Creating your own sourdough starter: the path to great bread

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Sourdough.

Whether it conjures up a crusty, flavorful loaf of bread or a bubbling crock of flour/water starter, sourdough is a treasured part of many bakers’ kitchens.

But where does the path to sourdough bread begin? And how do you start?

Start in your own home kitchen. And begin by creating your own sourdough starter.

First, a word of advice. Sourdough baking is as much art as science. This method for making sourdough starter isn’t an exact match for the one you read on another site, or in a cookbook, or in your great-grandma’s diary.

If you have a process you’ve successfully followed before, then hey, stick with it. Or try this one and compare. All good.

OK, ready? Let’s go.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our gridded photos.

The following timeline assumes you can find a relatively warm place (68°F to 70°F) to grow your starter. More on that below.

Day 1: Combine 4 ounces (1 cup) whole rye flour (pumpernickel) or whole wheat flour with 4 ounces (1/2 cup) non-chlorinated cool water in a non-reactive container. Glass, crockery, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic all work fine for this. Here, I’m using a 4-cup glass measure.

Note that whole grain flour (whole wheat or rye) is used at the beginning of the process. This is because whole grains contain more nutrients and sourdough-friendly microorganisms than all-purpose flour.

It’s also important to feed your starter with non-chlorinated cool water; from now on, we’ll refer to this simply as “water.”

Stir everything together thoroughly; make sure there’s no dry flour anywhere. Cover the container loosely and let the mixture sit at warm room temperature (about 70°F) for 24 hours.

A note about room temperature: the colder the environment, the more slowly your starter will grow. If the normal temperature in your home is below 68°F, we suggest finding a smaller, warmer spot to develop your starter.

For instance, try setting the starter atop your water heater, refrigerator, or another appliance that might generate ambient heat. Or, set it near a heat source (baseboard heater, etc.).

Another option: set the container of starter on a folded dish towel laid atop a heating pad on its lowest setting – as I’ve done in the photo above.

A temperature-controlled bread proofer is the absolute ideal solution; if you bake lots of yeast bread, you might consider investing in one of these tools.

Day 2: You may see no activity at all in the first 24 hours, or you may see a bit of growth or bubbling.

Either way, discard half the starter (4 ounces), and add to the remainder 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) cool water (if your house is warm); or lukewarm water (if it’s cold).

Mix well, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for 24 hours.

Note: Why do you need to discard half the starter? It seems so wasteful…

Well, it’s necessary for three reasons. First, unless you discard, eventually you’ll end up with The Sourdough That Ate Milwaukee – too much starter. Second, keeping the starter volume the same helps balance the pH. And third, keeping the volume down offers the yeast more food to eat each time you feed it; it’s not fighting with quite so many other little yeast cells to get enough to eat.

Also, you don’t have to discard it if you don’t want to; you can give it to a friend, or use it to bake. There are quite a few recipes on our site using “discard” starter, including sourdough pizza crust, sourdough pretzels, and my all-time favorite waffles.

Days 3, 4, & 5: By the third day (pictured top left), you’ll likely see some activity – bubbling; a fresh, fruity aroma, and some evidence of expansion. It’s now time to begin two feedings daily, as evenly spaced as your schedule allows.

For each feeding, weigh out 4 ounces starter; this will be a generous ½ cup, once it’s thoroughly stirred down. Discard any remaining starter.

Add 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water to the 4 ounces starter.

Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.

Repeat two-a-day feedings on days 4, 5, and as many days as it takes for your starter to become very active.

The photo at bottom left shows the starter 12 hours after it’s been fed on day 3. Pictured at bottom right is that same starter, 12 hours after feeding, on day 6 – see how vigorous it’s become?

After about a week of consistent feeding, your starter should be ready to use in a sourdough bread recipe.

 

How do you know when your starter is ready to use?

After 12 hours, the starter will have risen nicely. You’ll see lots of bubbles; there may be some little “rivulets” on the surface, full of finer bubbles.

Also, the starter should have a tangy aroma – pleasingly acidic, but not overpowering.

The starter should at least double in volume 12 hours after it’s been fed; in the pictures above, it’s taken about 4 hours to double; so this starter is ready.

Here’s our starter, 1 week after we began the process: I’d say that’s good to go.

Once the starter is ready, give it one last feeding. Pour off all but 4 ounces. Feed as usual. Let the starter rest at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours; it should be active, with bubbles breaking the surface.

Remove however much starter you need for your recipe (no more than 8 ounces, about 1 cup); and transfer the remaining 4 ounces of starter to its permanent home: a crock, jar, or whatever you’d like to store it in long-term.

Ah, success…

But wait – what if things haven’t gone exactly according to schedule?

No worries. If, after a week, your starter isn’t ready, don’t lose heart; keep feeding it regularly, and it will gain strength – really!

Be patient. The conditions in your kitchen may be more or less conducive to building a starter, depending on room temperature, the season, humidity, or how much you’ve been baking.

Remember, the keys to developing a successful starter are using good (unbleached) flour; having a consistent feeding schedule, and ripening (growing) the starter in an environment that’s adequately warm (at least 68°F, and preferably in the 70s).

When your starter is strong enough, it’s time to go ahead and make your favorite sourdough bread.

Once your starter has been fed, and you’re ready to mix up your bread dough, you’ll want to reserve and maintain a small portion of the ripe (fed) starter (about 4 ounces; about 1/2 cup, stirred down)  for future baking. Unless you plan on continuing to feed the starter twice a day, refrigerate it for future use.

Good luck! And enjoy.

Next: maintaining your starter.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. lowneyshopping

    How does one find that water? Any help on that would be appreciated. Thanks!

