How to Make a Bread Flour Sourdough Starter with Sourdough Starter Feeding Instructions

by Kaitlynn Fenley

Are you looking for an easy sourdough starter recipe with easy feeding instructions? Our recipe only requires two ingredients and in just seven days you’ll have a healthy sourdough starter for baking flavorful, naturally leavened bread! We also included a quick 2-day sourdough starter recipe option for those of you who’d like to bake some delicious bread sooner.

All About Sourdough Starters.

When it comes to sourdough, everyone likes to focus on the wild yeasts, but a sourdough starter isn’t all yeast, it’s a mix of yeasts, lactic acid producing bacteria, and acetic acid-producing bacteria. In wild sourdough starters, yeasts first ferment wheat carbohydrates into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Then, bacteria in the sourdough starter metabolize the alcohols produced by the yeasts into acetaldehyde and then into acetic acid… making it sour. 

Have you ever experienced your starter smelling like acetone (nail polish)? That means that the bacteria in your starter need more oxygen to finish converting alcohol into acetic acid. If there isn’t enough oxygen, the bacteria get stuck in the middle of the conversion process, with a build-up of acetaldehyde. Once you expose them to more oxygen by stirring or feeding, they can finish converting acetaldehyde into acetic acid.

Have you ever experienced your sourdough starter rising and expanding twice after one feeding… probably after waiting longer than 24 hours to discard and feed? This is a good sign; it means there are lots of good bacteria present… But you should probably feed stat. Here’s what’s happening microbially: when yeasts start to metabolize the flour into alcohol, they also produce carbon dioxide, which is the first expansion of the starter. You may notice the sourdough starter fall and then rise again. The second rise is from bacteria metabolizing built-up alcohol into acetaldehyde. More carbon dioxide is produced as a byproduct when they do this, which adds more bubbles to the starter. Cool huh?

A Truly Mixed Fermentation

Fermentation in sourdough starters doesn’t happen in succession. As soon as the yeasts produce any alcohol, the bacteria metabolize whatever alcohol is present into acids. So things do get sour early on. It’s not like the yeasts make all the alcohol first, and then days later, the bacteria decide to start metabolizing it. It’s simultaneous since it is a rich, wild, mixed culture.

Yeasts make bubbles and visible expansion in a starter, but bacteria make all the flavor. Bacteria start making things sour on day one. The bacteria can also metabolize carbohydrates from the flour into acids outright, and then there are wild yeasts that metabolize the lactic acid produced by bacteria for energy. When more good bacteria are present, they can help boot yeast populations by feeding them usable acids and eliminating the waste products (alcohol). The point of discarding and feeding is to refresh the usable substrates available to all the microbes so that the accumulation of waste products does not kill the yeast and bacteria. Sourdough is fascinating because there are so many different types of microbial metabolism and fermentation happening all at once. 

Ingredients and Tools

  1. Flour: I’ve used many flours to make a sourdough starter. My favorite combination is 50/50 bread flour and rye flour. I think this combination results in great sourdough flavor. Here, I will teach you a 100% bread flour starter. The type of flour you use will influence the flour to water ratio you should use. Whole grain flours, especially sprouted flours, work well with a 1:2 flour to water ratio. White flours like bread flour and all purpose work best with a 1:1 flour to water ratio.
  2. Water: Filtered water is best, but you can use tap water if you think you have good tap water. I use tap water that has been filtered through our water filter pitcher.
  3. Glass Jars and Cheesecloth: I like to use a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar with some cheesecloth on top to grow my sourdough starter. The mixture needs access to air to grow, so you cannot use a traditional mason jar lid. I secure the cheesecloth to the jar with a rubber band. Sometimes I also use the jar pictured here, and I leave the lid loose. You’ll need two jars to switch back and forth between feedings.
  4. Kitchen Scale: If you frequent our blog, you should already have one of these on hand. You can find a good kitchen scale option HERE. If you’re going to master fermentation of any kind and baking, you definitely need a kitchen scale. If you’re going to experiment with different flours for your sourdough starter, though, you should use your kitchen scale for measurements. Some flours are denser than others, so you need to weigh for recipe consistency. Nobody enjoys a dense loaf of bread.
  5. Environment: Temperature is important when it comes to growing healthy yeast and bacteria in a sourdough starter. Your kitchen temperature should be between 68-78 degrees F.

