How to make sourdough starter

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Whether it conjures up a crusty, flavorful loaf of bread or a bubbling crock of flour/water starter, sourdough is a treasured part of many bakers’ kitchens. But where does the path to sourdough bread begin? Right in your own kitchen, with your own homemade sourdough starter.

Sourdough baking is as much art as science. The method you’ll read here for making sourdough starter isn’t an exact match for the one you read on another site, or in a cookbook, or in your great-grandma’s diary. But it’s the tried-and-true method we use for making starter here at King Arthur, and we feel you’ll have success with it.

Our Sourdough Baking Guide offers all the tips and advice you new (as well as veteran) sourdough bakers need for your guaranteed sourdough success.

How to make sourdough starter

Ingredients

To begin your starter

  • 1 cup (113g) whole rye (pumpernickel) or whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (113g) cool water*

To feed your starter

  • scant 1 cup (113g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (113g) cool water (if your house is warm), or lukewarm water (if your house is cool)

Instructions

Day 1: Combine the pumpernickel or whole wheat flour with the cool water in a non-reactive container. Glass, crockery, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic all work fine for this. Make sure the container is large enough to hold your starter as it grows; we recommend at least 1-quart capacity.

How to make sourdough starter

Stir everything together thoroughly; make sure there’s no dry flour anywhere. Cover the container loosely and let the mixture sit at warm room temperature (about 70°F) for 24 hours. See “tips,” below, for advice about growing starters in a cold house.

Day 2: You may see no activity at all in the first 24 hours, or you may see a bit of growth or bubbling. Either way, discard half the starter (113 grams, about 1/2 cup), and add to the remainder a scant 1 cup (113 grams) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup (113 grams) cool water (if your house is warm); or lukewarm water (if it’s cold).

How to make sourdough starter

Mix well, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for 24 hours.

Perfect your technique

How to make sourdough starter

How to make your own sourdough starter

Day 3: By the third day, you’ll likely see some activity — bubbling; a fresh, fruity aroma, and some evidence of expansion. It’s now time to begin two feedings daily, as evenly spaced as your schedule allows. For each feeding, weigh out 113 grams starter; this will be a generous 1/2 cup, once it’s thoroughly stirred down. Discard any remaining starter.

Add a scant 1 cup (113 grams) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup (113 grams) water to the 113 grams starter. Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.

Day 4: Weigh out 113 grams starter, and discard any remaining starter. Repeat step #6.

Day 5: Weigh out 113 grams starter, and discard any remaining starter. Repeat step #6. By the end of day #5, the starter should have at least doubled in volume. You’ll see lots of bubbles; there may be some little “rivulets” on the surface, full of finer bubbles. Also, the starter should have a tangy aroma — pleasingly acidic, but not overpowering. If your starter hasn’t risen much and isn’t showing lots of bubbles, repeat discarding and feeding every 12 hours on day 6, and day 7, if necessary — as long as it takes to create a vigorous (risen, bubbly) starter. Note: see “tips,” below.

How to make sourdough starter

Once the starter is ready, give it one last feeding. Discard all but 113 grams (a generous 1/2 cup). Feed as usual. Let the starter rest at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours; it should be active, with bubbles breaking the surface. Hate discarding so much starter? See “tips,” below.

Remove however much starter you need for your recipe — typically no more than 227 grams, about 1 cup. If your recipe calls for more than 1 cup of starter, give it a couple of feedings without discarding, until you’ve made enough for your recipe plus 113 grams to keep and feed again.

How to make sourdough starter

Transfer the remaining 113 grams of starter to its permanent home: a crock, jar, or whatever you’d like to store it in long-term. Feed this reserved starter with 1 scant cup (113 grams) of flour and 1/2 cup (113 grams) water, and let it rest at room temperature for several hours, to get going, before covering it. If you’re storing starter in a screw-top jar, screw the top on loosely rather than airtight.

Store this starter in the refrigerator, and feed it regularly; we recommend feeding it with a scant 1 cup (113 grams) flour and 1/2 cup (113 grams) water once a week.

