7 Easy Steps to Making an Incredible Sourdough Starter From Scratch

As the fall winds started to beat against my office window, I decided if I was going to write an entry about how I started and maintain my now 2 year old sourdough starter, now was the time. Once the temperatures drop outside, and subsequently inside, yeast activity does tend to slow but I have some tips to help you start from scratch even in the winter. Get ready to create a culture that will require only minimal maintenance and care but will help you to produce the best sourdough bread you’ve ever eaten.

While I usually look forward to the changing seasons, and all fall/winter has to offer, for some reason this year I wanted summer to go for just one more month. I’m the type of person who craves the warm sunshine outside, I shy away from that change to winter with the short dark days and chilly air. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big snowboarding fan (especially since I live 30 minutes from some really incredible mountains) but even that can’t completely make up for a casual jog in the sun with my dog, a couple hours outside hiking with my wife in the mountains, or grilling some steak out in the backyard. With the coming cold I know that I’m going to have to alter my bread baking. Longer bulk fermentation times due to decreased fermentation and a slightly modified starter maintenance schedule are just two things on my mind requiring change.

This journal entry will help you create your own 100% hydration sourdough starter from scratch, even in the colder months of the year. Of course you’ll have to adjust a few things for your location and your temperatures, but I’ll discuss what to look for and a few tips that will ensure success. This 100% hydration starter will not only allow you to bake any bread you find in Tartine Bread, but also give you a reliable starter that you can train to bake any sourdough you desire.

A Quick Note on Starter Consistency: What is “firm”?

I think this was one of the most challenging things I struggled with when creating my first sourdough starter a few years ago. My starter would always turn into this very soupy, vinegary, runny mess by the end of the day. How do we keep your starter firm but not a dry lump of flour in a jar? The key here is to ensure you’re using equal parts water, flour, and inoculation (leftover starter from previous feeding). You might need to adjust your flour amount a few grams up or down from there depending on how dry your climate is, but that is the general rule.

When you do your feeding and start to vigorously mix everything back together to incorporate all the dry bits of flour, it should actually be a bit challenging to get it to mix together but after a minute or so all the dry bits will disappear. The mixture should be firm enough to almost hold a mound shape in the bottom of the jar. I will typically stir the newly fed starter around a few more times after incorporating all the flour to clean the sides and create the mound in the middle.

making an incredible sourdough starter from scratchThe mound will slowly expand out over the next few minutes and eventually fill the bottom of the jar, but this gives you an idea how firm my starter is right after feeding.

Gather Materials

You can replace any of the items below with your own materials, even stuff just laying around your home, but these are the materials I’ve found to ease starting and maintaing your starter.

Create your own sourdough starter yeast

You can see a rundown of all the tools I use for baking sourdough, vetted after years of trials and many, many bakes, over at my favorite sourdough baking tools page. I’ll go over a few of the necessary tools below, just to get your first starter up and running and a few loaves out of that oven:

Weck glass jar

The reason I like these Weck jars (#743, 3/4 liter jars) is they taper out towards the top, making it easy to stir with no reaching your spatula down around hard to manage lips or edges. Also, using the glass lid without the provided rubber seal & clips provides just enough of a seal to keep moisture and heat trapped inside. Glass is important here, you want to be able to visually inspect any fermentation happening as you will be able to see little bubbles around the sides and bottom. Visible bubbles and the smell of your starter are the two cues we will rely heavily on throughout this process.

One other important reason: they’re great quality and super cheap online. You can use these jars for a ton of other things around the house (pesto, jam, dried fruit, and so on).

Pyrex spatula

I use a small plastic spatula to do my feedings. This thing is easy to clean with a sponge, but if things get really dirty you can easily pop it into the dishwasher.

Oxo scale

This is indispensable. Buy a scale right now if you haven’t already, it will make life easier. We do everything by weight in grams, not imperial volume measurements (different flours, salts, etc. could weigh differently and we want to go by weight not volume).

Stainless steel or plastic water bottle

I filter my water with a standard Brita filter and let it sit on the counter overnight before using it. I’ve noticed over time that my starter performs better with filtered water and I let it sit out to reduce the amount of chlorine present in tap water. You could also use bottled water, but that’s a bit wasteful and expensive, and I’m always trying to reduce my footprint and my costs.

If you’re using a Brita filter like me, filter some water now and pour it into a stainless steel water bottle to sit out at least overnight to dissipate any chlorine in your tap water.

Rye flour

Using good rye flour is a must. I’ve now started several sourdough starters over the years and rye flour is a sure fire way to get your culture on its feet.

All purpose unbleached white flour

I mix 50% all purpose with 50% rye flour for my feedings. You could easily do a 100% rye flour with no problem. One thing to be mindful of with flour is that you should keep your flour consistent throughout this process. If you choose to go with a 50/50 rye and all purpose mix, stick with that to the end. Changing your flour mixture percentage or types (e.g. white to wheat or rye to wheat) will slow down the process, your starter becomes accustom to a certain type and will slow down until it gets used to the new flour source.

Schedule

Your starter is a very resilient thing. If you forget to feed it for a day or two it will return to it’s usual strength with a few days of regular feedings.

In the beginning your starter feedings will occur just once a day. As your culture becomes more and more active you’ll increase this to twice, and eventually three times a day. Knowing this, one of my goals is to help you set things up so it’s easy and quick to do your feedings and move on with the rest of your day. Once you get the hang of it, and your starter has become reliable and predictable, it really only takes 3 minutes to feed and cleanup. So about 5-10 minutes per day on average is all it takes to keep your little guy living. No biggie.

The following schedule will provide you with a reliable and strong sourdough starter in just 7 days. Once you have the culture stable it will last indefinitely as long as you feed it regularly. If you don’t plan to bake frequently you can toss the starter in the fridge and feed it only once a week, or even once every two weeks. I’ll discuss this in more detail later in this entry.

Your schedule will basically follow the natural rise and fall of your starter. As soon as you feed it the yeast in your starter will begin to consume the sugars found in the flour, creating carbon dioxide as a byproduct. This gas is what causes your dough to rise when baked and causes your starter to rise through the day and eventually fall as the food becomes depleted. I took a picture every hour for a single day to show you just how this rising and falling occurs.

Sourdough starter rise and fall animation

Daily Feedings

The process is essentially this, each day at the same time:

  1. Stir your starter a little bit with your spatula
  2. Discard part of your starter into a small dish, just enough to get your jar and starter weight back to jar weight + 40g starter (e.g. if your jar is 311g like mine, at the next feeding you will discard everything in there until you reach 351g; 40g starter + 311g jar).
  3. Scoop in 40g of your fresh rye/apw flour mixture
  4. Pour in 40g room temperature water
  5. Mix vigorously until all bits of dry flour are incorporated
  6. Cover and set in a shaded, slightly warm, area in your kitchen

That’s it! Once you get your process down it should take no more than a few minutes each day.

Let’s get started with Day 1.

Day 1

9:30a

In a medium sized container, mix 400g of rye flour, and 400g of all purpose white flour. The total amount here doesn’t matter, this is going to be your flour mixture you’ll use for feedings. I pre-mix this into a small container to make feedings through the week much quicker.Create your own sourdough starter yeastNext, weigh your glass jar (keep note of whether you weighed it with or without the lid) and using a Sharpie, write the weight on some tape and put that on the lid of your jar. You’ll use this to reference how much starter to discard each day.

Create your own sourdough starter yeastNow:

1. Add 40g of your rye/apw flour mixture to the bottom of your jar

Create your own sourdough starter yeast2. Add 40g of your filtered water (the water I hope you filled the night before and let sit out)

Create your own sourdough starter yeast3. Stir this vigorously until all dry bits of flour are incorporated

Create your own sourdough starter yeast4. And finally, set in a shaded, slightly warm, area in your kitchen

That’s all there is to it for day 1. In the morning we’ll check on our starter’s progress and proceed with the first feeding.

Day 2

9:30a

At the same time as yesterday, get ready to do your first feeding. Check for little bubbles and signs of life around the sides and bottom.Create your own sourdough starter yeastTake the lid off and take a tiny smell. It might be pungent but more likely it’s just slightly tangy, or vinegary, but not digesting in any way. You might have a thin dark crust on top, mine did, this is normal.

Now for the first feeding:

1. Using a small container discard enough of your starter so all that remains is your jar weight + 40g. In my case 311g (jar) + 40g (culture) = 351g.

Create your own sourdough starter yeast2. Just like the first day, tare your scale and add 40g of your rye/apw fresh flour to the top of your starter.Create your own sourdough starter yeast3. Add 40g filtered water.

4. Stir vigorously until all dry bits of flour are incorporated. As I mentioned above, try to stir until it forms a little mound or ball in the middle.Create your own sourdough starter yeast

Tip: If it’s cold in your kitchen, heat a kitchen towel for about 10 seconds in the microwave and put under your jar when out on counter. This little bit of heat can help move things along in the beginning. Make sure it’s not too hot!

Create your own sourdough starter yeastAs you can see, mine shows some signs of life with little bubbles throughout and some larger ones on the bottom. It’s totally normal if you don’t see anything, though. Be patient, we still have a few more days to go.

Day 3

9:30a

As with day 2, check again for little bubbles throughout. You should see some here and there, but perhaps not many.Create your own sourdough starter yeastMine started showing some pretty great activity, but again, this may vary for you. Since I bake often in my kitchen it might be a bit easier for me to get this going. When you bake often the same bacteria we are trying to cultivate in our starter will be present in the air, counters, etc., making it easier to create a new starter. Don’t worry, yours will pick up if it hasn’t already.Create your own sourdough starter yeastNotice on the sides of my jar there is some residue higher than the current level of the starter. This indicates fermentation has caused the level to rise for some time and then drop after all the sugars have been consumed by the yeast. This rising, or leavening, is what we are looking for with our starter. A strong starter will leaven your dough when baking just the same way this starter is rising after a number of hours.

Same feeding as usual:

  1. Discard enough of the culture so 40g remains in your jar.
  2. Add 40g rye/apw flour.
  3. Add 40g filtered water (remember to keep filling your water bottle with filtered water after you feed so it sets out until the next morning).
  4. Stir until all the dry bits of flour are gone.

Here’s a comparison at the end of day 3 between my 2 year old starter (left) and the new one (right) we are creating in this entry:Create your own sourdough starter yeast

Day 4

9:30a

At this point you might notice there are even more little bubbles on top. Take a little smell of your starter, it might now smell a little odd, almost like vinegar but not quite.Create your own sourdough starter yeast

Continue with a feeding per usual.

At this point, mine started to take on an almost soupy consistency, if this starts to happen add a few more grams of flour to this mix. We want the starter to remain firm, not soupy. When it’s firm it’s easier to see the air pockets due to fermentation, and there will be other benefits discussed previously in my other post on managing fermentation.

Using rye flour you should start seeing activity by day 4, but if you don’t see much yet, remain patient, it will happen!

Create your own sourdough starter yeast

In the picture above you can see a picture of the new starter the evening of day 4. I took this picture early to show you how it’s starting to look just 12 hours after feeding. You can see the small bubbles and some rising happening. We’re getting close to feeding more than a single time per day.

Day 5

9:30a

In the morning do your usual feeding. If things are progressing well this will be the last day you’ll do a single feeding and starting on day 6 we’ll do two feedings per day.Create your own sourdough starter yeastLook at all the little bubbles now! Take the lid off and do another nose test. Mine smelled of serious vinegar with hints of alcohol. These are all signs that your starter is starting to consume every bit of sugar present in the flour you feed it, and by the time you get to feeding it again it’s gone a bit too far. This is a good sign, it’s getting much stronger.

Day 6

9:30a

Day 6 brings the first day you’ll attempt to do two feedings. In the morning do your normal feeding. After this, set an alarm to check on it when you get home from work about 8 hours later.Create your own sourdough starter yeast

6:00p

At around 6:00p in the evening take note of how the starter is doing. Does it have small bubbles throughout? Any signs of rising and falling? If you notice these signs do a second feeding at this time just like you would in the morning.Create your own sourdough starter yeastAt 6:00p mine no longer smelled like vinegar as in the morning on Day 5. At this point it still had a slightly sweet smell to it and in the long run this is just about the time when you’ll always want to feed it, when it’s “young”. The longer you let it go before feeding, the more acid load will be present when you build a leaven before your first bake. This acid load translates directly to the flavor of your bread, making it more sour.

Day 7

9:30a

When you wake in the morning do your normal first feeding. Take note of the smell again, it should still smell a bit on the sweet side. Notice with mine I started to get some serious fermentation! It’s now starting to look almost as strong as my old 2 year starter. Pretty impressive.Create your own sourdough starter yeast

4:00p

Midway through your day, a bit earlier than yesterday’s evening feeding, do a second feeding.Create your own sourdough starter yeast

 

You can see here when I pull back the top of the starter there are many little air pockets formed during the several hours in-between feedings. This is where the glass jar really helps: you can simply  look to the side and see these pockets to instantly gauge how active your starter has become.

10:00p

At the end of your day, about 12 hours from when you did your first feeding, you can do a third feeding or you can use this starter to prepare a leaven for baking on Day 8.Create your own sourdough starter yeastYou might not have this much activity just yet. If you want to ensure your starter is strong enough you could always keep up this 3 times-a-day feeding for a few more days. Since I noticed things looked really good (I was actually a bit surprised), I decided to prep for a bake on day 8 and prepare my leaven.

Baking With Your New Starter (Day 8)

If you decided you were able to do a bake, check on your leaven in the morning.Morning leaven made with our new sourdough starterMine definitely looks like it’s strong enough to do a good bake. You can always perform the “float test” here to ensure you have enough yeast activity in your leaven, but I can usually tell at this point just by sight (and smell).The result of a test bake with our newly created sourdough starterWow, look at that oven spring. I was pleasantly surprised and just how strong the starter had become. This is always such an exciting sight (except, well, those times when you take off the lid and nothing happens. Trust me, it happens to all of us).

Crust: Some nice little crispy bubbles throughout the exterior. Nice coloring and some great “ears” sticking up — all great signs! When I cut into this loaf the crust was nice and shattery, just how I like it.The result of a test bake with our newly created sourdough starter

Crumb: The crumb wasn’t quite as open as I’d like. You can definitely see some great activity in there, but a little more openness would be welcome. This might have been due to a shaping error on my part, but I think the starter might need a few more days to get just a bit stronger.The result of a test bake with our newly created sourdough starter

Taste: The taste was superb. Since I fed this starter often enough to keep the acid load low, there was only a hint of sourness in this loaf. This is how I like it, just a little bit in the background to remind you it’s a hand crafted loaf of sourdough. A crust with that coloring is just artwork to me.The result of a test bake with our newly created sourdough starter

I just had to use this loaf for a sandwich of roasted pork loin made the night before, local goat cheese, lettuce, tomato, and homemade pesto. Excellenté!The result of a test bake with our newly created sourdough starter

Now What?

If you’re looking for a great recipe to break in your new starter, check out these I’ve done in the past:

Tartine Country SourdoughTartine country sourdough on Food Travel Thought

Tartine Country Walnut SourdoughTartine country walnut sourdough on Food Travel Thought

This 100% hydration starter we’ve just now brought into existence can be used in any of Chad’s Tartine Bread recipes with great success. Just remember to keep feeding based on your desired bake schedule:

A Daily Baker

If you plan to bake every few days or so, feed your starter twice to three times a day.

A Weekend Baker

If you only bake on the weekends you can store your starter in the fridge Sunday after your bake until Thursday. When Thursday comes around, take it out in the morning, let it warm up an hour or so, feed it and then feed it again in the evening. Friday and Saturday you can ramp things up to three feedings per day and prepare your leaven Saturday night for a Sunday bake.

theperfectloaf_starter-1

Final Thoughts

Have more questions about how to start a starter? Or are you having issues with little to no activity? Check out my Sourdough Starter Frequently Asked Questions page for even more answers to common questions.

After your starter is up and running, review my sourdough starter maintenance routine for information (and images) on what I do to keep my starter strong and and healthy.

Making an incredible sourdough starter from scratch really is an easy thing. While sourdough starters have been around for a very, very long time, the frequency and materials you feed yours becomes a very personal thing. As you care for your starter it begins to take on a personality and life of its own, a personality that reflects who you are and the taste you enjoy.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear back from you below.

Happy baking and buon appetito!

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  • Jay

    Hi,

    I noticed that your rye flour is a blend of bread flour and rye. I am using bob’s red mill organic dark rye and my starter is very stiff and stays as a mount on the bottom of the container. Should i increase the amount of water or just change the percentage of rye to white AP?

    • Jay,

      Right, my rye flour is a blend. I’d change the amount of water to suit your desired stiffness. If it is impossibly dry and hard to stir just add a few more grams of water until it is still stiff, but not impossible to incorporate.

      • Jay

        I decided make a different starter using a 1:1:2:4 blend of dark rye, AP, and bread flour and water. The consistency and color looks close to what you have. I will compare this to the other “stiffer” version and see how it turns out. Thanks for the quick reply.

        • Sounds like a good plan. Would love to hear how it turns out!

        • jay

          Here’s the update. I had both starters going for about 3 dyas, but it was taking to much time to feed em. I had 3 others starters that also trying out. So after the third day, the with just rye and AP flour looked more active and smelled better. So that is the one i’ll keep. I think the smell is really interesting and it reminds of mushrooms. This is really different from the nail polish/green apple smells i’m getting from my 2 week old 100% rye starter.

          • Excellent, it sounds like you’re on your way. I know what you’re talking about with the nail polish smell, that just makes me cringe thinking about it. Your “mushroom” starter, as we’ll call it, will probably change scent after the culture becomes stable. Now a days mine actually smells pretty good almost all the time, rarely vinegary or like nail polish.

            Keep me posted!

          • jay

            Here the loaf I made with the mushroom starter. . http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/35785/second-loaf-tartine

            • Hey looking pretty good! Nice rise on that one. Are you going to try to tweak anything for the next go around? How long did you bake this for?

          • jay

            I would like my bread to have less tang, so I will try to use less starter in my levain next time. I used 50g as supposed to the 1 tbs suggested in the original recipe. I baked it for 20mins @550F covered, and 20 mins @ 500F uncovered.

            • Another thing that can be done here is to make sure you feed your stater leading up to your bake a little more often. That’s one reason I feed it 3x leading up to the bake. Feeding often removes more of the acidity in your starter.

      • If you always have a small amount in a jar, when do you ever have enough to use for consumption ??

        • You will feed your starter with enough food (flour & water) to have enough to use for your “levain”. When making two loaves of bread, which is what I always write about here, you only need a small amount of starter when creating your levain (around 25grams).

          Your starter is only ever really a small amount, enough to keep your yeast fed and surviving. Your levain is what you build up before you bake, this is how you scale up your yeast to the required amount for your recipe.

          Hope that helps!

  • Julie

    You are very generous to give out such a detailed step by step instruction. I really appreciate the timeline, sometimes figuring out when to begin the process can be the tricky part for me. I just started my own starter using a formula from King Arthur flour. Could I switch over to your method of maintenance or would I be better off starting over with your starter recipe?

    • Julie,

      No problem! I spent quite a bit of time over the years trying to get a strong, successful starter going. Once I found a method that worked reliably I felt I aught to share it with others.

      Sure, you can use King Arthur or any other brand of flour. However, I highly recommend using rye flour in some quantity. I’ve found that using rye is almost guaranteed to get your starter going in about 7 days.

      Once you get your starter going you can switch to white, wheat, rye, whatever flour you wish (you might want to do this gradually over the course of a few days).

      Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  • Elie

    Hi Maurizio,

    I’m a sourdough neophyte struggling with my first starter, and I was hoping you could clarify one detail for me. In the post above, you state that you use 50/50 AP/rye, but in your post from August 6 (Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf Bread Recipe #33), you state that you feed your starter with 100% rye flour. Do you recommend feeding the starter with 100% rye only once the starter has matured, or do you now recommend using 50/50 AP/rye exclusively?

    I’d also like to add that I am very grateful that you have taken the time to share your knowledge and experiences. Your blog is a pleasure to read and inspires me to bake bread.

    • Elie,

      Thanks for the kind words about my site, I’m glad it’s helping! Welcome to the world of artisan sourdough bread, it’s going to be an enjoyable ride.

      Sorry for the inconsistency, I am constantly working on things to try and improve and my starter has been a challenge for a while. In my experience even the 50/50 rye/apw (all purpose white unbleached) mix will be enough to get a new starter off it’s feet and going. I recommend using this exclusively, even after your starter has taken hold and is reliable. There are many formulas out there for flour mixtures for feeding your starter and I think in the end it’s a personal preference thing (taste, consistency, reliability, etc.).

      I had previously been feeding with 100% rye flour and it works just fine, you can go this route if you’d like. Now though I exclusively do a 50/50 mix as I like a little more apw in the leaven and also because rye flour can be on the expensive side. I’ve had very good results with this 50/50 mix and plan to stick to this from here on out.

      Happy baking!

      • Elie

        Thanks for your reply, Maurizio. I have a couple of questions about feeding frequency. I found that if I feed a new starter once per day, by Day 5 it smells like acetone. I tried another starter which I fed twice per day from the beginning (following advice that I came across online), but I never saw much activity even after seven days (a few bubbles, a maximum of 20% growth after feedings). Both of these starters were 100% hydration using 50/50 whole wheat bread flour and AP white unbleached, with a ratio of 1:1:1 starter:flour:filtered water. My questions are:

        1. Once a starter smells like acetone, is it ruined?
        2. Is the starter that is fed twice per day from the start stunted because it hasn’t been left alone for long enough?
        3. Is it possible that both of the issues that I have encountered are the result of my choice of flour?