Traditional Sourdough Starter Recipe

In a large container combine equal parts rye flour and bread flour. I like to do this first so that I can have my flour already mixed and ready. I usually end up mixing a pound of each at a time.

Step One (Day 1)

  1. In your glass jar combine:
    • 50 grams organic bread flour
    • 50 grams of water
  2. Use a spatula to combine the flour and water. Stir until there are no clumps and the mixture is smooth. Make sure to scrape down any mixture from the sides of the jar. If you find that the mixture is very thick and you want it thinner, just a little more water and stir. Sourdough starters are very forgiving, so it’s fine to just add a little bit more water.
  3. Secure a breathable covering to the jar (i.e. cheesecloth) and leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.

Step Two (Day 2)

  1. Stir sourdough starter mixture.
  2. Add in 50 grams organic bread flour
  3. Add 50 grams of water.
  4. Mix and scrape down the sides. Replace a breathable lid. Leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.

Step Three (Days 3-7, Feeding and Discarding)

  1. In a clean jar add:
    • 50 grams sourdough starter mixture
    • 50 grams organic bread flour
    • 50 grams water
  2. Stir until evenly combined, and scrape down the sides of the jar. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 24 hours.
  3. Discard any remaining original starter mixture. Or you can find fun ways to use sourdough starter discard, like this muffin recipe.
  4. Repeat every 24 hours through day 7.

Step Four (The Night Before Baking)

  1. At least 12 hours before baking add to your jar of starter:
    • 50 grams organic bread flour
    • 50 grams of water
  2. Stir until evenly combined, and scrape down the sides of the jar. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 12 hours.

Day 8 (Baking Day)

  1. Preform a float test by dropping a teaspoon of starter into a cup of room temperature water. If it floats it’s ready for use. In the instance your starter does not float, continue to feed and discard until it passes the float test.
  2. If your starter passed the float test, put 50 grams starter mixture ( about 2 Tablespoons ) aside and continue feeding (using steps 3 and 4) for your next baking day. Use the rest of the starter for your baking recipe.

sourdough starter being stretched by a wooden spoon.

Quick Sourdough Starter Recipe Option (2 Days Total)

This is a fun way to speed up the sourdough starter process. Adding in a little raw, wild fermented sauerkraut brine helps to boost the Lactobacillus population in the starter. This means that the mixture gets more sour and flavorful faster!

Some people online say that any bit of salt can kill yeasts in sourdough starters. Well, microbiologist Kaitlynn here to tell you that’s not true. Adding in a tiny bit of salt in the form of sauerkraut brine can actually help yeasts thrive. There are a lot of wild yeasts that love to metabolize lactic acid even in the presence of salt. So adding in a bit of sauerkraut brine with lactic acid-producing bacteria helps the wild yeasts to grow and thrive. Thus, you have a thriving sourdough starter faster.

Step One (the first 12 hours)

  1. In your glass container combine:
  2. Use a spatula to combine. Stir until there are no clumps and the mixture is smooth. Make sure to scrape down any mixture from the sides of the jar.
  3. Secure a breathable covering to the jar (i.e. cheesecloth) and leave the mixture on the counter for 12 hours.

Step 2 (the second 12 hours)

  1. Stir sourdough starter.
  2. Add in:
    • 50 grams organic bread flour
    • 50 grams of water
  3. Mix and scrape down the sides. Replace breathable lid. Leave the mixture on the counter for 12 hours.

Step 3 (the third 12 hours)

  1. In a clean jar add:
    • 50 grams starter mixture
    • 50 grams organic bread flour
    • 50 grams water
  2. Stir until evenly combined, and scrape down the sides of the jar. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 12 hours.
  3. Discard the remaining starter mixture. Or you can find fun ways to use sourdough starter discard HERE.

Step 4 (the Fourth 12 Hours)

  1. 12 hours before baking add to your jar of starter:
    • 50 grams of organic bread flour
    • 50 grams water (if you really want to see your starter rise, use less water here. you can use equal parts flour and water for a thick starter.)
  2. Stir until evenly combined, and scrape down the sides of the jar. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 12 hours.

Step 5 (Baking Day)

  1. Perform a float test by dropping a teaspoon of starter into a cup of room temperature water. If it floats it’s ready for use. If it does not float but clearly has bubbles and rose, you can still use it to bake.
  2. Put 50 grams starter mixture ( 3 Tablespoons ) aside to continue feeding (steps 3 and 4) for your next baking day. Use the rest for your bread recipe.

Hibernating Your Sourdough Starter

If you’ve used some of your sourdough starter to bake, and you do not plan on using your starter again anytime soon, you can hibernate it.

  1. In a clean jar add:
    • 50 grams starter mixture
    • 50 grams organic bread flour
    • 50 grams water
  2. Stir until evenly combined, and scrape down the sides of the jar. Close with a solid lid and place it in your refrigerator.
  3. Feed Starter every 2 weeks.
Print

Easy Sourdough Starter Recipe

Are you looking for an easy sourdough starter recipe with easy feeding instructions? Our recipe only requires three ingredients, and in just seven days you’ll have a healthy sourdough starter for baking flavorful, naturally leavened bread! We also included a quick 2-day sourdough starter option for those of you who’d like to bake some delicious bread sooner.

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 7 Days
  • Yield: 12 oz.
  • Category: Fermented Foods
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

  • Organic Bread Flour
  • Water

Instructions

  1. Here we will use organic  bread flour to create a starter. 
  2. In your glass container combine 50 grams organic bread flour and 50 grams of water.

  3. Use a spatula to combine the flour and water. Stir until there are no clumps and the mixture is smooth. Make sure to scrape down any mixture from the sides of the jar.

  4. Secure a breathable covering to the jar (i.e. cheesecloth) and leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.

  5. (Day 2) Stir sourdough starter. Add in 30 grams of bread flour and 30 grams of water. Mix and scrape down the sides. Replace a breathable lid. Leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.

  6. (Days 3-7, Feeding and Discarding). In a clean jar add 50 grams starter mixture, 50 grams of bread flour and 50 grams of water.

  7. Stir until evenly combined, and scrape down the sides of the jar. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 24 hours.

  8. Discard the remaining starter mixture. Or you can find fun ways to use sourdough starter discard.

  9. Repeat every 24 hours through day 7.

  10. (The Night Before Baking). 12 hours before baking add 50 grams of bread flour and 50 grams of water to your jar of starter. If you really want to see the starter rise, you can use a little less water here. This will make things thicker, so the rise will hold and you can see the bubbles through the jar. 

  11. Stir until evenly combined, and scrape down the sides of the jar. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 12 hours.

  12. (Baking Day). Perform a float test by dropping a teaspoon of starter into a cup of room temperature water. If it floats it’s ready for use. If it does not float but clearly has a lot of bubbles and rose, you can still use it to bake. 

  13. Put 50 grams starter mixture aside and continue feeding as in days 3-7 for your next baking day. Use the rest for your bread recipe.

Notes

  • See the two-day sourdough starter quick option above this recipe if you are crunched for time and you want to get to baking bread faster!
  • This recipe is formulated using organic bread flour. If you use a different type of flour your starter will be a different consistency and texture.
  • The type of flour you use will influence the flour to water ratio you should use. Whole grain flours, especially sprouted flours, work well with a 1:2 flour to water ratio. White flours like bread flour and all purpose work best with a 1:1 flour to water ratio. 
  • You may notice some early watery separation. This I normal and just means you need to adjust the flour to water ratio. Simply add 5 to 10 grams of extra flour to your feedings to thicken the starter.