Tips from our Bakers

Why do you need to discard half the starter? It seems so wasteful. But unless you discard starter at some point, eventually you’ll end up with a very large container of starter. Also, keeping the volume down offers the yeast more food to eat each time you feed it; it’s not fighting with quite so many other little yeast cells to get enough to eat. You don’t have to actually discard it if you don’t want to, either; you can give it to a friend, or use it to bake. There are quite a few recipes on our site using “discard” starter, including pizza crust, pretzels, and waffles, and even chocolate cake. If you’re still uncomfortable dealing with discard, though, try maintaining a smaller starter: the smaller the starter, the smaller the amount of discard.

Why does this starter begin with whole-grain flour? Because the wild yeast that gives sourdough starter its life is more likely to be found in the flora- and fauna-rich environment of a whole-grain flour than in all-purpose flour. What if all you have is all-purpose flour, no whole wheat? Go ahead and use all-purpose; you may find the starter simply takes a little longer to get going. Also, if you feed your starter on a long-term basis with anything other than the all-purpose flour called for here, it will probably look different (thicker or thinner, a different color) and act differently as well. Not to say you can’t feed your starter with alternate flours; just that the results may not be what you expect.

Bake it better! Watch King Arthur baker/blogger Kye Ameden demonstrate one of the techniques from this recipe: Maintaining Sourdough Starter Without the Mess

Learn how to make a bubbling sourdough starter using white bread flour and water. After feeding the starter for five days, you can use it to make a sourdough loaf

Ingredients

  • 250g strong white bread flour , preferably organic or stoneground

Method

  • STEP 1

Day 1:
To begin your starter, mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water in a jar or, better still, a plastic container. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for 24 hrs.

Day 2:
Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for another 24 hrs.

Day 3:
Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for another 24 hrs.

Day 4:
You should start to see some activity in the mixture now; there should be some bubbles forming and bubbling on top. Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for another 24 hrs.

Day 5:
The mixture should be very active now and ready for making your levain (starter). If it’s not bubbling, continue to feed it on a daily basis until it does. When it’s ready, it should smell like yogurt.

You now have a starter, which is the base to the bread. You’ll need to look after it, but naming is optional! Keep it in the fridge (it will stay dormant) and 24 hrs before you want to use it, pour half of it off and feed it with 100g flour and 100g water. Leave it at room temperature and it should become active again. The longer the starter has been dormant, the more times it will need to be refreshed – the process of pouring off half the starter and replacing it with new flour and water – to reactivate. If your starter is ready to use, a teaspoonful of the mixture should float in warm water.
The starter can now be used to make white sourdough bread.

How to make sourdough starter

Some compare it to a lover. Others compare it to a baby. It’s great training for learning how to maintain all types of intimate relationships. We’re talking about none other than. a sourdough starter. Every day at the same time you’ll feed it food and water and lovingly watch it come alive, observing its every rise and fall. Together, you and your starter can make anything, from pancakes to bread.

A sourdough starter is a collection of wild yeasts naturally found everywhere, from the air in your home to the flour you’re using. Whole-grain flours contain more of the wheat kernel, so they tend to be richer in wild yeasts than more processed white flours. Organic would be even better. I recommend beginning a starter with a flour blend that contains some whole-grain flour (such as whole wheat or rye flour) in order to help jump-start the process. You can absolutely use 100% all-purpose flour: the mixture will seem looser but will function just as well as a leavener. If using 100% whole-grain, the texture of the starter will be thicker and less runny.

To keep a starter as consistent and predictable as possible, use the same flour ratios—but baking sourdough is all about experimentation, so the sky is the limit on what you use.

Be sure to give your starter a nice environment to live in. Begin with a clean container so that you avoid breeding harmful bacteria. A clear glass jar is best because you can visibly track your starter’s progress from all sides. If your tap water is too chemically treated, filtered water would be a better choice to avoid harming the yeast culture.

