How to Make Rye Flour Sourdough Starter

by Kaitlynn Fenley

Learn how to make a rye flour sourdough starter. A sourdough rye starter is simple to make, and in just seven days, you’ll have a healthy sourdough starter for baking flavorful, naturally leavened bread!

How to Feed a Sourdough Starter Rye Flour

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 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. 

There are many ways to feed a sourdough starter, and no one way is “correct.” Sourdough starters can be thicker and drier or thinner and more hydrated. You can also use any flour to feed a sourdough starter, but here we will focus on using rye flour.

Rye Flour Sourdough Starter

Sourdough is fascinating because so many different types of microbial metabolism and fermentation are happening all at once.  Yeasts make bubbles and visible expansion in a starter, but bacteria make all the flavor.

When more good bacteria are present, they can help boost yeast populations by feeding them usable acids and eliminating waste products (alcohol). In rye flour starters, there is a lot more activity because rye flour is full of the fermentable sugar, fructan.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “discard and feed.” The point of discarding and feeding your sourdough starter is to replenish the microbe’s food source so that the accumulation of waste products does not kill the yeast and bacteria.

three jars of sprouted rye sourdough starter on a white surface.

Ingredients and Tools to Make Sprouted Rye Sourdough Starter

  1. Flour: I’ve used many flours to make a sourdough starter. For this recipe, we will use organic sprouted rye flour. The type of flour you use will influence the flour-to-water ratio you should use. Whole grain flour, especially sprouted flour, works well with a 1:2 flour-to-water ratio. White flour, like bread flour and all-purpose, work best between a 1:1 and 2:1 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 glass weck jar for my starter. The mixture needs access to air to grow well, so you can use the glass weck jar lid without sealing it, or something like cheesecloth with a rubber band.
  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.
  5. Environment: Temperature is important when it comes to growing healthy yeast and bacteria in a sourdough starter. Your kitchen temperature should be between 60-80 degrees F. Colder temperatures mean slower growth.
a hand opening a container of rye starter. the sourdough starter is bubbly and stuck to the lid of the jar.

How to Feed a Sourdough Starter (thicker, dry, that holds a rise)

So many people email me saying things like, “I fed my starter 8 hours ago, and I see bubbles, but it didn’t rise.”

It did rise; it just fell back down.

If you want to feed your starter before bed or work and see it 8 hours later, still risen and bubbly, you need to make a thicker starter. If you want to snap pics of your starter and expect it to look like the ones on Pinterest and Instagram, you need to make it thicker.

You can feed a 1:1 ratio of sprouted rye flour to water for a thick rye flour starter. So, for example, that would be 50 grams of rye flour, 50 grams of water, and 50 grams of established starter. It will be very thick and may dry out a little on the top, but it will hold a rise you can see.

Making a Rye Flour Sourdough Starter

The feeding ratio is adjustable in these instructions. I suggest following the 1:2 flour to water ratio for the first 7 days; then you can adjust to a thicker starter that holds a “photo-worthy” rise longer.

Step One (Day 1)

  1. In a bowl combine:
    • 50 grams of organic sprouted rye flour
    • 100 grams of water
  2. Use a spatula to combine the flour and water. Stir until there are no clumps and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Scoop the mixture into a clean glass jar.
  4. loosely set a lid on the top or 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 of organic sprouted rye flour
  3. Add 100 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. to a clean bowl add:
    • 50 grams sourdough starter mixture from day 2
    • 50 grams of organic sprouted rye flour
    • 100 grams of water
  2. Stir until evenly combined, and scoop into a clean jar.
  3. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 24 hours.
  4. Discard any remaining original starter mixture. Or you can find fun ways to use sourdough starter discard, like this muffin recipe.
  5. Repeat every 24 hours through day 7.

Step Four (The Night Before Baking)

You can feed your starter however much you need to here. If you plan to bake five loaves, for instance, you can feed your entire starter 150 grams of flour and 300 grams of water in a large bowl and cover it.

  1. 8 hours before starting a baking recipe, in a bowl, combine:
    • All of the starter
    • 100 grams of organic sprouted rye flour
    • 200 grams of water
  2. Stir until evenly combined.
  3. Scoop the starter into a large jar.
  4. Place the breathable lid on the jar and allow it to ferment for 12 hours.

Day 8 (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 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 of starter aside and continue feeding (using steps 3 and 4). Use the rest of the starter for your baking recipe.

Rye Flour Sourdough Starter, Quick 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!

To make a sourdough starter with sauerkraut brine, simply follow the directions in the recipe, but add in 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut brine on the first day. After the first day, discard and feed with flour and water like usual.

