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If you’ve ever wondered how to make sourdough starter, this is your complete guide! Traditional 7 day sourdough starter with perfect results, every time. Just 5 minutes and you are on your way to sourdough bread, pancakes, cakes and more.
What do you do when your spring isn’t turning out anything like what you thought it would be? You bake bread. Because the aroma of freshly baked bread brightens even the longest, darkest days.
For the past two years I’ve been tackling two types of sourdough. One is a sweet sourdough, the starter needed for this Amish Friendship Bread. The other sourdough is a classic sourdough that bakes up beautiful loaves of bread, biscuits, waffles, pancakes and even a chocolate cake.
Today we’re sharing everything we’ve learned about sourdough. Although we used to make a lazy sourdough using commercial yeast, we’ve realized just how easy (and absolutely wonderful) a traditional sourdough starter with just flour and water is.
You’ll want to plan a week to get this sourdough active enough to rise a loaf of bread. Yes…a week seems like a long time, but it is 100% worth it. And once that week is done, you can easily have a loaf of homemade artisan bread anytime you want.
There are a few things you’ll need to have on hand if you want your bread to turn out in the best possible way.
Do you absolutely need a kitchen scale? I’ve had readers tell me that in the olden days they did not have kitchen scales so measuring by volume is fine. And in theory, that is true. But when you are getting started and learning how much flour and water to add, it’s best if it is very precise. Then as you become a pro you can measure by volume if you’d like.
Don’t store your sourdough starter in a metal container. Not all metal is created equally and acids react to metals. Use glass for the safest results.
It’s important to use unbleached flour and non-chlorinated water for sourdough starter.
We’re going to talk about the sourdough process in days. Plan for 7 days to work with the sourdough. It won’t take long at all each day…less than 5 minutes after you get it going!
A note before you begin. Our starter begins with unbleached whole wheat flour. The only time you’ll use whole wheat flour is on day 1. After that you can use regular unbleached flour.
Start with a clean glass jar. I use a pint size mason jar when I am beginning a starter, but a weck jar or other glass jar will be fine too. You’ll just want it to be able to hold about 2 cups so that it can handle the rise of the starter.
Place the jar on the kitchen scale. Turn the scale on and make sure it is reading 0 grams. If it isn’t, press the “tare” button to get the display to read zero.
Add 60 grams of whole wheat flour and 60 grams of warm, non-chlorinated water. The mixture will be very, very think. It won’t be impressive at all to start. But just wait. 🙂
Cover the jar loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature, of in a spot where the room temperature is slightly warmer.
Check the starter. You’re looking for bubbles to form. If you don’t see any, it is ok because they come and go fairly quickly. Don’t mix it. Just check it, then let it sit again for another 24 hours.
This is the first day you’ll feed the starter. Feed it no matter what it looks like. At this point the starter is going to be “stretchy”.
Pull out half of the starter and throw it away. Use your kitchen scale to again add 60 grams of all purpose, white, unbleached flour (remember…you only use whole wheat that first day) and 60 grams of warm water.
Mix it all together. It will still be really thick. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Discard half of the starter and feed as you did in Day 3. You’ll do the same thing each day no matter what the starter looks like. Discard half, and feed with equal amounts of flour and warm water.
As these three days pass you’ll notice a natural rise and fall to the starter. This is an important process to observe because it will tell you when the starter is ready to bake with and when it is hungry. You can use a rubber band (or a piece of tape) on the jar to mark where the starter is when you feed it, then how it doubles as the starter grows.
Your starter should be very bubbly and you are almost ready to bake! It should have a sweet and tangy aroma. It should not be a sharp or harsh smell. It should look light and airy.
If your starter does not look like this, you might want to continue the feeding process for a few more days before using it.
When your starter looks like this, it means it is ready to start baking the baking process!
Starter is ready when it is bubbly and in the “doubled” stage. If you are wanting to bake bread and the starter is “deflated”, feed the starter, wait a couple of hours and it should be doubled and ready to bake with.
Drop a little bit of starter into a glass jar. If the starter floats, it is ready to bake with. See the picture below.
Once you have your “sourdough baby” it’s time to name it! We named ours Clint. You know…for “Clint Yeastwood”. Because we’re corny like that! 🙂
If you are storing your starter at room temperature, you’ll need to feed it daily. Depending on how much you keep, you can discard about half the starter (use it in sourdough pancakes) and feed it equal amounts of the unbleached all-purpose flour and non-chlorinated water.
If you don’t use your sourdough often, seal it and store it in the refrigerator. Feed it weekly with equal amounts of flour and water. There will be a cloudy liquid on top of the starter. That is called “hooch” and it means your starter is hungry. Stir that liquid in, then feed. Do this weekly. I like to set a reminder on my phone to go off once a week. That way I always have starter on hand.
Once your sourdough is refrigerated, be sure to remove it from the fridge 12-24 hours before you are ready to bake. Mix it, feed it, then watch for it to bubble. If it doesn’t bubble, discard half of the starter and feed again with equal amounts of water and flour.
You’ll learn the timing of your own starter and know how long it takes to get it bubbly and active after a few times.
You can replenish your starter after you’ve used some up by adding 25 to 50 grams of flour and an equal weight of water to at least a ¼ cup of starter.
If you have an active starter, it’s so easy to quickly grow more sourdough if you’re needing a large amount. There is no need to keep huge amount of it in your refrigerator.
And that’s about it! Please share your hints for making sourdough. What have you had success with? I know many of you are pros and can help me along my sourdough journey!
We’ve had so much fun working with sourdough and creating all the things! Try one of our favorite recipes, both with discard and active starter.
These discard recipes use other leavening agents (baking powder, baking soda or yeast) to get a rise in the baked good. See some of our favorite recipes using sourdough discard here: