bubbly and smells mildly sour

How to Use Your Sourdough Starter in Recipes

Once you have a finished sourdough starter, it’s time to use it!

Almost every bread and pastry recipe out there can be made with sourdough starter. You’ll start these recipes further in advance since sourdough needs more time to work, but the results are worth it!

You’ll use different amounts of starter for different recipes. To get a feel for how sourdough recipes work, try some of my favorites:

What’s That Gray Water on Top of My Starter?

Depending on what type of flour you use for your starter, you might see a greyish liquid float to the top when it’s stored in the fridge. That could lead you to worry that your starter has gone bad, but it hasn’t.

This gray water is completely normal, not harmful, and called hooch. Funny name, I know. You can just stir it into your starter again.

Some people will instruct you to pour the hooch off and add in extra water when you feed the starter to make up for the lost liquid. You can do that if you want, but it’s unnecessary. I actually prefer to stir it back in since it will contain microbes that fresh water won’t.

Interestingly, my rye starters rarely develop any hooch. If I feed my starter with more wheat, though, I see more hooch. I don’t know why this is and I’m not sure it matters, but there you have it.

Think sourdough starters are hard to make? Think again! Learn how easy it is when you follow these steps to make, store, and care for your own sourdough starter

Troubleshooting Your Sourdough Starter

Occasionally, certain locations just seem to not produce wild-caught starters easily. The local yeasts and bacteria might be too weak to sufficiently raise bread dough, or they might produce an unpleasantly strong flavor. 

In those instances, you can simply buy a sourdough starter culture. The neat thing about buying a starter culture is that you can choose it according to your taste preferences and goals for baking, and you care for it like any other starter. You can even order an authentic San Fransisco sourdough culture or one from Italy!

Chlorinated water can hinder a sourdough starter because it kills or weakens the needed microbes. If you suspect your tap water supply is making for a wimpy starter, try using distilled or another purified water instead.

And sometimes, even the best of home bakers neglect their sourdough starter. #guilty. When that happens, it might get a little sickly or even develop a film of mold. Don’t panic, though. You can revive a neglected starter.

Finally, if you’re really struggling with sourdough and you want some one-on-one help, let’s schedule a time to chat.

So grab a bowl, some flour, and some water. You can do this, and I’m pretty sure the microbes in your home are just begging you to turn them into a sourdough starter!

Where to Find Extra Help with Sourdough Baking and Become a Total Pro

Easy Sourdough ... from A to Z!

If you want to dive deep with sourdough baking, check out Traditional Cooking School’s sourdough resources. They offer a Sourdough A-Z eBook & Video Series, but I really recommend going with a full membership to take advantage of their amazing full Sourdough eCourse. With 26 lessons, it’ll turn you into a sourdough pro! Plus, you’ll get access to other amazing healthy cooking courses and resources, too.

Try Traditional Cooking School’s free sourdough bread webclass or try the full membership for 2 weeks for just $1 to get a no-pressure introduction.

Printable Recipe Card: How to Make a Homemade Sourdough Starter

Homemade Sourdough Starter

Feed your homemade sourdough starter before baking for a bubbly starter

By making your own homemade sourdough starter, you'll be able to turn bread and baked goods into some of the most delicious and nutritious items in your kitchen!

Prep Time 5 days
Total Time 5 days

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups grain flour (such as unbleached, unbromated white; whole grain wheat; whole grain rye), divided
  • 3-5 cups filtered water, divided

Instructions

  1. In a nonreactive glass or ceramic bowl, combine 1 cup of flour with 1-1 1/4 cup water to create a pancake-like batter. Cover loosely with a light kitchen towel or cheesecloth and leave on the counter.
  2. On every following day, add an additional 1/4-1/2 cup flour with equal amounts water (plus an extra tablespoon or two to keep the pancake batter consistency). Stir to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl to keep them clean, then cover again. In warmer weather (over 75* F), use 1/2 cup flour and water.
  3. In around 5 days, the batter will be bubbly and have a pleasant fermented scent. Transfer the starter to a clean 1/2 gallon jar and store in the refrigerator or on the counter, depending on your baking preferences. You can also bake with it before transferring to the jar for storage.
  4. To replenish used starter or feed a starter that hasn't had fresh water and flour added to it recently, simply add enough flour and water to refill the jar about 1/2-2/3 of the way up and keep the pancake batter-like consistency.

Notes

In hot weather, you may have best results by feeding your beginning sourdough starter twice a day. Warmer temperatures make the microbes more active, so they require more food (flour).

What questions do you have about making your own homemade sourdough starter?

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    232 Comments

    1. I Finally after 14 days made sourdough starter. I put a teaspoon from the top in water and it floated. Now when I feed it do I still discard half before feeding the starter to keep it going. I think I need more in my jar to back bread with. I’m a new beginner. Help!

      1. Congrats on your starter, Cecelia! I don’t personally discard starter ever, unless mine gets weak from being out too long or not baking long enough. Then I follow this process
        to perk it back up. I don’t need to discard because I use enough starter at each baking (at least half of my jar) to allow for the starter to get enough fresh water and flour to feed the microbes. If you only use a little of your starter when you bake, you might need to discard from time to time.

        When I want to bake bread, I take a cup or so of starter from my jar, then add enough fresh flour and water to mix up enough starter for my recipe. I usually bake 3-4 loaves of bread at a time, so I’ll often mix up 4 cups of starter. I leave that mixture out for a few hours until it’s bubbly and ready to go. Then I don’t have to keep a gallon of starter in my fridge. 🙂

        I feed my starter after I use it for recipes, so I don’t discard since I already took quite a bit of starter out of the jar. I hope that helps!

      1. Hi Andrea. I leave a lid on it so nothing falls in, but not screwed on. I’m not sure it makes a big difference, but I tend to feed my starter and immediately put it back in the fridge. Sometimes it bubbles up and over, so leaving the lid loosely on prevents the jar from breaking as the starter expands. Hope that helps!

    2. When I am ready to use my soughdough starter which has the water on the top how do I get the mixture on the bottom to use or doi mix it in and use it then ?? Please help me I am excited to start

      1. Hi Helen. That’s hooch, which I write about in the post. You can stir it in before feeding and using to bake. Some people prefer to pour it off, then feed to get it reactivated for baking. If you use rye flour, starters tend to not make hooch.

      1. Hi Cheryl. It’ll depend if you want to bake that day or not. If you’re baking, leave it out until the starter rises up and then starts to fall so it’s nice and bubbly. If you’re not going to back, you can feed it and pop it right back into the fridge. I don’t discard any starter since I bake regularly (I write about that towards the bottom of this post), but if you have lots of starter and won’t be baking, it’ll likely stay healthier if you discard some now and then.

    3. I have a couple of questions regarding the sourdough starter. This is my 2nd day and I’m on my 2nd starter as the first one never rose so I had to put it out of its misery. First, we live in west Texas where it gets real hot. Right now it’s at least 100 outside so inside our home the ac is on anywhere from 68-72. I have my starter on the west side of the house, below the kitchen window, but not directly underneath. Is there a certain temp to keep the fermentation process from stopping? We don’t like it too cold, but it’s hot outside and I don’t want to lose another starter. Secondly, for your hamburger/hotdog bun recipe, it calls for milk, buttermilk or yogurt. Would it be okay to use non-dairy like sweetened almond milk?
      I would appreciate any help.

      Thank you,
      Nancy C.

      1. Hi Nancy. Most ferments do well around 72-75, but there’s not really a magic number. Your room temperature should be fine. I keep our house cool in the winter (I’m in Ohio) and our ferments don’t suffer at 68*.

        For the bun recipe, I’ve never used a non-dairy milk in it but I don’t see why you couldn’t. I say give it a try! 🙂

    4. I’m fairly new to sour dough baking in the beginning I know my started was too thin. Can a starter be too thick?

    5. You had me a “God honoring”. Wow! I don’t believe someone actually remembers God! Bravo!
      Keep in mind however, that God is holy and He demands holiness from all of His people. It is the best life known to mankind.
      Keep up the good work.

      1. Based on everything I’ve read, freezing can weaken the microbes in your starter. Dehydrating the starter is usually recommended when you have extra and want to store it. You can just pour some active starter onto a sheet of parchment paper, let it dry completely, then peel off and store it in an airtight container where it will stay cool and dry.

    6. Thanks for all the great information! Is it necessary to change or clean the jar that I use to store the sourdough? The jar seems to get crusty after a while.

      1. Hi Marti. You can if you want to, but I don’t. When sourdough crust dries around the jar, I just chip it off with a plastic scraper. As long as nothing is moldy, it won’t hurt your starter. It can make it hard to get the lid off the jar, though, which is why I scrape it off every now and then.

