Easy Sourdough Starter Recipe: A Step by Step Guide

Sourdough bread has been a staple in many cultures for centuries. It’s known for its tangy flavor, chewy texture, and beautiful crust. At the heart of this beloved bread is the sourdough starter—a simple mixture of flour and water that harnesses wild yeasts and bacteria from the environment. Creating a sourdough starter from scratch is a rewarding endeavor that allows you to bake artisan bread at home.

Here’s how to create your very own sourdough starter from scratch:

How long does it take to create a sourdough starter?

The time it takes for a sourdough starter to become active can vary based on several factors, including the type of flour used, the temperature of the environment, and the presence of wild yeast and bacteria in that environment. However, in general terms:

Most starters are considered mature and ready for baking between 7 to 14 days after starting. By this point, the starter should have a consistent pattern of doubling in size after feedings and possess a pleasant, tangy aroma.

Keep in mind that these timelines are general. Some starters might become active sooner, especially in warmer climates, while others might take a bit longer. The key is patience and regular observation. If a starter isn’t showing signs of activity after 7-10 days, it might be helpful to consider adjusting variables like the type of flour, the feeding schedule, or the storage temperature.



  1. Whole grain flour (rye or whole wheat)
  2. White flour (all purpose or white bread flour)
  3. Water (preferably filtered or dechlorinated)


  1. A glass or plastic container (avoid metal)
  2. A cheese cloth
  3. A rubber band or string
  4. Thermometer
  5. Weighing Scale
  6. A spoon or spatula

Day 1: Initial Mixing

Objective: Begin to cultivate wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria present in the flour and environment.

Ensure the container you use is clean. This is important to prevent any unwanted microbes from taking over your starter. 

Take 100g of whole grain flour (rye or whole wheat) and 100g of water. Combine them in your container. The consistency should be like a thick, but easily stirrable paste. 

The 1:1 weight ratio of water to flour is standard, offering an ideal environment for wild yeasts and bacteria to thrive — a recommended starting point for beginners. For those seeking to explore, sourdough starters come in two other variations: liquid and stiff. The hydration level of these starters plays a crucial role, impacting both the behavior of the starter and the final bread’s taste and texture.

Drape a cloth or plastic wrap over the top of your container, ensuring it’s not airtight. Use a rubber band to hold the cloth or wrap in place. This setup ensures that there is no build up of fermentation gasses in the container while also preventing fruit flies and other pests from contaminating the starter.

Place your container in a warm spot in your home. Aim for around 78°F – 82°F (25°C – 28°C). This is the optimal temperature range which accelerates the activity of the wild yeast. Allow the mixture to rest for a full 24 hours.

Day 2: The First Feeding

Objective: Revitalize and expand the population of the beneficial microbes in your starter.

Look for signs of life in your starter, such as tiny bubbles or a slight increase in volume. These are indicators that the wild yeast is beginning its fermentation process. However, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see much activity yet—this is common.

During the initial 24-36 hours of cultivating a sourdough starter, it’s common not to observe any overt signs of fermentation or activity. This quiet period might lead some to believe that the mixture isn’t working. However, beneath the surface, the natural yeasts and bacteria present in the flour begin their slow process of colonization and fermentation.

Discard approximately half of your starter (roughly 100g). To the remaining half, add 100g each of whole grain flour and water. The feeding ratio by weight is 1:1:1; old starter:new flour:new water. This “feeding” provides fresh food for the growing yeast and bacterial colonies.

Thoroughly mix the ingredients until the new flour is fully incorporated. Cover the container as previously done and place it in a warm spot. Feed twice on day 2, ideally every 12 hours, to provide ample sustenance for the fermenting microbes.

During this phase and even after your starter has matured, you might notice a liquid forming either on the surface or within the starter, This clear, dark and sometimes grayish-tinted liquid isa natural byproduct of the fermentation process, consisting mostly of alcohol and lactic acid produced by the yeast and bacteria in the starter as they consume the sugars in the flour.

The presence of hooch usually signifies that the microorganisms in the starter have consumed most of the available nutrients and are “hungry.” It’s a hint that the starter needs feeding. 

