How to make a sourdough starter

2. How to make a sourdough starter

How to make your own sourdough starter

Sourdough starter recipes often come with a hefty dose of mysticism. Feeding schedules, hydration percentages, starter, mother dough, levain – the terminology alone can be confusing. But as the traditional basis of sourdough, you’ll need a starter – a mixture of flour and water containing a balance of yeast and beneficial bacteria – if you want to bake sourdough bread.

So if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at making sourdough bread, you’re in luck! You can now follow along my step by step guide to making your own sourdough starter. As well as written instructions, there are also videos showing you what a starter should look like on each day and giving more tips.

How to get started

You’ll need some rye flour and a couple of pieces of equipment before you start. Scroll down to read more in my handy tips below.

Making a starter should take 5 – 10 days. Each day, you need to just take five minutes to add some more flour and water to your growing starter. My process uses very small amounts so you won’t waste flour and end up with gallons of starter.

Scroll down to read more about the equipment and ingredients you’ll need. Then click the button below to start Day 1 of your new rye sourdough starter.

Handy tips before getting started

Use only flour and water

You’ll only be using flour and water to make your starter. Yeasts occur naturally on the surface of cereal grains and it is these yeast strains that are best to populate a sourdough starter.

Have LOTS of patience

You’ll need to attend to your starter once a day whilst it’s in its infancy. Outside of this, try not to think about your starter too often. Distract yourself! Give your starter time in the beginning to establish those yeast and beneficial bacteria colonies. Patience is also key if your new starter doesn’t quite go to plan…

Don’t panic!

Be aware that sometimes, a starter doesn’t work out as intended. The right balance of yeast and bacteria may not establish first time, and you might have to try again, or do some troubleshooting. Either way, persevere until you get there!

Getting ready 

So it’s time to start your starter! First, gather your ingredients and equipment. The only ingredients you’ll need are rye flour, water and plenty of time. You’ll also need a suitable container for storage.

Why rye flour?” I hear you cry. Well, you can use a range of cereal flours to make a starter – wheat, spelt, rye etc. However, a rye starter is favoured by sourdough bakers for several reasons. First, rye starters are generally more vigorous, producing gas to raise your loaves more readily. Rye starters also take up less space in the fridge, as a small (10 – 20g) amount can be converted into enough starter to make dozens of loaves. Rye starters are also easy to adapt for use with other flours such as wheat and spelt.

You’ll need a sturdy, airtight container in which to store your starter. A Kilner jar (the glass ones with a rubber seal) or Tupperware with a clip-on lid are good. The container should also be too large for the amount of starter you want to store – ideally don’t fill it more than one-third full. This is because a refreshed or active starter will continue to ferment and give off gas in your container, even when initially put in the fridge. Other glass jars such as jam jars aren’t therefore recommended in case a build up of gas from the starter causes them to break.  Your container must also be thoroughly cleaned and sterilised before storing your starter.

So now you’re ready to start making your starter. Click the button below to get going!

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Find out more about what a starter is here