    Any bottled water is fine – any grocery, convenience store, or supermarket would carry it. Good luck! PJH

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sourdough starters traditionally do not use added commercial yeast. In this case the flour and water attracts the natural yeast in the air! This yeast is what is used to ferment your starter and leaven your dough. Jon@KAF

    2. katiu

      Or… If you keep a Britta (or other) pitcher of filtered water in your fridge/kitchen, that works just fine. Measure it out, nuke just until lukewarm, and you’re ready to go!

      Kathy H.

    3. Pat Babcock

      Boil a pot of water for 5-10 minutes, cover, turn off heat, allow to cool, the carefully pour off of any white, chalky sediment than may be present. This removes not only the chlorine, but also reduces the minerals in the water..

    4. Scott Breidenbach

      Hi,
      Very new to this, but am excited to try. I have mixed my flour and water for Day one, and I followed the measurements exactly. It is very thick and gummy like! Just want to be sure this sounds right. I did my best to mix thoroughly, but at this point it is very hard to manipulate.

      Scott

    5. PJ Hamel , post author

      Scott, sounds like you may have been a bit heavy-handed with the flour; the mixture should be thicker than pancake batter, but not something you could easily pick up and work with; it should be “goopy” (how’s that for a technical term?). Add a bit more water next time, and you should be fine. Good luck – PJH

    6. Diane

      Using water from a Britta Filter or another that removes chlorine and other chemicals should do the trick too.

    7. Carol Ann Speight

      1. I love your site!
      2. Can’t seem to find a “print option” for this soudough recipe????
      3. Also would like to know IF you have a Chelsa bun (sourdough recipe)?
      4. Thanks & keep great work!
      5. Ciao! ;)

    8. The Baker's Hotline

      I’m sorry Carol, these instructions are only found via our blog, so there is no printer friendly version. I will also pass along the suggestion about the sourdough Chelsea Bun recipe as we do not have one! Happy baking. Jon@KAF

    9. The Baker's Hotline

      You may choose to use either cups or ounces – 1 cup or 4 oz of flour combined with 1/2 c. or 4 oz of water. Hope that helps horto! Elisabeth@KAF

    10. marty

      Carol ann, try E-Mailing the recipe to a friend then printing it oput. See if that would work

    11. Katt

      Is it just me? Am I crazy? Did I misread?
      The instructions say “Combine 4 ounces (1 cup) whole rye flour (pumpernickel) or whole wheat flour with 4 ounces (1/2 cup) non-chlorinated cool water…”
      Which is it? 4oz, or 1 cup? Are we looking for equal parts water and flour, or 1/2c water to 1c flour?
      A full cup is 8oz – and a half-cup is 4oz. Yet, the instructions say to combine 4oz Whole Rye OR Whole Wheat…. So are we shooting for 1/2 cup of rye and 1/2 cup of water? or 1/2 of each, and then add 1 cup of water?
      Thanks for the clarification! – Katt

    12. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Katt! This is actually a common confusion among many bakers. While 1 cup does equate to 8 fluid ounces, other ingredients (such as flour) do not. Flour can range quite a bit when measuring by volume, depending on the type and measuring method. A King Arthur cup of whole wheat or rye weighs about 4 ounces, this is why we feed with 1 cup of flour to 1/2 cup of water or 4 ounces each by weight. The method you choose is up to you, but we always prefer weighing. Jon@KAF

    13. Dee Stonewall

      I use — and always have used (for years) — bottled distilled water bought at any grocery store. Why? Because distilled water has chemicals, minerals, and most importantly, chlorine, removed from the water. A gallon of distilled water is approximately $0.75 to $1.00 at your local grocery store.

    14. Norman Andresen

      To obtain dechlorinated water draw a volume (quart) from your tap. Allow to sit out overnight in an open bowl. I use a large measuring cup. In the morning almost all of the chlorine will have distilled off. This is the direction received during a sourdough baking class at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor. I have been doing this regularly when I am to bake. I store the dechlorinated water in a cleaned milk jug. I use this water for all my baking no matter what is to be baked.

    15. Sandy

      I want to venture into making this sour dough, I think I follow it all until the part where you are ready to make your bread, and you put the last 4oz of starter back in the fridge, after taking out the 8oz for the bread. So with the 4oz in fridge, how do you continue to have starter for another loaf of bread. Do you have to take it out of the fridge and do the whole process over again for another week? Thanks for your help, and love your flour.

    16. The Baker's Hotline

      Before placing the remainder of the starter back in the frig you will need to give it a feeding of 1 c. of flour and 1/2 c. of water, stir and allow to sit for 2-4 hours before refrigerating again. Elisabeth@KAF

    17. Pavel

      Hi, I’m new to this and was wondering if I have to use all purpose flour to feed the starter or I can keep using the whole wheat flour?

      If I use all purpose flour, will I be able to make whole wheat sourdough bread?

    18. PJ Hamel , post author

      Pavel, you and your starter will both be happier, I believe, if you feed it with all-purpose flour. Feeding with strictly whole wheat tends to introduce a lot of variables (bacteria, various organic flora and fauna) into the mix, and increases the possibility that the starter will “go off.” That said, you absolutely don’t need to feed starter with whole wheat in order to make whole wheat sourdough bread. Simply use whole wheat as the flour in your dough, and your non-whole wheat starter will happily support it. Good luck – PJH

  2. bgwilson

    Why do you discard all but 4 oz of starter every time you feed the starter? Is that you prevent you form having a huge bowl of starter, or is there a “bread science” reason?