Keywords: easy,sourdough,starter,feeding,instructions

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24 comments

Janet G Crase November 25, 2019 - 7:04 pm

It Would be nice if this was provided in a better printable fashion for my future reference. I had to use a pen to fill in what would not print in some spaces. Thank you for your suggestions and the kraut juice addition I am supposing needs to be from a raw kraut receipe, not cooked after the fermenting process. Thank you, Janet

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley November 25, 2019 - 8:06 pm

Hey there! There is a print button at the top of the recipe card. This provides you with a printable version of the recipe. Yes, the sauerkraut needs to be raw and fermented, that’s the only way Lactobacillus will be present in the brine.

Reply
Azalea December 15, 2019 - 8:19 pm

Im on day 5(haven’t done the feeding yet) and I feel like it’s not going correctly. It’s not puffing up at all(it did on day 2 but that’s all). It bubbles, but doesn’t expand in size. Whenever I go to get the 50g of starter to feed, it’s got quite a bit of liquid in it and is super stretchy. Is that normal? Should it be smelling yeasty? Im going to keep going hoping I at least get one leavened loaf!!!

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley December 16, 2019 - 2:25 pm

If you see bubbles that’s great! and the liquid is normal. It should be bubbly and stretchy. Next time you feed it, you can skip the discard and just feed it…. The night before baking, when you feed the starter without discarding anything, you’ll see it increase in size and it will smell like sourdough.

Reply
Lorna July 15, 2020 - 5:51 am

I live in Hawaii. Our temperature on average has been in the 80’s. I’ve attempted to do this 3 times so far without success. By the second day, there is no action nor any hint of rise. There is some/little hint of bubbling. By the 4th day, I’m not sure what I’m suppose to do, so I start all over again. I have it situated next to my air fryer. We use it occasionally. It’s covered with a lid that is NOT air tight but rather simply placed on top. PLEASE help because I don’t know if I am suppose to keep going or what?!!!

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley July 15, 2020 - 12:29 pm

You have some activity so that’s good. Increase the flour and decrease the water on the next feeding. When you mix it, it should be thick like a cookie dough consistency. Then you’ll see a rise.

Reply
Weena January 4, 2021 - 9:54 am

My starter is 15 months old and recently became very unresponsive after a month of refrigerated neglect. Before giving up, I added some more rye, which I knew it “liked”–except I accidentally grabbed my look-alike blue cornmeal. The starter took off! It took me a day to realize it was cornmeal and not rye that had made my old starter newly lively. Since then, it refuses to “work” until I toss it a handful of cornmeal! I have never heard of this appetite and am wondering what might have happened? BTW it also has taken on a rosy tone which I attribute to pigments in the blue cornmeal, and it smells wonderful, makes a great loaf, so I am not worried that this coloration might be bacterial.

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley January 5, 2021 - 5:20 pm

Hey there! Yes, this is quite common and the yeast in starters respond really well to cornmeal. This is because cornmeal has about eight times more sugar per tablespoon. It’s not a large amount of sugar or a noticeable difference to us macroorganisms… but it’s a huge deal to tiny microbes. The pigmentation is definitely from the Anthocyanins in blue corn.

Reply
Heather January 7, 2021 - 3:17 pm

I just mixed up a starter, but it formed a paste/dough. I though it was supposed to be more like a batter to start? Is this okay?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley January 7, 2021 - 4:07 pm

Did you weigh the ingredients? It’s totally fine that it’s thick, you can just add a tiny bit more water to thin out the consistency.

