Learn the tips and tricks to making an active and bubbly sourdough starter without a kitchen scale.
Making a sourdough starter can seem both intimidating and confusing.
No two starters are exactly alike and there are many ways to start and care for your sourdough starter…hence, the confusion.
Each one is unique in their appearance, personality, and taste.
To understand how a sourdough starter works you must jump in and get started. Then sit back and see how it responds… and experiment a little.
But to learn how to experiment, you must first know the basics, so follow these simple steps and you’ll have a delicious sourdough starter.
Making and maintaining a sourdough starter is actually very easy and a good starter can take a lot of neglect if placed in the right conditions. In this 6 part sourdough series you will learn:
- How to make a sourdough starter.
- How to feed and maintain a sourdough starter
- Dealing with sourdough starter burnout.
- Easy ways to revive a sluggish or neglected starter.
- How to save a neglected black sourdough starter.
- How to bake a perfect rustic dutch oven sourdough bread.
Two ingredients are all that is needed:
- flour (unbleached all purpose or a combination of unbleached all purpose and rye)
- filtered VERY warm water
- A glass storage container with a loose fitting lid (2 of these makes the job easier for feeding but is not essential).
- 1 cup measuring cup
- 1/2 cup measuring cup
How to make a sourdough starter
There are a few things you need to understand when you create a sourdough starter.
- You will need to make the starter (focus of this post).
- Then you will need to feed and maintain the starter.
To make a sourdough starter you will need a jar or container with a loose fitting (non airtight) lid that hold at least 3 cups to allow for expansion. Add 1/2 cup rye flour,
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour,
and one cup filtered VERY warm water to the glass jar.
Then give a quick stir.
Finally, add a loose fitting lid and allow the starter to sit in a warm location, out of direct sunlight, for 24 hours or until you see bubbles start to form.
You have now officially made your sourdough starter. However, it will take a week or two for the flavor and activity to develop enough for use.
Once those bubbles appear then it is time for your first feeding. Feeding is required to maintain microbe balance and develop the sourdough flavor.
Tips for success
- Use a combination of rye flour and unbleached flour.
- Filtered water works best.
- Use warm water.
- Keep the starter in a warm location, out of direct sunlight, to improve activity.
Use rye flour
Rye flour adds flavor and provides extra nutrients for a healthy and active starter.
Use unbleached all purpose flour
I have used both bleached and unbleached flour and quickly found out that bleached flour did not create a very active starter. It was very sluggish with very little bubbles. As soon as I switched to unbleached flour then my sourdough starter activity improved.
Use filtered water
In order to get a bubbly and active starter, then you want to make sure you use only filtered water. Tap water may contain added chemicals like chlorine and fluoride which can hinder the starters activity.
Use VERY warm (but not hot) water
Temperature is an important part of a healthy starter. A cold starter is an inactive starter so use warm water to jump starts the process.
We just touched on this but it may need repeating…a cold sourdough starter is a dormant starter. A warm starter is happy, bubbly, and ready for baking. So keep your starter in a warm (but not hot) location that is 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit for the best result.
Now that your starter is bubbly and active you can now learn how to feed and maintain your sourdough starter.
Frequently asked questions
Many different types of flour can be used to make a sourdough starter. Unbleached All-purpose flour, bread flour, rye flour, and whole wheat flour are all popular choices and all can be used to create a great starter. Each one will create distinct flavor so experiment a little to find your favorite. My personal favorite is a combination of rye and unbleached all purpose flour.
Rye flour has many nutrients to help feed the starter and increase activity. It also adds an extra pop of flavor to the sourdough starter.
Rye flour is not essential to make a sourdough starter. Just replace the rye flour with whole wheat flour or even unbleached all purpose flour.
There are many formulas to making a sourdough starter but I prefer the simple ratio of 1 part warm filtered water to 1 part flour (half unbleached white, half rye).
You will need to feed your sourdough starter for at least 1 week before you use it in recipes. The longer you feed and develop your starter, the more flavorful your starter will become.
How To Make an Easy Sourdough Starter [No Scale Method]
- 1 glass storage container (needs to hold at least 3 cups to allow for expansion). Two glass jars will make feeding easier but is not essential.
- loose fitting lid
- measuring cups
- 1 cup water filtered and warm
- 1/2 cup rye flour
- 1/2 cup white flour unbleached
Make the sourdough starter
- Combine the flours and warm filtered water in a glass container.
- Give a quick stir.
- Add a loose fitting lid.
- Allow the starter to sit in a warm location for 12-24 hours (or until bubbles appear) then begin feeding the starter.
Feed the sourdough starter
- To feed the starter you will add 1/4 cup of your sourdough starter to a clean glass jar.
- Add 1/4 cup filtered warm water and 1/2 unbleached all-purpose flour.
- Stir well and then place a loose fitting lid on top and place in a warm location (75-80 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Feed the sourdough starter every 12 hours for the first 5 days and then decrease the feedings to 1 time per day.
- If you are unable to feed the starter daily, or just need a break then place the sourdough starter into the refrigerator so it will go dormant.
- When you are ready to resume baking, then remove the starter from the refrigerator and resume the same feeding schedule as described above (twice a day until the starter becomes very active and bubbly and then decreasing to one time per day).