    Yes, to prevent you from ending up with too much starter; but most of all, to concentrate the yeast/lactobacilli in a smaller amount of space, so it can grow more quickly – not as much competition for the available food. PJH

    Reply
    1. Pat Babcock

      You discard half only to reduce volume. Unlike fermenting liquids, the microorganisms in a sourdough starter – particularly a 100% hydration sponge as this method produces – are fairly evenly distributed throughout (statistically speaking). The only way in which the concentration would be increased by discarding half would be if this were not true, and they flocculated to the bottom as some yeasts do in liquids. If you keep the 1:1 mass (always weigh your ingredients to improve the consistency of your results!) ratio of starter to 100% hydration dough in your feedings, the yeast and microorganisms will thrive. In terms of pH as well – if the ratio is kept, the impact to pH is the same, whether discarding half or not. If you must discard, give it away, or turn it into the soil of your acid-loving outdoor plants and flowers. Me? I typically bake it away :)

      Note that sourdough starters store long term very well – I typically only have time to bake at home in the winter months, yet my sourdough starter is about 30 years old (closer to 35, now). Feed it, cover lightly. When it starts to rise, cover with plastic wrap secured by a rubber band or other suitable “burpable” means, and put it in the back of the refrigerator. Make sure your cover is secure – there are odors and microorganisms in refrigerators that will flavor and/or ruin your starter. When ready to use again, check the surface of your starter and scrape off any surface molds (have never experienced any, but molds are hearty beasts, so there is that potential) – don’t worry about any liquid that may have come to the surface. Leave it covered on your countertop until it warms to room temperature, then stir it thoroughly to aerate it; then feed it, stirring the dough into the starter thoroughly. It should perk right back up. If, after time, your starter starts to lose its acidity, your yeast culture has finally outcompeted your lactobacillus. No worries! Start a new starter as instructed here, then, after it has soured nicely, start adding back some of your old starter to help regain the flavor profile and strength of the former starter. Don’t add it all back, though, or you’ll shortly be back to an insipid starter – all yeast and no lacto!

      Finally, you can add starter to any recipe, as long as you maintain the 100% hydration (1:1 ratio of flour to water by weight) in your starter. Simply substitute a quantity of starter for a portion of the water and flour in the recipe. You deduct 1/2 as much each of the water and flour in the recipe as the weight of starter you added – for instance, if you add 2 ounces of starter to a recipe, deduct 1 ounce from the amount of each the water and the flour the recipe calls for. If your starter is very strong, eliminate the yeast – but if your recipes calls for “quick rise” yeast, or if your time is very limited, you will still need some added yeast – try half, and work from there as you adjust your recipe to use the starter.

      Cheers!

  3. Stephie

    I tried to find an answer before asking but my searches just gave me more recipes. I’m wondering why you have to discard so much of the starter as you feed it and it grows? Why not use what would be thrown out for a second starter? Or would that be too much?

    All this effort and time for something so delicious, I guess this is why a good (though small) loaf of sourdough bread at the local grocery store costs over $5 (!!).

    The discard is to keep the ph of the starter in balance. you may use the discard to begin a second starter, or gift a baking friend, or use it for sourdough pancakes: Recipe here.

    Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  4. marcin

    This is wonderful information. I have always been interested in sourdough breads, and last week I got some of the KAF starter. I’ve just been following the instructions step by step that came with the starter, and so far, everything seems to be working. This is information in this blog, however, answers a lot of my questions about it. The reason I’m writing is to say that, wow, the rustic bread that I made is amazing (and all gone, I might add!). It’s the best bread I’ve ever made. And so easy to make. We’re planning to live on it now. Who needs anything else! The flavor and texture are way beyond my expectations. I’m trying to make a lot of it this week because I have a lot of company for the holiday. So far, so good. Thank you, KAF.

    Reply
  5. "Hopeful Baker Sara"

    This is so happening this weekend!

    You go, girl!! I know your good karma will produce a fabulous, strong starter and wonderful bread. Stay tuned for our next blogs: maintaining your starter, and a wonderful recipe for sourdough bread with no added yeast… Happy Easter – PJH

    Reply
  6. argentyne

    I only argue that sometimes, you can get a starter that is just completely retarded in its growth.

    I had one that you could feed as many times as you wanted and keep in a nice warm spot, but it would take weeks to double in volume even once.

    I finally gave up on that one.

    I do have one that was made almost exactly like these instructions that it really is trying to be the starter who ate the world. I gave a small spoonful to a friend and it tried to eat her fridge the next day. But it makes wonderful sourdough pancakes. :D

    Sourdough is so quirky – well, its just like us, a living, unpredictable entity! And some sourdoughs, as you say, have real personalities – I guess that’s why we name them. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  7. Alun

    You guys must be psychic, I’ve been trying to make a starter for the past week with your flour…

    Alun, hopefully the photos will help. It can be tricky; I was having trouble until I broke out the heating pad. 60°F is just too cool to get anything going very quickly. Good luck! PJH

    Reply
  8. MGW960W

    If you’ve fed your starter with equal parts flour and water by weight, it’s easy to substitute the part of the starter that would be thrown out before feeding for part of the ingredients in any recipe that calls for yeast. Just use the weight recipe amounts rather than the volume amounts. If you are “throwing out” (stirring into a recipe) four ounces of unfed starter, subtract two ounces of liquid and two ounces of flour from the recipe amounts to be added. You may need to cut back on the yeast a little, too. I do this with yeast recipes routinely, since I couldn’t possibly discard my much-loved starter. Also, we filter our water with a Brita carafe and that eliminates the chlorine.

    Great tip – I often use the “discard” in bread, just as you say. Also use it in any recipe calling for flour/liquid, where the liquid can be water; I sometimes use it in cake, pancakes, muffins… PJH

    Reply
  9. infernalringing

    How do you know the ph levels in your starter? Is it about smell, taste, or growth rate, or what? Also, I have a thing against all-purpose flour. I grind my own wheat and usually have 3-5 types of berries on hand. What are your thoughts on using freshly ground white-wheat or hard red winter wheat or even soft red spring wheat instead of AP white? I know rye behaves differently, so right now I am building a rye starter using only whole rye flour, but I wonder about adding some rye to my basic starter. Your instructions for the starter for sale on your website says to add twice as much flour as water each time you feed it. Why is the ratio different than this “create-your-own” version? And finally, no matter how I cover my starters, my regular one (bought on your website) always develops a “crust” on top. My rye one never does. I usually just stir this back in when I am feeding it and it dissolves just fine. Is the crust thing normal? Thanks!