        • Elie,

          1. No, it’s not ruined if it smells like acetone. In my experience its going to smell kinda bad by day 5 if it has not progressed far enough. It will go through a person of smelling like vinegar or acetone before it finally takes hold and you’re seeing good fermentation. In my post that was around day 4/5.

          2. I would say that yes feeding it twice per day before your culture has taken hold will just make things take longer. There will not be enough of a stable yeast culture to keep things going.

          3. I strongly recommend using at least 50% rye flour for your feedings. Wheat flour is good but there are even more nutrients in rye.

          Let me know how it goes, good luck!

  • Debby Parker

    I am in love with your revamp of the Tartine breads. My favorite being the walnut sourdough.I really like the results using Rye flour for the starter also.

    One question about multiple feeding days (day 6 and 7). Do you discard starter, down to the 40 grams, with each of the 2 or 3 feeding per day? Or do you add to each feeding?

    Thank you,
    Debby

    • Thanks! Rye flour really helps get things going in the beginning, so much so I don’t know why anyone would start things any other way. I’ve created many a starter for myself, and for friends, using rye flour with very high success rates.

      I always discard part of the starter, down to 40g. If you leave too much the overall acid load will be very high, leading to very sour bread.

      Happy baking!

      • Debby Parker

        Thank you so much for your reply. I look forward to using the starter for many years to come.
        One more question out of curiosity, where do you live? I noticed you changed oven temperature and time which was necessary due to your elevation and climate.
        I live in Vernal, Utah which is at about 5500 ft. in elevation. I sometimes have to adjust cooking times and temperature.

        • I live in Albuquerque, NM (about 5280 ft. up). I always have to adjust my cook times and sometimes oven temperatures to adjust for my elevation. In addition, because it’s so dry here I have to also take that into account by keeping my dough always covered and in plastic wrap when in the fridge proofing.

          • Debby Parker

            Pretty comparable here. We are extremely dry much of the time. Your directions ought to work well for me. Thank you so much for your time and kind replies.

            • You’re very welcome. Good luck and I’d love to hear how things turn out!

  • Julie

    What size weck jar do you use for your starter?

  • Julie

    One last question(I hope): do I cover the starter with the weck lid or do I use a fabric cover?

    • Julie — no problem ask away! I cover the Weck jar with its lid, but I do *not* use the clamps or rubber seal. I simply place the glass lid on top. This will let gasses escape if necessary.

  • mayK

    Hello, it’s a pleasure to both look and read about your baking of sourdough bread. I’m from the scandinavian part of world and when I’m making sourdoughs I’ve learned to always grate an apple with skin on into the sourdough starter in day 1. This helps the sourdough starting and I use it in both in rye- and wheat sourdough. If the sourdough is slackening down at a point, then it can help to grate in some apple and feed several times. Best regards 🙂

    • Thanks! I’ve not read about the apple method. I think perhaps I’ll spin off a little bit of my starter and give that a try. I wonder if it’s the extra sugars giving that spike in activity.

      Thanks for the tip and happy baking!

  • Anne

    Hello Maurizio. I’m really enjoying your blog and finding it very helpful. My question is about whether or not it’s important to match the type of flour used in the starter with the type used in the bread you bake. Do you use the 50/50 rye/apw to feed your starter no matter what kind of bread you plan to use it in?

    • Thanks, glad I could help out!

      I personally haven’t noticed much difference between using my rye/apw and ww/apw starters when baking. I do think they will impart a small difference in the final product, though. Each flour has its own characteristics and because you will be using some of your starter (usually around 250g in my case) the small percentage of flour will leave its mark even if in a small way (fermentation time, dough strength, flavor, …).

      In the end though I don’t pay much attention to that. If I were baking professionally I might have a different answer, but for my purposes as a home baker things turn out just nicely with both of my starters!

      • Anne

        Thanks for the ultra-quick response! My follow-up question, then, is: How do you determine which starter you will use for a given loaf?

        • Anne,
          Right now I’m just doing some testing with the two different starters to see if I’ve noticed a difference over the long term so I’d use whichever starter is on the right schedule and ready to go. I’ve been using my apw/ww a lot more lately just because I’ve run out of rye flour and have had the rye starter in the fridge…

          I have come to realize as I’ve been baking that starter preference comes down to a personal preference based on your location, environment, flours available, and taste. Rye flour definitely helps your starter get going, and I 100% recommend going that route, but once it’s established it’s fun to play with other flours, and ratios of flours, until your starter performs how you’d like. Like I discuss in my posts, whole grain flours do ferment much faster and you’ll get much more vigorous starter activity with them, but maybe this isn’t what someone would want (perhaps their schedule only allows them to feed once a day when not baking, etc.). Also the flavor profiles can be subtly different.

          Sorry for the drawn out answer, but in a nutshell I use whichever I’m currently focusing my attention on!

  • Megan

    Maurizio, my starter is now 7 days old, and I stumbled onto your site today. Thanks for your comprehensive description of how to start and maintain the starter! It’s the best explanation I’ve seen. I really like the idea of setting aside a pre-measured mix of rye/apw flour, as it saves having to lug out those big canisters of flour several times a day. It’s a small thing, but makes a lot of sense. BTW, I’ve been making pancakes every morning with the discard. I just mix the starter with about 1 tbsp of yogurt and 1/4 tsp of baking soda. Easy tasty breakfast, and no waste. When I want a savoury breakfast, I first fry a bit of garlic & chilli pepper in the pan before adding the batter. Looking forward to trying out your recipes.

    • Thank you, I’m glad my entry has helped you out! Creating your own sourdough starter can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be with a few steps to make things easy. It requires some care and attention just like anything, but that attention shouldn’t detract too much from the million other things we all have to do each day.

      I’ve made sourdough pancakes before with my starter but haven’t in a while. I’m going to try your more straightforward recipe, it sounds like something I could easily do every morning. In fact, I think you’ve helped me decide what to have for breakfast tomorrow. Yogurt, that’s a great addition and it just so happens I have some Greek yogurt on hand!

      Thanks for the comments and I look forward to what you think of my other recipes throughout the site — happy baking!

    • Brian

      Hi Megan,

      Just saw your mail on using the discarded starter for Pancakes, brilliant idea. Could you post the full recipe please. What do you serve with them ?

      Thanks

      Brian

      • Megan

        Hi Brian. I can’t say I really have a recipe, since I just add ingredients until it looks right. I originally said baking soda, but it’s been more reliable with double action baking piwder. The recipe is something like the following:

        Pancakes (enough for 1-2 people)
        – 80g discarded starter (or multiples of this, if it’s from several feedings)
        – 1 tbsp yogurt
        – 1/4 tsp baking powder
        – 1/2 cup white flour
        Thin to desired consistency with water or whey. I like the batter to be pretty runny. Usually I let it sit for 15-30 minutes before cooking, to get some yeast action. Cook in lightly oiled pan. Serve with maple syrup and yogurt. Pomegranate syrup is also good, as is stewed rhubarb (microwave sliced rhubarb and sugar until runny).

        Savoury fry bread
        – Same batter as above, but much thicker. Sometimes I add 1 tsp oil or melted butter to the batter.
        Lightly fry aromatics in a generous amount of oil (at least 1 tbsp). Such as: a few thin slices of onion or garlic, a light dusting of hot chilli pepper, a few cumin or nigella seeds, a few grains of sea salt. The pan should be hot enough to allow the chilli pepper to bloom, but not enough to burn the spices.

        After about 30 seconds, spread the batter on top of the spices. I usually do just one large cake that fills most of the pan. Flip when nicely toasted, being careful that the spices don’t burn. Serve as is.

        • Megan & Brian,

          That pancake recipe is very close to the one I used with my starter. I’ve been collecting all my recipes where I use “leftover” starter and hope to have an entry here with a bunch of them. A sourdough starter adds an awesome subtle flavor to all of these things!

    • Lois

      I was wondering what to do with the excess starter… to discard seems like such a waste. I like the idea of making pancakes. Thanks for your input and telling what to mix with the excess starter… yogurt and baking soda.

      • You shouldn’t think of it as a waste! Think of it as food that gets consumed and then the rest is just discarded (much like discarding the core of an apple, or the skin of an orange) as the nutrients for your starter have eaten all they can. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t use that excess in many other ways. I will use that leftover in pancakes, waffles, teacakes, and many other baked goods where I want a little sour flavor added in. It’s surprisingly versatile.

        I have a post I’ve been working on for a little while now and I hope to have it out sometime soon — it has recipes for various foods I’ll make with excess starter. I’m sad it’s not quite out yet but it will be soon!

  • TR

    Great info and comments. I keep two starters alive, one 100% rye and one 100% white bread flour. I like your idea of combining the two. Having one starter would simplify things and the addition of a bit of rye (even from the starter) will give subtle character to any loaf without changing the flavor.

    Question – why do you use AP flour instead of bread flour?

    Thanks.

    • The combination of rye and white flour makes for a very nice and reliable starter. The white flour slows down the insane fermentation that 100% rye would produce, but like you said, you still get that subtle rye flavor in your breads — which is very faint but I like it.

      I actually fluctuate between AP flour and bread flour from time to time, depending on what I have on hand. Usually it’s bread flour as that’s what I primarily use for baking, but sometimes I get caught with only AP in the pantry. Since writing this post I’ve started using a local flour (Sangre de Cristo) that is higher protein and closer to bread flour than AP…

      Hope that helps, happy baking and thanks for the comments!

  • Mike

    What do u recommend if not seeing much bubble activity? I am on day 8 (still single day feedings) and it almost as if mine smells less acetic/lactic. I just have a mason jar covered lightly with foil.

    • Mike, what’s the temperature in your kitchen would you say? If you can find a slightly warmer area (around 75-80º F) this will ensure the highest yeast activity. Have you tried using filtered water, just until things get going? If you don’t have any on hand, let some tap water sit out for 12-24 hours before using it to help dissipate chlorine.

      Also, if you’re not using rye flour it’s fine, it just make take things a bit longer. Whole wheat flour could be used as a substitute.

      I think things will probably pick up for you, you might just have to give it some more time! Each environment is different.

      Let me know how it’s progressing, it will happen!

  • Titia

    Hello Maurizio, I’ve (I think) successfully finished the making of the sourdough starter with a 100% whole rye flour, but when I took
    it out of the fridge I noticed a acetonic smell. So I decided to feed it and once again after 12 hours, the smell disappeared and I put it in de fridge again. Now two days later the smell appeared again! Does this mean I have to feed it more than one a week, or should I start all over again?

    Thank you in advance,
    Titia

    • Titia,
      Great news! It’s a good sign you are getting that acetonic/alcohol smell from your starter, it means it’s alive and well. That result is normal and I get that every time I put mine in the fridge.

      Out of curiosity, what’s your last feeding like right before you put it into the fridge? You can help slow down fermentation in there by adding a little less water so it’s very stiff, almost paste like. Or, add in a bit more flour and a little more water to give it some more food until next feeding.

      You should not have to feed it every week, you can easily go 2 weeks, maybe even 3. I feed mine every 2 weeks on Saturday morning. By the second week I have the same clear liquid on top — totally normal.

      Glad to hear things are going well, let me know if you have any more questions and I’ll try to help!

  • Helen

    I’m on day 8 (I’m doing double feedings), and I see lots of bubbles on the side and bottom of the glass, but nothing on the top. It smells sour to me. It has risen some, but hasn’t doubled in size like other sites have suggested. I am using 50/50 rye and AP and filtered water. The last 2-3 days has been very warm here, high 70 degrees. I’m not sure if I’m doing anything wrong.

    • If it’s sour it might be going too long between feedings. How much and how often are you feeding? Are you sure it’s not rising and then falling without you noticing? Look for smudge signs along the side of the glass.

      It might also simply be that you need a bit more time. 7-8 days is average, but it will definitely depend on your environment. The bubbles you see on the sides is a really good sign! Keep with this and you’ll get a culture going.

  • Paula Kennedy

    Thanks for your inspirational site and am starting your method for the starter today. We have Fowlers Vacola jars here in Australia which I think are similar so here goes. I’ll keep you posted with my progress. I hope our flour strengths are similar to yours.

    • I’m looking forward to hearing about your progress!

    • Thank you so much — I’m looking forward to hearing your results! Let me know if you have any questions or comments, I’d love to help out.

  • So what % of your starter is actually rye? Just noticed you’re using a blended flour. 🙂 I’m going back and forth between a 50/50 rye/white and 100% rye but always leaning towards the 50/50 for ease of visual clues and possibly a little more volume in the final loafs. If you like whatever I try the 50/50 is what I come back too….might have to give up experimenting…but I can’t stop!

    • I’m not sure what the exact percentage is actually. I’m just using this blend until I run out and then I’m going back to traditional 100% dark rye.

      Yeah I like the 50/50 rye/apw as well, much easier to manage and great activity. But yes just like you I constantly am tweaking, testing, and experimenting. Never going to end!

  • I’m going to try a 33% rye 33% ww 33% ap next…….I still really like the way 100% rye starter seems to add an amazing aroma to breads aswell. Can’t stop won’t stop tweaking! ^-^

    Congrads on the 1 year BTW. Amazing blog you’ve built up! good luck for next year.

    • Thanks! I can’t wait to get some more posts going this year and love the dialog with all of you.

  • Just did some more head to heads

    Well the 33% r/ap/ww failed. volume noticeable lower then the 50/50 or 100% rye.

    I did a head to head with the 100% rye vs 50/50 – ap/rye . Everything was to the gram and precise for this experiment. The 50/50 has taken the crown again! but only under VERY close scrutiny. The scores have opened just a touch more and the volume is just slightly bigger on the 50/50 also, there’s more caramelisation on the 50/50 as well.. I’m thinking it may actually be down to the fact the 50/50 has a more liquid consistence then the pure rye which is slightly stiff. I was experimenting early last week with lower hydration starters and got less volume then as well (5% smaller tops).

    pure rye starter vs 50/50
    http://oi59.tinypic.com/1231mr6.jpg

    Will get a crumb shot soon, bulk fermentation was shorter then I’d like so will be tighter then usual.

    What were your thoughts and finding when you tried a pure rye Maurizio? I think my time has come to settle on the 50/50 after lots and lots of fun times experimenting. Will keep the pure rye for pure rye breads though.

    Will face off two 50/50s next, one at 100% hydration, the other at 150% in both start and levain.

    • Both of those look great, though! I also prefer the 50/50 mix. I felt like the mixed starter performed better and required less management as the fermentation is tapered down just a bit. Also, rye flour can get expensive 🙂

      Pure rye for rye bread sounds like a good idea.

      I have pretty much always used a 100% hydration starter as I like mine a bit more stiff (easier to feed and discard) but I’m very interested in how your higher hydration starter performs. I need to do more experimenting with this!

  • Last post I’m sorry for spamming 3 in a row!

    Open cutting them open I was right about the bulk fermentation being short for both (think it was like 4 hours – need 1-2 more). The pure rye starter had a more distinct aroma but apon a blind test I was only able to spot the pure rye 3 out of 5 times so I think its just I expect the pure rye to smell more distinct. The crumb shot looks very similar but if you really look you can see the pure rye starter produced a denser loaf and this was obvious to the touch. after cutting a slice and re-taking the pic it was even more easy to see. Taste was the same but the texture of the 50/50 starter was superior very light and lacey.

    http://oi61.tinypic.com/2dqoc29.jpg

    http://oi57.tinypic.com/2h8cxgw.jpg

    This experiment is based on just 10g of starter for each loaf….the rest of the flour was exactly the same being 400g white 100g wholemeal. for each loaf. Doing a proper side by side has been an eye opener! The difference is bigger then I thought it would be. Clear winner to the 50/50 starter

    Thanks to your blog for prompting me in to more experiments!

    • Your crumb looks gorgeous: nice and open, a good sheen to it, and a thin crust to boot. But yes based on these pics the 50/50 looks more open with a ton of small bubbles to go with the larger one. Since the taste is so similar and the 50/50 looks like it has superior crumb I think that experiment is settled!

      • I’ve since gone back to this experiment and it seems the variable I missed was that the pure rye starter ferments faster so the experiment was a little off as the pure was over fermented………from doing loads more experiments it seems that the flour you use is irrelevant….in the sense that you can use any flour but the fermentation must fit in to the schedule & environment. If you can’t feed often and its hot you may get better results from pure white……or if your kitchen is cold then a pure rye might be best for two feeding a day. So its rather not about the magic mix rather what fits you and your house LOL

        I’m currently back to pure rye fed 3 times a day and getting amazing results. But like I said I think any flour can give you optimal results as long as you factor environment/temp and timing in.

        • It’s true, each flour type has different amounts of nutrients for your starter to feed on. Rye has quite a bit and that’s why I recommend it for beginners when they are starting their starter for the first time. I’ve had consistent success creating new starters with rye, but sometimes it takes forever with just white/whole wheat.

          Once you get it going, thought, yea you can change to whatever flour you’d like based on feeding schedule, taste preferences, etc. Right now I’ve been using a 50/50 white/whole wheat and it’s definitely a lot less maintenance than my rye staters, but also it’s less vigorous!

          • Yeah rye for starting a culture every time. Its all I recommend as well to people. 50/50 rye and white is also best for beginners maintenance as you get all the visual clues as the white flour supports a rise and fall that gives you a great understanding of what the starter is doing.

            For my wheat bread now I got a 100% wholewheat starter (the rye one is for my rye breads). Its going amazing and the problem I must of had before was massively under feeding. Now I feed the starter with 5g starter 40g wholemeal and 40g water. every 12 hours.. If I feed something like 20g/40g/40g I just lose strength and it quickly turns to soup. And that’s with my kitchen around 16-18c at the moment so its going to be crazy in the summer.. Will probably have to use iced water or just 1-2g of starter per feeding LOL. Once healthy though the pure wholemeal starter has a maltyness to the smell which is sublime! And is detectable in the finished loaves. Its all about keeping the inoculation crazy low. That’s why it never worked for me until now.

            Amazing to chat with you as always….I never get a chance too converse over these subjects with anyone else, always a pleasure. 🙂

            • Wow that is a very, very active starter! When temps here dip below 65ºF my starter screeches to a halt. I might have to start using warmer water…

              I’ve been experimenting lately with a “stiff” starter (~65% hydration), it’s the latest in my testing. It’s, well, very interesting. I’m going to do more baking with it this next week and see how it impacts my bread.

              Likewise, it’s great to chat about all this!

          • Well once again wholemeal starter has kicked my arse. What was once a malty amazing starter has in the matter of a week turned in to eggy soup. Even if I inoculate at 1g to 40/40g the acid carries over and instantly makes the mixture weak and slack feeling. I changed flours for a bit to a different brand and that’s when it turned. Wholemeal seems to be very fickle.

            In fact I was watching an amazing video of a master baker the other day and he was keeping a wholemeal starter but said it declines whatever he did. So at the end of the weeks bake he would dry it out completely to crumbs and then re-start it after the weekend. Anyway I’m going back to the safety of my rye now. Will experiment again once I’ve recovered and my customer have had some better batches of bread LOL

            Good luck with yours!

            • I’ve read similar things about a 100% WW starter — it definitely takes extra care. I think it’s Dave Miller that has a very peculiar feeding schedule where he dries it out completely and then rehydrates it before using. I’ve been pretty successful so far with my 50% WW / 50% white starter. I’ve not only converted it to this mixture but I’ve reduced hydration to 65% and it’s been doing pretty well. I think its finally starting to get really strong. Next week will be a heavy baking week for me, I’m excited! Cheers!

  • Melina

    Hello,
    Have you ever tried starting a gluten-free starter?

    • No I have not tried this with gluten-free flour, however, I would think it would be the same process!

  • Joy Argow

    This an excellent instruction manual. I learnt how much my first attempt just failed!!! Wish is done some more reading before attempting.

    So mistake one. I made my starter from 1/2cup plain flour 1/2 water for four nights and didn’t remove any along the way. The mixture was bubbling away but upon reading this I think It really was too liquidy.

    I made bread tonight and it’s ok but seems maybe moist? Not sure how to describe. The dough was suuuuper moist tho so if say that would be the prob.

    So should I start the starter again? Or can I manipulate my current starter to get it on track?

    Thanks again for an awesome post!!!

    • You’re welcome! You can definitely keep the starter you have and adjust your feeding. Follow the feeding schedule I’ve outlined in this post and you’ll have a nice firm starter in no time.

      You definitely want to make sure to discard a portion of your starter before every feeding. It sounds like you’re getting good fermentation activity though, that’s good! You can keep the starter you have, no need to throw it away and start over. Just adjust your feeding and discarding to match what I’ve outlined in this post and you’ll be good to go.

      Happy baking!

  • Matthew

    Thanks for this great guide. I’ve started making my own starter at home following these steps. I’m currently on day 6 and getting ready for my second feeding, it’s going great. I can’t wait to get baking in a few days time. I do have one question though: I don’t have a banneton or a small basket to rest my dough in as it rises. Is it possible to leave it in a small pot in the fridge overnight as it rises or is there another way that you would recommend?

    • You’re very welcome — it sounds like you are off to a great start! I would try to find a bowl, or small mixing bowl, that you can line with a kitchen towel or tea towel. You want your dough to have some support while it rises (especially when the amount of water in the dough starts to increase) or in the morning you’ll end up with a very large boule. But yes, you do not need a special basket or banneton, any bowl will do! Good luck, can’t wait to hear how it turns out.