With adding sauerkraut brine, you should have a bubbly starter within two days.

a rye flour sourdough starter in a glass jar on a white plate behind a cup of rye flower.

Things to Make with Your Rye Flour Sourdough Starter

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How to Make Rye Flour Sourdough Starter

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Learn how to make a rye flour sourdough starter. A sourdough rye starter is simple to make, and in just seven days, you’ll have a healthy sourdough starter for baking flavorful, naturally leavened bread!

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 1-2 Cups
  • Category: Sourdough
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

  • Organic Sprouted Rye Flour
  • Water

Instructions

  1. The feeding ratio is adjustable in these instructions. I suggest following the 1:2 ratio for the first 7 days; then you can adjust to a thicker starter that holds a “photo-worthy” rise longer. Please read the blog post above this recipe for more on this.
  2. Step One (Day 1) In a bowl combine 50 grams of organic sprouted rye flour and 100 grams of water.
  3. Use a spatula to combine the flour and water. Stir until there are no clumps and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Scoop the mixture into a clean glass jar.
  5. Loosely set a lid on the top or secure a breathable covering to the jar (i.e. cheesecloth) and leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.
  6. Step Two (Day 2) Stir sourdough starter mixture.
  7. Add 50 grams of organic sprouted rye flour and 100 grams of water to the starter mixture in the jar. Mix and scrape down the sides.
  8. Replace a breathable lid. Leave the mixture on the counter for 24 hours.
  9. Step Three (Days 3-7, Feeding and Discarding) to a clean bowl add 50 grams sourdough starter mixture from the previous day, 50 grams of organic sprouted rye flour and 100 grams of water
  10. Stir until evenly combined, and scoop into a clean jar.
  11. Replace the breathable lid and allow it to ferment for 24 hours.
  12. Discard any remaining original starter mixture. Or you can find fun ways to use sourdough starter discard, like this muffin recipe.
  13. Repeat steps 9 through 12 every 24 hours until you reach 7 days.
  14. Step Four (The Night Before Baking) You can adjust the amounts here and feed your starter however much you need to.
  15. 8 hours before starting a baking recipe, in a bowl combine: All of the starter, 100 grams of organic sprouted rye flour, and 200 grams of water and stir until evenly combined.
  16. Scoop the starter into a large jar with plenty of room for tripling in size. Place the breathable lid on the jar allow it to ferment for 12 hours.
  17. Day 8 (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 your starter does not float, continue to feed and discard until it passes the float test.
  18. If your starter passed the float test, put 50 grams of starter aside to continue feeding as in steps 9-12. Use the rest of the starter for your baking recipe.

Notes

  • This recipe is formulated using organic sprouted rye flour. If you use a different type of flour, your starter will be a different consistency and texture. This recipe should work well with regular rye flour also.
  • The type of flour you use will influence the flour-to-water ratio you should use. Whole grain flour, especially sprouted flour, works well with a 1:2 flour-to-water ratio. White flour like bread flour and all-purpose work best with a ratio between 1:1 and 2:1 flour to water. 
  • You may notice some early watery separation. This is normal and just means you need to adjust the flour-to-water ratio. Add more flour to your feedings to thicken the starter

 

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author avatar
Kaitlynn Fenley Author, Educator, Food Microbiologist
Kaitlynn is a food microbiologist and fermentation expert teaching people how to ferment foods and drinks at home.

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7 comments

Linda February 1, 2021 - 11:05 pm

Hi Kaitlyn,

I just stumbled on your website and am obsessed! I was recently diagnosed with Dysbiosis and Candida, and I’m doing everything to change that and my microbiome.

By any chance do you have a video of making your sourdough starters?

Thank you!
Linda

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley February 10, 2021 - 3:14 pm

Right now the only video content we have is on our Instagram. We also teach via video in The Cultured Guru School of Fermentation

Reply
Jacoba Anderson September 18, 2023 - 6:49 am

Hi Kaitlyn, I’m in the process of fermenting your sauerkraut right now and am thinking of making your sourdough starter as well. In this blog you say, “to make a sourdough starter with sauerkraut brine, simply follow the directions in the recipe, but add in 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut on the first day.” Am I adding the actual kraut or the brine of the kraut?
Thank you,
Jacoba

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley September 18, 2023 - 8:16 am

Just add the brine

Reply
Adriana February 17, 2024 - 1:48 pm

Hi Kaitlyn,

What do you do if you forget to feed and discard one day and or feed to bake but are unable to bake the next morning?

Thank you.






Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley February 18, 2024 - 10:11 am

feed it as soon as you remember and you can pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it again.

Reply
Adriana February 21, 2024 - 12:15 pm

Thank you so much for your reply Kaitlynn.






Reply