The ambient temperature will determine how fast the starter develops. Do your best to place it somewhere out of direct sunlight and somewhere that’s between 75° to 80°. During colder days, fermentation will happen more slowly. On hot days, you may have to feed it twice and use colder water to avoid over-fermentation.

The amount of starter yielded from this recipe is perfect for using in our sourdough bread recipe, but if you won’t be baking every day, there’s a variety of ways to reserve flour supply and limit the amount of discard you’re producing. You can reduce the amount of flour and water you use during each feeding, so long as you keep the 1:2:2 ratio of starter:water:flour.

Once your starter is active and predictable in its rise and fall, you can also put it on hold by placing it in the fridge and feeding it once a week or even less frequently. (Fun fact: I once resurrected a starter that hadn’t been fed for 6 months.) The colder temperature will slow down the fermentation activity drastically, so you won’t see much change happening in the fridge. 2 to 4 hours before each feeding, pull it out of the fridge to let it warm up to room temperature. You can put it back in the fridge immediately after a feeding.

For even longer storage, you can spread your starter in a thin layer across a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat and let it dehydrate completely in an off oven. Once completely dry, crumble into shards and store in an airtight container, out of direct sunlight in a cool place. This is essentially homemade yeast. To revive, mix with water and let sit for 6 to 12 hours until completely softened, then continue with a feeding. While some bakers like to freeze their starters, we don’t recommend this method because there is a risk of killing your yeast culture with the crystallization that happens when water turns into ice.

For both of these holding methods, remember that you must feed your starter on a regular schedule to fully revive it back to normal activity. Once active, always make sure it passes the float test (see recipe below) before using in a sourdough bread recipe!

If you’ve made this recipe, let us know what you think by leaving us a comment and a rating down below. For more bread ideas, check out these 20+ recipes for bread enthusiasts.

With a little patience, the ancient secret to stellar bread can be yours.

The idea of a sourdough starter—a live culture of wild yeasts that you feed, using it to “start” breads—can seem intimidating. But a sourdough starter requires just flour and water. To make one, all you need is two ingredients, a digital scale, and about five minutes every day for up to a week. The result? You’ll be able to bake better (read: more complex and delicious) fresh-baked breads.

Millennia ago, sourdough is what the first bakers made. If you feel intimidated, remember this: people were making it since long before we knew what yeasts were, since before we had today’s modern advantages of packaged organic flour, digital scales, and tap water.

Yes, it’s a project. Yes, you can do this. It just takes a little time and patience: roughly half an hour of work spread over four to seven days.

Before we delve into process, let’s cover some basics. Bread is fermented, like wine, kombucha, or kefir. Yeast initiates this fermentation. Sourdough is bread that has been fermented using wild yeasts, meaning invisible yeasts naturally occurring in the environment: floating in the air inside and outside, coating surfaces, and even existing naturally in flour. Yeast from the store-bought bag is different. This yeast contains just one strain. When you make sourdough starter, you’re calling on many wild yeasts, meaning many strains.

Using many strains makes for a complex fermentation that can’t be attained with commercial yeasts. In short, employing a sourdough starter makes great bread possible.

Beginning

To begin, you’ll need a scale, mason jar (or another loosely sealable container), water, and unbleached organic white flour. Some starter recipes call for other flours, like whole wheat or rye, but we’re going to keep things simple with white. It is very important, though, to stick to unbleached organic white flour. This ensures that no unwanted chemicals will hamper the gentle development of our starter.

Using your scale, measure 150 grams of flour and 150 grams of warm water. Add them to your jar. Mix with a spoon until you have a uniform beige concoction. Leave the jar uncovered for about an hour, then place a cloth over your jar and loosely cover.

Now, wait until the same time tomorrow.

Middle

Over the first 24 hours, wild yeasts have been working. They are slower to act than commercial yeasts, but they’ve kicked into steady gear. Our next step is to do something we’ll do each day until the starter is ready in close to a week: we feed it, which allows it to grow stronger.

This process begins with a step that might seem counterintuitive. At this point, we must discard well over half of the starter—all but about 80 grams. (To calculate the weight of your starter, subtract the mass of a clean mason jar from the mass of the one holding your starter.)

Next, add 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour to the starter. Mix well. Leave uncovered for about an hour. Set aside until the same time tomorrow.

On day three, we repeat this process. We also repeat the process on day four. By then, you’ll notice the starter has developed a pungent tang. It will smell like putting your nose directly to a fresh slice of sourdough, only more so.

We continue the daily discarding-and-adding until the starter is ready. There are many variables shaping when that will be, including temperature, environment, and flour type. Allow for some flexibility. If you dutifully feed your nascent starter every day for five to seven days, it should be ready.

How will you know when? It will be gooey, bubbly, quicker to rise up your glass, and develop a pungent smell just a handful of hours after feeding.

Congrats! You now have homemade sourdough starter. You’ll probably notice that you’ve developed something of an understanding of your starter’s behavior: what it needs, and how how it changes over time. Stored in the fridge, your starter will still require the same feeding, only weekly rather than daily. And instead of discarding excess starter, you can now use it as the leavening to begin, or to “start,” a fresh loaf of sourdough bread (or sourdough stuffing).

A detailed set of video instructions on how to get a sourdough starter going from scratch.

One of the things I am asked most often about is how to make a starter. There are various way of getting a starter and you can get your own one going easily for very little outlay, other than a good quality organic flour, by capturing the wild yeasts and bacteria already present in both the flour and your house. That said, if you are enthusiastic about getting going with your baking then I usually suggest that you first concentrate on learning how to make great sourdough bread with a reliable healthy starter that is already making beautiful successful sourdough loaves, at least to begin with. If you don’t have a friend with has a lively starter then you can purchase an established sourdough starter that already contains reliable yeasts.

How To Make Your Own Starter

To create your own sourdough starter you just need two basic ingredients — organic wholemeal flour and water, and some basic equipment and conditions.

The conditions necessary to make a sourdough starter

  • A warm room. Not hot, not cold, just a room that is pleasant to be in.
  • A non-reactive container (starters are acidic and will react with certain metals) to make and store the starter in. (I prefer glass but plastic is fine too).
  • A whisk to incorporate air – you can use a danish dough whisk if you want.
  • A breathable cover or a lid such as a clean tea towel or coffee filter, or a loose fitting disposable shower cap.
  • A space to catch your wild yeast with no other cultured foods nearby, or there will be a cross over and you might not get the yeast you need.

A simple way to start is to put a 1/2 cup of organic stonegound wholemeal flour and just over a 1/2 cup of warm ( 28 C ) water in a large jar. If it feels too thick, add a little more water. It should be like a thick milkshake.

Whisk the mixture vigorously to incorporate air and cover with your breathable lid. Allow your mixture to sit in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. Between the 12 or 24 hour mark you might be lucky enough to see some bubbles, indicating that organisms are present, but if you don’t then don’t worry. Repeat the feeding twice a day by removing a cup full (approximately half) of the mixture, and replacing with a 1/2 cup of flour and a 1/2 cup of water at 28°C (i.e. replace the amount you took out).

Stir vigorously, cover, and wait another 12 to 24 hours.

From now on you will need to remove half of the starter before every feeding and discard it so that the starter you do have can multiply in organisms without your jar overflowing.

How long it takes to get your starter going depends on many factors but it can take anything from 2-10 days. The sourdough starter should be beautifully bubbly and have enough yeasts and bacteria to be active enough to bake with. It should double in 3 -4 hours.

Once you have your microbes captured then you can change flour, and we teach you about each different starter and how to make the kind of bread you want to make with a white starter, a wholemeal starter, or a rye starter, chocolate starter, spelt starter or pretty much any flour you want to use in the sourdough club online course.

Once you have established your starter, you can then move to a maintenance schedule. Maintenance is when you refresh, proof and then hold in the fridge between bakes. DO remember to refresh your starter before you bake.