  • Jessie

    I’ve been working on my starter and so far it has been doing okay! My only issue is that I don’t seem to be getting the amount of activity that you have. It’s been over a week and I have bubbles, just not as large as yours. It’s been kept at a constant temp of 81F. I’ve been feeding it twice a day so far and I still haven’t gotten the fermentation that I want. Any suggestions?

    • Over time it will get stronger and stronger if fed consistently. 81ºF is a good temperature, you should get some vigorous activity with your starter once it builds up strength. If you’re following my instructions above your starter will get stronger, it may just take a little bit of time.

      Give it a few more weeks (I know it’s hard to hear that) and you’ll see more strength as it builds up! You should be able to bake with it just use the “float test” to make sure! Keep me posted on the progress 🙂

  • Hey Maurizio,
    Recently cranked out 8 frustratingly flat loaves just to get to the idea that maybe my starter’s starting to weaken. Before I’ve gotten some great blooms in the oven, but now it’s fussy. Do you find that your starter has to be prepped to meet the loaf that your baking. i.e. do you need to be running a starter in APW to get a 10% WW 90%white loaf. Or a starter with WW to get a loaf from 90% WW 10%APW? I’m wondering if I’m not getting much action because my starter doesn’t enjoy eating on the dough during the bulk ferment (seeing some bubbles in the 4 hours, but not a lot). Proofing is slow as well. Also, I fridge keep my starter between weekend bakes. Maybe that’s playing a role? I often feed three times (6 hours or so between feedings) to get it ready. I’ve played with hydration thinking that maybe I’m over hydrating, but that’s not sorted anything. My starter seems vigorous enough, but I don’t often do the float test.

    • I don’t typically make a special starter for the type of bread I’m making, I always use my white/rye flour starter for almost all breads I bake unless I want to change the flavor profile of the loaf (even then your starter really only plays a small role there). Refrigerating your starter does slow things down, but if you give it a day or two beforehand to perk up it should be fine before your bake. Have you tried taking it out a day earlier to see if that helps (just to test it a single time)?

      Also, when you do your feedings 6 hrs apart, has your starter risen and peaked right before that next feeding? It should be strong enough to do so, otherwise you might be cutting it too short and never letting it fully consume the food and populate the entire jar.

      If all else fails… you could grab a bit of rye flour and feed with it for just a while to get that starter really going again. It really does supercharge things.

      Let me know if any of those suggestions help, I’ve had a “lazy” starter at times and it was usually one of the above that was the culprit.

  • Audrey Bonnema

    How does one approach feeding their starter only once every two weeks?

    • Audrey,
      For this type of extended feeding, you’d want to keep your starter in the fridge. When cooled down your starter would only need feeding around once every two weeks (possibly longer depending on how much flour/water you feed).

  • I have a question, I did the starter but, what I did was feed it the same time everyday only once a day for seven days. My starter was bubbling quite well. On the 7th day I decided to bake with the starter. Mine did not look like your picture when baked, but I did notice the color was a little darker and the bread didn’t fluff up as much. I was informed that If you do sourdough wrong it is quite deadly?! Is this true. Is the color because of the Rye mixture? I could use a little advice. Thanks We loved the taste of my starter, I didn’t pass the water test, but I baked anyway, I was a little impatient after 7 days of smelling this vinegary sour smell tempted me. thanks.

    • Tim, I think I totally missed your message here, sorry about the late reply! I have *never* heard that if you use sourdough wrong it’s deadly — that’s completely false. I can attest to this as my early baking days I definitely did not do everything “right”. Rye flour will lend a bit of a grayish tint to your dough mix but not much different after baked.

      The reason your loaf didn’t rise in the oven, at least from what I can tell from your description, is that it simply was not strong enough to leaven your dough. Keep feeding it and building strength until it passes the float test and then you’ll be good to go. I know how you feel, it’s hard to stick to it and keep going, especially after 7 days.

  • T Twokay

    Very nice visual presentation for creating a sourdough starter. Some of the nicest photos of the process I’ve seen in recent memory, really useful for beginners. Thanks for sharing and documenting the process.

    • Thanks for the comments, I really appreciate that! I tried my best to describe a somewhat “mystical” process that I believe everyone can (and should) do. Happy baking 🙂

  • Thank you Maurizio what a fantastic blog. Im loving it, iv not baked with any starter iv made so far. You info and photos are most helpful to me & many others I’m guessing.
    Im on day 4 following your great hints as i go. I live in New Zealand and home grown flour is available from organic shop. Loving all the above comments.
    Thank you from carol.

    • Thanks so much Carol! Sounds like you have a good source for some nice flour, you are very lucky. Have fun and let me know if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to help out.

  • Donna Bogdan

    Day 5 and nothing is happening HELP

    • Donna, what are the conditions like in your kitchen (temperature, etc.)? Are you using whole rye flour in addition to white flour? Have you been following the steps I’ve outlined closely?

  • Help day 6 with my starter.is not buzy with action,like yours is above, it is summer in New zealand temp 19 c to 25 c over the week, hot day maybe 30,
    Q, dose one take out half the starter every day, Over the full process?
    Thanks from carol.

  • I spotted the words take out half your starer at each feed.
    Thanks you

  • ok. So I am stuck with this dilemma. I am traveling to Florida from Texas on Christmas day and will be there a week. What am I suppose to do with my starters. I have the two, the one I converted to whole wheat and my blended one. Do I put them in the fridge? Is there any way to safely travel with them?

    • A week is no problem, you can safely keep your starters in the fridge. Feed them with a little more flour than you’d normally just before you leave, let it sit out for 30 minutes so it can start fermenting just a little bit, and then pop into the fridge. I’ve left my starters in the fridge for over 2 weeks with no problems. You can definitely travel with them as well, but if you don’t plan to bake out there then I’d say just keep them in the fridge at home.

      If you do want to travel with them you might want to reduce the hydration of your starter so it’s more of a “paste”, just add a higher percentage of flour — 65% water-to-flour is a good stiff starter. The only reason I say this is because it might keep things cleaner when you get to your final destination and you’ll have to check this in your luggage (I wouldn’t risk trying a carryon!).

      Hope that helps! I would’t be worried though, a week in the fridge is no issue.

  • Michael

    I have a question, if I feed my starter a 1:2:2 ratio instead of a 1:1:1 ratio will it slow down the rise time

    • Michael, the more you feed with existing starter the faster the fermentation will be–there is a larger population and thus it will consume food (flour) and create byproducts (carbon dioxide, etc.) at an increased rate. And conversely, if you feed with less existing starter and more flour/water it can go longer before having to be fed again as there is more food for your yeast and bacteria to feed on before needing more.

      Make sense? I hope that helps!

  • I’ve just seen this. Thank you for this post! It was very useful and must have taken you a while to sort the photographs and text. The photos are really clear and helpful. I think I’ve made a mistake with my sourdough. The instructions in my book weren’t very clear, and I’ve ended up mixing 50g of a 1 day starter into the initial stage of making a loaf. Next will be the final and 3rd stage of making the loaf before I leave it to rise but I’m not sure if I will continue with it! Oh well!

    • You’re very welcome and yes, it did take me a while to compile all the photos for this entry!

      I say go through with the bake and see what happens, if it turns out really good then great, if not you’ve learned something you didn’t know before!

  • Also, I just had another look at my recipe. I chose this recipe because I wanted to use my Rye flour which is supposed to expire this month. It calls for water and rye flour in a 2:1 ratio, not a 1:1 ratio (so this would be a day 1 starter of 50g of water and 25 grams of flour). Have you notice a difference in quality of sourdough starters depending on the ratio you use?

    • The ratio of water-to-flour can impact quite a bit with your sourdough starter. If you use more water to do your feedings you’ll have more of a “liquid” starter which favors lactic acid production. If managed at higher temperatures this starter could produce bread with a more yogurt-like taste to it.

      Check out my latest post on the differences between a liquid and stiff starter for more info.

      But in short, yes changing water feed ratios can have quite a bit of an impact in the long run, but if you’re just trying to get things started and make some great bread your water ratio will work just fine!

    • You know, this evening after coming home from work late, I went to my starter to throw it away. I had already mixed it with what was described in the book as the leaven, or production sourdough (everyone has a different name for this 2nd stage). I thought there was no point keeping it.

      All in all, including the 1 day starter, it weighed 300g and it was now day 3.5 (I think). It had sat near the radiator, but didn’t seem to be doing anything……until today! The whole thing came to life and increased in size, exactly as I had seen in photos. It has a lot of bubbles and was frothing. When I sniffed it was very alcohol-ey, which stung my nostrils a bit. I decided to use it anyway and to keep 40g of sourdough that was left to keep a starter going. Hopefully I will succeed eventually!

      • That sounds exactly like what you want to have happen: that frothiness on top with an alcohol-ish smell to it. I think you’re on the right track with that batch, keep feeding it according to my schedule up there and you’ll have a strong starter in no time.

        And yes, sitting to a nice warm radiator is a wonderful spot for your yeast and bacteria culture — they love warm temperatures!

        • Well…my 100% rye loaf didn’t work out because it was proved for too long and I think I underbaked it :/ Nevermind.

          As you know, I initially made a mistake and started my production sourdough or leaven with only a 1 day starter. I left this leaven for about 2 days or so. The I saw all the activity in it. It rose the loaf incredibly well – to a monster height actually because I proved it for too long. This proves that with the right flour and temperature you can use a 1 day starter to fuel a loaf and the final dough mixture can be ready within 3 days ready to put in the oven. Not bad! However, maybe someone more experience would be able to tell by the flavour that my starter was very young.

          I kept the remaining starter for future use. Today I was feeding it for the 2nd, and a different smell appeared. This had a softer, rounder, sweeter, creamier beer smell. I looked at your link and I have decided to stick to the more liquid starter. It’s interesting because the same author mentions a 1:1 ratio when it comes to other flours like spelt, so it’s something I will keep in mind.

  • Since you shared your favorite spatula… the Pyrex spatula… I thought I might share mine too… the spatula scraper… it is FAB
    http://www.amazon.com/Norpro-Grip-Scoop-Scrape-Spatula/dp/B0036B9KGA

    • That thing looks perfect for stirring your starter! I’ll pick one of these up and try it out, thanks for sharing!

  • Brad

    Hi thank you very much for this great blog and information on making your own sourdough starter.I’m on Day 7 ,starting the 3 a day feedings, everything is going great following your directions.My question is there a way to double the amount of starter at this stage? ie could I do a feeding without discarding half of the existing starter ? I’d like to have a larger amount than the 160 g according to your recipe.Thanks so much

    • You are very welcome, thanks for the comments! You can easily double your starter by adding more flour & water to get to your desired weight at the next feeding. For example, if you want to double everything, just double your mature starter percentage (meaning you will keep more of this without discarding), flour percentage and water percentage at your next feeding.

      You can always easily scale up or down your starter to meet whatever baking demand you might have. Hope that helps!

  • Cessnabmw

    Please can I get a recipe for the bread once the starter is ready?

  • Cessnabmw

    Thank you!

  • Hi. I will be starting this over the weekend (I unfortunately cannot use Rye flour so bread flour will hopefully have a similar effect)

    I was wondering exactly where you store the starter. I live in a small house and strong smells become a problem for the family. can i seal it in an air tight jar, or must it remain simply covered on the counter? What about if I store it in the refrigerator ? Would I seal it or simply cover it?

    Thanks in advance 😀

    • Hello Mihir! Bread flour will not have the same effect as rye flour, in fact, bread flour might actually work against you when creating your starter. If you don’t have rye flour, use as whole grain (100% whole wheat is ideal) of flour as you can find.

      I keep my starter in my kitchen on the counter, depending on the season. I have never noticed any strange smells from my starter once you get it established (that super sour smell goes away). I don’t seal the jar shut but I do have a glass lid gently resting on the top to let any gasses escape. If you store it in the refrigerator it will slow down fermentation to a crawl so I do not recommend this unless you are storing for extended periods without baking.

      Hope that helps!

  • Lucy

    Hi Maurizo…I’m on day 1 of my starter. I’ve tried a number of times and haven’t really been successful. This is my first try with apw/rye, so I’m hoping for better success. I’m in Melbourne Australia (originally a New Yorker!) and it is winter here. The house is about 68 degrees most of the time. I have it in a non-drafty area and I’ve heated up a towel in the dryer to wrap around it. Fingers crossed!

    • Hi, Lucy. With my steps here you’ll get a starter going for sure. 68F is a bit on the cold side so expect things to take a bit longer (if you’re not using the heated towel trick all the time). Just remember the warmer the temperatures the higher the fermentation activity.

      Keep me posted, we’ll get your starter up and going!

      • Lucy

        Day 7…but as you suggested, things are slow. We had a very warm weekend so days 5-6 really got things moving. Day 6 I started twice a day feeds. It’s looking good, I may try a bake soon. I do not have a cast iron baking dish, I was going to use a stone. Should I adjust the hydration to suit this or just go with it?

        • You won’t need to adjust your hydration, but you’ll be missing out on steam in your oven without the Dutch oven inside! If you don’t enclose the dough you’re baking inside a pot like this then you won’t get optimal rise out of your dough.

          There are a few tutorials online for steaming your oven when baking (I’m working on a writeup about this), some use a really hot pan in the bottom of the oven and toss water in right when you load your dough. Others use a garden sprayer to saturate the oven right as they load.

          I think the dutch oven method is the easiest and produces some great results!

          • Lucy

            I have a covered casserole that I will try. I started my twice a day feedings and now things have slowed down. On day 7 it passed the float test, but today it failed! It seems to only have small bubbles on the bottom. I am not able to bake for 2 more days. So I’m going to attempt 3 feeds today and tomorrow try to build my levain. Hoping for the best but fearing another sourdough fail! I won’t give up!

            • We will get you up and running, don’t worry. Be sure you don’t do too many feedings per day, you want your starter to have sufficient activity before discarding a large portion of it. Think of it this way: if you’re waiting for yeast and bacteria to consume the flour (sugars) you’ve fed it and colonize the entire mass, if you discard too much, and too often, you’ll have a very small starting population each time you feed. Make sense?

              Just observe your starter and take note of how it’s behaving, if it rises and then falls, right when it falls is the optimal time to do a feeding.

              • Lucy

                I didn’t give up and all of a sudden (with 2 feeds a day) it took off. So today I have followed your recipe for Tartine Country Loaf…it is now in the fridge waiting for tomorrow’s bake! I will let you know how it goes.

                • Awesome! Excited to hear how it turns out 🙂

                • Lucy

                  It was AMAZING! This weekend I’m going to try my hand at cranberry walnut bread. My husbands loves a fruit loaf!

                • Great news!! That walnut/cranberry loaf is one of my favorites 🙂

  • Elie

    Hi Maurizio,

    I will be going on vacation for two weeks, during which time I will not be able to feed my starter. My starter always bounces back after a week in the fridge, but I think that two weeks is pushing it. My starter is 100% hydration, using 50/50 AP/rye. I have heard that if I double the feed before I put it in the fridge, I should be fine for two weeks (my last feeding should have 40 g starter + 80 g water and 80 g flour).

    Thoughts?

    • Elie,
      Giving some extra flour and water is a good idea if you’re going to be gone a bit longer. I’ve done two weeks with no problem so I don’t see you having an issue. Double up your feeding and you’ll be just fine.

      Another approach is to reduce the amount of water you’d normally feed with, say, by 25%. The stiffer the starter the better it can adapt to longer intervals between refreshment (within reason).

      Hope that helps, have a great vacation!

      • Elie

        Thank you!

  • Alex

    Hi there. Thanks for such detailed instructions. First off, I have hard water in my house and we run it through a brita filter. Will either of these things inhibit the starter from growing? Also, what do you do with the starter that you remove when you feed it? Can I just leave that in and add more each time to get a big batch of starter? Thank you!

    • You’re very welcome, glad you’re finding them useful! No, hard water will not inhibit your starter formation, don’t worry about that. However, high chlorine levels can cause issues, I typically fill a large jug of water and let it sit overnight before using it to feed my starter. This will help the chlorine dissipate some.

      You must remove some of your starter at each feeding otherwise the entire mass will become overly sour and the acidity level will inhibit your starter from growing (assuming you aren’t feeding with a lot more flour each time). Think about your starter as a collection of bacteria and yeast that consume the flour and water you feed it, if you don’t discard some when you feed with fresh flour/water the population will grown far too fast for the amount of food.

      If you feel like discarding some is a “waste” of good food, it’s not really as your new family member has just eaten and that’s their leftovers! However, you can check out my post on things to do with your leftover starter, I have some great recipes there!
      http://www.theperfectloaf.com/my-top-3-leftover-sourdough-starter-recipes/

      Hope that helps!

  • Jerry

    Hi there. I am in day four with my starter following your instructions and I was wondering if I am supposed to continue removing all of the starter until it is jar weight plus the 40 grams of starter? That is what I understand but what I want to know is that I like to bake a lot and I bake two or three loves at a time so can I just leave the starter in and just feed the water and flour to it so that I can increase the amount I have all together?

    • You can remove as little or as much as you want so long as you know the result. If you leave more mature starter at each feeding and feed with the same percentage of flour & water know that your starter will consume the food at a faster rate as there is a higher ratio of yeast/bacteria to flour/water (food). Make sense?

      I like to keep my starter at the same percentage of mature-to-new food and if I’m going to bake more I just scale everything up until I have the required amount of levain for the next day’s bake.

      I hope that helps, let me know if it’s unclear!

  • Muna Saif

    Hi Maurizio, Thanks for this wonderful blog. I have an issue about storing the starter in the fridge: been through your blog and also to many other sites but cant come to a standard process that I can follow to have my starter stored properly. I bake on weekly basis.. Could you please give more details on the weights : after feeding the starter several times for baking, how much should I keep to store? what’s the process to have it ready to store ? need this in weights please . thanks again

    • Muna — you’re welcome glad you’re liking the blog! With regard to your question, the end weight of the starter you store in your fridge can really be any amount you’d like. It depends on when you’ll be able to refresh your starter next. For example, if I’m storing my starter in the fridge each week you should be fine with 60 to 80grams of total weight (carryover starter from last feeding + water + new flour). I’d say start with 80 grams this week and see how your starter looks when you take it out of the fridge on Thursday or Friday. Does it look like it’s consuming all your food (new flour and water) before you take it out at the end of the week? Some signs will be heavy acidic smell, no life to the starter and possibly some alcohol-looking liquid at top. If so, up it to 100grams and see the result the next week.

      The key is the storage weight will be different based on your unique starter, just observe how it behaves and adjust the amount as necessary. Personally mine slows down quite a bit in the fridge so 80g is plenty for me (my fridge is typically at 38ºF).

      I hope that helps, let me know if you still have questions!

      • Muna Saif

        A late thank you 🙂 thought you didn’t see my question and just saw your reply, appreciating so much your detailed feedback.

  • naji

    Maurizio, Gracie for this great post. I am on day 4 and the starter is going well but it is been two days where it gets more liquid and I keep adjusting it to make it firmer. Is this normal ? When should I start worrying? Also, we are gluten free so I did my starter with 50% brown rice flour and 50% sorghum flour . Is that a good mix ?

    • You’re welcome! You can make it as firm or liquid as you want, really. Typical hydration ranges are anywhere from 60% (stiff) to 100% (liquid). Each along the way has slightly different characteristics (and chemistry) but they all work just fine. The key is to get to know how it behaves; how long until it needs refreshment? How much seed amount at each feeding so it can “last” until you can feed again? etc.

      I’m sorry I’m not familiar with brown rice flour and sorghum but I’d say if you notice fermentation going it’s just fine!

  • luke richards

    Hi Maurizio, just a quick question when you say all purpose flour is that plain four or white bread flour? cheers Luke

    • Hi, Luke! When I say all purpose I specifically mean *not* bread flour but flour that has a lower protein percentage (11-13%). Your typical King Arthur All Purpose or something similar is perfect. Let me know if you have any other questions — cheers!

  • ledu1000 .

    Maurizio, thank you so much for taking the time to share all your knowledge, I am learning and comprehending a lot more about the starers, finally mine is starting to have all these precious bubbles, thank you so much again!!! and also congratulation on your beautiful and gorgeous loaves you bake, many blessings to you!!!!!

    • You are very welcome, glad my tips have shed some light on things! Thanks for stopping by and happy baking!

  • solomi

    I am just starting my first starter according to your well illustrated guidance. As I progress in the daily process, do I continue to remove 40 gr. of starter on each and every feeding? Eventually, this leaves only 40 gr. at the end of the process, hardly enough to do a bake. What is the feeding schedule for ripe starter to get to viable amounts?

    • Yes, you want to remove a large portion of the starter at each feeding. It is possible to continually build your starter up and include everything from the feeding before, but this will result in a very, very active starter with significant acidity. Follow the steps above for maintenance and your starter will do very well, when you want to bake, however, you’ll need to build a “leaven (levain)”. A leaven has much more flour and water, enough to suit the recipe at hand. In all my recipes here I list out the leaven ingredients which include a small portion of your starter. Think of the starter as an ongoing, living thing that never gets modified. The leaven is a small offshoot of the starter that’s built up to use only a single time for that next bake.

      I hope that makes sense, please let me know if you still have questions!

      • Susan

        Hi Maurizio,
        Your instructions are clear and the pictures are great. However, I am not sure whether we still have to discard
        40g on the 6th day when we start to feed it twice a day, and then later, thrice a day.
        When do we stop discarding? How many grams of starter do we have at the end of the 7th or 8th day.
        Will the jar be big enough if we stop discarding at the end of the 5th day and keep feeding 2-3 times a day.
        Do you know what I mean?
        I am so sorry for being so confused and for being such a nuisance.
        I am going to start making a jar of starter using your recipe, even though I already have a jar using 100% rye following the weekend bakers website. I find the 100% rye generates a really sweet smell and the starter is really dry and not soapy at all. Never smelly or cloudy.
        Thank you,
        Susan

        • Susan – thanks! You always discard. Each time you feed your starter your want to discard some portion of it (so you only have a small amount of “mature” starter left), and then feed that small portion with fresh flour and water. The jar will always be big enough because you discard constantly and only a small portion of the starter is carried over to the next feeding.

