How To Make Sourdough Bread Starter From Scratch

Baking your own homemade sourdough bread is a delicious and rewarding journey. Today, we’re sharing a step-by-step guide on how to create your very own sourdough starter from scratch. Gather two simple ingredients, set aside a few minutes each day, and let the magic happen! Get ready to experience the joy of baking delightful artisanal loaves right in your own kitchen.

  • DAY 1:  In a glass bowl or jar, whisk flour and water together. Lid or cover with a damp towel and set aside at room temperature 24 hours.
  • DAY 2:  Take a portion of the previous days mix (discard the leftover), glass bowl whisk in the previous days mix, water and flour. Put in a glass jar, or glass bowl with a lid or cover with a damp tea towel and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours. 
  • DAY 3 through 6:  Repeat day two until the mixture becomes elastic, has a sweet-sour aroma and bubbles begin to form under the surface. During these days of feeding you’ll notice how the aroma and texture changes. Your starter is doing great.
  • DAY 7 or 8 (or beyond):  Seven to eight days has been my experience for an established starter to emerge. But it can take longer. Keep repeating day two until you notice the signs of a ripe starter: the starter is elastic (not pasty) has a sweet-sour aroma, is light and fluffy, large and small bubbles are present under the surface and just breaking the surface 


To Build Your Starter:

  • Day One: In a medium glass bowl or jar, whisk together 2 Tbs (20g) flour, 1 Tbs + 1 tsp (20g) of water. Cover with a damp tea towel or loose fitting lid and rest at room temperature for 24 hours. *When covering with a damp tea towel, be sure to double up else a skin may form. If it does form, and if it’s thin, I simply stir it back in to my starter and carry on.
  • Day Two: In a medium glass bowl or jar, whisk 2 Tbs (40g) of mixture you made yesterday (throw out the leftovers), 1/4 C (40g) flour, 2 Tbs + 2 tsp (40g) water. Cover with a damp towel or loose fitting lid and rest at room temperature for 24 hours.
  • Day Three Through Day Seven or Eight (or beyond): Repeat step two using the previous days starter, continuing to throw out the discard, until the mixture becomes puffy, fluffy, has a pleasant sweet-sour aroma (not sweaty socks) and small and large bubbles begin to appear just under the surface and throughout the culture.Notice on day three you may begin to notice a sour aroma, with a few bubbles and puffy appearance. On day four, a doubling in size in not uncommon – but it maintains it’s stinky odor. On day five-six, it’ll probably pass the float test but it’s still stinky! Keep going!This process takes about seven to eight days (as this has been my experience) – but it may take longer. Time is not a determining factor for when the starter is ready, it’s simply a guide. It’s ready when it’s ready. Use the cues and your senses to determine when your starter is ready. This is the nature of sourdough.
  • Before using your new starter in a recipe, you’ll need to refresh (feed) it. 

To Refresh or Feed Your Starter:

  • If not using a Mason jar at this point, now is the time to transfer your starter to one. I use a 2 C wide mouth Mason jar.In a glass jar whisk 3 Tbs (60g) of sourdough starter with 1/4 C (60g) water. Add 1/3 C (60g) unbleached all purpose flour to the water mixture. Mix well until the flour is hydrated.
  • Lid the jar and wrap a rubber band around it at the height of the starter. 
  • Allow the starter to develop at room temperature for about 8-10 hours (65F/18C). This time can vary due to ambient temperature and how active your starter is. If it’s rising too fast, you can pop in in the refrigerator where it will continue to rise at a slower rate. Or, if you want to speed it up, refresh it with 80F (27C) water. That’ll get it moving a little more quickly.Once the starter has doubled in size, is bubbly and puffy, has a pleasant sweet-sour aroma, and passes the float test, it’s ready to use in your sourdough recipe. After measuring out the portion needed for your recipe, feed the starter and store it until your next refreshment. If there’s and starter left, you can save the discard for use in other recipes like pancakes and waffles (or toss it or give it away).Float Test! Test to see if your starter is ripe or ready to be used in a recipe by giving it a float test. Simply fill a glass with water and drop a small portion of sourdough starter into the glass. If it floats, its ready! If it sinks, it needs more time to double in size or develop.

How to Store Your Established Starter:

  • If you see any orange or pink film or mold, or it has an unusual oder, toss it.
  • Room Temperature Storage: If you plan on baking daily or every few days, leaving your starter on the kitchen counter is fine. Keep an eye on it because the warmer the kitchen, the more active your starter will be. It can double in size quickly, in as little as 5 1/2 hours at 70F! You’ll need to feed it more frequently, once or twice a day to keep it active and strong.
  • Refrigerator Storage: I bake with my starter about once or twice a week, so I store my starter in the refrigerator until I’m ready to prepare for mixing dough. If your starter is sluggish after refrigerating it for a while, you can feed it up to twice a day until it’s bubbly, elastic, doubles in size and has a pleasant sweet/sour smell. 

How to Store Your Discard if Saving:

  • After you have an established starter, your sourdough discard can be used for pancakes, waffles and other recipes to add a tangy sourdough flavor. Store it in the fridge, in a lidded glass jar, for up to two weeks. You may see a layer of hooch, and this is not unusual. You can pour it off or stir it in.If you see any orange or pink film or mold, or it has an unusual oder, toss it.

How to feed your starter:

Feeding your starter is very similar to how you built your starter. The main difference is you don’t have to feed it every day and for this recipe, I use just a bit more flour and water to feed it so that I’ll have enough to use in a recipe and enough discard to collect for making pancakes, biscuits and/or waffles. I feed my refrigerator stored starter every week, usually 8-10 hours before I’m ready to mix sourdough