    7. It has been a week and a half since I began my starter and I have been baking with it every other day or so just to use the discard. When it goes in the fridge and I only feed once a week or when I use the starter, do I let it sit out for a bit after feeding before I put the lid on and put it back in the fridge OR can I feed it and seal it right away? I know it bubbles after feeding so I am worried the seal wouldbe an issue

      1. Hi Alexandra. When I use some starter in a recipe, I like to feed the remaining starter in the jar and put it back in the fridge right away. I keep mine loosely capped because sometimes I put too much flour and water in and it likes to overflow. 😉 You can leave it out for a little while if you want to, but there isn’t any benefit to that unless you want to bake with it soon again. I hope that helps!

      1. Hi Heather. If it isn’t bubbling, you can check the scent and see if it’s starting to smell fermented. If not, check the bottom “Troubleshooting” section of this post to see if that gives you guidance. Some starters just take a while to ferment. You can also play with the amount of flour you’re adding if it seems too watery and thin.

    8. Hey! If I plan on baking weekly and want to keep my starter in the refrigerator, do I take it out a few hours before feeding, then feed and use what I need for recipe, leaving some starter for next time and putting it back in the refrigerator? Or do I need to feed the remaining again before putting it back in the refrigerator?
      Thank you!

      1. Hi Ore. I do just what you described, but I also feed the leftover starter that goes back in the fridge. That makes sure the starter for my recipe is bubbly and active and also that my remaining starter stays healthy and happy. Hope that helps!

    9. I really want to make a sourdough starter for the occasional loaf or pancakes. I don’t plan to use it super often (maybe a couple times a month, if that). How would I handle the feeding to maintain–if I’m feeding it more than I am using it up, won’t I have a surplus? Will I have to discard or can I feed smaller portions (like 1/4 cup)?
      Thanks!!

      1. Hi Jamie. You might be able to get away with only feeding it every couple of weeks if you use up enough to make room for fresh flour and water. Otherwise, yes, you’ll likely have a surplus. You can either use it in recipes, give it to a friend, or compost it. Definitely store it in the main part of your refrigerator and not the door to keep it less active. Hope that helps!

    10. If I share my active sourdough starter can it be baked with immediately or does it have to go through a regular feeding schedule again!! Thanks

      1. Hi Beth. I’m guessing you mean can your friend use it right away? Yes, if you give some to a friend, they won’t need to go through the whole process like they were starting from the beginning. They’ll be able to use it right away (if they have enough), or feed it a little to increase what they have. I gave some to a friend a year or so ago and she was able to get baking right away.

      1. Hi Donna. Sorry to hear your bread didn’t rise! You can try to add more starter, but usually there’s something else going on. It could be your starter wasn’t fermented enough, it might have needed fed before using, your dough might have been too dense and needed more water, or it might have needed more time or humidity to rise enough. There can be a bit of trial and error as you get started.

    11. Hi! I was super excited to find this starter and couldn’t wait to try. I am on day 4, my starter has now stopped bubbling. Has a small amount of hooch on the top, smells sour (in a good way) but now no activity.

      I have been feeding once a day and did have bubbles after every feeding and they would last until the next feeding. Did have hooch start forming after day 2 but after reading your responses just added tad bit more flour than water when next feeding came around and the amount of hooch wasn’t as much. Using white flour by the way.

      Any tips on why my starter looks inactive now?

      Thanks!!!!

      1. Hi Gina! If it’s fully fermented, it might need to get into the fridge to slow down the rate at which the microbes digest the flour you’re adding. Try giving it a good feed, then pop it in the fridge. I think you might be ready to bake!

    12. Can you take starter from the refrigerator, feed it and then keep it out on the counter? I’m not sure if that is why my starter now has a strong vinegar like smell.

      1. Hi April. You can keep a starter on the counter, but just be aware you’ll need to feed it at least once a day, and likely twice when the weather gets warm. That’ll give you quite a bit of starter. If you bake daily, it can work out just fine. For many people, though, they’ll end up with more starter than they can use. I’ve never had a strong vinegar smell with my starter, so I’m not sure what would make that happen.

    13. I’ve been told to use equal parts flour, water and starter (1:1:1) when feeding the starter. That always ends up creating more starter than I can use. Will using proportionately less starter and changing that proportion affect bread recipes?

      1. Hi Paula. If you’re feeding a small amount of starter, it can be helpful to not overwhelm it with too much flour and water. But I regularly feed 1/2 cup or so of starter with a cup of water and a cup of flour (give or take a little to get the right consistency), sometimes even more. If there isn’t much starter left when I feed it, I’ll leave it out on the counter for a few hours or so to give the microbes a little boost before putting it back in the fridge. But they’ll work their way through it and it’ll be perfectly good to use. Just make sure it’s had time to get nice and bubbly again before you bake with it.

    14. I have a starter that I have stored in the fridge for about 4 days, covered with a paper towel. After reading through your post and a few others I see that I should have put a lid on it. Do you think it’s still ok to use?

    15. I have my sourdough started and I am on day three, I had to switch to feeding twice a day….. it seems bubbly but still doesn’t have that sourdough smell , can I bake. With it or should. I keeping feeding until reach day 7 before baking? It’s seems I have to add a little bit less water than equal parts or else I get the hooch on top , is that okay?

      1. For the timing, some starters will finish earlier than the 5+ days, especially if it’s warm. If your starter is bubble all the way through (not just with bubbles on top), you can try baking with it. If your bread doesn’t rise well, you’ll know why. 😉

        How much water you add will depend on what kind of flour you’re using. If you’re using a white all-purpose type of flour, you’ll need to use less water than I do since I’m using a whole grain flour that soaks up more moisture. Just make sure you’re starter is a thick liquid. It should be pourable. If it’s so thick you’d have to spoon it out, it needs more water.

        Hope that helps!

        1. Thank you so very much, helps a lot! I think I added to much water last time – I t ended up being really watery on top today (not necessarily hooch color..just water) and less bubbles…hopefully it will bubble back up tomorrow! My consistency is like coagulated pancake batter , kind of clumpy – if that makes sense? Is that normal?

          1. Sometimes it’ll be lumpy because the flour is clumping together. You can stir it a little more thoroughly if you want to break up those clumps. I don’t worry about a few here and there, but if it’s really clumpy, it might not ferment as evenly or nicely as a more uniform consistency. It’s not likely to make a huge difference, at least I don’t think it would.

            1. Thank you!! It is bubbly but doesn’t seem to be doubling in size or rising? Any ideas on what to do?

            2. It may not fully double in size. Once it’s bubbly all the way through and smells fermented, you can start using it. 🙂 It sounds like yours just might need another day or so. That’s my guess, though, so you can also try using some and see how it works.

    16. Just started my starter with white flour. Do you think I could possibly mix in some almond flour? Trying not to use all my white flour!

        1. That does make sense! Another question, my starter has started to split in the middle. Normal? Not normal? Any tips?

          1. Hmm… I’m not sure about splitting down the middle or what that might look like. It makes me wonder if your starter needs a little more water? It should be a thick liquid/thin batter.

            Or do you mean a layer of water is separating off? Sometimes that happens in the fermenting process. It might be bubbly enough to use, depending on how long you’ve been working with it.

    17. I have a fully ripe starter that has been bubbling on the counter for 12+ hours. I can’t use it for awhile after all. Do I just pop it into the fridge or do I have to feed it again first? I’m trying to save on flour usage due to COVID-19 shortages.

      1. Hi Lynne. You can just stick it in the fridge right now. You’ll likely need to feed it a little before using it again next, but it’ll be just fine hanging out in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. 🙂

    18. I have what is almost a clear liquid separation on top of my starter. It is 6 days old. It is the bubbly looking starter after I feed and stir. Is this common or is it just not ready yet? Thank you ma’am

      1. Hi Debbie. It sounds to me like your starter is finished and ready to be used in recipes! You can store it in the refrigerator now unless you plan baking daily. Have fun!

    19. Great pin! Success – I just made my first 2 loves and just finished eating one! So exciting. Do you have tips for high altitude? I live at about 8500 ft.
      Thanks for your expertise

    20. Hi, Kristen. It’s hot and humid where I live, do you recommend still leaving the starter out on the counter all day during the process or should I place it in the fridge during the day. I tried making my first sourdough starter a few days ago and it went bad. I was only feeding it once a day and leaving it out only during the night and placed it in the fridge during the day. We typically have our house at 75-78 degrees. Thank you.