          I hope that helps!

          • Susan

            Hi Maurizio,
            Thank you for your reply.
            Let’s say that after the 8th days, I need to use my starter to make a bread.
            Let’s assume that I have 40g of starter in the jar, and I need 40g to make the bread. As I am using ALL the starter in the jar, I will not have any starter left for my next bread?
            Another separate issue: When you discard, am in right to say that after you have discarded HALF of my jar of 100g of the starter, and now have only 50g left, I must now feed with 25g flour and 25g water? so that I now again have 100g of starter.
            Is this right?
            I know that this must sound very silly to you, but can you please let me know if the above is correct or have I got it all wrong?
            Thanks,
            Susan

            • If you need more starter to make your levain (remember, the levain is the “preferment” we make and let ferment for some number of hours before mixing to make our bread, typically 20% or so in the final mix) than you have in your jar, just feed with more flour + water the day before to cover the amount needed for your levain build. For example, if your levain recipe requires 40g starter, and you have only 40g in your jar, feed your mature starter the day before with 60g or 80g flour + water.

              If you keep 50g starter then i would actually feed with a bit more flour and water, perhaps 50g mature starter, 150g flour and 150g water. Or, you can reduce this to 20g mature starter 100g flour and 100g water — this is what I’m currently doing in my kitchen.

  • Yaron

    Hi,
    Thanks for the very detailed descriptions, I am going to start today.
    All over the process, besides when feeding the starter, the jar is being kept closed?
    Many Thanks.

    • Thanks so much! Yes, I keep a lid on the jar, but it’s not sealed tightly. Gasses can push up through the lid if things get too pressurized inside. The lid here is essentially a glass top that is just resting at the jar opening. I hope that helps, happy baking!

  • Missy

    Hello. This is a wonderful site and I love all the tips! I have made the starter and its rises and falls beautifully, also it’s predictable. I made this recipe, I had a beatiful crust, and amazing oven lift. My problem is that I had large holes at the top, and dense twords the bottom. A common problem with over-fermentation? Also, my loaf is very gummy and chewy. Any suggestions?

    • Missy, that’s great! Sounds like you’re off to an excellent start. I will sometimes also get a dense area near the bottom middle of my loaves. I usually attribute this to shaping as the middle is usually the place that takes the most “compression” when you shape your loaves. To get rid of that it just takes time and practice, to develop that light touch when shaping but still have a taut enough skin on the outside to create a nice crust and high rise. One other thing: when you slice your bread make sure you let it cool completely and try not to push down as you cut. I’ve noticed, with me at least, if I cut this way I’ll get a dense section at the bottom where the knife has sort of pressed down and compacted the bread.

      If your bread is gummy/chewy it could be a few things but I typically attribute this to undercooked loaves. Make sure you bake things out fully and the inside doesn’t look raw or discolored. Your loaves should be around 212ºF inside, you could use an instant read thermometer for a while until you get a hang for how things should feel and look. It could also be due to the flour you are using. If your flour has a high protein percentage (around 14% or higher) this can lead to a more gummy interior.

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions — happy baking Missy!

  • Ben Wilson

    Hi Maurizio,

    Thanks so much for the detailed instructions! I would love your help with a few things about starter maintenance (I’m a newbie — I have been using the Tartine country bread recipe for the past month, with 100% hydration for my starter). Would you be able to take a look at my process and advise? We keep our house pretty cool in the winter (around 62 degrees) and I bake 1 to 2 times a week. I am using 1/3 rye, 1/3 ap white, and 1/3 wheat. Each morning, I keep about 25 g of the starter and add 30 g flour mix and 30 g room temp (62 degree) water. The starter shows good activity each day, but it’s slow, which I would expect with using cool water and storing it in a cool house and feeding it just once daily. The night before I bake, I start the levain, so the starter has only 12 hours or so before I feed it to bake. Does this seem like an okay method? Ought I feed it more frequently, or use warmed water, or something else? I like the idea of only having to discard once a day, but I’m not sure if I’m taking good care of the starter. My loaves have been coming out well with pretty decent oven spring (my sense is that not yet having a dutch oven cooker combo and still learning the proper shaping technique have more to do with this than anything, but I could be wrong) and a decent amount of holes (it’s not dense, but it certainly isn’t see through). Do you have any tips for me? I appreciate your time!

    • You’re welcome! You don’t need to have a sealed top, in fact mine is not sealed it’s just resting on top. A towel works just fine.

      Feeding it more frequently does not necessarily mean you will get more activity. There are theories abound about feeding a few times, or only a single time, before building your levain. The real key is you want to use your levain when it’s had enough time to generate sufficient activity — I would say 12 hours should be enough but then again 62F is pretty cold! I’ve never kept my starter at this low of a temperature, ideally you want at least above 65F. You’ll have to observe it for a week or so to see how long it takes to get to it’s “peak” (that point before it starts to fall), once you see how long that takes you can judge when to use your levain. At 72F or so you should be able to use your levain after 5-6 hours. If you use warmer water then that essentially speeds things up. You could play with using 75F or 85F water and see how that affects the timetable.

      It’s ok if you feed once a day, especially at those temperatures. When you bake, though, I’d recommend feeding 2x a day two days before to reduce the acidity buildup in your starter, it will help yeast activity increase.

      I hope that helps, let me know if anything is unclear!

  • pamelia chia

    Hi Maurizio,

    Thank you for your very informative post and easy-to-follow steps. It has definitely given me the motivation and confidence I need to begin a sourdough starter. I’m currently on Day 2 but my starter seems to be super active. I left the lid ajar, and it shot right out of the jar and went all over my countertop (the starter was slightly under the halfway mark when I fed it). It smells very vinegary, almost pungent. I gave it a stir and gave it a feeding, even though had only been 9 hours since I last fed it. Am I doing this right? Would increasing the frequency of the feeds help in this situation? Would appreciate any advice I can get.

    • Hi, Pamelia! Sounds like you’re off to a great start. Sometimes that activity in the beginning can be a “false alarm” and you’ll see bubbles and activity that will subside, only to return a few days later. However, this may not be the case for you (as each person’s environment is different), and you might be moving along quicker than typical. Just make sure to follow the steps above, discard a large portion of your starter each time you feed, and feed with fresh flour + water. That vinegar smell is normal, and good, but if it starts to smell overly acidic then you might want to feed earlier or give it a bit more flour and water. Like you said, if you feed earlier you’ll avoid that excess acid buildup in your starter, which will in the end make your bread less sour.

      I hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions!

      • pamelia chia

        Thank you for your reply, Maurizio! I’ve been following the steps and it seems that you’re right – my starter’s hyperactivity appears to be a false alarm… after a few days of feeding, my starter is suddenly not rancid-smelling anymore. However, what concerns me is that there is almost no sign of activity now, not even a bubble or two! Contemplating if I should discard the starter and start over. Any suggestions?

        • This is normal. My suggestion is to continue following the regiment for another week and see if you spot any signs of activity. It’s a good sign that the initial activity came and then left. If you don’t see any activity in a week then I would stay start anew, but you should see something in a week or so!

  • Laura

    Hi! I’m trying to learn more about sourdough starters. Can you explain the purpose of using the rye flour? And is there any substitute for the all purpose flour? I’ve seen a lot of different recommendations on flours and I am just trying to get a better grasp. Thank you!! Your recipe and explanations are so helpful!

    • Hi, Laura! Rye flour is packed with nutrients (more so than regular wheat) that will help get your starter off the ground. It’s worth using and I always use rye flour when starting a new starter.

      You can use other flour besides all purpose, what you really want is a flour that isn’t too high in protein (hence all purpose, which is typically around 11%). If you can only use bread flour (higher protein), that’s fine, but AP is a better choice. You can also use whole wheat flour here instead, just know that fermentation rates will increase as WW has more nutrients, like rye.

      I hope that helps! Good luck, let me know how it goes.

      • Laura

        Thank you! I think I might try with bread flour, but we will see how that goes. Does this mean i need to take different steps in creating my starter since fermentation rates will increase?

        • Nope, follow the same steps just keep an eye on fermentation. Everyone will have to adjust feeding times based on their local environment and flour, so it’s normal if your times change from mine listed above, but you can still follow the guide closely. Just be observant and flexible, if it looks like things are fermenting incredibly fast then you might need to feed sooner, and vice versa. Let me know how it goes!

  • Thanks Donna, I appreciate that! Good luck and happy baking 🙂

  • That’s great to hear! It may be that it’s just drying out on top, you could stir your starter halfway through the time between feeding and then feeding again. This way no flour will ever be exposed to air for too long. Are you keeping your jar slightly covered as well? I don’t keep it air tight (the lid will pop off) but I keep a loose fitting glass top on.

    Hope that helps! Keep at it, you’ll have a strong sourdough starter in no time.

  • Indeed it is! You’re welcome — happy baking Laura!

  • Wes

    I started a sourdough from KA but I wanted to try something from scratch before I read this article. Thanks for the elaborate step by step. Interesting info. I am going to try your procedure next, probably start this afternoon.
    But I had already previously started a “Sponge” with some AP about a week ago and with active yeast. I had punched it down twice and then stuck it in the fridge. It rose and I punched it down again. Then next day I punched it again and decided to put it into a less cold fridge at 39F. The previous fridge was at ~33F. After two days at 39F it had thumbnail size bubbles on top, so I punched it/stirred it down and it definitely had this vinegary smell to it. So I cut it in half and mixed each cut with 1 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup water. Now it is back into the 39F fridge.
    Then I read your blog post.
    My question, do you think this is a way to also make a starter? It seems to be acquiring the smell. I am not in a hurry, I just want to see results, so I am wondering if you feel that maybe “cold and slow” might affect the results?
    In a couple of days, when I check back on the two now in the fridge I think I will add WW to one and RYE to the other.
    After that grows I want to cut and split it and add some Apple Cider Vinegar to one. Not much, less than 1/8 tsp and see the results. I am hoping to get a more vinegary flavor from it.
    What about adding a little Turbanado sugar to it?
    Do you have any thoughts? – Thanks!

    • I don’t have any experience using active dry yeast to make a sourdough starter. I’m not too sure how that strain of bacteria/yeast would interact with the wild variants, but I’m sure the stronger of the two would survive and things would eventually work out. I would recommend, though, trying to make one like my process above and see how the two compare. There is definitely a certain smell/taste to the commercial yeast products, you can pick it out right away. I love the complex flavors of a completely wild yeast.

      Adding cider vinegar will help increase the acidity in your culture, but will eventually get replaced by water, of course. If you want your culture/bread to be more sour overall, you can always carryover more of your mature starter at each feeding. For your bread you can let it ferment longer in the fridge to build up more acidity, or use my levain in your final mix.

      I’ve never added sugar, I would assume that might speed up fermentation (similar to adding anything starchy or sugary, like raisins/figs).

      I hope that helps, thanks for the comments!

      • Wes

        Maurizio Leo – Well I followed your process to making a sourdough starter and I tried two variants at the same time, a “Rye Blend” variant as well as a “White Wheat” variant. It definitely seemed to me and I also took some pictures that the Rye variant was producing more activity. Everything else went according to your instructions, including the rancid smell. But the next day, it was gone and I never smelled it again. In the end, I mixed the Rye and Wheat together and I have used the culture a few times in bread and it is good. I am trying an experiment. I have a small spare refrigerator and I am storing the sourdough cultures isolated in it. I took a cup or so of green coffee beans that I ground up with my bullet and I put the ground up green coffee in an open bowl in the fridge hoping that the ground coffee spores will eventually contribute to the sourdough starter.
        I have the other sourdough that I created from the dry yeast, as I explained earlier in a different building location. I have split it into two cultures and I have turned them probably at last 15 times, just adding 1 cup of AP flour and 1/2 cup distilled water as in a normal sourdough starter. I have kept both containers in the same fridge as well at around 39 – 40 degrees. I have turned the mix everyday now for the last 4 days in a row and today I mixed one cup each of starter from each (2 cups total) and added 4 cups of AP, 60% water, 2% salt and 2% dry yeast. It’s been sitting warming up for the last couple of hours and the dough smells amazingly malty, sweet and nutty. I can’t wait to make a couple of Boules of it this afternoon.
        Happy Holidays!

        • Thanks for the update! Sounds like your two cultures are both doing well. As expected the rye variant will have more activity due to the increased amount of nutrients available to your starter present in rye flour — this is the reason why I recommend creating a starter with rye flour.

          I just love the smell of dough as you described, that subtle malty and sweet smell… Incredible. They should make a candle with that scent 🙂

          Thanks again and I hope you have a happy holiday!

  • Natalia Czachowicz

    Hi Maurizio, 6 days ago I have attempted to make the starter for the second time and it feels like it is not going good again. First time I ended up with a lumpy soup. This time, at day 6, I have just a couple of tiny bubbles and the smell is beginning to be very alcoholy. I follow your instructions very carefully but the starter doesn’t seem to grow and rise. Do you know if the starter will evolve if I will keep feeding it once a day until it creates more bubbles?

    • Hello, Natalia. An alcoholic smell is ok. Are you using whole grain rye flour as indicated? Do you notice your mixture separating into clear liquid on top with flour on bottom? Do you notice any other strange colors in your mixture (pink, green, etc.)?

      • Natalia Czachowicz

        Thank you Maurizio, I just noticed this morning, on day 7, that I have MUCH MORE bubbles so that means it’s not over yet 🙂 I am using 50% rye and 50% ap flour. My first starter was separating but this is pretty firm all the time. And I haven’t noticed any strange colors. I will be patient and continue doing what I need to do. Thank you for your answer!

        • You’re very welcome, glad it’s turning around. Stick with it!

  • Naomi Dagen Bloom

    Hello, Maurizio, Wanted to let you know that it worked! Had my doubts around Day 4, but finally achieved starterdom. Used some to try a new recipe, Russian Peasant Bread (with coriander!) and it was delicious. Thanks for your encouragement; will do your SD with a young levin in coming days. And kudos to you for encouraging viewers to use bowl covers instead of plastic wrap!

    • EXCELLENT! I knew it would take hold, sometimes it just needs a little extra time 🙂 You’re welcome, and Russian Peasant Bread does sound delicious.

      Those reusable bowl covers are a worthwhile purchase, less waste and just much easier to use in general.

      Happy holidays Naomi!

  • Sharon Bennett

    Hi Maurizio, I live in Ontario Canada where our winters are very cold. I am new to making sourdough starter and am determined to get past the difficult stage until I succeed. I have had glitches along the way. I have read books and online instructions on how to make the best sour dough starter. I am finding that a few of you do things differently but all are successful. So I have 3 jars going with 3 sets of instructions. I just want to make sure of one thing. I’m on day 6 and finally see some good activity. On day 5 you say “feeding as usual”. But you don’t mention discarding. Do I continually discard on day 5, 6 and 7 before feeding. Can you direct me to instructions for keeping my sour dough starter on the kitchen counter while I experiment over the next weeks. Thanks so much for your help.
    Sharon

    • Sharon, thanks for the comments! Yes, you continue to discard sourdough starter at *every* feeding. Here is a very recent post I made on maintaining my sourdough starter, it should give you some more insight into maintenance on your counter:

      http://www.theperfectloaf.com/sourdough-starter-maintenance-routine/

      I hope that helps, let me know if you run into any issues but I’m sure you’ll get things up and running!

  • Sharon Bennett

    Hi again, So as I gain more knowledge and work through this I am finally understanding more fully terms and such. So I began a whole new batch and yesterday on day 6 I began twice a day feed. I gave it a second feed just after it fell a bit late last night when it was smelling sweet. I woke up in the night and noticed it had doubled. However I now have a new problem that I didn’t have before. The fermentation smell is nearly gone. Why is this?

    • That sounds great, looks like things are progressing nicely. You definitely should have a consistent rise and fall if your temps are consistent and your feed percentages (flour & water) as well.

      I’m not sure what smell you’re referring to. Chances are you’ll find that same smell if you let your starter ferment a bit longer, I would say at that point it smells “vinegary” or “slightly sour” to me. Like you said, you’ll have that sweet floury smell in the beginning that eventually turns to a ripe fruit smell, then vinegar, and finally very acidic and sour and downright pungent.

      • Sharon Bennett

        It has gone through the vinegary sour smell then it went more sweet, not like in the beginning, more like apple. But now all scent is nearly gone altogether.

        • Sharon Bennett

          Am I looking for a certain scent before beginning the levain stage or is it more about the rise and fall and long fermentation?

          • A little bit of both, I use both indicators. With time you’ll almost be able to just look at it and tell but I find scent to really help. It will not smell sweet any longer, but more like ripe fruit like I mentioned. If you use your starter a little before this stage, or a little after, it’s totally fine, things will still work out. It’s just a good milestone to help gauge when things are ready.

            The starter will still be risen up, with bubbles on top, and perhaps a little collapse in the center where it’s starting to fall.

            In you comment below this one I replied with a link to my maintenance routine post, check that out! I have a bunch of pictures where you can see just where I use my starter.

  • Sharon Bennett

    Thankyou. I’ll keep you posted.

  • Sharon Bennett

    It was such a great moment 2 days ago when I did the float test and it worked. I am very happy to say I’ve been sharing my first loaves with family and everyone loves it. It has a beautiful chewy crunchy crust and nearly perfect inside. I am pretty happy with my first results and perseverance paid off. I want to improve my loaf though. The inside is just a bit too dense, spongy and was slightly sticky the first day. It has a mild flavor which I would like to improve on. At what point do I need further fermentation to get more sour into the dough? Thankyou for encouraging me along the way.

    • That’s excellent! It is definitely a wonderful feeling when everything starts working properly. It sounds like your loaves still might be a little bit underproofed. Try to make sure you are doing a full bulk fermentation, 4 hours is a good benchmark, and you want to do this at a fairly warm temperature. If you can find a place in your kitchen that stays around 78F then you’ll be in good shape. If you can’t find a place that warm, use warmer water for your mix (around 90F) and then keep the dough somewhere as warm as possible. At the end of bulk you really want to see some active dough with bubbles throughout and it jiggles in the bowl.

      You can increase sourness in your bread by using my levain in the mix (20%+) or let it proof longer in the fridge (20+ hours). There’s a balance there as you can’t push fermentation too far (you’ll overproof), but the longer you push it the more sour your bread. A few tests and trials will help you determine how far you can push it!

  • Thanks so much Arnie, I appreciate that!
    I would say please continue with the method outlined above. It’s very possible your starter is moving faster than normal (good thing!) but sometimes at the beginning you’ll see activity like this and it will stop and taper off after a day or two. This is the point where most people think they’ve “done something wrong” but it’s a normal part of the process (the initial fermentation you might see is bacteria/yeast we’re not interested in keeping long term, it will eventually die out). I’d say keep going with what I have outlined above in the post just to be sure!

  • Anne

    Great recipe. Baked my first bread on it today and it tastes BETTER than what my previous sourdough used to taste. Biggest difference I think is that my previous recipe just added up flour and water each day without discharging, ending up with quite a big starter and not a 1:1:1 ratio. And the tips on the jar helped too! Thanks!

    • You’re welcome, that’s really great to hear. Yes, discarding is necessary if you want to reduce some of the acidity that builds up over time. Glad it’s been helping — happy baking Anne!

  • Heidi Brownfield

    So, I guess technically I’m about to start day three. Because of my schedule, I started my starter at 9:30pm, so I started it Saturday night, then Day 2 started last night at 9:30 with my first feeding, I just checked my jar and I already have a CRAZY amount of growth. I am a fairly regular baker though, so as per your advice above, I was not surprised to see such quick action, but my question is, since it’s livening up so quickly, should I start twice a day feedings sooner than day five or six? I have a whole wheat starter I’m working on too and it says to start two a day feedings on day three, which would mean after I feed it tonight, I’ll feed it again every twelve hours going forward.

    I loved this post btw, it was most helpful and I appreciate any feedback!

    • Sounds great! I have to say though that sometimes in the beginning you’ll see activity like this but it may be a false positive. Sometimes activity really quick upfront could be due to other yeast/bacteria in your culture that will ultimately die off in place of the “good ones” we are looking for, which typically take hold a few days later. However, this isn’t a hard fast rule, since you are an avid baker already you might have enough of the good wild critters in your kitchen already. If you see incredible activity like this I’d say yes, start feeding 2x a day. Keep that up as long as you see explosive activity like this, and then taper off as things start rising & falling predictably. If you all of a sudden notice things drop off in terms of activity, switch back to 1x a day and keep with the post above.

      You’re welcome, I’m glad things are moving along so well! Happy baking, Heidi!

  • Julie

    Hello Maurizio, I made the starter and it is nice and healthy and strong. I am confused as I look ahead at recipes for tartine. My starter is stiff at 40 grams each starter, flour blend(50-50 rye and white) and water. In the maintanence article ,you mention that you now prefer a more liquid starter. This is where I get a little confused. Should I switch over to a more liquid starter? And if so, can I easily do that with the starter I have! Thanks.

    • Liquid vs stiff — it’s up to you! Either of these will work well. I’ve been playing with both types over the years, kind of going back & forth on them. The one thing to keep in mind is really the hydration of your levain and the overall hydration of the recipe. If you’re using a stiff levain and the recipe assumes a liquid version, you will have to add a bit more water to the final mix so the overall hydration is the same (and vice versa if using a liquid levain).