On rare occasions, you may have a good go at making your own starter only to find that it smells or tastes horrid or that the bread or other baked goods it produces are not very pleasant. This means that the bacteria that has occupied your starter is not the right kind, and the lactic acid, which makes the starter inhospitable to other organisms, hasn’t got going. You will need to discard this one and start over, moving your culture to a different room.

I most often find that people who are having difficulties have meddled with the process trying to fast track it or not refreshed frequently enough. Please be patient. You do not need hot water, live yeast, grapes or any other extra thing to get yeast going. It is naturally present in the grain that you use and, for the best results, use stoneground organic wholemeal flour.

For people who are completely new to sourdough, I suggest using an established culture as it is easier to get started with. When people first get going and they are keen to bake bread straight away, it is faster and simpler to use an established one that already contains active yeasts that have been populating the dough over a long period of time. An established dough is stable, active, and resilient. It is because of its established bacteria and yeast that in the first attempts of making sourdough bread you will be guaranteed a more pleasantly flavoured sourdough and more likely to continue baking.

All reasonable care is taken when writing about health aspects of bread, but the information it contains is not intended to take the place of treatment by a qualified medical practitioner. You must seek professional advice if you are in any doubt about any medical condition. Any application of the ideas and information contained on this website is at the reader’s sole discretion and risk.

Don’t panic: Sourdough baking seems complicated, but it actually just requires patience, flour, water, and salt.

When I first got a sourdough starter, it was unclear if what I had acquired was a gift or an old-timey curse. The starter was alive and needed to be fed, I knew that. Various intense Reddit forums and 14-page recipes indicated that baking sourdough was more of a lifestyle than an occasional baking project, and that it was best accomplished using spreadsheets and thermometers and perhaps acquiring a nanny cam to watch the starter at all times.

Did I need to spend all my disposable income on high-end, bespoke flours? Did starters require round-the-clock care, like a human infant? If I neglected it, would I be put on trial for murder? Would it take over my life? Oh god.

Something like a year later, I am here to tell you I have still not been thrown in jail for starter murder, and that baking sourdough does not have to be that serious. If you’re someone who takes joy in hydration levels and obscure yeast strains, that’s great! This guide is not for you. But if you, like most people on earth, are just trying to bake some bread, and eat the bread, well, come along with me.

Sourdough is cool because it’s the way basically everyone made bread before commercial yeast became widely available, and those folks did not, as a rule, have access to Google Spreadsheets. You’ll be OK. Right now, as I’m writing this, we’re in a time when a lot of folks don’t have access to bread, and yeast is scarce in the supermarkets. A sourdough starter—aka a natural leavener—solves all those problems. As long as you do some pretty minimal upkeep, you can bake bread basically forever using a starter, salt, flour, and water.

Obtain a Starter

First thing’s first: You need a starter. If you so much as mention bread to a friend who has a starter they are legally obligated to offer you some. Kidding! Sort of.

The care and maintenance of a sourdough starter requires discarding part of the starter when you feed it (we’ll get there), so it is pretty easy to nab some off a pal. If no one around you has any, all you need to make your own is time and patience—and also flour and water. But here’s a reliable shortcut: You can also create a sourdough starter with the help of a bit of store-bought yeast.

If patience (or yeast) is in short supply, you can also buy starter from reputable online sources like King Arthur Bread, a website I recommend in general for its gentle tone and flour knowledge. If you have a local bakery, you could also ask them to sell you a bit. Plenty of sellers on Etsy offer sourdough starter, too. There’s even advice for making a gluten-free starter, if you love bread but your body hates gluten.

Think of sourdough starter as a natural leavener, and, in many cases, a way to cultivate the wild yeast that exists naturally in flour and in the air and convert it to something that you can use to make bread (or whatever else) rise. Commercial yeast is more consistent, both in terms of results and flavor, but you can think about wild yeast versus the commercial variety as something like the difference between an heirloom tomato and the supermarket kind. What you sacrifice in consistency, you often gain in flavor. Plus, it’s kind of a weird, cool hobby to wrangle the wild, wild yeasts of your apartment, like an extremely un-intimidating bounty hunter. But, again, you can also use storebought yeast to make a starter if you want! It’ll work just as well.