      1. Hi Ruthie. I would probably leave it out at room temperature but feed it twice a day and see how that does. If it seems you’re getting too much sourdough batter going, you can always discard some until it’s all the way fermented. I hope that helps!

    21. So I tried to accelerate the process by using greek yogurt. I needed to have a starter ready to go for the big game this passed Sunday (served KC barbecue on San Fran Sourdough rolls.) I don’t think it worked any faster. But last night I made a huge batch of waffles to freeze. Now that I think it’s ready to hang out in the frig do I need to do anything special with it?

      1. Hi Lori. Since you added a dairy product to it, it’s not a true sourdough starter and I don’t think you’ll be able to keep it going like a regular starter, feeding it with flour and water. I would probably use it all up in a recipe and then start a true starter with just flour and water when you have time to let it ferment. I’ve done something similar when I needed to get a sourdough-like ferment without my starter and it works fine in a pinch, but to keep one going, you have to stick with flour, water, and time. 🙂

    22. We had dinner at a friends and they served us the best sourdough bread! Just like we use to have all the time living near San Francisco, CA. In Texas you can’t find what we consider real sourdough bread. They gave us a starter and I was so excited. I’m having some issues and finding answers has been a research challenge. I found your site today and I love it Your articles have answered so many of my questions and brought up many points I’d not even thought of. The one question I’m not finding an answer to is if a brown glass mason jar is OK to use to store your starter in? My starter isn’t growing and bubbling as it should. I’m not sure if its due to how I’ve fed it, the glass or what? I can get more starter from my friend if I can’t revive this one but I want to make sure I’m using the best storage method.

      Your response would be so greatly appreciated! Thanks for a great site and all the info you share!
      Thanks,
      Jana Giacomi

      1. Hi Jana! I can’t think of any reason a brown mason jar wouldn’t work for storing your starter, assuming you just mean it’s dark amber glass. You don’t want to store a starter in a metal or plastic container, but that glass should be fine as far as I know. Hope you get your starter bubbly and happy soon! There’s nothing like sourdough bread. 🙂

    23. Hi Kristen,
      I have so enjoyed your information on sourdough starter that I am ready to make and adopt this little creature into our family!
      However, do you have any thoughts on making starter at high elevations? We have been restoring a historic ranch way up in the South San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado (off the grid ) at 8,600 feet of elevation.
      I may just have to experiment!
      Thank you,
      DeLoss
      Spirit Bear Ranch

      1. Hi DeLoss! My guess with higher elevations is you may need to use more water to get it started. I don’t have any personal experience here, though, so maybe check with a couple of other sources to be sure? Have fun with it! And your ranch sounds dreamy. 🙂

    24. Wow! This is best bread & fairly easy to do. I continued to fed my starter daily, without decreasing the starter. Unbelievable bread! Thank You for sharing & responding to my question.
      Do you have a list of recipes of baked items you can use with the starter.
      Thanks
      Harry

    25. Hi! Just curious. I’m on day 6 or 7 of my starter. I notice after I feed it it gets clumpy like the flour clumps together within the starter and floats to the top. Is it bad? Did I do something wrong?

      1. Hi Rachel. As long as you aren’t seeing any mold or smelling something bad, it doesn’t sound like you’re doing anything wrong. It could be that your starter is finished fermenting and so the flour doesn’t mix in as well to a bubbly mixture. If it’s totally fermented, you can put it in the fridge at this point.

    26. I’m not sure how old this post is but I’m giving it a go anyway. I made the starter 36 hours ago with whole wheat flour. I fed it 12 hours ago, and when I checked it, it was full of bubbles, there were some layers of liquid and it smelled of yeast. I fed it again and stirred it. Is it possible for it to ferment that quickly? It’s been really hot and humid and the flour was actually kind of old. Also, I have barley flour in my kitchen, does it make it better or different if I feed it different kinds of flour? Thanks in advance.

      1. Hi Gabs! If it’s really hot where you live, you’ll probably need to feed your starter more often and it could very well finish up more quickly. If the flour was old, that could certainly affect the fermenting process, too. Like the post says, I prefer rye for my starter, but I will use wheat and even sometimes oat in a pinch. I haven’t personally used barley flour but it should also work. Best wishes for a happy starter!

    27. I am trying this for the first time, I started it on Saturday, I have fed it three times, sundae’ Monday & Tuesday. There is separation looks water on top. Smells the same & I have not been reducing the amount of starter from the start.
      Any comments about the water separating?

      Thanks

      1. Hi Harry,
        It sounds like you might have hooch forming. Is the starter bubbly yet? If so, it might be ready to go into your refrigerator. If not, it might need fed more, depending on the temperature. I hope that helps!

    28. I am on day 4 of following your instructions, using whole wheat flour and feeding in the evening when I get home from work. I checked my started this morning and the top is covered in liquid. Every other morning it did have a liquid layer somewhere in the mix but the top was still the bubbly flour water mixture. Is this ok? Should I stir it or leave it? Feed it early? HELP?! 🙂

      1. Hi Cassy! Sounds like you’ve got some hooch forming. You can feed in the morning and evening to finish the starting process, and you should have a useable starter in a day or so!

    29. If a recipe calls for I fed discard, should it be stirred first or is the discard to be taken right off the top? I ask this because when I stir my starter first, it does not pass the proof test as it doesn’t float. I notice that it does float when I don’t stir it first. I haven’t made any recipes yet but have been growing my starter for a couple of weeks and feeding it daily. It seems to look and smell like the description of a good starter.

      1. Hi Grace! No, you don’t really want a dry coating on top. Can you tell me more about where you are in the process? It sounds like it might be too dry, not getting fed often enough, or getting too many drafts.

      1. Hi Jackie. I’d suggest giving it a really good feeding before you leave, then tucking it back to the coldest part of your fridge. It might be rather sad when you pull it out again, but I think it’ll manage alright. Your other option is to dehydrate the starter to store, then rehydrate when you get back. But I don’t think that’ll be necessary.

        1. I’ve read that starter can be frozen if needed, to help it keep longer without requiring a feed. Might be worth considering 🙂

          1. Thanks for sharing, Kat. I’ve always read the opposite, that freezing tends to kill off the microbes more than drying. But I haven’t tried freezing and thawing a starter, so I don’t have any personal experience to lend on it. 🙂

    30. I had previously made a starter using white bread flour. I never got that wonderful ‘sourdough’ flavor in my bread, so I decided to start over.
      I found your recipe, but I was unable to find rye flour, so I used whole wheat. I fed it once a day. but by the 4th day it fit your ‘gone bad’ description, and I discarded it. Where did I go wrong?
      It is now hot again where I live. I set my AC on 76 when I leave for the day. I am wondering if it was too hot to feed it only once a day.
      Question of room temperature:I have read some recipes which say ideal temp is 70-75 degrees. Others say 75-80 degrees.
      Question of thickness: I don’t have a kitchen scale, so I liked your recipe of measuring flour, rather than weighing it. However, different recipes say different things about how thick the mixture should be.
      I’m confused, but I want to start again. Please advise.

      1. Hello Jan. My guess is your starter mixture needed to be fed more than once a day because of the temperature. I would try twice a day and see how that works for you. I haven’t read about an “official” ideal temperature, so I can’t really say anything about that. If it’s near or over 75 degrees, though, you’ll probably need to feed it more often as you get it going. Regarding thickness, I go for thin pancake batter consistency. Sort of like regular yogurt after you stir it up, if that helps. Wishing you the best as you try again!

        1. Today is day 5 for mine. I started it using a different site, that oddly disappeared when I went back to it for day 2. That site described the consistency of the additional starter to be like paste. It called for 1/2 c flour to 1/4 c of water. I’ve been using a bit more water to ensure that it blends well and is smooth before I add it to the starter. My starter was a little thinner last night, should I add more water when I feed it tonight to thin it.? Thanks for your help.

          1. Hi Lorie. I keep my starter at a thinner consistency than paste. I’ve never personally kept a starter that thick. It might work fine, but I’ve only worked with starter that’s more equal parts water and flour (give or take a little of either depending on the flour you use). So for me, I’d make probably thin it out to more of that thick pancake batter consistency. I hope that helps!

    31. I am going to give this a try Always been intimidated by the process. You make it seem plausible.. I’ll let you know.

      Carol

    32. Hi Kristen, My name is Tony and I have started my sour dough starter today using rye wheat flour. My question is, can I use regular Ap flour with this starter?My wife and I really love regular white sourdough bread. Thanks you. Tony.