      You can always easily switch between liquid and stiff starter versions. Just feed a few times (I like to do at least 2 days) with more or less water to achieve the consistency you’re after — that’s it!

      Hope that helps, let me know if anything is unclear!

  • Rob P

    Hi Maurizio, I have 2 starters, one I developed 2 yrs ago and Ischia that a friend sent me. They both work good. My question is about breads though. I’ve baked Jim Lahey’s no knead for over 7 yrs with yeast and great results. It’s a lot like the Italian Bread I was brought up on in my neighborhood of Newark, NJ. But recently I expanded and went into sourdough baking, and had great results making Tartine loaves. I compare Lahey’s loaf which is quicker, and even replaced the yeast with a Starter, to Tartine, which involves a span of 3 days. What is your feelings on what it takes to do aTartine loaf, measuring, temps etc and the work and time as opposed to a simple no knead bread that doesn’t require much like Jim Lahey’s no knead. Sometimes I do fall back and don’t want to be bothered doing a Tartine loaf with prepping the starter and just mix dough early evening, ferment overnight 12-18 hrs, and bake. Simple. Thoughts? BTW, love your site and follow you. TIA

    • You’re very welcome, glad you found it useful. Happy baking, Rob!

  • Mia

    Hi Maurizio, I have made sourdough starters and bread in the past but they never seemed to work out very well (I was also very new to homemade sourdough). I ended up having to throw my starter out as I was moving house and would be unable to take care of it. I am now quite settled in my new house and have decided to give sourdough another try. I just found this website yesterday and so far, I’m loving it! There’s so many great recipes and so much information! Anyway, I was wondering if you think a wholegrain spelt starter would work. The temperature in my kitchen is generally about 22-32 degrees (Celsius). I have filtered water and all the equipment that I need so it’s mostly just the flour that I’m unsure of.

    Thanks!

    • Thanks for the comments, Mia! Glad you’re finding my site helpful. I’ve never maintained a spelt starter, but yes it will work just fine. You can also mix spelt and wheat if you’d like, any combination. Your temperatures in the kitchen sound good for your starter, of course the warmer the more active.

      I hope that helps and happy baking! Hope to hear from you again in the future 🙂

      • Mia

        Awesome, thanks!

  • Gina

    Hi Maurizio,

    First, thank you so much for doing this!

    This is my first attempt at baking bread, and a neighbor suggested I look into Sourdough. I found your blog and I’m in the process of creating my starter. Today is day 3, and I have already done my feeding….40g of rye/white blend, 40 g of water. It is not going as fast as yours, but it is Winter in California, so it’s not doing too bad either. ?

    Anyway, I decided to read ahead to see the process of actually making the bread, and got a bit concerned when the Tartine Sourdough recipe called for 250g of leaven. So my question is, if I am discarding so much of the mix each day, and adding only 40g to replace, how do I end up having enough leaven at the end to make a loaf of bread?

    Did I miss some instruction along the way? Help!!!

    Gina.

    • You’re welcome, and glad to have you along! There are two separate things: 1) your ongoing starter, and 2) a leaven (or levain). The starter you feed continuously and always keep it around, when you want to bake bread you make a splinter off this starter, called a levain, which is ultimately completely used in your bread when you bake it. Your levain ceases to exist at that point but your starter always keeps getting fed, and then later a portion discarded and fed again.

      So when your starter is falling and rising reliably, and you’re ready to try it out in one of my bread recipes, you’ll build a levain (essentially you’ll scoop out some amount of your starter into a new jar, give it flour + water and let it ferment until it’s ready to be used in your mix) either early in the morning or the night before. This levain will be in a completely separate jar and used in your mix (you can find this step in each of my recipes, labeled “Build Levain”). At the same time you build your levain you will discard a portion of your starter and also feed it flour + water to continue on living.

      I hope that makes sense, let me know if there’s any confusion!

      • Gina

        Maurizio,

        Thank you for replying! Appreciated…

        Yes, now it makes sense!

        Today is Day 6, and though I see bubbles through the side of the jar, they are never on the surface. My home is never above 68°F, and I am assuming that’s why. So if it’s not to much of a bother, is there anything I can do to rectify this?

        Regards,
        Gina.

        • That is quite cold. You can warm up the water a little bit, say to 78ºF, and then use that when you feed it. Or one better: if you have a warm spot in your kitchen (on top of the fridge, next to the oven, etc.) place your starter there! Use an ambient thermometer and find those areas in your kitchen, around 75-80F is ideal, that will really get activity going quickly.

          • Gina

            Maurizio,

            Thank you again!

            Day 7…same results.

            I will try the water trick. On top of my fridge is cold, and so is my stove. Modern day electronics…?

            I suppose that eventually I will just have to wait until it warms up. I was going to try leaving it in the oven with the light on. But it has to be ‘dark’, no???

            Gina.

            • Try the warm water, but there’s no problem with letting it be exposed to light, I wouldn’t leave it in direct sunlight, but a lightbulb is not a problem.

              • Gina

                Great! Thank you for all the help! I will let you know when I’m successful.

                • Peggy Witter

                  Gina, we live in Indiana and our house is definitely always on the chilly side during the day and cold at night. I’ve finally been successful with my starter by using warmed water and setting the starter on top of our gas hot water heater in the laundry room. It is the only room in our house above 70 during the winter.

  • Mitchell O’Hearn

    Hey Maurizio. Thanks for your wonderful instructions – I feel like I am in good hands. For six months I kept a starter that my friend gave to me and watched it grow. I baked at least once a week and produced some really nice loaves (good spring and deep crust), but my crumb was always a bit dense. Looking at your loaf here, it seems much more airy and light. Anyway, I decided to build a new starter from scratch and use your feeding regime, not my old method adopted from the Tartine bread book. I am on day six and my starter has some nice smaller bubbles forming underneath, and doubles in size 16+ hours after the morning feed. However, it never quite gets to the stage of having bubbles forming in the top and collapsing by the end of the 24hr cycle. Do you think this might be because my kitchen temp is around 70º and the starter is not active enough? Or do you think it might be because it is still growing in strength and I should keep with the one-a-day feedings until I see it consuming? Any thoughts would be much appreciated. All the best! Mitchell

    • Thanks for the comments, Mitchell! It could be a combination of the two things. 70ºF is not too cold, but I like to keep mine 75-78ºF where I see quite a bit more activity. You could try to find a warmer spot in your kitchen or use slightly warm water to feed and see if that increases activity. You should definitely keep feeding at least once a day. You really want to make sure your starter has fully consumed all the food you’ve given it before you feed it again, this way you are carrying over a maximal population from one feed to the next. In other words, the small amount you carry over should be fully fermented.

      I’d try warm water for a few days and see how it responds. It’s ok if you don’t see major bubbles on top, but it should definitely rise and then start to fall before you feed it. Good luck, let me know if you have any more questions!

      • Mitchell O’Hearn

        You are most welcome, Maurizio. And thank you for the wise words. I tried my first warm water feeding today and will monitor the progress. Happy baking!

  • Kate

    Hi Maurizio,

    I’m so happy I found your blog. I’ve been reading other sites but yours made the most sense with lots of information.

    I’ve been trying with a 50/50 whole wheat/all-purpose blend and have been having some success with the flour that I bought in bulk (the bagged flour I have already don’t work but the bulk barn stuff does, go figure). The problem I’m having is this: I fed my starter at the 24 hr mark after seeing some small bubbles at the side and a tiny little bit of rise, and then the culture started some explosive growth at around 6-8hrs after feeding on Day 2, and by the time hour 36 rolls around, it had risen and dropped, so I decided to feed again. I was getting some vinegar-y smell but not overwhelming at 24 hrs, and the starter was a bit billow-y when I fed it. Now this is the second time I’ve run into this: I fed them again at 36 hrs, but this time, the culture just started to look progressively more soupy and vinegar-y, but with no noticeable rise. There are some small bubbles I can see at the side but it didn’t look “happy” to me. I’m wondering whether I should continue to feed it every 12 hrs, or I should go back to feeding it once a day?

    • Thanks for the comments! This is common. At the start you can sometimes see significant activity that at one point or another dies off and it looks like your starter went back to not working properly. This can be other yeast/bacteria that isn’t what we’re after in the long run, and eventually dies off. Keep feeding once per day per my schedule above and it will turn around! It’s a good sign you are seeing activity, so just keep with it 🙂

  • Paul Johnston

    I saw on YouTube yesterday that an organization in Europe kept take of all the sourdough in the region… they said they had as many strains of SD as there was bakery shops… so when we want to duplicate your results… I think we are going to have two chances at it… fat and slim… and I am guessing that all the shops are making yummy bread

    • Paul Johnston

      the YouTube channel is from the

      Puratos Group

      very interesting!!

  • Cory

    Maurizio,

    Thanks for the great blog. I’ve had similar issues to the last two posts, some rise on day 2, then nothing but small bubbles with no rise from day 3 on, now on day 6 (this is the second time I’ve tried, first was with a different recipe, but the same results).

    I’ve been feeding every 24 hours, but do I need to wait until I see some rise before feeding, even if it is 36-48+ hours? Or do I keep feeding every 24 hours and wait a few days for better results? I try to keep it in the oven with light on at 74-76 when I can and around 70-71 on the fridge when that isn’t possible.

    • Cory, thanks! Those temperatures sound good, the warmer the better (within reason). I would continue to feed every 24 hours, per my schedule above. Eventually things will take hold, sometimes it just takes longer. If you’re not using rye flour, make sure you get some as it will definitely help!

      • Cory

        Time was the key Maurizio, thanks! It took a few more days to really get going, but after 11 days, it’s finally doubling at least between twice daily feedings.

        I’m ready to try and bake and was going to use your “Back to Basics” recipe. Is that a good choice for a first time baker of bread of any variety, or do you have another recipe you recommend for a beginner?

        • Excellent! That’s a great recipe to start with, yes. I’m actually working on a “Beginners Sourdough” recipe at the moment and should have that up here at some point. Until then, that’s a great choice! Happy baking 🙂

          • Cory

            Just took the first loaf out of the oven, very little rise throughout and almost no oven spring, but a fun first attempt! I assume the newer starter isn’t up to full strength yet. Does the starter become stronger on its own as you continue to feed it over time, or is there something else you can do to increase strength?

            I did have some bubbles on top and throughout the leaven, so there was some activity, just not enough apparently.

            • It does sound like you didn’t have enough fermentation in there. Your starter needs several refreshments where it’s predictably rising and falling before you use it. I’d say at least 2-3 days. Keep feeding it regularly and see if you can keep it on a good schedule (e.g. feed at 10am and then by 10pm it’s ready to start falling, and needs more food) before your next attempt.

              Scoop out a little of your levain when you make it and drop it into a cup of tap water to see if it floats, if it does then your levain is ready to use for your mix that day.

              Also make sure you do a full bulk fermentation where your dough has risen at least 20-30% and when you shake the bowl to the side it will sort of “jiggle”, indicating sufficient gas production. Typically this takes me 4 hours when the dough is around 76-80ºF ambient temperature.

  • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

    Maurizio, have u ever tried making a starter with pineapple juice?

    • Sorry for the late reply! No I haven’t ever used pineapple juice, but I’ve read that it might help get things started if your having issues. Use rye flour is a pretty sure bet, though, give it a try!

  • Averee

    Hello!

    Just wondering if the types of flours used to make my starter are the same ones that I need to use to make my levain/bread. For example, if I make a 100% rye starter, and continually feed it with 100% rye, can I only make rye bread? Or can I add that starter to other types of flour?

    I’d ideally like to always be making whole grain bread, so I’m wondering what flours I should use to make the best multi-purpose starter.

    • Hi, Averee! When it comes down to it you could use any flour combination you’d like to make your starter. I keep mine fed with 25% rye and 75% apw flour, but have made rye bread, whole wheat, etc. Some bakers like to have a 100% rye starter for rye bread, a whole wheat starter for ww, and so on, but I don’t feel that’s necessary. It’s up to you!

      I like to have a mix of whole grain and white flour for my starter so it doesnt ferment super fast but still has great acidity and activity. You can experiment with different flour types to see how your starter reacts, but all combinations will work fine in the end. I used to keep a 100% ww starter and it performed really well!

      Happy baking 🙂

  • Mike Bailey

    Hi Maurizio ! I am a beginning baker and have had a few years of experience with the wonders of sourdough. Having lost my starter a year ago after being on a 3 week vacation, it wasn’t until recently that I have had to start over. I have successfully recreated a new starter and baked a few loaves (not too good, either!). I just realized that my wife and I are headed to Europe in July and expect to be gone for nearly three weeks. I would very much like to return to an alive starter. Do you have any suggestions for putting our beloved little ‘circus’ into a state of hibernation or dormancy ?

    • Your starter should do just fine in the fridge for that amount of time. It’s best to reduce the hydration a little bit when you do put it in there so that you can slow fermentation down even more. I’d recommend you take some of your starter, feed it with 200g flour and 150g water, mix it until no dry bits remain, let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes and then toss it into the fridge. It should be totally fine until you get back! Some bakers will completely dehydrate their starter even further but I don’t find it to be necessary.

      When you get back take your starter out, stir it down, keep some percentage of it and feed it with fresh flour and water. It should spring back to life and after a few of those feedings you should be good to bake with it again.

      Have a great trip!

      • Mike Bailey

        Thanks for the help, Maurizio! Just pulled two loaves of Tartine bread out of the oven! OMG!! What a breakthrough in baking for me!! I have been dancing all over the house overjoyed at the incredible outcome . . . AND . . .all that I just learned about this entire process!! Your blog has made SUCH a BIG difference for me! Having guests this evening and you KNOW what is being served !! 🙂

        • Mike — awesome!! Super glad to hear that, I know just how you feel 🙂 Glad I could be a part in that!

          I bet you guys enjoyed that bread, I know I sure do. Happy baking, Mike!

          • Mike Bailey

            I wish your other readers could have heard the moaning, slurping and crunching at the dinner table as the bread was consumed with homemade soup and wine. The bread was a knockout !!!

  • Jason Booy

    Hi Maurizio: I am enjoying exploring your blog and recipes! Thank you for your detailed explanations, helpful pictures, and for sharing your obvious passion for baking sourdough.

    I am wondering if you can help me troubleshoot my starter. This comes with a disclaimer that I am a newbie when it comes to sourdough. Being a bit of purist, however, I am determined to make my very own starter from scratch.

    Before discovering your blog, I tried a few recipes with all-purpose flour only and had minimal success (few bubbles, no rise). I was encouraged by your recipe that maybe using rye flour might be the missing ingredient for me. I am following your instructions as closely as possible (Brita filter, water bottle sitting overnight, pre-mixed 50:50 ratio etc). The points where I have deviated slightly are as follows:

    – I don’t have Weck containers, so I am using small glass measuring pitchers with a cling-wrap covering
    – I am feeding with a little less than 40g of water, because it seemed too thin when I added the full amount, so I decreased it aiming for the “firm” consistency that you described.

    On day #1 I saw bubbles, and on day #2 it doubled in volume in 8hrs. This seemed too good to be true… and it was. On day #3 there were no more bubbles and now going on day #7 there are still no bubbles, and no rise. The temperature of the starter ranges from 72-74F. I must be doing something wrong, but I’m not sure what it is. Any ideas what I might need to change? Or perhaps I just need to keep at it? Thanks so much for any advice.

    Regardless, thank you for your posts, pictures, and explanations. All the best,
    Jason

    • Jason — thanks for the comments! It’s totally normal to see some activity at the start that tapers off. This is where most people thing they’ve failed and done something wrong. Keep feeding according to the schedule and eventually your starter will come to life and take hold! That intermittent activity you see could be other bacteria/yeasts that have started to take hold but those are not the “good” kind we want in the long run. They will eventually die off if you stick to the schedule.

  • eten1031

    Really great post! Thank you! I’ve a question about feeding. You say your starter is two years old. Does this mean you’ve been feeding it 3 times a day for two years straight? That sounds like a full time job.

    • Thanks! This was posted quite a few years ago so it’s definitely older now, but I don’t always feed it 3x a day, no. Nowadays, since I’m baking quite often, I feed it 2x a day. It doesnt take more than 5 minutes each time I feed (I have a process I can do blindfolded) so it’s hardly a bother. I work it into my morning and nightly routine, like feeding my dog 🙂

      You don’t have to feed it so many times per day, if you’re not going to bake but on the weekends you can keep your starter in your fridge during the week, take it out Thursday, feed it a couple times and bake with it on the weekend. Then return it to the fridge on Sunday and it hangs out until you’re ready to use again (within limits, 2-3 weeks or so).

      Hope that helps!

      • eten1031

        Yes it does. I can’t wait to try this!

  • Tel

    Thank you so much for this post! The details and pictures are exactly what I needed. Both of my previous sourdough starters had failed. (Possible reasons: flour not maximally fresh, no rye flour, tap water, too-cool environment.) This time, though, I’ve noticed great success! Major bubbling, the right smells.
    My question: My progress hasn’t been quite as linear as yours (as you noted could happen). I’ve been going about 6 days, but I’d say mine looks more like your Day 3 or Day 4 photos, and I’ve definitely noticed periods of major bubbling and growth and periods of slowed activity. What signs should I be looking for to transition to twice-daily feedings? A trend toward a soupier consistency, almost-vinegar smell, major bubbles?
    Thank you again!

    • You’re welcome, glad it’s proving helpful!

      It’s totally fine if your starter isn’t moving along as fast, each is different and each environment is different. You should look for strong signs of fermentation: bubbles throughout the sides, on top and it will smell a little past sweet, slightly sour, when it starts to fall. You can transition to 2x a day feedings when these signs are strong and your starter rises to its maximal height and falls before you get to feeding it the next day. This is a sign that it doesnt have enough food for the amount of fermentation that’s taking place.

      If you want some more visual guidance on what it means to “fall” and “rise to peak” check out my recent post on my sourdough maintenance routine.

      I hope that helps Tel, happy baking!

  • Gage Allen

    Hi there! I’m just about to begin this seven day process here and was wondering. On day 1, how long should i leave the cover off the Weck Jar for the yeast to enter from the air? Or can i cover it as soon as the flour and water have mixed?

    • You can cover it right away without any problem, most of the yeast/bacteria we’re looking for will be on the grain itself, anyways. Hope that helps! You’ll be baking some awesome bread in no time.

  • Roxanne Benjamin

    Hi Maurizio!

    I am just getting into the amazing world of sourdough baking and I came across your wonderful blog which I love! I have a question about getting my starter going (please note, this is my first time and only other bread I’ve baked before is challah)… I decided to go half rye half whole wheat for the mixture (instead of ap) – I measured my 40g and 40g flour mixture and started the starter last night, but it seems a little drier than it should be – it holds a mound in the bowl but does not spread to the bottom after a few minutes. I’m using bottled water (do I need to take the temp of the water? I tried to just keep it at room temp). I live in LA where the weather is really dry, so would you recommend adding a couple more grams of water for the first feeding to make it a little less firm? I didn’t see any activity this morning (after 12 hours) but I think is normal? Any tips would help, thanks so much!

    • Super glad to hear that — thanks! The more whole wheat and rye you use the drier your mixture will be. These whole grain flours are very “thirsty” compared to white all purpose flour. You could add a little more water to the flour mix to try and get a more wet consistency, that’s not a problem. Additionally, each flour has a different absorption rate so the flour you’re using might require more flour than the one I’m using, or vice versa.

      Add a little more water until it becomes more wet and a little easier to stir. Hope that helps — good luck getting your starter going, it’ll happen!

      • Roxanne Benjamin

        Thanks so much for your reply! I’ve been adding just 1-2g more water for good measure, and it doesn’t seem super dry but it’s also not progressing that fast – I see bubbles everyday when I feed it but only at the bottom and a little bit throughout when I scrape back the top (I am on day 6). I will try adding a little more water since I am using more “thirsty” flour and hope it progresses a bit more! Thanks so much!

  • Bartolo

    Hi Maurizio, I have been using 130% hydrated liquid starter for several years now, and take it back quite easily with a few feedings even after 4-5 weeks. Most of the times I would bake once a week, and starter revival is quite prompt in that case. After Tartine I have been converting it to 100% with 4 feedings before levain building. After Maurizio Leo I have now successfully started a brand new 100% hydrated dark rye/bread flour starter. I understand your points about short-term fridge storage for weekly bakers and perhaps even longer storage after adding some more flour. Have you had any experience with prolonged fridge time without adding flour? Do you think I can expect the same outcome I have had with my 130% starter?
    Thanks a lot
    Bartolo

    • I’ve never gone with my starter in the fridge for more than 3 weeks or so. It would probably be fine but I would personally dry it out more by adding a higher percentage of flour to water. Fermentation rates are lower with stiffer doughs and a stiffer starter, this ensures your starter will have plenty of food for prolonged periods in the fridge, but still have enough fermentation to keep active. Might be worth an experiment to see how long a small portion would last @ 130% hydration!

      • Bartolo

        Thank you Maurizio. I have just brought to action a dark rye/bread flour starter 100% hydrated following your directions. Part of it is pushing a white flour dough 90% hydrated now on bulk fermentation, and part of it was fed and put in the fridge at about 8°C with the plan of feeding it again at 4 weeks. As I said that is something my current 130% has already shown to successfully withstand. I’ll let you know. Thanks a lot for your feed-backs, I feel my practice made a significant leap forward since I met your blog.
        Bartolo

        • Bartolo — you’re definitely welcome! Thanks for keeping me updated on your “experiments”! 🙂

  • simon ong sk

    Hi Maurizio, I am living in tropical country, Temperature is around 88F and humidity is about 75%. I tried to culture sourdough starter without success. It was always dilute or thin. I am using Gold Medal AP non bleached flour.

