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Last Updated on February 16, 2024 by Kiersten James

Sourdough is a culinary tradition dating back thousands of years. Learn step by step how to make your own sourdough starter from scratch.

Sourdough starter was once considered an heirloom item that was passed down from generation to generation. 

It has been said that back in the day, there was often one “master starter” that everyone in a village took a small scoop of to begin their own natural yeast supply.

I could sit and talk for hours about all of the wonderful health benefits sourdough offers but you can find that post here – How Eating Sourdough Benefits Your Health

I’ll spare you the repeat and get to what you really came here for. 

How to make sourdough starter from scratch

With a little patience and a bit of flour, you will soon have your very own yeast baby to nurture and care for. 

Side note: you won’t be able to use your sourdough starter (including the discard) for any recipes for about a week. It won’t be mature enough or provide the benefits you’re looking for until that time.

What you’ll need to make homemade sourdough starter:

Glass jar or medium-sized bowl

Wooden spoon

Flour (I use this one for most things)

Filtered water

Measuring cups

Clean dish towel

Do not use metal bowls, containers, or utensils when making or handling sourdough starter. The metals can react with the starter and cause undesirable changes.

Wooden utensils and glass bowls are your best bet. Plastic spoons are okay if you don’t have any wooden ones.

The general rule of thumb for a sourdough starter is to use a 1:1 ratio between the flour and water. 

I have to confess that I only measure anything I’m making about 2% of the time. I dd more or less water or flour based on the resulting consistency and what I’m planning to make. 

Day 1: Initial sourdough starter base

Mix one cup of flour and one cup of room temperature filtered water. Stir until all of the flour is blended nicely.

Cover with a clean dish towel and store in an area that will be between 67 and 75 degrees for 24 hours. I use a rubber band to hold it on the bowl but it’s totally not necessary.

Day 2: Discard and Feed

Picture was taken on Day 2 before discarding. We had some teeny, tiny bubbles!

Discard half of the contents of the jar either down the drain or into the trash. 

Mix one cup of flour and one cup of room temperature filtered water. Stir until all of the flour is blended nicely.

Day 2 feed.

Cover with a clean dish towel and store in an area that will be between 67 and 75 degrees for 24 hours.

Day 3: Discard and Feed

Day 3 before discard. Getting stronger!

Discard half of the contents of the jar either down the drain or into the trash.

Mix one cup of flour and one cup of room temperature filtered water. Stir until all of the flour is blended nicely.

Cover with a clean dish towel and store in an area that will be between 67 and 75 degrees for 24 hours.

Day 4: Discard and Feed

Around this time is when starters tend to get very hungry due to increased activity.

This is what a “hungry” starter looks like after it has exhausted its previous feed.

The liquid layer is called “hooch” and a product of fermentation. You’ll want to stir the starter to mix it back in. Don’t pour it out!

Discard half of the contents of the jar either down the drain or into the trash. 

Mix one cup of flour and one cup of room temperature filtered water. Stir until all of the flour is blended nicely.

Cover with a clean dish towel and store in an area that will be between 67 and 75 degrees for 24 hours.

Day 5: Discard and Feed

Now we’re getting somewhere!

Discard half of the contents of the jar either down the drain or into the trash. 

Mix one cup of flour and one cup of room temperature filtered water. Stir until all of the flour is blended nicely.

Cover with a clean dish towel and store in an area that will be between 67 and 75 degrees for 24 hours.

Day 6: Discard and Feed

On days 6 and 7, you will discard and feed your sourdough starter twice daily instead on once. Once in the morning and once in the evening

Discard half of the contents of the jar either down the drain or into the trash. 

Mix one cup of flour and one cup of room temperature filtered water. Stir until all of the flour is blended nicely.

Cover with a clean dish towel and store in an area that will be between 67 and 75 degrees for 12 hours.

Day 7: Feed and Use or Feed and Refrigerate

Discard half of the contents of the jar either down the drain or into the trash. 

Mix one cup of flour and one cup of room temperature filtered water. Stir until all of the flour is blended nicely.

Cover with a clean dish towel and store in an area that will be between 67 and 75 degrees for 12 hours.

When can I use my sourdough starter? 

After the second feed on day 7, your sourdough starter should be ready for use in baking and cooking. Sometimes they may require a few more days, especially in the winter when temperatures are cooler.

If your sourdough starter is doubling in size after you feed it, it’s ready for use. 

Artisan sourdough bread requires stricter rules for a sourdough starter. It needs a high activity rate from the friendly bacteria to achieve a good rise from the dough. 

Do the water test

Drop a spoon full of sourdough starter into water. If it floats, it’s acceptable to bake bread with.

If it sinks, it needs to be fed more frequently using the same “discard and feed” method. Feed every 4-6 hours until the sourdough starter floats.

Once you get a good starter going, Buttermilk Sourdough Waffles are the perfect recipe for using up extra homemade sourdough starter.

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