      1. Hi Tony. Yes, you can use any flour when baking with this starter. I like to use rye flour in my starter, but when I bake bread, it’s mostly whole wheat with some oat flour added, too. I also use all-purpose flour sometimes. You can keep using rye flour to feed your starter, then use all-purpose flour in your bread recipes. Happy baking!

    33. Thank you Kristen. I have been making sourdough for months, but your detail on how to care for the starter tells me I am not feeding it enough, which might explain why it’s been a bit solid – delicious hot from the oven, but from the next day, I toast it. Still delicious…but. I’d like it fluffy sometimes, so I’m signing up .
      Frances (from NZ)

      1. I’m glad that helped you, Frances! I also found that when I started making sourdough bread, I made the dough too dry, as if it was a dry yeast bread. When I started making the dough much wetter, my bread started rising better. Happy baking!

    34. I started my starter with all purpose white flour and to the water I added a teaspoon of honey. I kept feeding each day with the all purpose. It didn’t seem to rise much (not double anyway) and by day 5 I got a bit annoyed. So, I discarded half and fed it with a 50/50 mix of all purpose and whole wheat. Both are unbleached. This is day 6 and it’s gotten a bit more bubbly. It always had tiny bubbles siting on the top but now it’s a little thicker and more bubbly. I did a proof test and voila! , it floated, However, I noticed there is no smell to it. Where did the sour go, lol? Should I keep feeding the monster but reduce the water? Please help.

      1. Hi Dave. I never recommend adding honey to the starter because you can end up with a different microbial balance that won’t be happy with regular flour and water feedings and may not be as stable. Depending on the temperature in your house, it might be a bit cool yet for a starter to get going strong in a week. You can keep feeding on the counter over the next few days and see if it fully ferments. I wouldn’t add any more honey, though.

    35. Hi Kristen! My starter is seven days in, and it has the beer like scent but it’s not so bubbly. Should I let it sit out longer before using it?

      1. Hi Jocelyn. Sounds like your starter is making some great progress! Try giving it some extra flour and water to feed it and see if it gets bubbly after that. I don’t think it’s fully fermented yet, so if you try baking you might end up with bricks instead of bread. 😉

    36. Hi! I just made my starter yesterday and I’m excited! A couple questions though. 1) so your method only feeds the starter once a day for a week then it goes on the fridge? And you always feed it 1/4 – 1/2 a cup (with the water)? 2) can I increase those measurements if I want more starter? Say I share my starter with someone and I split my results into two jars, can I then add say 1 cup each, flour and water to start or is that too much? 3) what kind of flour do you use when you bake bread, the same as your starter or different?
      Thank you!

      1. Hi Jess. Congrats on getting your starter going! To answer your questions…
        1. Yes, I start mine with 1/4-1/2 cup of flour and water a day for 5-7 days, until it’s fermented. Then it goes in the fridge.
        2. Yes, you can use more flour and water if you want to end up with more starter.
        3. You can use any kind of flour when you bake, even if it’s different from what’s in your starter. My starter is usually fed with whole grain rye flour, but I use it in recipes with wheat, oat, all-purpose, and corn.
        Have fun baking!

    37. If my starter is on counter and fed daily do I have to fed it before baking with it? My wheat flour base starter does not have quite the bubbly look and sour smell as my white. Both are King Arthur brand flower used ? Is this normal for wheat. Starter?

      1. Hi Dale. If your starter is fully fermented and fed regularly, you shouldn’t need to feed it again just because you’re going to bake. It sounds like the whole wheat starter isn’t as fully fermented as the white, perhaps?

      1. Hi Robin. No, you won’t want to put it outside because it’ll be too cold to get the mixture to ferment. And it might freeze, too! 🙂 Putting it near an open window in the warm months is an ideal way to get it started, but you can do it in your house with no windows open in the winter, too. There are still microbes in the air.

    38. Do I cover my 2qt canning jar with a lid if storing in refrigerator and does it require holes? Do I feed it one last time before. Storing in frig. On day 7?

      1. Hi Dale. Once your starter is fully fermented and bubbly, you can just store it in the fridge or bake with it that day. If you bake with it first, you can feed it a little before putting it in the fridge. I keep a lid on my jar, but it’s just loosely capped. I’m not sure if it makes a big difference one way or the other. Enjoy your sourdough creations!

      1. Hi Joanna. If your starter is dry, check to see if it was too thick to start with, not covered enough, or perhaps in too drafty of an area. It sounds like it needs a little more moisture or protection from drafts.

    39. The recipe doesn’t say anything about how much starter to take out before you feed your starter. Most recipes say take out a cup and replace with a cup of flour and water is this true for yours or do I just keep adding a half a cup every day until I’ve got so much starter I don’t know what to do with it , lol

      1. Hi Norma. I actually don’t do the discarding method when starting a new sourdough starter. You won’t end up with a crazy amount of starter if you’re only feeding it half a cup of flour every day. Once it is bubbly and fermented, you’ll start baking with it and then feeding & replenishing as you use it. Does that help?

    40. My starter is too sour this time & didn’t like my pancakes. It was in the frig for one week, quite a bit of hooch on top, didn’t stir it in, but poured off. It wasn’t this sour before. What accounts for that and can I fix it?

      1. Hi Jan. A starter can get sourer the longer it ferments without being fed. The more often you feed it and use it, the milder it will be. If it’s been fed recently, you should find it makes pancakes more to your liking. Adding a little baking soda to the recipe you’re making can take the edge off a too-sour starter, too. 🙂

    41. Can you use all purpose flour?
      Also when you first make it you want it to look essentially like a thick soup??
      Thank you for the help!

      1. Hi Kenna! Yes, you can use all-purpose flour, though I recommend the unbleached and unbromated varieties. It will be about the consistency of pancake batter, so maybe a little thicker than thick soup, if that helps. You should be able to stir it easily, though.

      1. Hi Rona. I like to continue using rye because I prefer the results. But when I’m out or maybe feeling a bit lazy ;), I’ll just use whatever is handy. I’ve used whole wheat, all-purpose, and even oat flour in a pinch. I haven’t experimented too much with the different flours to see what the long term results might be. But I don’t worry of using something different now and then. I hope that helps!

    42. Thank you for explaining this so well . I began a starter one month ago with wheat flour and it has done well. Last week I baked a batch of sourdough buttermilk biscuits and they were delicious. I have a question: Can I feed rye flour to my existing starter without harm, or should I begin all over from scratch with rye? I think rye starter has benefits….such as not producing much hootch.

      1. Hello, Hugh. You should be able to switch over to rye with no issues. I use rye most often, but if I’m out for some reason I’ll feed my starter with whole wheat and then switch back to rye later. I’ve never noticed a problem. If you want to err on the side of caution, you could mix up a 50/50 blend of rye and wheat, then use all rye once you’ve used the blend a few times. Best wishes!

    43. I am loving your instructions and pictures! I am wondering what kind of flour do you feed your starter after you start with the rye? I’m wanting to try this and succeed! Thank you for sharing!

      1. Hi Justina. No, you don’t want to add yeast. The flour and water mixture will naturally ferment because there are naturally-occurring bacteria and yeast in the air. If you add packaged yeast to a starter, it’ll have an unbalanced amount of microbes and won’t be self-sufficient. I hope that helps!

    44. Hi. Ive been baking sourdough off and on for about 2 years. I’ve always kept it out but I want to start keeping it in the fridge but I’m not sure what to do when I want to bake. Can I bake straight from the fridge? Do I need to feed it first or just let it warm up ? Also if I don’t bake and I feed it do I need to let it warm up before I feed it? Thanks!

      1. Hi Katie! I like to let a starter warm up before baking with it so the microbes are awake and active again. If I didn’t feed it before popping in the fridge last, or if it’s been a while since I fed it, then I’ll add flour and water and let it set out a 3-5 hours before baking. If you’re not going to bake but you need to feed it, you can just stir in the flour and water, then put it back in the fridge. It’ll slowly ferment the mixture. Hope that helps!

    45. Hi Kristen,
      I am a bit confused about how to feed it when it is being stored in the fridge…. If I don’t plan on using it for say a month even, do I need to still feed it equal parts flour and water, or could I just feed it a few tablespoons a week just to keep it alive? Also, someone said you can feed sourdough sugar… Is that true? ?

      1. Hi Pepper. It’s usually a good idea to feed your starter weekly if it’s in the fridge. Depending on how much you have in there, about 1/4 cup each flour and water will probably keep it happy. You might need to toss some old starter when feeding if you leave it inactive for a long time or are getting more starter than you need. I sometimes let my starter go longer than a week without feeding (because… life!) and can occasionally tell it needs extra TLC because it smells just a little off.