    I don’t test the pH levels in my starter (though it IS possible to get test strips from scientific supply companies)… Let me answer your questions in order here-
    1) Making starter from freshly ground wheat. You can do this, but run a fairly significant risk of it eventually going bad. Jeff Hamelman, one of our SD gurus, says he’ll use some whole grain to start a starter, but then switches over to feeding it with AP. If you do want to feed it with whole grains, it’s fine – but don’t leave it out on the counter, it’ll have to live, long-term, in the fridge.
    2) The instructions for adding twice as much flour as water refer to volume – you feed with 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. By weight, they’re the same – about 4 ounces.
    3) Not sure about the crust – mine never develops a crust, but instead ends up with liquid on top. Are you keeping it at room temperature, or in the fridge? Maybe it’s not covered well enough? Maybe you live in a particularly dry climate? But whatever, just stirring it back in, as you do, is fine. Good luck- PJH

    Reply
  10. juthurst

    Great info as usual:)
    I have also read, in Leader and Blahnik’s “Bread Alone”,
    that the more natural (less urban)an environment,
    the more likely you are to be able to capture the wild yeast.

    And that having a bunch of organic grapes sitting near your starter never hurts ;) evidently they harbor wild yeast.
    If you are in a rural area there are even more wild yeasts to capture, but right now they are being over run by the pollen!

    Actually, studies seem to show that most of the wild yeast comes from the flour you use, not your surroundings; so you don’t really need to worry too much about being in an urban environment, finding wild grapes, etc. (though the wild grapes are a nice touch, and certainly wouldn’t hurt, as you say). Hope you’re not enduring hay fever with all that pollen around! PJH

    Reply
  11. erie

    I must be doing something wrong. I have the starter in the crock, the rim is not as nearly as clean as in your pictures. I never throw anything out! I just feed (and let sit for 1 -2 hours depending on my schedule) and then use 16 oz for the Sour dough rye bread from your website. Feed again to make up for the double amount of taking out. It is not really sour, I would like it to have more pronounced sour flavor, on the other hand my family loves it this way. How can I get my rim to look cleaner? Take everything out, wash the crock and then put it back?

    Erie, yes, to get a clean rim, take the starter out, wash the crock, and return the starter. BTW, the crustiness on top isn’t hurting anything, as far as your starter is concerned; but if you don’t like it, feel free to give the crock a good going-over periodically. For more sour bread, try letting the shaped loaves rest overnight in the fridge. Oftentimes, the sourness of the bread isn’t contingent on the sourness of the starter so much as how you handle the dough; dough that’s chilled will allow the yeast to give off more acetic acid, which is more sour (think vinegar). If all else fails – try adding 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid) to the dough, which totally ramps up the sour flavor. PJH

    Reply
    1. Pat Babcock

      Acetic? I think you’re more interested in a lactic acid profile. A good starter has both yeast an lactobacillus – both omnipresent in the wheat husk.

  12. gaitedgirl

    PJ – just in time! My husband and I are moving into our new home this weekend (finally!!!!) and the kitchen is so much bigger than the one in our apartment (you’d think that kitchens in houses are bigger than the kitchens in apartments but you’d be wrong – one of the homes we looked at had a kitchen the size of my laundry room. We left quickly.). I’ve been wanting to try out a sourdough starter for months now but knowing we’d be moving, I decided to wait. I really appreciate all the ideas and extras from not only you but in the comments as well. I hate wasting food so the thought of simply throwing away the starter was a bit of a drawback for me. Thanks again for all the help and hints!! :)

    Well, welcome to your new home – wish I was there to bring you a loaf of bread and some salt, which is a traditional way to welcome someone to a new home (in Eastern Europe). Anyway, the very best of luck with your starter – have fun! PJH

    Reply
  13. "J. J."

    PJ thanks for the great article. You mention in a comment that you use the discard in recipes that call for flour/liquid. I know it depends on how thick or thin you keep you starter, but do you have a rule of thumb for how much you would use to substitute water and flour in a recipe? I.e., if a recipe calls for a cup of water, could I substitute a 1/2C of unfed starter?

    J.J., I figure starter is just about half liquid and half flour by weight; I realize as it ages the liquid starts to creep up, percentage-wise, but it’s usually not critical enough that I worry about it too much when adding starter to a recipe. So, for any recipe using flour and water, you could use 1 cup of starter – which would be 4 ounces water (probably more like 5 ounces), and 2 ounces flour. Reduce the flour and water in your recipe by those amounts if you want to sub the starter. Does that make sense? PJH

    Reply
    1. love

      Hello,
      Your starter works perfect for me. One time my bread doubled in 2hrs!
      What percenetage hydration is this starter?
      What is the typical ratio (stater, flour, water) for making bread?
      thank you

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Our starter is a 100% hydration starter! However, I can not say there is a “typical” ratio for baking bread, it really depends on the type of bread you are making and the flour you are using. Please feel free to take a look at our recipe section, we have plenty of breads that use the sourdough. Jon@KAF

  14. Anne

    I got the KAF starter last year and I am happy to report that the bunch of lactobacilli from Vermont is still bubbling happily here in this foggy city. As much as I search for new ways to use the ‘to be discarded’ starter, I have to throw some away from time to time. (They go to the worm bin. I still feel it’s wasteful.) I did bread and pancakes and crepes, of course, and even omelets. ( I’ll try it in muffins next time. Not sure about sourdough cake though.) For preserving, I wonder if the matured starter could be frozen? A baking book says the starter should be emptied out and the crock be cleaned periodically. Is this really necessary?

