Ripe sourdough starter

The ultimate sourdough starter guide

The Perfect Loaf Sourdough Starter Illustration
Michael Hoeweler

Your sourdough starter is the foundation of baking sourdough bread. Through proper maintenance and a little attention, it can last indefinitely and provide you with countless healthy and delicious loaves of bread.

This collection of guides, recipes, and walkthroughs will help you on your baking journey, from creating your sourdough starter from scratch to keeping it strong and healthy, and finally, baking bread and cooking with sourdough starter discard.

What is a sourdough starter?

A sourdough starter is a culture that contains a stable blend of wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria. The culture is maintained indefinitely, fed with fresh flour and water (also called refreshing) consistently. A sourdough starter is used to seed fermentation in new dough when baking sourdough bread.

How do I make a sourdough starter?

To begin baking sourdough bread (and other things!), you first need a sourdough starter. This continually maintained mixture of beneficial bacteria and wild yeast is the cornerstone of baking bread in a home kitchen. To get going, check out my guide to making a sourdough starter in 7 steps (my sourdough starter recipe), then return here for more information.

How to feed a sourdough starter

Generally, feeding a sourdough starter simply means discarding down some portion of the fermented mixture, adding fresh flour and water, and leaving it to ferment for some time. Refreshing (feeding) your sourdough starter comes down to personal preference based on the flour you have in your kitchen, your baking frequency, and environmental conditions.

I prefer to use some percentage of whole-grain flour in each feeding, and I keep a small amount in the jar each time I discard it. This lets me stretch my feeding interval to 12 hours, which means I refresh twice daily. It's certainly possible to drop this down to once a day, but I'm not particularly eager to go any less frequently to ensure my starter is strong and healthy.

Check out my post below to see my current flour, water, and carryover ratios and my sourdough starter's refreshment schedule.

How can I use my sourdough starter discard?

Refreshing (feeding) your sourdough starter daily can lead to excess starter (unless you maintain a tiny starter). My favorite thing with excess starter discard is making pancakes, waffles, or banana bread—they're all delicious and can be made with little notice.

And there are so many more ways to use your sourdough starter discard! If you do a little pre-planning, you can ensure you never waste a single drop of your ripe sourdough starter.

Have a sourdough starter question? Check out the FAQ

In this collection of the most frequently asked questions about sourdough starters, you're sure to find the answer to any lingering questions you might have. Questions range from whether using whole grains is okay, to what happens if your sourdough starter dies to what containers I like to use best for my starter.

Have a sourdough starter problem?

Are you having a problem with your sourdough starter? Check out my most-asked starter questions collected over the past 10+ years of maintaining this site.

More sourdough starter guides

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