Contain Your Starter

Now that you have a starter, what do you do? First, consider your container. When you feed an active starter flour, it’ll bubble up pretty aggressively, so it’s good to keep it in a container that has some headroom to allow for that. I keep mine in a wide-mouth 24-ounce Mason jar, because that’s what I have around. The clear glass is nice because you can see the starter rise and fall, and easily check what it’s up to.

Second, think about your timeline for baking bread. If you want to use the sourdough starter soon, the best practice is to keep it on your kitchen counter, or whatever room-temperature area is available, and to feed it at least once a day to keep those yeasts happy. If you’re not ready to bake just yet, stick the container in the fridge. That’ll slow down the yeast activity, and you can pretty much ignore it for about a week, when you’ll want to feed it again.

Feed Your Starter

How do you feed a sourdough starter? Simple. You add roughly the same amount of flour and lukewarm water as you have starter, mix it around so there aren’t any clumps of dry flour, and let it chill out until things start bubbling up. Once that happens, usually two or three hours later, depending on how warm your kitchen is, the whole mixture has become more starter. (The warmer your kitchen, the faster it’ll ferment.)

The rule of thumb is to discard part of the starter when you feed it, because otherwise it’ll just keep growing and growing and eventually fill your apartment and/or eat Manhattan, which is not the result we’re going for. It’s helpful to have a scale to measure out the ratios of starter to flour and water here, but if you don’t have one, measuring cups or even just eyeballing will do in a pinch.

I keep one ounce of starter and feed it with one ounce of flour and one ounce of water, because I rarely need a massive amount of starter on hand, but various other sourdough luminaries advise different amounts. If you don’t have a scale, go for a fourth cup starter to half a cup of flour to a fourth cup water. (Flour weighs less per volume than the water or starter.) I’ve found that for maintenance, it’s fine to just have a small amount, and since starter is infinite, you can always feed it more if you need more starter. (The famous-among-bread-people Tartine country loaf recipe, for instance, only needs one tablespoon of starter for the whole loaf.)

A little bit of starter can eat a lot of flour and water. Once you feed it, reseal the jar but leave the starter with some access to air—I leave mine with the lid on it but not screwed tightly. Some folks cover it with cloth. Whatever works for you. If you’re baking frequently, feed it once or twice a day and leave it out at room temperature to keep it active. For less frequent baking, feed your starter just once a week and keep it in the fridge.

The only really solid rule of feeding is to make sure you’re not feeding your starter boiling hot water, or overwhelming it with a vastly unequal amount of flour or water. Lukewarm or cold is fine. Boiling is one of the few things that can actually murder your starter, so avoid that and you’ll be set. If you keep the starter in the fridge, when you feed it, let it chill out on the counter for an hour or two with the lid off, then screw the lid on and put it back in the fridge.

What Flour Should I Use?

Starter really likes whole wheat, whole grain, spelt, or rye flour, but I’ve always just used what I have on hand, which is usually bleached all purpose flour, and it works just fine. Don’t obsess over the flour unless you really want to! Just use what you have.

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 8 days 25 min (includes fermentation and feeding times)
  • Active: 25 min
  • Yield: 250 grams

Ingredients

To Begin:

125 grams all-purpose, unbleached flour

125 grams filtered water, room temperature

For Daily Feeding:

100 grams all-purpose, unbleached flour

100 grams filtered water, room temperature

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Directions

Special equipment:
  1. To begin: Mix together 125 grams flour and 125 grams water with a clean hand in a medium glass bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit undisturbed at room temperature until the mixture is full of bubbles and has nearly doubled in size, usually 2 to 3 days. During this time, yeasts and bacteria from the air and from the flour and probably from you will set up housekeeping in the bowl (see Cook’s Note).
  2. For daily feeding: Peel back any crust that may have formed and transfer 20% of the culture (50 grams) to a clean, wide-mouthed jar. Stir in 100 grams flour and 100 grams water, loosely screw on the lid and stash at room temperature for 24 hours. (The culture will have a stinky-sour smell at this point.) Discard the rest of the original mixture.
  3. Repeat step 2 every 24 hours for 5 days. By then the culture should smell yeasty-sweet-sour, which means you’re ready to put the starter to work.