    Glad to hear it, Anne. Sourdough omelets – now that’s a new one! And trust me, the sourdough cake is wonderful – you’d never know it included starter. I think you could freeze starter, so long as it wasn’t kept below 0°F, since yeast dies at around that point. And, I don’t see why you need to clean your crock; unless you have trouble with unfriendly bacteria and spoilage, I don’t think it’s necessary. PJH

    Reply
  15. tlvdatsi

    Is the yeast missing in these instructions, or is it not necessary? Color me confused! :-)

    There’s no added yeast in this starter; leavening comes from the wild yeast that’s in flour, and in your surrounding environment. It’s true, some starters begin with added yeast; not this one. It takes longer to get going, but if you follow the instructions you should end up with a very strong, active starter. Good luck! PJH

    Reply
  16. MGW960W

    To Anne, on freezing starter:
    We were recently away from home for six weeks. Before I left, I took the loose tops off of the glass jars in which I keep my starters (regular and whole wheat). I covered the tops with plastic wrap rubber-banded around, and put them in the freezer. When we arrived home I took them out, loosened the plastic wrap and let them come to room temperature on the kitchen counter. Then I refrigerated them until I had time to feed. Worked like a charm. Don’t know about really long term storage. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Pat Babcock

      I recommend against freezing your starter. In yeast culturing, we generally “wash” the yeast, and suspend it in glycerin, which helps prevent the yeast cells from rupturing (if I recall correctly, the addition of glycerin exerts osmodic pressure on the cell walls. Don’t recall whether this reduces the water through the cell wall, or counters the pressure within the cell as the interior water expands – it’s been a while). Cells are mostly water, and you know what happens when water freezes, right? Aside from rupturing the cell walls via expansion, the ice crystals formed within can also be sharp enough to pierce the cell walls – even when glycerin is used, freezing drastically reduces the number of viable cells available in the culture. Your starter is no different. Again, as mentioned above, I store my starter through the late spring until the late fall simply by covering it and putting it in the back of the refrigerator. Yes, some yeast is lost to autolysis; however, due to the reduced temperature, the losses by yeast cannibalizing each other are far less than would be had I frozen the starter instead.

  17. Brenda in Irving

    I’m curious as to how to “wake up” the starter after you’ve put it in the refrigerator. I have a good idea but I’d sure hate to mess up after all the time involved in getting it started. This is definitely my summer project in the kitchen. Can’t wait!

    Brenda, check out our maintaining your sourdough post. Good luck! PJH

    Reply
  18. RikkiMama

    In 2009, Debra Wink, a member of the King Arthur Baking Circle and microbiologist, experimented to find the best way to “fool-proof” making a sourdough starter from scratch. She found that using unsweetened pineapple juice for the first two feedings created a lower pH environment which helps the right bacteria and yeast to grow. (You can find her detailed research and instructions on the Fresh Loaf website.)
    I followed her method to create a vigorous and healthy starter almost 2 years ago. It’s still going strong.
    If anyone has problems creating their starter using water, consider trying unsweetened pineapple juice for the first two feedings. That may be the key to your success.

    We (the education team at KA) met with Debbie a few months ago, at the start of the project that ended up spawning this blog post, among other content pieces (yet to be published). She was an incredible wealth of information, and this post incorporated much of what she said. There are so many different ways to create your own starter; the pineapple juice method is one, this is another, and there are many more out there. The important point about baking with sourdough is – stay loose. Be flexible. There’s no one right or wrong way where sourdough is concerned… whatever works for you is good. Thanks for posting this info. here – the more we all share, the better! PJH

    Reply
  19. Anne

    I want to thank MGW960W for the two helpful comments here: first the formula of 4 oz. unfed starter = 2 oz. liquid + 2 oz. flour, and how to let the starter (and myself) take a vacation. (Starter in the freezer; me, somewhere else!) This KAF site is a great place for anyone who wants to bake. (Best pancakes and pretty good chili recipes, too.) Picking up nuggets of good tips here and there, I suspect I am becoming a better baker?

    Anne, I suspect you are! I love how we all learn from one another here – PJH

    Reply
    1. David

      To be safe, I would double up on the starter and put half in the freezer and half in the fridge when on vacation. Then keep the one that seems healthiest. Not based on any experience I have, just a thought in case the freezer is too cold.

  20. MGW960W

    Anne, you are most welcome. I’m really pleased to be able to pass on tips to a fellow baker, since I’ve learned so much from the people at KAF and from this blog.

    Reply
  21. Jack D

    Since when is 4 ounces equal to 1 cup? Otherwise and excellent process. The rye flour is critical. With out it,, the flavors are not the same.

    Hi. Measurement by Volume and Weight are not the same. Here is the conversion chart. how you measure can make a difference in weight as well. Here is how we measure flour in all of our recipes. Frank @ KAF.

    Jack, people are often confused by weight. A cup of water weighs 8 ounces; but a cup of flour only weighs about 4 ounces. So long as you remember to feed your starter wequal amounts flour and water BY WEIGHT, you can’t go wrong. And, thanks for your feedback about rye flour in the starter. Sourdough, like all living creatures, can take many different shapes and characters. No right, no wrong; as always, we celebrate diversity! :) PJH

    Reply
    1. Jim

      I’m just putting my starter together on the 1st day. I have added 4oz (1 cup volume) whole wheat flour with 4oz. (1/2 cup volume) water. This is way too thick. What am I doing wrong?

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Your whole wheat flour may be particularly dry. Please just stir in a little extra water.~Jaydl@KAF

  22. "Sara S"

    Fellow bakers – if you are thinking of keeping a starter, splurge on the adorable KAF starter crock – it is very worth it! It makes me happy every time I see it in my fridge and reminds me to get another loaf started!