    The Ratio i am using is 100g flour and 100g water. Can you help?

    • Simon, if you’re environment is incredibly humid (and that is compared to mine) try reducing the water you add at your feedings by 10-20% (start with 10g and keep reducing until you find the texture you’re looking for). That said, even though it’s may be more “wet” than what I have in the photos, or what I maintain here in 30% humidity, your starter should eventually still take hold and you’ll notice bubbles and fermentation. Stick to the schedule and it will happen.

      • simon ong sk

        Hi Maurizio, thanks for quick reply, in fact the mixture I have now have many bubbles which I believe the yeasts or fermentation is actually working. By the way, I am using 100% non bleaches flour. Is it ok as compare to 50/50 rye and flour?

        • That flour will work fine but it might take longer for your starter to get really active. Rye flour has significantly higher nutrition present for yeast/bacteria to metabolize. If you’re getting good activity then you’re doing fine!

  • Camron James

    Am I the only one that has more of a grassy smell than anything else all of the time? It kind of overpowers every other smell in there. Started Day 5 this morning and it smelled less grassy than any other day so far but still not much sweetness, vinegar or alcohol.

    I am seeing some pretty decent bubble activity after 12 hours or so (maybe 25-50% growth) and it falls again by feeding time.

    • I’d guess that grassy smell is the wheat you’re using, but if you keep to the schedule you’ll eventually get more fermentation smells. Vinegar and/or alcohol is definitely normal, but you’ll eventually get to a point where your starter will smell sweet right after you mix things together and over the course of fermentation will become less sweet, more like ripe fruit, then a bit sour and finally very vinegary and super pungent.

      Sounds like your starter is definitely rising and falling well, that’s great!

      • Camron James

        4.5 hours since feeding and it’s probably more than doubled in volume. Bubbles are numerous but quite small still. It’s fairly warm in the house today so I assume that has a lot to do with the activity. I think tomorrow I will try to make my first levain with the discard just as a test.

        I expect it to be a little brick-like since it is still quite young but the practice with the levain, proofing and baking will be good before I attempt it with a more mature starter. I’ve also asked for a combo cooker for my birthday this next week so it might come just in time!

        I still have one that I started over 2 weeks ago with whole wheat and bread flours and it is….. puny. The smell is quite nice but the bubble activity and growth is almost nonexistent. Rye flour is definitely, definitely the key to not feeling like a failure at this haha.

        • Good luck with the b-day request, hopefully you get one! Awesome bread awaits 🙂 Yes, rye flour is definitely the key to getting things started!

  • LunaMoonJune

    I’m about to start this tomorrow , just curious , so everyday when I’m feeding it I’m throwing out the bit I remove before feeding ?

    • Camron James

      That’s what I’ve been doing. Eventually you can/will start using the bit you discard each time as your levain for a loaf from my understanding.

      • LunaMoonJune

        thanks, think I’ll be taking alot of photos this week so I’ll be able to just… this is my first attempt

        • Camron is correct: you want to discard the majority of your starter each day right when it peaks, then feed it with fresh water and flour. Look at the starter culture as mostly food (flour + water) for the bacteria/yeast present. You discard a large portion to get rid of the food that’s been eaten and keep a small percentage of it so you have a starting population to feed with fresh food.

          Also as Camron stated, the discard could eventually be used to make other food like pancakes, cakes, waffles, etc., but in a professional bakery situation ideally that discard would be exactly the amount you’d use to create a levain to make bread that day/night. So there’s little leftover. In the home baker situation it’s not practical for most of us to bake every single day so that discard portion is truly that, discard (you can compost it, or as I said use it in other foods!).

          • LunaMoonJune

            thanks that helps alot

  • Camron James

    So I assume you have experimented with the flour you use for your starter over the years and I was wondering exactly what combination seems to work best for you?

    I have been using the 50% rye and 50% AP shown here and it is working well but I have seen you also mention both 25% rye as well as 100% rye on other posts you’ve made.

    • Yes, I’ve definitely experimented over the years. It’s worth doing the same with your culture and your environment to see how it responds and what blend of flour (or no blend at all) works with your schedule and gets you the results you’re after. Currently I’ve been doing 25% rye to 75% apw and that is perfect for me: it gives me the intense fermentation I’m after without going overboard. Hope that helps!

  • Lisa

    I just want to say thank you for the detailed tutorial! I am going to try to make my own starter beginning tonight based on your instructions. Luckily I have all the items you say are needed (we have a lot of the same brand of equipment too!). I have an all purpose sourdough starter in the fridge that I bought from KAF but really want to try to make my own from scratch using rye/AP. I have wide mouth mason jars, would that work in replacement of a weck jar? I’ve heard people say not to use glass b/c it can bust with starter inside. I tried to put starter inside the mason jar to give to a friend and when I opened it a lot of gas came out and lid made a loud pop sound. Scared me into thinking I was going to have a glass explosion. Any tips on how to best use a mason jar (or weck jar) and keep it covered without exploding?

    • You’re very welcome, glad it’s helping! I use glass Weck jars and they work really well. There is a chance of explosion if you seal the lid tightly as gasses are produced as a byproduct of fermentation. If you let these gasses escape through the opening of your jar you have nothing to worry about. The Weck jars I use have clip on lids but I don’t clip the lid, just lightly place the lid on top so any pressure produced can escape. Alternatively you can simply drape a cloth over the top of your jar.

      Happy baking, Lisa!

  • Daniela

    This post is great thanks so much!!! I have some questions…
    1. Im going on a trip on day 6, I started mine yesterday. Should I put it in the fridge?
    2. I bought whole weat flour, I used it for day 1 and I bought allpurpose flour but today I realized is gluten free, can I still use it? I have all purpose flour but its not “unbleached”.
    3. Do I need to feed exactly at the same time? Or can I feed it 3 hrs +/-?
    Thankssss!!!

    • You’re welcome!

      1. Yes, definitely put it into the fridge. Feed it with a little extra flour and water, let it sit on the counter for 30minutes and then pop it into the fridge.

      2. I’ve never used gluten free flour to feed my starter, I don’t know how it would work. I’d imagine it would be fine but I can’t say for sure! I also have never used bleached flour…

      3. You don’t have to feed at exactly the same time, but regularity is a good thing. It’s ok if you miss the mark a little here and there, your starter will be fine!

      Hope that helps 🙂

  • Andrew

    Huge fan of your site! I’ve been feeding my 50 apw/ 50 rye sourdough starter for about a week. I’m seeing great air pockets opening along the side of the jar, and the starter has been rising and falling a bit (but not a ton). There are two observations about which I’m curious: (1) the smell of the starter changed from very sour/pungent around day 2-3 to alcoholic, almost to the point of smelling like acetone. At day 7, it’s still smells alcoholic. (2) I’m not seeing air pockets open on the top of the starter. I can see bubbles forming just below the surface, but they are not exposed.

    Some other information, which may help to diagnose any issues: for the first few days, I think that the starter was getting too much heat. I’d guess that it was between 80 and 90 degrees for those first few days. Since day 3, it’s been hovering between 70-75. Additionally, I just transferred the starter from the Weck jar in which I created the starter to a clean Weck jar on day 7.

    With all of that in mind, I have two questions: (1) is there anything besides regular feedings that I should do to achieve the appropriate smell, and/or visible air bubbles? (2) should I wait for the smell to change from being considerably alcoholic before attempting my first bake in the coming week?

    Seriously, really appreciate your guidance on this question, and on all of these other posts too! Many thanks!

    • Andrew — you’re welcome, glad you’re finding my site useful!

      1) Really just regular feedings are all that is necessary. The smell you’re getting could be from various things, and might be related to that high temperature which would cause quite a bit more fermentation than at traditional “room temperature”. Shoot for somewhere between 74-82ºF and that will work really well.

      2) I don’t think you really need to wait for the smell to return, go ahead and try a bake it should turn out fine.

      Usually I’ll smell a very sour, acidic smell when my starter has completely collapsed — possibly from going to long without a feeding or temperatures were really high and fermentation was faster than I anticipated. I hope that helps! Let me know how that bake goes.

  • Aaron

    I have been trying to get my starter going for two weeks now. I have done everything you said in your turorial…. exact measurements, feed timing, etc. But nothing really happens…. maybe some minor bubbles and minimal rising. What could I be doing wrong?
    I live in Alberta Canada which has a very high altitude and is very dry…. could that be a factor in why nothing is happening?
    Any suggestions would be great!
    Love your blog and can’t wait to get baking!!
    Cheers!

    • Aaron, thanks for the comments! Are you using rye flour as I’ve indicated above? It’s incredibly important. Also, if you haven’t already try letting your water you use to feed your mixture out overnight on the counter to help dissipate any chlorine in your water.

      Are temperatures slightly warm where your mixture is resting? Shoot for somewhere around 75-80ºF, closer to 80ºF is even better. This will help speed up the process.

      Keep with the schedule, it will eventually take hold!

  • Angie Seng

    Do you discard the starter n bring it back to jar weight + 40gm starter for 2nd, 3rd feeding?

    • Welcome! Yes, you always discard a portion of the starter (as I describe above) and then add new fresh flour and fresh water to the amount of starter you carryover (which is now less after discarding).

      • Angie Seng

        Love your blog and the pictures of the breads are just gorgeous! Appreciated the detailed instructions on your blog. Thank you for your reply. The starter is looking good now and hope it is getting stronger…really looking forward to baking my 1st sourdough bread this weekend.

        • Thanks so much for the comments and I’m glad to hear your starter is getting stronger!
          Happy baking 🙂

  • Julia

    Hi there!
    I’m a big fan of your site, it’s the most clear and well-organized breadmaking site i’ve stumbled across! As a visual learner I was so happy to see your step-by-step photos. Unfortunately i’ve been pretty unsuccessful with my own starter. My last attempt using your process (50/50 blend of rye flour and King Arthur white bread flour) ended up growing some fuzzy mold on the surface on day 5 and only showed a few small bubbles. Do you have any thoughts on how to prevent mold from cropping up? I’m kind of surprised it doesn’t happen more often, since you are keeping the starter in a warm, semi-sealed environment, but I don’t know how to prevent it either! Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

    • Ah sorry to hear about the mold! You might be living in an environment that has much higher humidity here than I do. One thing you can do to help reduce the chance of mold growing on top is to give your starter a stir about halfway through the time after you fed until your next feeding. This way the top of your starter doesn’t ever sit exposed to air for too long.

      Eventually the acidity in your starter will increase to the point where mold won’t grow and you won’t have any issue with that.

      I hope that helps, I think an occasional stir will go a long way to help reduce the chance of mold forming. You definitely want to toss the culture if there is mold forming.

  • James

    This is my first time too. I’ve done a 50/50 whole rye flour with unbleached white. Feeding as directed. On day 5. 1st 2 days small bubbles developed and since no activity. Keeping it warm too. Keep going? Also should I stir it in between feeding? How do I know if it I am feeding it enough or if it needs to be fed more? Thanks.

    • You can definitely stir if you’d like, but unless there is a chance mold is growing in your culture I don’t usually stir — it won’t hurt. I’d say keep going, it should eventually take hold, sometimes it does take longer than other times.

      Also make sure you are letting the water you use to feed sit out on your counter overnight to help dissipate any chlorine in your tap water!

      • James

        Thanks Maurizio! I am happy to report that yesterday it did change and it is doing so well now! It is very exciting to see how alive it is now. Smells great too! Can’t wait to make my first loaf. What is your opinion of soaking the flour?

  • Carla

    Is it possible to use this same method with all whole wheat flour? Will it take longer to start?

    • You can definitely use all whole wheat flour, that will work really well. You should get a strong starter in about the same time I’d guess, there are a lot of factors there to say for sure. It’ll definitely happen faster than if you used all white flour. Hope that helps!

  • David

    Feeding 3 times a day seems pretty crazy/intense. Every other recipie has feedings for their starter between 1 and 3 times a week from what I’ve seen. Does it depend on how much you bake?

    • I like to feed my starter 2x a day if I’m baking often, like every other day or so. You don’t need to feed this often but it depends on your starter, the flour you’re using and your environment. If it’s cold where you are then you could possibly get away with feeding every other day but I recommend feeding at least once a day so your starter is strong and healthy.

      If you’d like to only feed once per week, use your fridge! Feed your mature starter, let sit out for 30 mins or so, then pop into the fridge. It’ll last a while in there before needing another feed, I’ve gone up to 3 weeks. Then when you want to bake wit it, take it out 1-2 days beforehand and ramp it up to 2x a day feedings and you’re good to go.

      These are general guidelines but again, it depends a lot on your conditions and the flour you’re using (more whole grains ferment faster).

      Hope that helps, let me know if have any more questions!

  • TJ

    So on day three it overflowed the jar and settled. I bake a fair amount but not a lot. I am using 50/50 rye/APW. What did i do wrong?

    • Nothing wrong with that at all! It’s ok if your starter has more activity than expected. You could try using a larger jar or even feed less to adjust.

  • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

    I’m on day six of the schedule. My question is if my starter really hasn’t “taken off” so to speak. A little activity, but not much. Should I still proceed with TWO feedings as instructed for day six?

    • Cindy, yes continue with the schedule outlined above even if you don’t see significant activity. Eventually your starter will take hold and have much more activity. Each culture, environment and flour is different so it may just take a little extra time (conversely it could also take less time). Stick to it and it’ll get there!

      • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

        oh no! now I’m a little late. I was suppose to do the 2nd feed @ 5:30 pm (It’s now 7:14 pm) I’m thinking it’s o.k. because I’ve read in several places that the starter is “forgiving.” Thanks so much!!! I’ll do it. Although I’ve baked bread for a long time and feel pretty experienced with handling dough, this is VERY different. I will keep you posted.

        • No worries if you’re a little late it will be just fine — yes it’s very forgiving!

          • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

            So now I’m on day seven.(Still not much activity) I’ve done 2 of 3 feedings. Do I continue to feed 3 X day indefinitely until I have an active “strong” starter? I’m assuming that I can’t even think about baking.

            • Don’t do 3 feedings per day if you still don’t see significant activity as my pictures show above. The risk of doing too many feedings too soon is your culture might get too diluted and it will be hard to get maximal bacteria/yeast numbers.

              If you’re still not seeing activity like I show above stick to 2x a day until it does. Hopefully you’ll get more activity within a few more days! Also make sure you’re using rye flour as I’ve outlined.

              • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

                I’m following to the letter!!! Rye flour… Reverse osmosis water that has sat on the counter etc.

                • Any progress?

                • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

                  finally on day 11 it was having good activity. It has NEVER risen like the examples you have, but when the starter was “pulled back” there were many air pockets and it had a “light” texture so to speak. I actually built my levain last night and currently the autolyse mix is in my oven (light on.) The saga continues! I had no idea this was such a long process, but I’m sticking to it. I put my starter in the fridge.

                • Excellent! Now that you have your starter going from here on out it’s just practice and enjoying fresh bread 🙂

  • Ashley

    Hi Maurizio–

    Was glad to find out that you also live in New Mexico! Makes sense that your guidelines make far more sense to me than the others I’ve come across.. 1:1 ratio between flour and water always develops a hooch for me. I have to do roughly twice the amount of flour.

    So, Ive just started my process- 5 days in, and I’ve exclusively been using spelt flour because I haven’t found any rye in SFe markets. I think I finally have my ratios worked out, and bubbles seem to be spread throughout. It does seem generally pretty sour smelling though– like green fruit.
    RE: Chad of Tartine’s quote about determining the hunger of the starter by smell, vinegar means “hungry”, yes? So right after feeding, it should be *sweet* from new mixture of flour and water?

    Also, I’m a little confused on the baking component. So, is it okay to just have a shallow dish with water at the bottom for steam, and then on top: either baking stones to place the bread on OR a dutch oven? I have a very small propane oven, so I’m not even convinced a dutch oven would fit inside… I’ll have to measure.

    • Hello there fellow New Mexican! Sorry for the late reply I was out on travel.

      Yes, when your starter has fermented for a while and is “mature” it’ll start to smell more and more sour. When you do a feeding immediately after it’ll smell sweet — mostly because there is only a small percentage of your mature starter used to feed so most of the sour (acidic) parts have been discarded and fresh flour mixed with water smells quite sweet.

      You’re right: a small pan at the bottom with water or ice that steams will be plenty to give your bread enough rise. You might also want to lightly mist the top of your dough with a hand mister to add a little extra moisture into the oven.

      You either use the pan + water and baking stones OR the Dutch oven (you can put the Dutch oven on the stones if you’d like, but the pan is not necessary). The DO will trap the steam released from your dough and create a nice humid environment as long as the top is on and relatively sealed. The pan with water helps emulate the same conditions.

      I hope that helps! Happy baking 🙂

  • André G. de Lima

    Hi, buddy. Tks for the recipe and instructions. We’re going well on day 3. Just a doubt. When I stop discarding and just add flour and water?
    Tks again.

    • Sure thing! You never stop discarding, you’ll always discard a portion of your mature starter and feed it with fresh flour and water. If you never discarded you’d end up with quite a large amount in your jar! But further, that part you discard has a lot of acidity built up and eventually your bacteria/yeast will exhaust all the fresh food (flour/water) you’ve given it. Carrying over a small amount and adding new flour and water keeps your culture going with new food.

  • Linnaea

    Hello there! I’ve spent the last hour or so reading through your blog and feeling jealous of your bread. I’m a gluten-free baker experimenting with sourdough…I’ve had pretty good success, but I don’t think I’m getting the maximum lift out of my starter. You’ve given me some great ideas for creating a better starter (though it looks like I’ll have to throw out my current starter and begin all over again)…Thanks for the help and I’ll be surely coming back to your blog in the future!

    • Thanks for the comments! You don’t need to throw out your starter, if it’s rising and falling just use a small amount of that and feed it regularly. I have a post on maintaining my sourdough starter, if you haven’t read that take a look! Just use a small amount of your starter and feed per that schedule for a few weeks. You should notice significant activity and reliability.

      Good luck and let me know if you have any issues!

  • nicole

    In an effort to not waste any flour: What do you do with the discarded, partially fermented rye/water mix when starting the starter? Is it good enough to make an easy waffle recipe with? What would you suggest, so as not to waste?

  • nicole

    Another question: when attempting 100% rye flour starter, it gets moldy on top after several days. However I didn’t feed twice a day, just once. Is it possible that a 100% rye starter is just too difficult without any wheat flour? (allergic to wheat and spelt). That said, this post gives me hope!

    • I’ve never made a 100% rye starter but this is definitely possible. Make sure you’re feeding and discarding according to the schedule in this post. You can also stir your starter halfway through the time when you feed and when you feed again. This stirring helps to prevent the top part of the starter from being exposed to air too long which can develop mold especially if your environment is very humid and warm. Try to keep your starter around 80ºF max temperature and keep it covered with a towel or loose-fitting lid (so gasses can escape, if necessary).

      Really though the stirring should help with this problem!

  • Jared Talladay

    Greetings Maurizio, hope you enjoyed your weekend. Just curious… Have you ever experimented with using grapes or red cabbage leaves when you start a new starter? A friend mentioned that there is wild yeast in the grapes that makes for a very active starter. Thank you in advance!

    • Hello and thanks! No I haven’t tried using grapes or red cabbage. I’ve heard of this, though and I do know there are wild yeasts on these items as well. Would be fun to experiment with that.

      I’ve found creating a starter fro rye flour to be pretty straight forward and have done it a few times at this point — works really well!

  • Just Starting Out

    I’m following these directions for my first starter. I couldn’t find rye at my grocery store so I’m trying a starter that is 50/50 Whole Wheat (some bran sifted out) and White, and 100 Whole Wheat (some bran sifted out).

    I’m on day three and I can see the 50/50 starter as risen and fallen, but the 100 has risen without falling yet. I’m wondering if this is because the 100 starter has more nutrients in it then the 50/50 so the mixture is lasting longer?

    Or is it because the 50/50 culture is developing faster and depleting the food source quicker ( if that makes sense).

    Also as far as leveaning bread, is it better to have a starter that rises quicker?

    • I almost always see more rise from starters that have more white flour versus a 100% ww one. This is probably due to the nature of white flour and its ability to rise higher than whole wheat (which has more bran/germ, causing a lower rise).

      Your whole wheat starter will definitely ferment faster than the 50/50 and if all else is equal it should deplete the provided food (flour/water) faster. Whole grains ferment faster than non, like you said, it’s due to the additional nutrition in the flour (more bran/germ).

      I wouldn’t say a starter that rises quicker is better for making bread, but strong fermentation is always a good sign. You want your starter to rise and fall predictably after you’ve fed it, visible gas bubbles on the sides and top, and the “correct” smells (sweet just after feeding that progressively gets sour as it consumes food) are a all good signs.

      I hope that answers your questions, let me know if you have more or I’m unclear! Happy baking 🙂

  • Susie Adsett

    Hi having a little trouble getting my starter going. I live in Brisbane Australia where it’s currently winter and the temperature is sitting between 9-25 degrees Celsius. I haven’t got my starter rising and falling yet but there are a few bubbles and a vinegary/sour smell. It’s been 9 days and I’m worried I will have to start again. Is the temperature something that could be slowing the progress or should I just be more patient and wait for more activity ?
    Cheers Susie

    • Hi, Susie! Yes, temperature plays a huge role in creating a starter. The warmer the temperature the more fermentation you’ll see (within reason). Somewhere between 75ºF and 82ºF would be good range to shoot for. Do you have a warm spot in your kitchen you can put your culture? I like to take a little ambient thermometer and place it around my kitchen to see where warm spots are.