        You don’t want to add sugar to a sourdough starter. Some recipes will tell you to add sugar or dry active yeast, but that will throw off the microbial balance longterm and give you a starter that doesn’t last long.

        1. Ok, thanks! Also, when I do pull it out of the fridge to feed it (just to keep it alive, not necessarily to use it), should I leave it at room temperature for a few hours after ‘feeding it’ or can I just immediately put it back in the fridge?

    46. If I start my sourdough starter with white flour can I change to a rye flour once it is started and healthy?

      1. You sure can, Doreen. I started mine with rye and prefer to use that over other flours, but sometimes I’m out or I just have a wheat flour handy and I’ll use that. It doesn’t make a drastic change for the home baker. Sourdough starter is pretty forgiving once you have it going!

          1. Hi Deborah! Yes, you can switch flours without a problem. The only time it wouldn’t be appropriate is if you were trying to turn a regular starter into a gluten-free option. Starters aren’t too picky! 🙂

    47. I’m a bit confused: When your starter is already fermented and is in the fridge hibernating , when I’m ready to bake my bread you say feed the starter before measuring the starter out to bake , then you say feed it again before you put back into the fridge for hibernating. Also, how long do you let the starter sit when pulled out of the fridge to bake with. Can you bake with it right away after its been hibernating? Or does it need to sit out for awhile? I’m just making sure I understand this correctly.

      Thank you

      1. Hi Ann! Great questions. 🙂 After it’s been in the fridge resting, adding some flour and water helps perk it up faster since it gives the microbes new food to eat. However, if you just baked a day or two before and you fed it before you put it back in the fridge, you can probably skip that step. I like to pull it out at least 3 hours before I start baking so it has time to warm up and get bubbly again. I have used a cold starter straight from the fridge for recipes when my planning has been a bit lacking ;), but you will get better results if it’s nice and active before adding to a recipe.

        I hope that helps! Sourdough really is pretty flexible and forgiving, but let me know if I need to clarify anything else. Happy baking!

    48. Hello, Kristen!

      Please forgive me if you’ve already answered this–I tried to read all the comments to see if it was addressed but didn’t see a response. I’m wondering how soon you first feed a new starter and if there are concerns with it drying out. I just made my starter 20 minutes ago and have set it near the window. Should I feed it this evening, in 12 hours, or should I wait until tomorrow morning? I live in New Mexico and the evening/night temps are pretty cool but we get warm in the daytime. I’d say the average temp in the house is about 65 degrees, rising to ~70 during the warmest part of the day and dipping down into the high 40’s at night. Also, it is very dry here–if my starter looks dry, can I add a little water without feeding it or is that a no-no? If it really is like a pet, I have to water my dog and veggies way more often than I feed them!
      Thank you so much!

      Faerl

      1. When starting a new starter, I feed it 1-2 times a day. If you feed it with more flour at a time, you might be fine just doing it once. With it being dry in your area, you can definitely add more water! I’m up in Ohio and it gets very humid here. In the summer I often have to add a lot of extra flour to my bread recipe so it isn’t super goopy. Same idea for you. You’ll just likely use more water. I hope that helps!

    49. You don’t mention throwing out half of the starter before feeding it. Other recipes give this instruction. Is that not needed? Just want to check before starting. I like your recipe better, if I don’t have to discard half at each feeding. Thanks for your help.

      1. Hi Linda! I assume you mean when starting it for the first time? I don’t find it necessary to discard half. I believe the reason discarding is sometimes suggested is so that you’re not left with a crazy amount of starter after 5 days, but I created this starter tutorial with that in mind. I hope that helps!

    50. Once a starter develops a hooch, is it considered ready to use? I’m trying to determine if my starter is sufficiently soured enough to use for bread.

      1. Hi Jennifer! Yes, if you’re starter is bubbly and has some hooch going, it sounds like it’s thoroughly fermented and ready to use. Yay! It can help to give it a sniff test, too. It should smell yeasty and pleasantly sour. Happy baking!

        1. Thank you! I have a Ukrainian bread recipe I want to try that requires a sourdough starter. Your instructions have been so helpful!

    51. Hi Kristen thanks for the instructions for this starter. I only use sprouted wheat and alkaline water will these items work for a starter? Also what brand of rye do you recommend?

      1. Hello Temesha, and great questions! I had to do a little digging. From what I’ve read, alkaline, pH-altered, or ionized water will not work for sourdough. You want plain jane, boring, regular water for it. We use filtered well water now, but I’ve also used filtered municipal water successfully. I’ve never used sprouted grains in my sourdough starter, but other sources (like this post from another blogger) seem to suggest you can. I’d love to hear how your starter turns out if you try one with the sprouted flour! 🙂

    52. There are a lot of sour dough starter recipes and diy posts on the internet, but none that I’ve found make it look easy or answer my questions. Thank you for this concise, yet complete tutorial! I can’t wait for tomorrow to get started!

      Blessings,
      Babychaser
      mamasbrush.wordpress.com

      1. No, not for sourdough. Nut and seed flours aren’t interchangeable with grains for sourdough. If you want to try gluten-free sourdough, I recommend starting with this series from Cultures for Health. If you want grain-free “sourdough” bread (though it’s not made with a traditional sourdough starter), you can try this one. Happy baking!

    53. Hi. I’m usiny a quart sized mason jar for my starter and it appears that I will run out of room today, which will be day 3, and will overflow my jar from flour and water. Should I switch to a large glass bowl? I don’t want to do that. I wanted to use the jar. Thanks, Denise

      1. Hi Denise. If you’re just getting your starter going, you’ll need more room than a quart mason jar can provide. I always recommend starting a sourdough starter in a bowl so that the flour and water mixture can have more air circulation around it and better exposure to the natural microbes it needs to ferment. Then, once it’s thoroughly fermented after about 5-7 days, you can transfer it to a jar. If you only bake a single loaf of bread at a time, a quart jar of starter should be plenty. You’ll have more starter after the 5-7 days than will fit in a quart jar, so you can use the surplus for baking right away. I hope that helps!

    54. Hello! I was gifted a small bit of starter, which I’ve been keeping in a jar with a lid in the fridge all week. I fed it today, and probably have about half a cup. If I’m planning to bake the bread on Saturday morning (or possibly Friday night), how often would you advise I feed the starter, and should I store it on the counter or in the fridge?

      1. Hi Lindsay. Since your starter is likely already thoroughly fermented, you should be able to store it in the fridge if you don’t want to feed and bake daily. If it gets nice and bubbly after feeding it, you can just pop it in the fridge and then pull it out a few hours before you want to bake, giving it a little more flour and water. If it didn’t get very bubbly after feeding, then you can leave it on the counter and feed a couple times a day until it perks up. Then store in the fridge until you need it. I hope that helps! Happy baking!

    55. Hi. 🙂 Thank you for the wonderful information and the recipe! I can’t wait to try it! One question: I live in the northern part of the US, and it’s get’s decently chilly here. As a result, my kitchen is on the colder side (in the 60s). Will a starter be successful in colder climates? I wondered if it would work but only require more time to produce. Thanks in advance!

      1. Hi Carissa. I’m in northern Ohio, so I know just what you’re talking about. 🙂 Both times I’ve started new starters, it’s always been during warmer months, so I personally haven’t done it in the winter. But I think it’s still very possible and worth trying, especially if you can find a cozy spot for it away from any chilly drafts. I think you’re right on that it might just take a little extra time, perhaps an extra day or two, to fully ferment.

        On a similar note, we brew a fizzy fermented drink called water kefir (similar to the better-known kombucha) year round. It does ferment faster in the summer when it’s warm, but we have no trouble keeping it going during the cold winter, too.

        Wishing you lots of sourdough success!

    56. Happy New Year…out of all the sourdough blogs yours is my favorite. So I have a starter…I have had it about a month or so…it has the wonderful yeasty smell, it gets very bubbly when I feed it but doesn’t rise at all. When I bake with it my dough does not rise. Well maybe a little but it definitely does not double. I have used a heating pad to help as well. My bread has that classic sour taste but is so dense and hard. I recently just made English muffins..they were good just heavy and kind of doughy. What should I do..toss the starter and start over?

      1. Hello, Anna, and thank you for the kind words! If your starter is bubbly and yeasty, it’s likely fine to bake with. But here are some questions to think through. Does it rise up in the jar after feeding? It should, and they will sometimes overflow out of the top if the jar is filled too high. (Guilty!) How many days did it ferment when you first started it? If it was just a few, it might need a couple more days on the counter with daily feedings to really get going. Is it cold when you bake with it, or do you feed it and let it warm up first? I always like to feed mine and let it reactivate on the counter for a few hours before baking.