    I have my crock in the cellar fridge – that way it’s not looking at me and making me feel guilty for not feeding it EVERY time I open the (upstairs) fridge, but it does make me pause when I get my drinks down cellar… Anyway, sourdough is amazingly forgiving, don’t you think? All it needs is food and drink every few weeks, and it’s ready to make anything from bread to chocolate cake (actually one of my favorite uses for starter). Enjoy, Sara – PJH

    Reply
  23. Sandy

    You say to use no more than 1 cup of the starter but I have your cookbook where your recipes call for 2 to 2-1/2 cups starter in each. How will I ever be able to make this if I can’t take more than one cup of starter?

    If you read the next post, Sandy, maintaining your starter, you’ll see how to build its volume. It’s fairly simple; either increase the amount you feed just before baking, or just feed without discarding for a few feedings. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  24. duhneece

    I worked dilligently to feed and nurture my starter all week. Today was finally day number 5 and when I uncovered my bowl, I discovered mold growing on the flour stuck to the side of the bowl, eek! What has gone wrong? I am very hesitant to try to get another starter going. Help!

    Sorry to hear of the difficulty. This sometimes happens. The only thing to do is to empty the container, wash and scald it, then begin anew. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  25. "great-grandma 2B"

    PJ, the reason the Trader Joe’s yogurt did not drain properly is because you used the “European Style” yogurt (your photo). It’s soupy to begin with. I was at TJ’s and wanted to try the yogurt, plain, full fat, and organic. The European Style was the only quart available. Bought it. Returned it. Full refund. (TJ is very good regarding refunds; even if the customer just complains and has nothing to return.) The dairy crew person said that there is another organic, TJ yogurt, without the European designation, and it’s thicker, the American style; the type I wanted and expected. The reason I now use the full fat milk and yogurt is because one of the health newsletters I receive stated that in removing the fats essential enzymes are also removed. At my age, I need all the help I can get.

    Reply
  26. "great-grandma 2B"

    PJ, the reason the Trader Joe’s yogurt did not drain properly is because you used the “European Style” yogurt (your photo). It’s soupy to begin with. I was at TJ’s and wanted to try the yogurt, plain, full fat, and organic. The European Style was the only quart available. Bought it. Returned it. Full refund. (TJ is very good regarding refunds; even if the customer just complains and has nothing to return.) The dairy crew person said that there is another organic, TJ yogurt, without the European designation, and it’s thicker, the American style; the type I wanted and expected. The reason I now use the full fat milk and yogurt is because one of the health newsletters I receive stated that in removing the fats essential enzymes are also removed. At my age, I need all the help I can get.

    Whoa, Nellie! Wrong blog! This belongs with the Greek yogurt cheese. See what I mean when I say I need all the help I can get?

    Nellie, thanks so much for the tip about European-style yogurt; that was all I saw at my TJ’s. Next time I’ll ask the manager. And thanks for the information about full-fat; I’m getting to that “at my age” point myself! (If I could move this post to the Greek yogurt blog I would, but I don’t have the administrative capability; sorry!) :) PJH

    Reply
  27. Jennifer

    I am having a blast with this! My family is thrilled with all the baking that the cast offs engender. I am mining all the sourdough recipes on the site trying to keep up!

    Thank you so much! My family thanks you too! ;)

    Reply
  28. "Dawn DeMeo"

    Ugh! I knew I must have misread something. I am on day 4 of my starter. I kept thinking at each feeding, how does discarding 4 oz of starter and adding 4 oz each of water and flour in any way maintain the total volume? I’ve been growing it in a 4 cup measuring cup, and as of this morning’s feeding there is not enough room for it to double. I reread and realized my mistake. Only the first time do you discard 4 oz. Every other time you discard all BUT 4 oz. DOH! Or rather DOUGH! I’m happy to say that, despite the extra volume, those yeasty beasties are thriving. I must have a lot of yeast floating around my kitchen from baking bread all the time. Well, looks like I’ll have a lot to discard tonight. Or a lot of pancakes, waffles, etc. to make. :)

    Thanks for sharing your learning opportunity for all sourdough bakers to learn from! Happy (sourdough) Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  29. myriamdesilva

    This is my very first attempt at making my own starter, will also be the first time baking with starter.
    The first two and half days were fantastic. The starter was very active, doubling like you said it would, smelled just as described. I was so excited and proud of myself. Well, I did the second feeding on day three and the first feeding on day four (today). I have noticed that the activity has decreased a lot, and I mean a lot, the smell is not as pungent either. There are some bubbles but not the mountain of bubbles like day one and day two. Did I do something wrong? Will it get active again? I’m weighing out the amounts and checking off each step as I go.

    A reduction in activity is normal at this phase. Sounds like everything is going just fine. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  30. Emily Bussenger

    A friend gave me a starter that should be fed every 3 to 5 days. It uses sugar,potato flakes,and warm water. I have used it with KA bread flour for months and have great results. Did I miss something in the info. about the different Sourdough recipes; there is no sugar in the starter or in making Nutty-Fruity Sourdough. No sugar is good. Please explain. I should be able to use “My” starter with your recipes right??? I’m going to give a try.
    Thanks, EmilyYou are referring to an “Amish” type starter which tends to be sweeter, and is not a sourdough starter. Our “sourdough” recipes are written for a true sourdough starter which contains sourdough culture, flour, and water. There is no sugar added in a true sourdough starter. Betsy@KAF

    Reply
  31. Jacoba

    I can’t find K.A. unbleached all-purpose flour at stores around my house. Would you suggest K.A. unbleached BREAD flour or another brand’s BLEACHED all-purpose flour for day 2 and beyond? I don’t know if the chemicals in the bleached will affect the growth of the starter? Thanks for this tutorial – can’t wait to try it!