It’s crucial to note that the appearance of hooch doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the starter. It’s a typical part of the sourdough life cycle, especially if the starter hasn’t been fed in a while. While some bakers choose to stir the hooch back into the starter, most recommend pouring it off before feeding the starter. 

Days 3 to 7: Cultivating Your Starter

Objective: Achieve a stable, active, and mature starter that’s ready for baking.

At this stage, you should notice more pronounced signs of fermentation: a tangy aroma, more bubbles, and perhaps a slight volume increase.

On day 3 onwards, we continue to discard half the starter (roughly 100g) , but this time we will feed with 100g each of white flour and water.

Maintain a feeding schedule of twice daily, preferably every 12 hours, to ensure the fermenting microbes receive consistent nourishment.

Your starter is mature and ready when it consistently doubles in volume within 6-8 hours of feeding, has a tangy but pleasant aroma, and forms bubbles throughout. 

If by Day 7 you haven’t reached this consistency, keep feeding daily until these signs stabilize.

Maintenance: Sustaining Your Starter

Once your starter is lively and mature, it doesn’t need daily feedings. Store it in the refrigerator to slow down its activity.

Even in the fridge, your starter needs sustenance. Feed it twice a week, using the same method of discarding half and replenishing with equal parts flour and water.

If you plan to bake, remember to remove your starter from the fridge ahead of time. Feed it and wait for it to become bubbly and active at room temperature before incorporating it into your recipe.

How does different types of flour affect a sourdough culture? 

Selecting the right flour for a sourdough starter is pivotal, as starters rely on the natural yeasts and bacteria in flour. Whole grain flours, especially whole wheat and rye, are top choices as they provide an ideal environment for microbial growth. 

Whole wheat offers nutrients and a rich flavor but can impact the rise and hydration of the starter. Rye accelerates fermentation with its natural yeast content but can dominate in flavor and texture. 

While white flours like all-purpose are readily available and give a milder flavor, they might not support as vibrant microbial activity. Bread flour, with higher protein, offers a balance between flavor and strength but may need hydration adjustments. 

Ancient grains like spelt, kamut, and einkorn introduce diverse flavors and potential nutritional benefits but can be pricier and trickier to handle.

When choosing flour, consider freshness, be open to blending, and always monitor and adjust based on starter activity. Ultimately, the best flour aligns with individual preferences and baking goals.

Experimenting with various ingredients in sourdough starter

Here are some novel ingredients that could be added to a sourdough starter:

1. Sweeteners

Boost initial fermentation but can make the environment too acidic over time.

2. Dairy

Accelerates fermentation and improves dough texture, but excess can introduce unwanted microbes.

3. Fruit Skin

Introduces wild yeasts and bacteria, but cleanliness is vital to avoid contaminants.

4. Fruit Juices

Enhance starter vitality; however, excessive use can over-acidify the mix.

5. Commercial Yeast

Speeds up rising but can overshadow natural fermentation flavors.

6. Spices and Herbs

May disrupt the microbial balance; best added during baking.

7. Grains, Seeds, Nuts

Boost fermentation, but seeds and nuts can unbalance the microbial mix.

8. Alcohol

Adds unique flavors but can hinder yeast function if overused.

Should I make or buy a sourdough starter? 

Choosing between purchasing a sourdough starter and cultivating your own often depends on individual preferences and priorities. For those pressed for time, or perhaps new to the world of sourdough baking, purchasing a starter offers a convenient entry point. It eliminates the initial waiting period of creating a starter from scratch and offers a more predictable outcome, especially for novices.

On the other hand, cultivating your own starter can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s not just about baking; it’s about embarking on a journey. Creating a starter from scratch allows you to capture the unique wild yeasts from your local environment, offering a flavor profile that’s truly one-of-a-kind.

Beyond taste, there’s a profound sense of satisfaction and connection in nurturing a starter from its inception. It allows you to truly bond with the process, transforming bread-making from a mere task to a cherished ritual.


Hey there! I'm Sam, your go-to pal for all things sourdough. I've been baking and kneading for 10 fun-filled years, and I can't wait to share the joy of turning simple ingredients into heavenly sourdough bread with you. Grab your apron and let's dive into this amazing world of sourdough bread together on this blog.

Recent Posts