      You won’t have to start over, just find a warm spot. Alternatively you could warm up the water you use to do your feedings to this temperature and that’ll help.

      Keep me posted!

  • maccompatible

    I’m on day six and am SO excited to make my first loaf. However, I don’t think I’ll be baking as often as every few days, but I’d like to be able to bake the next day whenever I do want a loaf. Is it possible to alter the amount of starter and feedings by, say, half? As in, I only increase the starter to 40g when I want to bake and 20g the rest of the time?

    • That’s fantastic! Hopefully by now you’ve got yourself a strong performing starter.

      It’s possible to carryover a very, very small amount of mature starter to each feeding (and potentially also add more flour at each feeding, providing more “food”) but you’d have to play with this. Temperatures also come into play here quite a bit, if it’s really warm then that speeds up fermentation, and conversely if it’s chilly that slows things down. You can always try it out, perhaps make a second “test” jar with some flour and a small percentage of mature starter and see how long it takes for your culture inside to rise all the way to the top and then begin to fall (indicating it needs a refreshment).

      Alternatively you can also use the refrigerator if you plan to bake only once or so during the week, or go stretches of several days without baking and dont feel like feeding your starter. Once you’ve mixed up a refreshment feeding just stick it into the fridge and it can stay in there resting for weeks at a time. When you want to bake again take it out a day or two beforehand and feed it regularly to get it back up to speed.

      Hope that helps!

      • maccompatible

        My ambient temp has been around 76° for the entire life of my starter, but it seems to be getting stronger every day. The bubbles are growing in size and it’s peaking sooner. I’ll be resuming school soon and need to get it to a twice a day feeding schedule. I tried reducing carryover from 40g to 30g, but that seemed to only give me and extra hour before it starts to fall again. It wants to be fed well before the 12 hour mark. How can I correct this? I know using less starter and cooler water are options, but what is the limit for adjusting those variables down?

        On a positive note, since my starter was SO much stronger on the second bake, the loaves rose at least 50% more and the dough was significantly easier to work with during shaping. I was pretty surprised at how the fermentation increases the strength of the dough!

        • In the summer I typically go as low as 10-15g carryover, and for me in my kitchen (which is about 74ºF) that lasts a little over 12 hours. There are a lot of factors that go into this including flour blend types, temperatures of course and also environment. Keep playing with the carryover percentage (I feel like 5-10g is probably the lowest to go) and see if you can stretch it out longer. Like you mentioned another thing is to use cooler water if possible/easy but also find a nice shaded spot in your kitchen which would also help.

          Sounds like your starter is getting quite strong which is fantastic! Yes, the organic acids produced through fermentation will strengthen your dough quite a bit — it’s incredible!

          Happy baking!

  • shane harmon

    I’m on day two of my starter and it looks to be developing well (bubbles, smell), but it is seeming very watery. Any thoughts? Should I do less water than the 40g on my next feeding?

    • maccompatible

      Mine did the same thing. I just added a few more grams (3-4?) of flour like it says and it worked perfectly. Even though it stays at 100% hydration, it seems like it gets thicker over time. Mine’s been around for about 2 weeks now and it’s much firmer than it was at day 2.

      • That’s the way to do it: just increase/decrease flour until your starter gets to the consistency you’re looking for. There is really no “right” or “wrong” way for it to look, it’s how you prefer and what makes things easier for you. Variations in flour from bag-to-bag can also play a role, sometimes a bag of flour requires a little more water than the previous, and adjustments can sort that out.

        Thanks for the comments!

        • shane harmon

          Thanks for the feedback. I know these starters are forgiving, but this wouldn’t be my first failed attempt so I want to get it right this time around.

    • See my reply below if you don’t get a notification!

  • Heather@BostonGirlBakes

    When you remove some of the starter to get it back to 40g do you discard that amount? So happy I stumbled upon your blog!!!

    • Hi, Heather! Glad to have you here 🙂 Yes, discard the amount of starter you remove. You can either choose to compost it or even use it in other foods; see my other recipes for pancakes, waffles and banana bread — they’re awesome!

      Happy baking!

  • Katie Lutzker

    Hi! This is the second time I am trying this 7 steps, and both time the same things happen: it gets very nice and aromatic and lots of bubbles, but it doesn’t fall. It will rise, but then it will not fall. What does this mean? Should I wait to feed it until it does fall or just always do 12 hours? I did one in the winter and then scratched it and now it is the summer and hot in the kitchen between 70 and 80 F, and same thing, lots of rising, but no falling…..
    -Katie

    • Hi, Katie! Have you tried letting it ferment past the 12 hours? That time is just a guideline, it could be shorter or longer for you depending on various factors (flour use, ambient temperatures, the culture itself). Try to find a warm spot in your kitchen and keep it there — around 76-80ºF would be perfect. Should definitely see it fall after some time, especially 12 hours.

      Give it some time, it will fall if it’s rising! Hope that helps, let me know how it goes 🙂

      • Katie

        Thanks! I have been doing feelings at 7 PM at night so I may try to wait a little longer to see. There are so many beautiful bubbles and it smells great just the lack of falling is the only issue. I will see what happens if I wait past the usual feeding. This morning it had risen more than it has yet so hopefully that’s a good sign!

        I will keep you updated. Thanks for your help and beautiful blog

      • Katie Lutzker

        Hi, Maurizio,

        So I waited and didn’t feed it at the usual time and when I woke up this morning to feed it instead of last night, it really didn’t seem like it had fallen! But there was the thick, hard crust, that developed on the top. Could that be preventing it from falling or preventing me from seeing if it did fall? How do I prevent that crust from forming because underneath it looks great but the top seems to stop me from seeing bubbles/potentially stop me from seeing it fall?

        Thanks!

        • Do you have a lid on your jar? Try keeping a loose-fitting lid on top there to help reduce that drying out, that could definitely be causing the issue. On My Baking Tools page you’ll see the Weck jars I use, I just sort of leave the glass lid on there without clamping it down. This lets gas escape if necessary (otherwise pressure will build up as fermentation proceeds) but prevents too much air from getting in and drying things out.

          It sounds like everything is moving along well for you besides this hard top issue, that’ll get straightened out!

          • Katie

            Thank you! Now I have another question. Everything has been going really great and it’s really really vigorous activity. It smells INCREDIBLY vinegary like hurts my nose vinegar smell. I only have time to feed it twice a day because I work in the mornings and then don’t get home until 8 hours later. Today I had off so it was my first time trying to feed it three times, and it started to smell heavily like vinegar even just 3 hours after my second feeding. What does that mean?

            Alos, I want to put it in the fridge soon since I will not be baking everyday. When is a good time to put it in the fridge in terms of when it was fed? I probably will be baking on Wednesdays, prepping on Tuesdays, so what would be a good schedule and when should I put it in the fridge to not have to feed it everyday since I won’t be baking everyday?

            • Usually when you get that sharp, acidic smell it indicates your starter needs a feeding earlier. Temperatures might be high in your kitchen, or things are just moving at a faster pace. You could try reducing the amount of mature starter you keep after discarding. For example right now it’s about 76ºF in my kitchen so I’m only keeping 15g of my mature starter and then feeding it with 100g flour and 100g water. This lasts about 10-11 hours for me before I get that acidic smell and it starts to fall.

              If you used your starter to make a levain on Tuesday right after making your levain feed your starter with fresh flour and water, let sit out 30 minutes on the counter and then pop it into the fridge. Next Sunday or Monday take it out of the fridge sometime during the day, give it an hour or two and then feed it per usual. Feed it 2x a day until Tuesday again and repeat. That should work really well!

  • Gabby Lambie

    Thank you so much for your blog and all your advice. After several failed attempts at making my own sourdough starter, I decided to give it one more shot after reading this post. I am now on day 7, just did my second feed for the day and things seem to finally be moving along as they should be! I used the 50/50 mixture of rye flour and organic unbleached while flour and used pineapple juice instead of water for the first two days. That seems to have helped. On days 3 thru 5 the scent of the starter was so pungent and honestly quite horrible but yesterday and today I have noticed a huge improvement. The starter is also rising to its peak in 6 hrs then starting to fall. I live in a tropical climate and my kitchen is always quite warm so instead of looking for the warmest spot I try to find the coolest spot to leave the starter. Everything ferments faster here! Hopefully in the next few days I can make my first sourdough loaf with this starter.

    • Thanks for the comments and I’m glad to hear your starter is beginning to take off — that’s exciting and always great news. Baking in warm environments can be challenging to be sure, just keep an eye on your dough temperature (when you get there) and if things get too warm you an always keep some water in the fridge to help cool (and slow) things down.

      Happy baking!

  • Christina

    Can I make this with whole wheat flour + rye flour instead of white flour + rye flour?

    • Christina

      Just saw the answer in a previous question! I’m excited to start my whole wheat starter!

  • Karen @ HonestlyYUM

    Hi Maurizio, first off — I love your blog! So informative! I’ve tried making my own sourdough starter and completely failed so when I came across your blog, it re-inspired me to try my hand at making starter again. I’m on day 6 right now and did a feeding in the morning, but in general I’m not noticing the starter falling the next morning. There are definitely lots of bubbles and activities but yesterday morning and this morning it just appears that the start has risen, but not fallen. Do you think I should go ahead and do two feedings? Does the fact that I just used only dark rye matter? I also noticed that while the entire starter has lots of air pockets there aren’t as many bubbles on the surface as the ones in your photos. Thanks for the help!!

    • Hi there Karen — thank you for the kind words! In the beginning you won’t quite see the activity I show here at the end, it takes a little while to take hold and get strong enough to bake with.

      It’s good that you’re seeing some bubbles, even if it’s not quite rising and falling. Keep with the schedule and up your feedings to 2x per day since you indicate there are lots of bubbles and you’re seeing activity.

      The reason we increase our feedings is because once fermentation does start to happen we need to provide more food (flour & water) for your culture before it runs out. We always essentially try to time feeding our culture so it’s just about to run out of food (which is when it starts to fall in height) when our next scheduled feeding time is.

      I hope that makes sense, let me know how it’s going and if you have any more questions!

  • Gonzo

    Hello Maurizio

    Started your starter yesterday,should i keep discarding and only be left with jar weight + the 40g of starter and then give the new feeding of 40g+40g. I dont see u mention it after day 4,and your photos looks like it”s getting more and more,with no discarding.

    I have read a 100% hydration of the starter is when u discard and feed only the amount that is in there,thats including the water. Example
    In your step,u have 40g after we discard then we add 80g(40+40) but is 100% not equal parts. Meaning the feed should be 40g ,20g flour and 20g water should feed the 40g starter.

    • Yes, always discard down to just 40g carryover starter plus jar weight. It looks like the amount is growing more and more because activity in the culture is increasing and so the level of my starter began to rise higher and higher (this is a good thing).

      I see what you mean about this not being exactly a 100% hydration starter with these feedings. The important thing to keeping a 100% hydration starter you feed it with equal parts water and equal parts flour. It may not be exactly 100% hydration at the beginning (when you factor in the carryover amount in the jar as you mentioned) but after several days of feedings the starter will eventually take on 100% hydration because that’s what you’re feeding it with. So yes, there will be a little bit of time where there’s a lag but eventually it’ll get to 100%. This same logic applies when you’re converting over a starter from, say, 65% hydration to 100% or vice versa.

      I hope that makes sense and helps!

  • Paul Johnston

    Holy Smokes Maurizio… Strike me dead if you need to… BUT is anybody making bread?? YIKES… AND BLESS YOUR JOBS HEART… for answering the same question at least. :-)&$#:-) times… YIKES… I guess I do the same thing too… what do you think you need to do??… do I need to go on some valium to settle my poor little micro brain down… it helps if you put your “tongue in cheek” when you read this… lol

  • Maymona

    Hi Maurizio, I really loved your explanation, and it inspired me to an idea, forgive me if it sound silly this is my first starter, can I avoid discarding by doubling feeding sessions through out the day? this is what I’m thinking: today was the second day and it was 12 hours feeding system, so tomorrow every 6 hours? it’s unpractical but it save the waste and I’m planning on keeping it up for 4 days because I live in a very hot climate and I think I can make the starter ready to bake within that period. what do you think?

    • You’re very welcome! You can adjust the feeding schedule and amounts however you’d like! Just remember you want to discard quite a bit at each feeding to reduce the overall acidity in your culture, otherwise this acidity will eventually follow through to your baked loaves.

      Feeding every 6 hours is fine as well, just make sure you give it enough flour & water to get to the next feeding.

      Hope that helps!

  • Myrth

    Hi Maurizio, first off thanks so much for this detailed guide, making a sourdough starter seemed so intimidating (I’ve only been baking bread for about 2 months) but your guide helped so much. I’m on day 7 of my sourdough starter and I’m on my second day of feeding it twice a day. The problem is because I live in a really hot climate (33deg C right now) my starter is rising and falling in about 7 hours (peaking at the 4-5h mark). Does that mean I have to feed it every 4h? I sleep more than 4 hours every night (haha) so it would be quite hard for me to keep to that schedule. You mentioned that to make it slow down I could feed it more each time (or reduce the amount of starter carryover). So if I leave 40g starter, feed 60g flour and 60g water would that still be a 100% hydration starter, and would that be a good idea? Thanks so much.

    • You’re welcome, glad you’re finding it useful!

      I’d recommend reducing the amount of starter carryover. Because it’s so warm I would try 15g carryover and then 60g flour and 60g water (100% hydration = 60g flour / 60g water). If it’s still peaking and falling before you can get to it you could up the flour and water to 100g each.

      That should work out just fine! Happy baking 🙂

  • Paul

    Hey there Maurizio! This is a great guide. Unfortunately though, I’m having trouble getting my starter going. After the first 12 hours I’m seeing my starter double in size. Then 12 hours after my first feeding, the starter triples in size. After that things go downhill, and after each feeding I’m seeing very little activity until I finally declare it a failure. I’ve started over about three times now…

    I’m using a 100% rye starter. My only thought is that maybe my apartment is getting too warm during the day; it’s probably in the upper 70s (no A/C so not much I can do). Any thoughts on what the problem is? Thanks!

    • Hi and thanks, I appreciate that!

      Have you had a chance to take a look at my recently posted Sourdough Starter FAQ? I have a few answers in there that might help you!

      Sometimes you’ll see this initial surge of activity that wanes after a day or so. Keep with the feeding schedule and it will eventually pick back up. I would recommend doing a 50/50 flour blend with 50% all purpose white and 50% rye, but if you only have rye that should work fine as well. Upper 70ºF’s is actually perfect temperature!

      Check out my guide and let me know if you have any more questions!

      • Paul

        Great! Thanks for the feedback. I’ll give it another go this week.

  • Michelle

    HI Maurizio! this is going to be my first attempt at a sourdough starter. My question is after day 7 do I discard the starter to the weight of 40g each time?? And also if i do will the starter grown big? Some recipes call for 2 cups of starter and im just wondering how i am going to get 2 cups by discarding the rest? And also what can I do with my discarded starter and suggestions? Like i said Im a total newbie here. Thanks for your help.

    • Hello! After the 7 days, which could be more or a little less (you want to see your starter rising and falling predictably, this is a good indicator it’s strong enough to bake with), you will still discard a large portion of the culture each time you feed it. Have a look at my post on my sourdough starter maintenance routine for some ideas on how much to discard and how much to keep. 40g is a good rule of thumb but it depends a lot on how much you’re feeding, temperatures in your kitchen, flour selection, etc.

      When you’re going to make a levain (or leaven) for a bake you will want to take a portion of your mature starter to make that levain. This is usually discarded when you’re just feeding each day, but when you’re going to bake the discard is what you use! I hope that makes sense. If you need more mature starter to make your levain than you typically have you can scale everything up to make sure you have enough.

      For example: I mention keeping around 40g and feeding with 40g water / 40g fresh flour, keep this same ratio and scale everything up until you get to the amount you need for a bake. If you need 200g mature starter to make a levain, just double everything (keep 80g starter and feed with 80g water/80g flour) so you have 200g mature starter you can take from your mature culture in the morning/evening.

      Hope that makes sense! Happy baking 🙂

    • Also, head to my Recipes page and scroll down to “Other foods with sourdough starter” for some ideas on what you can make with discarded starter!

  • Maureen Muller

    Thank you for a great, informative site. Just a comment about water:

    I live in Johannesburg, South Africa and tried several times unsuccessfully to get a starter going. One day I read a comment that any water will work, “you don’t need Evian”. The next day I bought a bottle of Evian water and my starter took off like a rocket.

    In my case, when all else failed, Evian worked.

    • You’re very welcome, glad it’s proving useful!

      Thanks for the comments that’s very, very interesting. I’ll have to remember to suggest this if there’s anyone ever having unexplained issues. I do know that, at least here in the USA, chlorine levels can be quite high and the water most times should be left out on the counter overnight to let it dissipate.

      Thanks again and happy baking!

      • Maureen Muller

        Hopefully it will help others. I knew the flour was good, temperature was right, the only unknown was water.

  • Peppe Ragusa

    Amazing post, Maurizio. Thank you so much for the precise instructions; as an engineer myself, I really appreciate it 🙂 I’m on day 7 and getting ready for a bake tomorrow!

    Like many commenters below, I also feel bad wasting so much starter every time it needs to be fed. Do you think this starter could be used for home made pizza? I generally use dry yeast, but I’d rather re-use the starter I’m discarding and I’d love to hear from you if you have any experience with it.

    • Thanks so much Peppe, really appreciate that! And hello to a fellow engineer!

      Yes, you can definitely use the discard from this starter to make pizza — in fact I do this at least once a week. I’ve been working on my sourdough pizza recipe and I hope to have it posted here sometime soon. I’m almost there with it.

      In the meantime have a look at my recipes for pancakes, waffles and banana bread and also pastry dough — all of these things are fantastic with some of your extra sourdough starter!

      Thanks again for the comments and happy baking!

  • Anne Marie Healy

    Thank you for your post. I am about to embark on my first attempt at making starter so that I can make sourdough bread. I have wanted to do this for a long time, and your post seems to make it clear as to how to do it. Does it matter what type of jar is used for the starter? Instead of glass, can I use plastic? Will that affect the taste or something?

    • That’s great to hear! It doesn’t matter what type of jar you use, I find glass to be easiest for cleaning but plastic will work just as well!

      • Anne Marie Healy

        Thank you for answering all these questions, including mine. I have another question. We will be leaving on a sailboat to do a trip around the world. I like the idea of using a dutch oven to bake the bread in. What size dutch oven do you use? Do you bake the bread in the dutch oven on the stove top or inside the oven?

        • You’re very welcome! Wow, I’m jealous of this trip 🙂 I use a Lodge 3.2 qt combo cooker when baking in a pot — it’s a fantastic piece of equipment that can be used for much more than bread in the kitchen. I use it inside the oven.

          • Anne Marie Healy

            I wish I would have waited for your reply. I went ahead and bought a dutch oven but I like your combo cooker! Thanks again, Maurizio!

            • No worries, they all get the job done! Glad I could help 🙂

  • Magdagazelka

    Thank you, Maurizio, for giving me the confidence to start the starter with limited time! I only have two weeks between travelling and I think I might get a few loaves before I’m on the road again. I also wanted to share my experiences with building the starter – maybe they can be of help to others.
    I was trying to build a 100% rye starter in a very cold kitchen (16-17C) so I was using 30C water for feeding and microwaving a kitchen towel to keep things cozy but nothing (literally, not a single bubble) happened for 5 days. I really wanted to be patient but I’ve got limited time before I have to abandon the project so I re-read the post and changed two things: put the jar with the starter in the oven with the light on (23-24C) and started using bottled mineral water instead of Brita-filtered tap water and after just two days I’m on twice-daily feeding with the starter bubbling away and rising and falling happily, I’ll be baking on Sunday. Hurrah! I don’t want to jinx it but I’m so happy to see progress I really wanted to say thank you and share the solutions that really made a change. I owned a starter twice and baked semi-regularly a couple of years ago but haven’t had a schedule (or a kitchen) that would allow me to maintain it so now I’m excited like a kid before Christmas.

    • Sorry for the late reply (I’ve been on travel)! I hope the bake went extremely well for you and thanks so much for sharing the information about the water change and temperatures, I’m sure that will help others following in your footsteps. Have fun on travel and keep in touch — happy baking!

  • mike mays

    When do u add the yeast?

    • There’s no commercial yeast used here, only wild yeast which is actually already present naturally on the grain itself. We mix the flour with water and feed it daily to cultivate a wild yeast culture (with wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria) that will eventually turn into a predicable and stable “sourdough starter”. This starter is the basis for baking sourdough bread. Hope that helps!

      • mike mays

        Ah HAH!!! Now I understand. I’ll be starting mine this weekend. Thanks for the clarification.
        Off to the store to get some rye flour.

  • Karen Roberts

    Hi Maurizio. I’m making starter for the first time. Today is day 3. There is a dark liquid ring around the bottom of my glass jar. Is this normal?

    • I don’t usually see a dark ring like you’re describing here. Make sure you mix things up really, really well so no bits of flour remain unmixed or dry. Keep an eye on things and if your culture starts to smell really, really strange or show odd colors (green, dark brown, etc) you might want to consider starting the process over again.

      • Karen Roberts

        Thank you Maurizio for you advice. I did just as you said and started over. Once again it is day 3. My starter looks great! It shows lots of activity and signs of fermentation. I have no more liquid separation. I did 2 things differently. I moved the jar from the counter top into the pantry for a more stable climate. I also purchased the pyrex spatula which is a must have for thorough mixing. I have 1 more question though. Is there a big difference between using light rye flour as apposed to dark rye flour. Thanks so much for our time!