Cook’s Note

If your culture isn’t showing signs of life after 3 days, go ahead and start feeding. If, after a few more days, nothing happens, start over and place the culture in a different part of your home.

How to make sourdough starter

Did you know that the term ‘sourdough’ doesn’t necessarily refer to flavor, but actually refers to the process of souring or fermenting bread dough?

Whether you prefer a tangy flavor to your sourdough bread or a more mild taste, you can learn to manipulate your sourdough starter and dough to produce a bread that tastes great to you and your family.

How to Make a More Sour Sourdough

There are two main acids produced in a sourdough culture: lactic acid and acetic acid. Acetic acid, or vinegar, is the acid that gives sourdough much of its tang.

Giving acetic acid-producing organisms optimal conditions to thrive and multiply will produce a more tangy finished product. Here are some ways to achieve this.

1. Adjust the Starter

  • Maintain your starter at a lower hydration level. This means using a higher ratio of flour to water. Acetic acid is produced more abundantly in a drier environment like this while lactic acid-producing organisms seem to thrive in a wet environment.
  • Use whole-grain flours, which the acid-producing bacteria love.
  • Keep the hooch or brown liquid layer that forms on a hungry sourdough starter instead of pouring it off. Retaining hooch can add acidity to sourdough and help it develop tang.

2. Adjust the Bread Dough

While it may take a little trial and error, attempting to achieve a longer, slower rise may also contribute to a more sour sourdough. Try creating a slower rise by doing the following.

  • Find a cooler spot for rising the dough. (Remember, warmer temperatures speed up fermentation and cooler temperatures slow down fermentation.)
  • Punch down (degassing) the dough at least once, if not twice, before the final shaping of the loaf.
  • Perform the final rise for at least four hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30-60 minutes before baking. Although many experts recommend that the last rise be a quick one done in a warmer environment, you will have a better “oven-spring” by putting a cooler loaf into a hot oven.

How to Make a Less Sour Sourdough

To create the opposite effect from above and create a more mild flavor in your finished sourdough, try these adjustments.

1. Adjust the Starter

  • Feed your starter regularly. The temperature of your culturing area and the strength of your starter will influence how often your starter needs feedings, which can be anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. Try increasing the frequency of your feedings to create a more mild taste. This should minimize the alcohol content and reduce the overall acidity of the sourdough. Less acidity means less tang!

2. Adjust the Bread Dough

  • Use more starter in the dough. A larger percentage of sourdough starter in the dough allows it to both rises in a cooler location and have a shorter rising time. Both of these conditions help to tame the sourness in sourdough by lowering acetic acid production. (The amount of starter may need to be adjusted by season: more starter in the winter and less in summer.)
  • Add baking soda. Baking soda is an alkaline substance. Adding it to sourdough neutralizes some of the acidity and gives the dough a little extra leavening boost.

Each sourdough starter is unique, so keep adjusting until you produce a bread that is ideally suited to your taste.

What To Do With Imperfect Sourdough Bread

As you experiment with adjusting the sourness of your sourdough bread, there may be times that your bread doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. It’s okay, it happens, and it truly is the best way to learn and perfect your sourdough baking.

Luckily, not-so-perfect sourdough doesn’t have to go to waste. Try one of these recipes to use up any sourdough that doesn’t turn out perfectly.

Start Making Perfect Sourdough with Cultures For Health

The easiest way to start making sourdough at home or to continue making it – Cultures for Health.

We’ve got everything you need to make the best sourdough possible including our amazing sourdough starter kit and multiple sourdough starters in tons of different styles including:

On top of all of that, we have all the tools of the trade you need to make sourdough at home.