        My first thought, though, is to check your dough consistency before baking. One of the biggest changes with sourdough baking versus dried yeast baking is that you have to get used to working with a wetter dough. When I first started, I made my dough the consistency of yeast bread dough and I’d end up with dense bricks. Sourdough bread dough should be almost sticky and a little hard to work with when you first mix it up. It’ll absorb all the moisture, though, and after the first rise it should still be very moist, but just a little tacky to the touch and more workable.

        I hope some of these ideas help! There’s definitely a learning curve, but you’re getting there! 🙂

    57. Hello! I have failed several attempts to keep sour dough starter healthy and alive. Not sure what I am doing wrong. One question I have is should I discard some starter every time I feed it? If not, when and how much do I discard or better yet how much starter do I leave to keep feeding? I have purchased a starter and made one homemade and seemed to kill both after they seemed active.

      1. Hi Lacey. So sorry to hear about the unfortunate end to your starters! Did you keep them in the refrigerator or on the countertop? How often did you feed it and bake with it? Does your water have a lot of chlorine in it?

        Some people will tell you to discard some starter every time you feed it. I never do that, because when I bake, I make three big loaves of bread or a triple batch of muffins. I use up 1/2-3/4 of my starter every time I bake. If you go to bake and only use 1/4 of starter, yours might fare better if you dump a little more out to get some fresh water and flour in there. The other option is to just keep a smaller jar of starter going so that you use more of it every time you bake. I hope that helps!

        In case you missed it, I have a post on how to revive a neglected starter. It might be a helpful read since you’ve had trouble with a couple of yours.

      2. Hi! I have a starter that I keep in the fridge and feed once a week. Today, it had hooch on top, but the starter is not liquidy, it is thick like sticky dough. I made yummy oatmeal cookies that turned out great. But, I am still concerned my starter is not quite right. Help! Thank you!

        1. Hi Jill! That sounds normal. If hooch separates off, the starter at the bottom will be much thicker since liquid is floating on top. You can stir it back in or pour it off and add more water when you feed it to keep it at the right consistency.

          Tell me more about those oatmeal cookies, though!

    58. Hope I’m not to late to the party, but I have a question. I plan on using my starter to bake off multiple loaves to sell at our farmers market. So let’s say I bake three loaves one day, leaving me with about a cup of starter left.. Do I have to slowly build my starter back up with small, daily feelings or can I just do a mass dump of flour and water to build it back up? TIA!

      1. Hi Shannon. I do a lot of mass baking at home out of necessity since we have a big family. I always just dump a lot of flour and water into the remaining starter when I have about a cup left and it works fine. If I wanted to bake the next day with it, I’d leave the starter out until it was bubbly again before returning to the fridge. I hope that helps, and happy baking!

    59. I have a question about caring for the starter. The directions I was following have me sterilizing, with hot water ,a separate bowl each day when I add the water and flour. Once I am caring for the starter do I need to continue to sterilize a separate mason jar and add it all to that or can an established started just have the cup water and flour go straight into the same container?

      1. Hi Heidi. I’ve personally never needed to do the sterilizing at any step of the process. I suppose those instructions are trying to prevent any bad microbes from growing? The good ones will keep the bad ones at bay, though. So no, you don’t have to keep sterilizing your jar once your starter is going. You can just add the flour and water right back to the same one when you feed it. That’s what I do. Happy baking! Sourdough is so fun and easy.

    60. Hi, I’ve attempted a starter like this a few times and after 4-5 days I find the smell overwhelmingly strong and quite unbearable… the starter looks fine but I can’t imagine eating or cooking with something with such an unpleasant smell (instinctively it feels as though it’s spoiled/gone bad and should be discarded). I can never tell the difference between properly fermented and spoiled.. am I doing something wrong? Is it supposed to smell that way? If I am doing something wrong can it be dangerous or harmful in any way if I cook with it? Please and thank you

      1. Hello Emilie. Your starter should smell pleasantly sour with a slightly yeasty smell, but not unbearable. Think about how wine or beer smells. It should be similar. Are you feeding it regularly with flour and water through the starting process? That can make a difference.

        Is there any kind of film on top of the starter that might indicate mold or spoilage? A starter that is spoiled may not necessarily cause harm if you bake with it, but it will likely produce food that doesn’t taste good or rise well. Of course, if I knew a starter was spoiled I wouldn’t recommend using it.

        Another option is that the microbes in your area aren’t conducive to creating a good starter. If that’s the case, you might be better off buying a starter culture since there isn’t much you can do to change the microbes in your area!

        I hope this helps! Feel free to follow up with any more questions. 🙂

    61. Kristin
      I had a great starter that someone gave me, but I forgot to save a little the last time I made bread. I am now trying to make my own starter. This is my second attempt. The first time I accidentally used bleached flour. This time I got unbleached. I’ve had it on the counter n a mason jar with the top lightly screwed on. It certainly smells like it is fermenting, but I’m not getting that yeasty smell. I am making sure to pour off liquid and feed everyday. do you think this will work, or should I just throw this out and start with whole wheat flour?
      Thanks
      Tara

      1. You can make a sourdough starter with white flour, but you’ll have better success if you put it in a bowl with a dish towel or layered cheesecloth laid over top. In a jar with a lid lightly screwed on, it’s much harder for the microbes you need to get into the starter. Once your starter is fully fermented, then you can transfer it to a jar and decide to leave it in the fridge or counter.

        The liquid that’s forming on top is called hooch. You can just stir it back in, though it doesn’t necessarily do any harm to pour off. It sounds like your starter just needs another 2 or 3 days in a bowl and you’ll be all set!

    62. Kristin, I made my starter just a few minutes ago. Do I go ahead and put it in the fridge? Or, do I leave it out on the counter till it ferments and then stick it in the fridge. I really do not need five days worth of starter. Its just me.

      1. Hi Pamela! You will need to keep it on the counter and feed it like I explained. If you put it in the refrigerator now, you’ll just have a flour and water batter that hasn’t fermented yet. It won’t contain the beneficial bacteria and yeasts that make bread rise. If you end up with more starter than you think you need after it has fully fermented in 5-7 days, you can either give some to a friend, bake extra that first day, or just discard it. For one person, you’ll likely only need to keep a quart-size jar of starter in your fridge. Happy baking, and do let me know if you have other questions!

    63. Thank you so much for this!!! I’m a sourdough newbie and I appreciate your time helping us! Question…. once the starter is alive and happy…. how often do you change and wash the storage container?

      1. I actually don’t, Alexis. As long as you’re using a glass or ceramic container, it isn’t usually necessary. When I feed the starter with new flour and water, I scrape the sides of the jar with a silicon spatula to keep them cleaned off. I sometimes scrape the top of the jar when it gets too much dried starter on it. But other than that, it just hangs out in its jar. I do have a post on reviving a weak sourdough starter, and that covers when you might want to wash and/or change containers.

        I know it seems crazy to us to not wash the container, but the happy microbes that keep the sourdough starter bubbly and active will also ward off any harmful microbes that would need washed away. Enjoy your baking! Sourdough is so fun and rewarding.

    64. This is a poppa. Hope that’s OK. I’ve made several attempts to bake sourdough bread with fair results. Not one of the loaves was perfect. No problem with the crust, but cannot seem to get the rise I’m looking for nor does it have that incredibly delicious sour taste. Can you help?

      1. Hi David! Of course it’s alright to have a poppa chime in. 🙂 One of the biggest mistakes with sourdough that doesn’t want to rise enough is that the dough isn’t wet enough. So my first suggestion would be to mix your dough with more water the next time you bake and see what happens. When I mix up bread, the dough is so sticky that I can hardly handle it with my hands after mixing in my stand mixer. But after it rises overnight, it is just a bit sticky and can be kneaded and shaped by hand.

        Some other thoughts… Whole grain sourdough loaves will be denser than those made with white flour, so that’s a possibility. And if there’s chlorine in your water, it can hinder the beneficial microbes and lead to a weak starter.

        The other possibility is that you have weaker microbe strains in your area, and therefore in your starter, and they just don’t have enough oomph to make a great loaf of sourdough. That sometimes happens through no fault of your own. 🙂 If that’s the case, you might be happier with a purchased starter.

        I hope that helps and gives you some options to consider. Happy baking!