        • Excellent, that’s great to hear! Your modifications sound perfect. There is a difference between dark and light rye flour: you can kind of think of it as the same difference between whole wheat and white wheat. The light rye flour has parts of the bran/germ sifted out, meaning some of the deeper flavors and nutrition. That’s not to say light rye is bad in any way, just different. In terms of your starter and using light rye it means there will be slightly less fermentation activity — which isn’t bad either, just different.

          Hope that helps!

          • Karen Roberts

            Thanks Maurizio! Sorry for the typo. I meant “your time” not “our time”. So is it possible at this stage of my starter to switch to the dark rye/apw flour mixture?

            • I would switch once your starter is rising and falling predictably, this way you know for sure it’s not only strong enough to bake with but also changing flour will not be an issue.

              • Karen Roberts

                Great! There is still hope for my perfect loaf! Thank you so much. I’m so glad I found your website. I’ve been wanting to make sourdough bread for a long time and now I have the tools and knowledge to make it. Once again, thank you!

                • You’re very welcome, glad I could help and you’re finding my website useful! Everyone should make sourdough at home 🙂

                  Happy baking!

  • George Miliotis

    Hi Maurizio.

    Happy I bumped into your website! I am an absolute beginner in this and I have been following your starter recipe step-by-step using 100% rye flour. My started came alive in the second day, almost doubled in volume but since it doesnt rise (maybe just a little bit, but nothing significant). I am now in the sixth day, its consistency looks ok to me. It has this gummy-like, sticky texture (if thats an appropriate jargon, i hope you know what i mean) and it smells like beer maybe with some sweet tones too. Any idea if that sounds normal to you please, is my started dead? I live in London and temperatures at the moment vary between 17-21C.
    Last question: If I understand well, you end up with120gr of starter in the jar. Thats the 40gr carryover plus the 40+40 flour and water of the feeding. If the recipe calls for more than that, ie 200gr, 250gr of starter, how you handle this please?

    Many thanks!

    • George the process you are experiencing so far is normal. I talk about that “dead” period that will sometimes happen at my Sourdough Starter FAQ (check that out you’ll find some useful information in there!), keep at it things will turn around.

      The important thing with your starter is to maintain the same ratio of ingredients (the same percentage of flour, percentage of water, same percentage of mature starter), not the actual quantities. If you need more levain scale everything up in the same ratios so you’ll have the amount of levain you need for the next bake.

      Hope that helps, happy baking!

      • George Miliotis

        Thanks a lot for you reply Maurizio! Your advice and your time you have spent sharing your knowledge is highly appreciated.

  • Nicole

    Hey! This is such a great tutorial! I am on day 3 now and just realized I will be out of town this weekend. I have a question about how to handle being gone – I can take it with me (via car), but I am going north and am not sure if elevation affects it. Otherwise, I could leave it alone from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon (days 6, 7, and 8). If I leave it alone, should I put it in the refrigerator?

    • Thank you, glad you’re finding it useful! The elevation won’t affect it, if you want (and don’t mind the hassle), bring it with you!

      If you leave it alone for several days I’d probably recommend you store it in the fridge. However, you might actually be better off just starting the process over if you won’t be able to feed it. Putting it in the fridge probably won’t do any harm, really, but it will probably delay the process anyways.

      If it were me I would bring it with or start over when you return! Have a good trip 🙂

      • Nicole

        Hey Maurizio, thanks for your reply! I have another question for you. My starter seems like it died. It was bubbly and looking awesome but now it’s just flat and it looks like it has bubbles on the bottom but none on the top. It also smells pretty sour. Any ideas about what could have happened?

        • Sure thing! This is a common situation. Have you had a chance to look at my Sourdough Starter FAQ? I have this question in there (plus a whole lot more)!

  • Keturah

    What are some breads made with sour starters? I am in Principles of Artisan Breads class and I’m so confused right now and have a research paper due.

    • I’m not sure what you’re asking exactly… you can use your starter to make any type of bread. It’s typically called “sourdough bread” if using a natural leaven like I discuss here.

  • Anna Krivoshchek

    Hi Maurizio!

    Most recipes have either rye or wheat starter, and you have rye-wheat, so I am confused. Do you use it for both rye and wheats breads? Does it work fine for wheat bread using rye starter?

    • Hello, Anna! You don’t have to stay exclusively wheat or exclusively rye, a mix is totally fine. I use my rye/wheat starter for all types of bread (rye breads included). Once you have your starter up and predictably rising and falling you can also change the flour ratios to whatever you want and whatever you prefer (e.g. all wheat, or all rye, …)

      Hope that helps! Happy baking 🙂

  • Joshua Griffin

    Greeting from England!

    Great learning here mate.. so I run a pizza resturaunt baking pizza and bread using a woodfired oven and have decided after 2 years of using commercial yeasts it’s time to make my own sourdough. After a month or so of messing around with making starters (believe me each room/fridge has little jars or bowls hiding. my boss is starting to worry) i think im savvy enough with a basic understanding of how this works.. what I would like to ask you – and sorry if I missed the point – is that, if you are making fresh batches of pizza dough/bread everyday.. can one starter keep up if you are feeding 2/3 times a day.. and i guess im wonderi g at which point of the day would be best to extract however much ‘leaven’ you would need.. e.g. if i needed say 1kg of starter i would take that and leave 500g starter feeding 500/500 to replenish ready for on another 24 hours time??

    Thanks in advance and as i said beforw some brilliant advice

    • Hey there Joshua! A sourdough starter can definitely “keep up” with daily production, you just need to get a feeding schedule planed out to work with your needs. I like to use my starter to build a leaven when it’s at its peak maturity (meaning it’s risen to the highest point it’ll rise, smells slightly sour, and ideally is just about to start falling), this way you’ll get close to maximal yeast/bacteria numbers to inoculate your leaven with. If you haven’t had a chance yet check out my starter maintenance routine to get an idea of what my starter looks like when I feed it (which is also when I’d use it to build a leaven).

      What you’ll end up doing is feeding your starter with the right amount of carryover starter, flour and water so that it matures right when you’ll need to build a leaven and so it’s large enough to provide the necessary mature starter to cover your leaven needs. All these numbers depend on your environment (especially ambient temperature), flour choice and your individual starter. You’ll get the hang of this and build up an intuitive understanding for manipulating each of these over time to suit your requirements.

      I hope that makes sense! It’s hard to give exact numbers and advice without your production schedule, but I think that should give you an idea on how to go about scaling things up and/or setting up a schedule!

  • Samo Bucko

    Hi, your blog and tutorials are great!
    I try do my starter, twice! All my efforts ended in trash. Firstime, My starter died, no bubbles, no riseing, but strong vinegar odor. Secondtime, after 2 days it was on right way, small bubbles, light odor,but after 4days i found layer of mold. I used 70% of rye flour and 30% of spelt flour. Room temperature is 21°C. Please, can you help me, what i do wrong?
    Sam from Slovakia

    • Thanks I appreciate that! If you find mold on there you definitely want to start over, that’s a good move. I would suggest try using filtered water (bottled if you have it) for a while when creating your starter to see if that helps. Also you could stir your mixture midway between when you first feed it and your next feeding, this will help prevent mold from forming on top. Keep a loose-fitting cover on your jar as well, like I show in my pictures, to prevent excessive air/moisture from entering.

      21ºC is a little on the cold side, you really want to try and keep things around 25ºC if possible (the warmer the more activity you’ll see). You can heat a little bit of water to about 25-26ºC and use that for feeding to see if that helps or try to find a warm spot in your kitchen to keep your starter, it should get things going faster.

      I hope that helps!

  • Ame

    Thanks so much for this! I followed your instructions precisely and on day 3 I already had a starter that looked like your day 7! I’m super excited about this as I’ve never had a starter actually be successful previously.

    • Super glad to hear this!! Hope it’s progressing well for ya 🙂

  • ZH

    Hi there! I have a starter in progress and am so excited to get baking.. must be patient though… I am on day 7 and am following your instructions to a t, but things have been progressing very slowly. It is a bit cool in my house so the starter was sitting at about 68-70 degrees for about 5 days. I finally found a random cupboard that is 74 degrees inside. I am seeing lots of activity inside when I pull it back, and some small bubbles on the sides through the glass, and a strong vinegar smell, but it hasn’t been rising and falling at all. Should I keep feeding once per day until I see signs of a rise and fall? Or should I move to 2 feedings per day anyways? Thanks so much!

    PS I was reading an overwhelming amount of blogs/books on sourdough, my head was spinning. Another blog said their best advice was to find one guru and stick with them and their methods. You are my guru, can’t wait to bake my way through your site!

    • Hey! Yes, please keep at it, it will take hold eventually. I would say if you’re not seeing significant activity just stick with once a day. 74ºF is good but even a few degrees warmer would speed things up a bit more, but if that’s what you have to work with it’ll happen eventually! Hopefully by the time you read this you’ll already have strong activity going 🙂

      Ha ha, so glad to be your guru! We’ll definitely get you going, thanks so much for the kind words!

      • ZW

        Ok so here I am at day 13. It rises very well, coming to its peak around 8 hours after feeding. But it never really falls. There is residue on the side of the jar that shows it falling about a centimetre, and it sits about 2 1/2 inches in the jar. The very strong vinegar/alcohol smell has subsided and now smells vinegary and a bit milky when I go to feed it every morning. 2 days ago it was looking strong and I decided to progress to 2 feedings that day, but after that it wasn’t rising as much as it used to, so I have been back to one feeding for the last 2 days. How much should it really fall? I am using a larger jar than you (Ikea 1 litre jar). The bubbles on the top and sides look like your day 6 pictures.

        • That’s great! It’s very possible your jar might be a bit too big, in terms of width, to really notice that much of a fall. If you have a tall jar that is more slender you might be able to see more fall and rise action. In fact, if you have a jar like this I’d recommend using it for now just so you can see how things progress.

          It falls quite a bit for me in my jars, but they are pretty slender and tall. That is good you’re seeing bubbles and you’re taking note of the change in smell over the course of the day. You really want to find that point where it starts smelling sour (from sweet) — it kind of smells like fresh paint almost — so you can determine the point to feed. It can be a little challenging in the beginning to notice the change in your starter over the course of a day but try to stay observant and watch how it changes. If you’re home on the weekend with it check in every hour or two and take a look, a smell, and see how it’s progressing.

      • ammoh

        I had a similar problem ….. old homes tend to be cool or drafty. I put my starter jar inside an old wool glove I cut and made a “cup coozy” out of and it went crazy. That little extra warmth was all it needed.

  • Jessica

    I had a started during the summer but it died while we went on vacation. I decided to start it up again and loved your version of doing things! So I’ve been trying for two weeks now, and am at a loss. My last starter was amazing! But this one is very soupy all the time, and the bubbles it gets are very tiny and mostly at the surface. I also have to feed it twice a day to keep the bubbles going. It smells perfect, but looks like blah. It is fall and very cold here, my house is never hotter than 65. Is it just too cold to make a starter? Or should I just use my soupy starter because it smells correct?

    • At 65F you’ll definitely have a sluggish starter, that’s pretty chilly! Is there a warmer place in your kitchen you can keep it? Sometimes on top of the fridge it’s a little warmer, at least here it is 🙂 I like to keep mine at least around 70F if possible, preferably 75F. If your starter is overly soupy you can reduce the amount of water you feed it with until it gets to a consistency you like. I’m always adjusting the hydration of my starter up and down a few grams until things are where I prefer them (there’s no “right” number).

      However, if it’s soupy, has tons of bubbles and rose to a peak and fell because it’s gone too long before feeding then that’s a different story. This indicates you should have fed earlier before it gets to that point to ensure it’s as strong as it can be. If you’d like to reduce how fast it ferments use less carryover when you feed it. In other words, when you discard a bunch of the mature starter leave less in the jar when you feed it with fresh flour and water, this way you can elongate the period between feedings.

      I hope that helps, let me know if this is at all unclear or you need some more help! I’m really confident we can get a strong starter going for you.

  • Great tips. Thank you!

  • Azrehan

    Hi Maurizio.

    I bought an ambient temp thermometer and put it in my kitchen. The temp in there is fluctuating between 60F overnight and about 80-85F during the day. Can you suggest any tips for keeping it at a fairly constant temperature in the jar? Apart from installing and running an air conditioner?

    • You could try to keep your jar with starter more insulated somehow. For example, you could place your jar inside a thick-walled bowl that’s covered, or a cooler (like an insulated box for drinks) — anything that will help regulate temperature. The oven (turned off) might also be a good choice since it’s essentially a large insulated box.

      Aside from that you might want to look into this Bread Proofer. While I don’t normally recommend spending money on gadgets that add to clutter, this box is well worth the price. I keep my starter in there when it gets really cold in my house and I leave it on overnight to keep the temperature regulated to about 75ºF. You can also use it to proof your dough when baking — helps quite a bit as temperature is really important.

      Hope those ideas help!

      • Azrehan

        Thanks Maurizio. The temp in my kitchen lifted to 25c yesterday as it was 30 outside. It’s starting to warm up here as we’re in the middle of spring. Usually it’s averaging the mid 30’s by now but we’ve got a late season this year. My starter is beginning to show signs of life. I’ve also named him “Benedict Crumberbatch”.

        I also did a second starter using the instructions from Tartine Bread which was a bit bigger of a batch, so that was 75g of flour and water and only covered with a tea towel rather than a loose jar lid. Is there anything wrong with doing bigger starter batches? The larger one seems to be rising more than the first one in the jar. I’m so pumped about getting started baking my own sourdough and would like to share the starter with friends.

        I also was thinking that I rather than discarding half my starter every day, I could just split it in half and start a new starter in a second jar so I have 3 or 4 on the go. That way I can put them in different parts of the house to see where it develops best. Might be confusing, and use more flour, but I want to get this going as best I can and share starters with people I think need sourdough in their lives.

        • Love that name, hah! Nothing wrong with doing a larger starter batch, the increased size might also help regulate and insulate temperature changes since there is more mass (however the downside is you have to use more ingredients).

          Sounds like a good plan! I might also recommend try moving an ambient temperature thermometer around and leave it there for a few hours to see what spots in your house are at what temperature — this way you can move your starter to a warmer spot when needed or vice versa.

          Happy baking and really glad you’re sharing this with friends!

  • Christina Lazarakis

    Hi Maurizio,

    Along with my established 100% organic bread flour starter, I have been following your steps to make a sourdough starter using your 50 rye / 50 AP flour formula.

    It’s been slow going however, on Day 6 I saw enough activity to begin feeding it twice a day. All seems to be going well except for the VERY strong smell – the best way I can describe it is that it smells like nail polish remover. I started to smell that throughout the process and it has been building. Is this normal?

    I don’t have that issue with my 100% organic bread flour starter (that, for the most part, always smells “right”) but since I have never made a starter using rye, wasn’t sure. Thoughts?

    Thank you so much, Maurizio; look forward to your input!

    Warmly,

    Christina

    • Christina — with more rye flour fermentation will proceed much, much faster than with just wheat (even whole wheat). It’s totally fine, just something to be aware of. What you could try is reducing the amount of rye to, say, 25% and then 75% AP. This will slow fermentation down some and reduce the acidity produced. There’s nothing wrong at all with even a 100% rye starter, many bakers do this, you just have to really watch the culture and fermentation rates. It can be hard to tell when it’s “ripe” as well since it doesn’t have quite the same rise and fall as a more-wheat version.

      An alternative to changing the ratio might be to try and feed with more flour and water than you are right now and see if that helps reduce the sharp smell by the time you do your next feeding — I am guessing it would. It’s most likely that your starter is fermenting faster than you expect and thus the sharp acidic smell.

      Let me know how that goes!

      • Christina Lazarakis

        Thank you so much for the quick reply, Maurizio; I’ll give your suggestions a try.

        I was in the middle of editing/adding more questions to my post when you replied…would you mind responding to them also when you get a chance?

        Thank you, thank you!

        🙂

    • This should actually answer all your newly added questions:

      Once your starter is rising and falling predictably you can change to whatever flour types you’d like (rye, white wheat, whole wheat, etc.) and in whatever ratio you’d like (e.g. 75% white wheat and 25% rye). You can also maintain your culture in whatever way works for you, your environment and your culture itself — if you want to feed with less than 100g flour & water that’s perfectly fine. If you want to use only 10% carryover mature starter that’s totally fine.

      I’m constantly changing the feeding schedule of my starter by small amounts, I’m also changing the carryover percentage of my starter by small amounts — it all depends on the weather and my schedule. A good example is tonight I just fed my starter but I noticed the temp in my house is 70ºF (lower since winter is coming), I also know that I want to build a levain in the early morning tomorrow to bake bread during the day, so instead of carrying over 20g (and feeding 100g flour + 100g water) I carried over a little more, 30g, so fermentation speeds up a bit and my starter will be ready for me in the morning. The key here is that you can change that value around based on your schedule and the environment. As winter approaches I slowly start carrying over more and more so my starter is ready for a feeding first thing in the morning. As we know, lower temperatures slow fermentation rates so the increased inoculation (carryover) at feeding sort of counteracts that temp different. I hope that makes sense.

      So to sum up, it’s fine to change any of the variables we have to play with (temperature, inoculation percentage, flour types and percentages), we just have to be cognizant of what effects each change has on fermentation rate and acid production. In my experience the thing I try to avoid at all costs is when my starter has essentially consumed all the food (flour + water) I’ve given it, it starts to collapse on itself, and begins to smell extremely acidic. This will be very apparent when this happens, not only the overly sour smell but also if you stir it everything has broken down so far that the mixture feels like soup — very liquid-like and no firmness at all.

      I hope this all makes sense! If it stirs up more in depth questions feel free to shoot me over an email (the Contact link at the top) and we can discuss more. Ciao!

      • Christina Lazarakis

        It totally makes sense, thank you, Maurizio, and really cleared up a lot of the questions I had. Thank you, thank you, and I will definitely take you up on the offer and email directly should any more in-depth questions arise. Ciao! 🙂

  • Andrew

    Hello Maurizio Leo,

    First of all I would like to say thank you for this wonderful article! I just started to make my first starter and I hope it will go well! However I do have few questions.
    1. What to do with discarded starter? Just throw it away or there is something we can do with it?
    2. Baking part was not mentioned, I assume those who are following you already know how to bake it. Question is when the starter is ready, should I add 40g mixture and water to make it like a dough ball? Or when it’s ready shape it by adding a bit wheat flour? What would be the perfect temperature for the oven? 160*C? How long should I bake it? ~30-35min?

    Thank you!

    • You’re very welcome! Answers:

      1. You can use your discarded starter for many other things in your kitchen. Check out my Recipes page where I list several things (banana bread, waffles, galette/pie crust, etc.).

      2. You use the starter described in this post to create what’s called a “levain”. The levain is what you use in your bake and your starter is a separate culture you keep feeing and never totally use in any recipe (this way you always have a starter to build a levain and bake with). Check out my Beginner Sourdough recipe to understand the entire process from start to finish (including oven times and temps)!

      Happy baking!

  • Janaina Calonga

    Hi Maurizio,
    my starter in day 3 is super happy! he had grown more the 3 times the original size and the bubbles are huge!!!
    I am in Brazil, and in my kitchen I bake cakes every day for years now. (hot weather). Should I try to leave less starter in the next feeding?

    I love your website, it is rare to find someone so willing to share knowledge.
    Thanks a lot!!!

    Janaina

    • Janaina — that’s fantastic, really great to hear that and thank you for the kind words 🙂 Yes, if it’s really warm in your climate you can use less starter at each feeding to slow the entire process down. Additionally you could use cooler water or keep your jar in a cooler part of your house.

      Happy baking!

  • CarlosEs R.

    Hi Maurizio. Just discovered your site. Congrats.
    I’m currently in the way with Tartine instructions but getting something odd – the pre-starter (day 3) is separating in 3 fases: on the botton of jar it seams to be a compact flour, in the center portion a liquid fase and on top something like your own starter at day 3. Do you think it’s already ruined? Any advises?
    Thanks.

    • Thanks, Carlos! I don’t think it’s ruined. It’s ok if the mixture separates a bit but it usually means you need to do a feeding (refreshment) with new flour and water earlier before it gets to that point. Try to keep an eye on your culture and do this feeding when it reaches a peak height and starts to fall. Have a look at my post on maintaining your sourdough starter to get an idea of what the peak looks like (lots of pictures). Hope this helps!

      • CarlosEs R.

        Thank you very much, Maurizio.

  • Laura Dobell

    Your site is great. Enthusiastically, I began my starter yesterday evening. Today, it still looks like a solid lump of flour and water- no change in shape, and definitely not goopy-looking like all your photos. I used a mix of rye and apw, and filtered water that had been standing out over two nights. I had also disinfected the jar before beginning. Any suggestions on what may have gone wrong? Many thanks!

    • Laura — thanks! It’s ok if you’re not seeing any activity, just keep at it and eventually your starter will take hold. Try to keep the mixture at a warm temperature (like 75-80ºF) if possible — this will help speed things along. If you haven’t yet checked out my Sourdough Starter FAQ have a look, lots of answers to other unexpected issues that might come up!

  • Azrehan

    Hi Maurizio.

    I am going to do a bake on Sunday with my new combo cooker. So far I have been feeding at 10pm and find that my starter has risen nicely when I get up at 6:30am and has fallen again when I get home about 6/7pm.

    If I am to prep on Saturday, bake on Sunday and it is Wednesday now, how should I adjust my feeding pattern?