How to Start a Sourdough Starter

If you are new here you will soon discover my love of sourdough. Like so many other people, I began my sourdough journey this past summer. I had no idea there were so many uses for sourdough besides bread. I’ve made pancakes, waffles, tortillas, biscuits, cake, cookies, and so much more! Here’s how to get your sourdough starter going.

What You’ll Need

  • A large glass jar or bowl
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cup

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour
  • Filtered water (the filtered part is quite important. Chlorine will kill your starter! See notes for what to do it you don’t have filtered water)

What if I Don’t Have Filtered Water?

You can still make this process work without filtered water, but it will require more thought and time. Fill a vessel with water and leave it uncovered overnight on the counter. This will release any chlorine within the water, thus making it ready to use the following morning.

How to Start a Sourdough Starter

Day 1. The Initial Mix

Add 1 cup of all-purpose flour into a large, sterilized jar. Pour in 1/2 cup of filtered water to the flour. Mix until it resembles a thick paste. Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the jar. We want everything combined well. Cover with a towel and allow to sit on the counter for 24 hours.

Day 2. The First Feeding

Remove half of the mixture and repeat the process of Day 1 (add 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water). Stir very well, cover, and allow to sit for another 24 hours.

Day 3, 4, and 5. Repeat

Repeat the same steps from Day 2 for Day 3, 4, and 5. This means on these three days we discard half of what is in the jar, add 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water, mix well, cover, and leave for 24 hours.

Day 6 and 7. Feeding Twice Per Day

The process is the same for both of these days. Remove half of what is in the jar, add 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water, mix, and cover. The only difference is that now we will feed it every 12 hours instead of waiting 24 hours.

By day seven your starter should be active and ready for baking! Check for signs of activity: doubling in size between feedings, bubbly, and a strong acidic aroma.

Maintenance and Storage

Now that you have an active sourdough starter, what’s next? In order to keep your starter alive it must be fed (my husband likes to say it’s our second baby, and he may not be wrong). Here’s how to maintain your starter.

Frequent Use

If I’m planning to use my starter frequently (once per day or every other day), I leave it out on the counter and feed it once a day. I give it one cup of flour and a little less than one cup of filtered water. Stir and cover.

Occasional Use

If there’s ever a time that I know I won’t be using it as often I store it in the refrigerator. I feed it one cup of flour and a little less than one cup of filtered water, stir, cover, and place in the fridge. Refrigeration slows down the fermentation process, so I can get away with feeding it every 1-2 weeks.

Keep in Mind

  • Chlorinated water will kill your starter! This is why filtered water is so important to this process.
  • Be sure to properly sterilize the jar before filling it with sourdough. This will remove any unwanted mold or bacteria. We don’t want those growing within our starter!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s The Gray Liquid on the Surface?

If you wake up one morning and see an oily gray substance on top of your starter, don’t panic. This is called hooch and it does not mean you’ve ruined your starter. It does, however, mean that your starter needs to be fed soon.

For example, I leave my starter out on the counter for 3 days and only feed it once. I notice some hooch forming so here’s what I do. I feed my started a soon as I can and stir it all together (hooch and all). I wait at least 8 hours to use my starter so the flour as some time to ferment, or I put my starter in the refrigerator if I know I won’t use it for the next few days.

Do I Have to Keep Discarding?

Some people see all the discarding you have to do to get the starter going and think sourdough is incredibly wasteful. I promise that it isn’t after the first week. Here’s why we do so much discarding at first.

The amount you feed your starter is based on how much starter you have, so if you don’t discard during the initial 7-day build up you’ll have more starter than you can possibly use!

What Consistency Should My Starter Be?

The ideal consistency for a sourdough starter is similar to pancake batter. It should not be thick and pasty. If yours is on the thicker side just add a little more water during until the consistency becomes like pancake batter.

When Should I Take it Out of the Fridge if I Intend to Use it?

I suggest taking it out the night before, feeding it, and then it’ll be ready to use by the next morning. I like to give my starter at least 8 hours to ferment before I use it in a recipe.


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