      1. Hi Jariliz. The flavor is usually pleasantly sour, but it can be milder or more sour depending on your location and the microbe strains you catch. Some areas produce a really tart starter that gives a stronger flavor to your bread. Other locations produce mild starters that just have a little sourness to them. If you find your starter is unpleasantly sour, you can try using and feeding it more frequently. Sometimes the flavor will mellow and even out after you get into a good, regular habit of feeding your starter and baking with it. But if it is still unpleasantly sour, you might do better purchasing a sourdough starter to get something that isn’t as strong. I hope that helps! Let me know if you have more questions. 🙂 Happy baking!

      1. Hi Marissa! Once you stir it up when you feed it, you can just leave it alone to do its fermenting thing. So excited that you’re starting out into the awesome world of sourdough!

    65. Hi, I was wondering after the first day of starting my starter how many days does it need to ferment before I can start baking with it? And the first time I bake with it should I feed it first or after or both? Thanks.

      1. Hi there, Kim. Knowing when to bake will vary depending on your local microbes and how quickly they ferment the flour and water mixture. In most areas, you’ll find that a starter is ready to go around 5-7 days with daily feeding, though some ambitious microbes will get the starter going even faster. Once it is sufficiently bubbly and fermented, you can definitely bake right away! If you’re not ready to make anything right away, you can just put it in the fridge, then pull it out and feed it a few hours before using it in a recipe.

        Does that help?

    66. Hi, I’m just wondering if it would be OK to use regular unbleached flour? I know it’s not as healthy for you, but it’s all I have right now.

      1. I used Robin Hood unbleached white flour and it worked! My very first successful sourdough starter. Thanks Kristen!

    67. Hi, I was 5-6 days in on making my starter, then went away for 6 days, the starter was left on the counter to ferment while i was away. When I came back, it had dark liquid and some white film on it, and it was bubbling. I just stirred it, then fed it, figuring its just bacteria, isn’t that what we are creating…? Now i am paranoid that maybe it was spoiled and I should throw it out and start over. My hubby thinks its fine. Like, back in the day when they discovered making bread, i am sure it wasn’t fed everyday or in a fridge for that matter….. What is your advice? thanks

      1. Hi there, Kristy! Welcome to the world of sourdough! The dark liquid on top of your starter is called hooch, and it’s harmless. The white film, though, sounds like mold. You definitely want friendly bacteria and yeasts growing in there, but mold isn’t good. When starters are left out at room temperature, they have to be fed every 12-24 hours, depending on how warm the room is. When they’re not fed, that’s when they start to go bad.

        It is possible that there were enough good bacteria and yeasts in your starter that it was able to keep most of the mold at bay. If so, it should smell pleasantly sour, but not rotten. There’s definitely a difference! You could feed it, let it get really bubbly on the counter, and see how it smells or look for more white film.

        I have salvaged a neglected starter that began to mold in the fridge, so all is not lost if you think yours started to go bad.

        Let me know how it goes!

    68. Hi – I put a starter on Saturday – I used 1 cup rye and 1 1/4 cup water – it was bubble next day. I have been adding 1 cup flour to 1/2 cup water about three times now (It is now Monday) It bubbled over my glass dish! I had to transfer it to something larger.

      How do I know when it is ready to turn into a recipe?

      Do I use all of it? Or do I keep some aside to put in fridge and feed and make another batch?

      I find it a bit confusing.

      Thanks so much.

      1. Hi Janice! Congratulations on successfully getting your own sourdough starter going! It sounds like you have happy microbes in your area. When your starter is nice and bubbly like that, it is all ready to go. You can start baking with it anytime. You don’t want to use it all when baking, though, otherwise you’ll always be starting new starters instead of keeping the one you have going.

        So when you bake, be sure to leave 1/2 to 1 cup starter in your jar or container. Then you’ll add flour and water just like you have been to “feed” it. Put it back in the fridge and let it rest until you’re ready to use it again. When you want to bake again, you’ll pull it out, maybe add a little more flour and water depending on how much is in the jar, and let it warm up a bit to activate. Does that help?

    69. Hi, I’m getting ready to get a starter going, we’ve recently been trying to change from traditional flours to the sprouted flours. I’ve seen sprouted rye flour, do you know of any reason it would NOT be good to use the sprouted flour over the regular? Great post, thanks for the info. Jen

      1. Hi Jen! Glad you found this helpful. Your question was a great one and actually one I had never thought of! As far as I know, there’s no reason that you couldn’t use sprouted rye flour if you wanted to for a sourdough starter. I checked in with the folks at Cultures for Health’s site and they agreed.

        Sprouted flour is substantially more expensive, so it can be helpful to keep in mind that many of the benefits of sprouting are also true of sourdough. It may not actually be necessary to use sprouted flour, but I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t or can’t. If you do, I’d love to hear how it turns out for you!

        1. Yes, that does help. Thanks so much. Another question – can I feed my rye starter with regular unbleached flour to feed it – I did – it does not bubble as quickly and I notice a light brown liquid resting on top – I stirred it back into the mixture – and smells slightly sour, but pleasantly sour.

          1. Yes, you can certainly do that. I like feeding my starter rye as much as possible, but sometimes if I have a different flour handy I’ll just use that. The brown liquid is the hooch, which is harmless and can be stirred right back in like you did. Those starters aren’t usually too particular so long as they have something to eat! 🙂

    70. Hello, I just got married 2 weeks ago and I want to bake all my bread myself instead of buying it at the store. I do bake bread a lot but have never done a starter. Over the last couple of years I’ve became very sensitive to gluten but I can’t get away from bread. I’m hoping maybe this fermenting might help me digest it better.

      I just had question on the starter. After I make the starter and it’s ready to use do I take it out of the fridge and feed it then wait a while? And after I used what I need do I add more to it or wait till the next time I need it? And if I don’t use it for a while and I just leave it in the fridge, how often should I take it out and feed it? Thank you!

      1. Hi Mindy! Congratulations on your recent marriage! I wish I had known about sourdough baking when I first got married. You’ve got a head start!

        I do like to take the starter out of the fridge and feed it a little before using. It helps to get it nice and active before baking. After you use it, you can feed it before before putting it back in the fridge, but sometimes if I’m in a hurry I don’t. It is a good idea to be mindful about how much starter is left in the jar after you bake. If you make a huge batch of bread and there’s just 1/2 cup of starter left, feeding it before putting it in the fridge would be a good idea. If you have a bunch of starter left in the jar, then maybe it’s not as important. If you won’t be using it for a while, like weeks at a time, then you might need to bring it out of the fridge, dump a little out (like a cup?), and feed a little. But they really are very resilient.

        I had trouble with mold once in my starter when I went weeks without baking and left it in the door of my fridge. Even when that happens, you can rescue it! I wrote about that here.

        Have fun! Let me know if you have other questions.

    71. It is necessary to feed the starter before using? And should I bring to room temp before using? Thanks. This is new for me

      1. Hi Denise! Yes, it’s a good idea to feed your starter the day before baking, or at least earlier in the day. That makes it more active. I do like to let mine come to room temperature because it perks up quite a bit more than if I add it while really cold straight from the fridge. Sometimes, in a pinch, I may not do either of those things if I know it’s been fed recently. Sourdough is pretty forgiving, for the most part.

    72. Hi Kristen,

      I am a first time starter and I am on day 6! Every time I mix my starter to feed it, it returns to a pancake batter consistency. However, as I check it and before I feed it, it has a layer of dark water over it. I know that later this is called hooch, but in the development stage should this be happening? My starter is bubbling but because of the layer of water I’m not sure if it is ready to use. The bubbles don’t all permeate the water, just the lower batter layer.

      Thank you for your help!

      1. Hi Hannah! Congrats on getting your starter going. That’s always so fun! It sounds like you are ready to go with an active and healthy starter. I’d say to get baking. Woo hoo! The hooch won’t have any bubbles in it, so what you’re describing sounds very normal. You can start baking and store your starter in your fridge now if you’d like. Have fun!

    73. Wondering if you can send me an email so I can send a pic of my starter from this morning. Im on day 5, first timer. Want to make sure it’s ok before I use to bake! Thank you!

    74. Hi Kristen! I love your post about starting and keeping a sourdough starter and I have a few first timer questions for you.

      *How do you know when your starter is ready to be used and mature enough to be stored in the fridge?
      -I started mine Sunday night, this evening it will be at 48hrs. This morning its’ activity was noticeable and there was a sweet-yeasty smell to it. If the activity progresses like this should 5 days be enough time before first use/refrigeration or is it better to let it mature and develop a full 7 days.

      *How do you know if your starter is any good- or if it has spoiled?
      -Other than visible mold and lack of activity are there any other indications that it has spoiled or/and won’t be usable. This morning mine had “dried-out” on the top surface and had pulled itself away from the sides of the bowl a bit it seemed (although this could have been due to my moving the bowl to remove the cloth). Is this drying of the top layer normal/ok?