Reply
Kate June 25, 2021 - 4:58 pm

Hi, I am on day 4, and the starter is still a wet, batter-like consistency, some bubbles 2 days ago but no rise and no bubbles last two days. Toward the 24-hour mark I notice separation. I’m measuring accurately and using 50% Maine Grains Rye flour and 50% whole wheat bread flour, and Brita-filtered tap. Not sure if it’s really working out…the amount of starter each day in my 32 oz jars is minimal–from your photos it looks like the jars are full. I’m guessing something has gone wrong? Any advice?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley June 25, 2021 - 5:13 pm

Hello! It should be kind of wet and batter-like. The watery separation is normal, especially if the starter is in a warm place. It’s likely that you are just missing the rise. It won’t stay puffed up and risen for long, so you won’t always see looking as starters look in photos. If you add a bit more flour than water on the next feeding to make it thicker, the rise will hold longer and you’ll be able to see it.

I was using a small jar in these photos, and they were taken when I fed my starter a lot so that I could bake a big batch of bread.

Let me know if you have any more questions and take a look at our blog Sourdough Starter Problems and How to Fix Them

Reply
Kate June 26, 2021 - 2:32 pm

Thanks! I actually ended up seeing the problem-solving post after I sent you my message. I just discarded and fed using only about 60g water this time…much thicker. Really looking forward to eventually baking with it…had to wait to initiate the starter until it was at least 68° consistently in my Maine home, haha. That being said, we’re supposed to have a heat wave (in the 90’s Monday + Tuesday) and my house will probably hit 84° inside as I don’t have central air. 🙁 Should I refrigerate until temps go back down Wednesday?

Reply
Catherine Jack September 8, 2021 - 7:57 pm

Thank you for the information on acetone smelling starter. My chemical engineer offspring was quite concerned and was all for getting rid of Gertrude (yes, I named my starter!). So, not only can I say it’s not a problem, but also the solution has come from a fellow scientist!

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley September 9, 2021 - 2:08 pm

Happy to help! (and I love your starter’s name!)

Reply
Bryan January 13, 2022 - 5:38 pm

I don’t see any yeast in any of the ingredients in these recipes, how does the yeast come in? is this a completely wild start? Is it possible to use these recipes but by using kefir or yeast as an ingredient? If so, what ratio?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley January 14, 2022 - 7:00 am

Sourdough starters are usually made with just flour and water. There are yeast and bacteria in the flour, and creating a sourdough starter is a means of culturing these microbes. Yes, you can add packaged yeast or kefir of fermented vegetable brine. See the body of this blog post under the heading “Quick Sourdough Starter Recipe Option”

Reply
Mellisa June 4, 2022 - 12:27 pm

Two additional questions please, I do not see mention of the starter needing to be in any particular temperature. Is it not a factor? Also can this recipe be doubled (starter) without impacting it?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley June 6, 2022 - 8:15 am

You can absolutely double the recipe! I usually double, sometimes triple, the feeding amounts when I have a lot to bake. Temperature is not that big of a deal. You can grow a starter anywhere from 60-100 degrees F. The temperature just impacts how fast it rises.

Reply
Elizabeth Petrucci August 10, 2022 - 1:58 pm

I see that you prefer a 50/50 rye flour and bread flour recipe. What water ratio would you use for that? And can I follow this recipe for a starter using those 2 flours?

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Kaitlynn Fenley August 10, 2022 - 4:54 pm

you can still use a 1:1, so yes you can follow this recipe.

Reply
Kyerston August 29, 2022 - 3:34 pm

I forgot to feed my starter on Day 2, but added flour and water after realizing it on Day 3. Is this okay? Can I just proceed normally from here or should I start over?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley August 29, 2022 - 4:06 pm

You can proceed normally. It should be fine.

Reply
Sheena September 12, 2022 - 9:30 am

I’m on day 4 and this start is doing great, I read through some of the comments here and learned that I can double or triple feed – that was going to be my question! Thanks for providing such a concise recipe, and for your explanation of how it works. I have killed my start so many times in the last 10 years that I had completely given up on ever learning sourdough, and this gave me the courage to try it again. I named my start and have been really careful to feed it well, plan to put it in the fridge next week and feed it before I need to use it.

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