    Go for the King Arthur unbleached bread flour – increase the water by 1 tablespoon (beyond what the recipe says) each time you feed it, and you should be just fine. Good luck, and enjoy! PJH

    Reply
    1. Jerry

      Unless there’s no other way around it, ONLY use KA AP flour. I’m serious about this. Ail order if you have to. The starter should be AP-based due the protein content. KA is far, far (did I say “far”?) more consistent than a brand like Gold Medal, whose content can and does change based on what part of the country you’re in. If shipping is an issue, wait for the shipping discounts, and/or buy KA AP flour in the 10- or 25-lb. bags.

  32. Kathy B

    I just came back from San Francisco, so of course I am trying to make a sourdough starter. How crucial is it to start with whole grain flour? Mine is four days old, and I started with your bread four. It is bubbling after feelings, but not growing.

    Whole Grain flour is “better” for this, but not essential. From your description, it sounds like your starter is established and just needs regular feeding to be set for baking. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  33. pwcross

    So, I’m on day 5 of my starter, and while at eat feeding (every 12 hours), its texture and flavor and smell have changed, its volume doesn’t really seem to be changing. It’s certainly not anywhere near doubling. Any thoughts? It’s certainly warm in my kitchen, being California in summertime. I’m using fine whole grain flour. Thanks!
    If the starter is thick like a pancake batter and bubbly, you are on the right track. If it seems thin and inactive, you may need to add some flour. Be sure to discard in between feedings. Any further trouble? Give us a call on the hotline- 800-827-6836. ~Amy

    Reply
  34. Stephanie

    So I am on day 2.5, and my starter seems SUPER active. I fed it last night (24 hours in) and this morning it had at least doubled, maybe more so, and was very bubbly. I went ahead and gave it another feeding this morning, but I’m wondering – is that it? Is it ready? It seems early in the process, but I’m in Texas so my house is a little warm this time of year, and I do a lot of baking. If it’s doubled this afternoon, should I go ahead and get ready to store it in the fridge?

    Reply
  35. godivalocks

    So, I am on day 7 of my starter, and have been religiously feeding it every twelve hours with the correct amounts. Like another poster, my starter does not seem very bubbly on top, nor does it seem to be doubling. The temp is around low to mid 70s in here. The first day, I use KA white whole wheat to get it started, and it was nice and bubbly and doubled after sitting for 24 hours, but after I got to the point of doing the twice a day feedings, that disappeared. Now I have a pancake batter consistency with few bubbles on top and no doubling.

    The only thing different I did in the begining is that I mis-read the instructions and started with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of White Whole Wheat flour. It seemed to like that. Then I re-read and realized my error and went to the 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water after the discard.
    Try discarding half of the starter before your next feeding and use a rye flour to feed for a day or two. Be sure to discard before every feeding! ~Amy

    Reply
  36. CHRISR

    Hi, I am making your sourdough starter using organic rye flour that I’ve had for a few years. I have made it exactly the same way two times now and both times, with the help of my heating pad on low (great tip by the way), it looks textbook perfect except it develops an awful nasty smell after the first day. Even after several days of feeding it white flour, it’s still nasty. Other than that, it looks like healthy sourdough. I am using filtered water and a clean plastic container.

    I’m afraid to try it because it doesn’t smell right. (I’ve made starter before and know what it should smell like) Any ideas what my problem is? By the way, at the same time, I revived your 250 yr.old starter using the same white flour and it didn’t smell bad at all.

    Thank you.

    Chris, if your organic rye flour is a few years old, it’s no doubt rancid, and anything you make with it will smell bad – and taste awful, too. Please discard that flour and buy some new – any opened package of whole-grain flour will go rancid after a few months at warm room temperature, or 6 to 9 months or so in the freezer. I’m betting that’s the problem. PJH

    Reply
  37. CHRISR

    Thanks PJH!! I was wondering, but wasn’t sure because I’ve never begun a starter with rye. I never thought about whole grains going rancid. I’ve read online about folks who oven can grains,beans,etc. for long-term storage. I just never made the rancid connection, silly me.

    I mentioned using a plastic container. Do you think that container is contaminated and unusable now that I’ve made this nasty concoction?

    Thanks again.
    Chris
    Hi Chris,
    Best to go with a new container at this point, just to be on the safe side. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  38. Naomi

    I’m on day 5 or so. My starter is very viscous, almost gluey. Is there something I should be doing differently?

    Thank you!
    It is fine Naomi. Just add more water or cut back on the flour a little when feeding. It may mean you are measuring a heavy cup of flour. 4 oz. of flour and 4 oz. of water or 1 cup of flour and 1/2 c. of water. Take a look on our site for how to measure flour. Elisabeth

    Reply
  39. smichik

    I’ve been nurturing my starter since day 1 and following all instructions precisely and I’m currently 8 days in and I’m not seeing my starter double in size. At first I thought it was too cold in the house (69 degrees) so I tried leaving it in the oven with the light on and then I started thinking it was too warm in there! I found a spot in the house thats about 75 degrees so I’m trying this spot. Any ideas??

    I had a lot of trouble getting my starter to grow, as well, until I ramped up the heat. I found it really needed to be above 70°F to grow well, so hopefully that 75°F temp. will do the trick for you. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  40. christinajieun

    I mistakenly used ww bread flour instead of ww flour in my starter for the first few feedings, but it seems to be active and doubling as normal. Is there any difference in using the two different flours for the starter? Another way of asking the same question: does the protein content in flour affect the starter? And if I switch over to regular ww flour, will it change anything?