      *Is it ok to feed your starter twice in 24hrs during the first few days of the development process?
      -I fed my stater once during its’ first 24hrs (cool room temp, ceiling fan and A/C, decent circulation). This morning I opened all our windows and turned a few fans on since we are having some much needed cooler weather. Due to the noticeable increase in activity and the change of smell over 12hrs (5pm-5am) and the fact that our apartment will have MUCH better air circulation and there will be temperature swings today (warmer, 10-15+ degrees higher)… So I fed it again (only after 12hrs). Stirred it in and after an hour the activity was pushing a lot of bubbles and lumps to the surface. I think it was the best choice given the activity level and the warmer temperature it will be in today. Should I feed it again tonight, twice in 24hrs?

      *During the developmental stage feedings are you aiming for pancake batter consistency after each feeding?
      – I am also using whole rye flour, and have been adding 1/4 cup flour to about 1/3 cup filtered water at each feeding to maintain a rather wet/pancake batter consistency. Adding a bit more water also helps with the “drying-out” of the top layer I mentioned above as well.

      *I have a 1.5 liter glass jar with lid that I plan on using to store mine in after it has matured. How do you transfer- simply by pouring and scrapping the bowl? I do not need to keep as much starter on hand as yourself (baking one good sized loaf a weekend, and on occasion one other baked good), how much is enough to save of reserve (matured starter) and the proper about to feed it after each use. Is there a minimum about that you should not reach below? And if at any point I need to grow more back is that possible as well?- say around the holidays if I have planned a bunch of baking.

      *Your bowl pictured above with the “good” starter has very clean sides, should I be using a damp towel to clean the bowl sides or is swiping it as best as possible with a spatula enough cleaning effort?

      THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

      1. Hi Caitlin. Glad you are starting the sourdough adventure! I’ll go through your questions one at a time:

        -Knowing when your starter is ready to use… Yes, it sounds like yours might be all ready to go by day 5. No need to wait another two days if it’s all bubbly and thoroughly fermented.

        -Knowing if it’s bad… It’ll smell bad, like rotten or putrid (lovely description, isn’t it?). As long as you are feeding regularly as you get it going, anything that seems dry on top will likely just be some dried starter. You can either remove it or stir it back in.

        -Feeding twice a day… Definitely! I think it sounds like you’re doing just what you need to do to get a great starter going.

        -Consistency… Yes, I go for pancake batter. Sounds like you’ve got it!

        -Transferring… I poured from the bowl into a large measuring cup, and then transferred to the storage jar that way. It was an extra step, but less messy.

        -How much to keep… for as little as you need to use at a time, you might find that a quart jar of starter is enough for you. As long as you keep a good 1/2 cup of starter in the jar before replenishing with more flour and water, you should be fine. I honestly don’t measure the flour and water that I add back in for feeding, but if you’re using a quart jar, you’ll probably add 1-2 cups of flour, then the same of water, to get the pancake batter consistency again. If you are going to do a lot of baking around the holidays, you could just keep your starter on the counter and feed it extra, using the extra that you make for your holiday baking.

        -Cleaning… no need to wipe the bowl with a towel. I just scrap the sides with a rubber spatula or something similar to keep the sides relatively clean.

        Let me know if I need to explain anything further! Happy baking. 🙂

    75. So now I understand why they toss out starter – if you don’t regularly discard at least half and replenish with fresh flour and water, the starter becomes unhappy, and almost “sick.” My starter stopped looking lively 3 weeks in to this process and a few others that didn’t discard.

      Discarding is ESSENTIAL to keeping a strong and healthy lively starter. I learned the hard way. I’m only writing this for your benefit, please discard!

      1. Hi Jenna. I’ve been baking with sourdough for over five years and have never had to discard any. I’m wondering if we maybe use ours differently? When I bake, since I’m baking for a family, I feed it to replenish and perk up after refrigerating, bring to room temp and get really bubbly, then use about 3/4 of my jar on multiple loaves of bread and then usually one other item. After I take what I need, it goes back in the fridge to be fed the next time I bake. My starter is very live and bubbly.

        Different microbe combinations can give starters that behave differently, too, so that could be at play. For the most part, starters are pretty resilient. If discarding is working best for you and your starter, by all means, keep it up! But it hasn’t been essential for my starter and baking habits, probably because I use so much (and in turn, feed) regularly.

    76. Love this sourdough recipe, the most simple I’ve read so far, definitely trying this soon. A few questions:

      1) most recipes have you discard almost all of the starter every time you feed. Is this really necessary?
      2) will this starter work in mostly all sourdough recipes?
      3) once you get your starter going and you’re at the weekly (refrigerated) feedings, how much flour and water do you feed it weekly? a cup of flour and a cup of water like before?

      Thank you so much!

      1. Hi Jenna! I’ve never tossed out starter when I begin a new one or anytime after. I don’t know why it’s called for, but I don’t do it. Yes, you can use this in any sourdough recipe! The rye flour adds a unique flavor, but you can use any flour in your starter if you don’t like rye. When I feed mine, I don’t really measure. I dump flour in the jar and add water so that it’s about 2/3 of the way filled and the right consistency. I keep mine in a half gallon mason jar, so when I feed it, I probably add about 2-3 cups of flour and about 2-3 cups water. I tend to bake in bulk, so I use a lot of starter all at one time and then have to add a lot of flour and water to replenish it. Hope this helps! Enjoy your sourdough!

    77. Love your website! I am a TOTAL newbie to bread starters, so please excuse my questions if they seem simple! Anyways, so once you start this can you keep it going indefinitely as long as you are feeding it as needed? Also, is it okay to use a different flour if you started with say wheat in a month could you use rye? Thanks so much for sharing all of this.

      1. Hi Amanda Lynn! Glad you are interested in sourdough. 🙂 Yes, starters will usually last indefinitely so long as they aren’t neglected. Some sourdough starters have quite a history! Yes, you can use different flours. I usually use rye, but if I happen to only have wheat or oat ground, I’ll use that. They really are quite simple once you have one going.

    78. Does 1 cup flour and 1 cup of water make 2 cups of starter? And how much starter must you keep to feed a new batch? Do you put a lid on your jar when you store it?

      Thanks for the great article!

      1. Hi Sarah! It’ll make a little less than 2 cups once it’s all blended together. I like to keep about 1 cup in the jar to keep it going, but I’ve heard that 1/2 cup will work. It would just take longer to get it all bubbly after feeding it, I think. I have a lid loosely on mine in the refrigerator for storage. Hope that all helps!

    79. Hi Kristen, with this recipe is it necessary to throw away half of the starter in the beginning stages? And how do we know when it’s ready? I just started mine three days ago and it’s starting bubble nicely. Thanks!

      1. Hi Maria! I’ve never found it necessary to do that when starting a starter. Once it is nicely bubbly and smells fermented, it’s probably ready to go! Some seem to be very eager and get going more quickly than others. It usually takes somewhere around 5 days, but it can be earlier or later depending on the local microbes. Have fun!

    80. I have a SD starter that I have fed weekly with Amaranth flour and kept in the fridge. It hasn’t been doing well the last two weeks, I pulled it out today and fed her a little local honey and put her on the counter – she is raging! I plan on baking some tomorrow. So, I am leaving her out on the counter overnight….questions are 1) would you leave the lid on or off and 2) was this a bad idea? LOL – guess I’ll know in the morning….

      1. Hi Marnie! When I feed my starter, I do leave the lid slightly off. Not sure if makes a difference, but that’s what I do at least! I’ve never used a starter with amaranth, but I have been told that adding any sweetener can throw off the microbial balance later. I don’t have any personal experience with that, though. How did things end up in the morning for you?

      1. It’s really your choice, Sujit. The microbes that make your starter aren’t super picky. You can use all purpose, whole wheat, or other flours, too. I actually prefer whole grain rye, but I’ve used whole wheat and all purpose to feed my starter if that’s what I’ve had handy. Different flours might give different flavor, but any will work so long as you have good microbes in the air around you. Have fun!

    81. I do not have a comment on this post, but this is the page where I saw your Lilla Rose site link. In there is said to email you if interested in ordering 3 or more items, which I am; but, I am also interested in perhaps joining up under you and was wondering if you can provide me details etc. Thanks!

        1. Hi my son’s pitbull loves the crunchy overflow. We think he will have the best natural flora in his gut. My starter has gone from one small jar to a gallon even though I forget to feed all of the jars.
          Cheryl