    Christina, I’ve never heard of whole wheat bread flour, so not sure what you were using. But if it’s doing well, then hey – the proof is in the pudding! Er, starter… We don’t advise using whole grain flours for anything beyond the very first feeding – unless you plan to keep the starter refrigerated once it’s built. But as for protein content affecting starter – only in that protein content changes the liquid/flour balance, so the higher protein flour you use, the (slightly) less water you’d want to use in your feedings. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  41. Toujourscoeur

    Wow. I am so glad to have found your site. You certainly have the easiest instructions. I am on day three. I’m very optimistic. Day 1 I mixed 1 cup whole wheat flour with half cup water. I formed a thick dough and was hard to incorporate all the flour, so I added a little more water. This gave it a stick dough texture. I figured I would wait and see what it did. Day 2 all it had done was form a thin crust on the top. I just stirred it, but got side tracked and forgot to feed it. Day 3…Wow…I came home from work today and it had already doubled! I stirred it down, split it into two containers. I fed one as instructed with all purpose flour and water. I fed the other with only wheat flour and water. I will keep the wheat in the fridge as instructed. The wheat mix still comes out much thicker. Should I just go with it and see what it does or should I increase the water in the all wheat mix? Thanks again for the info and I cant wait to try the pancakes with discard starter.

    I’d say increase the water a bit; maybe the grind of your whole wheat is a bit different, affecting the absorption. It’s just easier to work with a starter that’s a bit more “pourable,” in my opinion. Best of luck – sourdough baking is certainly an interesting process (and yields tasty results, once you get the hang of it!) PJH

    Reply
  42. Virgilio

    Your instructions above recommends having an average room temp of 70f. However, in the part of Asia I am in, the average room temperature is between 86f to 91f. Would it be to warm to even try making sourdough bread at home? Or should I stick the starter in the fridge instead? Or maybe you could recommend other timing/schedule?
    You can definitely place the starter in a cooler place, and use cold water too. That will help slow down the starter so that it doesn’t overferment. Our bakers use ice water in the doughs here during the summer months. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  43. Kevin

    So I have one quick question. I’m about half way through day 3 and my starter is already growing unbelievably. And I’m worried about its size. Here’s my question: On day 1, I put in 1 cup whole wheat flour and 0.5 cups water. Great. On day 2, I tossed half of it. This means that the remaining half consists of about 0.5 cup flour and 0.25 cups water (before adding to it). Then, per the directions, I add 1 cup flour and 0.5 cups water. So this new mix contains ~ 1.5 cups flour and 0.75 cups water. So, even if you ignore growth, the size of the starter is getting bigger. Is this correct? Or are we aiming to keep the size of the starter the same? In other words, do we add just enough flour to the starter, such that the sum is one cup? This isn’t entirely clear to me. Your help will be much appreciated.

    The key with sourdough is to keep the ratio the same with every feeding: 1:1:1 by weight of starter, flour, and water. I highly recommend measuring by weight if you have a scale (Also, baking by weight can be much more precise than by volume). So, for your starter, if you want to keep 12 oz on hand (8 oz to use in a recipe and 4 oz to feed without making extra), measure out 4 oz of starter ( a heaping half cup) then add 4 oz water (a half cup) and 4 oz of flour (a scant 1 cup). If you can figure out how much you’ll be baking with consistently (many of our recipes call for 8 oz of starter, so we ensure that there is 12oz of fed starter once it gets going, then keep 4 oz to feed after taking out the 8 oz to bake with), then you can re-calculate how much starter you’ll need once you feed it a few times if you keep the starter in the fridge (and feed it once a week!), being sure to follow the 1:1:1 ratio. For further help, I recommend calling our Baker’s Hotline: (802) 649-3717 Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  44. kIM G

    HI King Arthur Baking Circle,
    I’m so thrilled with all the very helpful information and tips. I’m brand new to baking Sourdough bread and I’m on day 2 of my first starter. I have read all these comments over and over to make sure I haven’t forget or miss something, I do have one ? about it. I did my first feeding today and my starter is very thick, should I add a Tbsp or 2 of water?
    Thank-you for any help with this. Can’t wait to eat my first slice.!!!!!!

    Kim, just let it be and see what happens; sourdough does tend to thin out over the course of its feedings. And next time you feed it, if you’re able to measure your flour by weight, that’s the most accurate; if you don’t have a scale, make sure to measure your flour by the sprinkle and sweep method, OK? Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  45. Joy

    Hi, I am just getting ready to begin day two. I have a few bubbles, but the top of my starter looks a gray/green color. Is that ok? I used your unbleached white wheat flour. I don’t want to use it if it has picked up something harmful, but I’m not sure if it has. It’s not as white and sticky as yours either. It is more the consistency of bread dough. Am I doing this right?
    The starter should have a consistency similar to a thick waffle batter. If yours is taking on more of a dough consistency, then it has too much flour. Read more about measuring flour here. Also, it should not turn color, especially so soon in the game, so my advice is to start over. Please give our baker’s hotline a call if you have any questions along the way. ~Amy

    Reply
  46. leahnwells

    I began developing my starter with these instructions about 3 weeks ago. It has been a wonderfully fun process. My starter did what it was supposed to do, and after the first week, I was able to refrigerate it. Since then, I have given three starter babies away to my mom, sister, and aunt. I printed out “birth certificates” for them with the date, Mom’s name (Momma Heater, since she was born on top of my water heater), directions, a place for the baby’s name, etc. It sounds dorky, but my family loved it, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it as well. I appreciate so much the detailed directions you provide here and the chat service as well. You have been most helpful in so many ways.

    My favorite recipe so far is the sourdough pizza crust. It rises beautifully and is a great use of the discard. I made some for a friend today, and she was very pleased. I’m fairly new to baking with yeast and definitely a novice with sourdough. I am curious how the starter will change with age. Will the flavor be different? It is quite mild now. I’m going to begin the sourdough English muffins recipe tonight and refrigerate the dough and see how that affects the flavor.

    I think the best part of this experience has been finding something very new to me related to the culinary arts. I wouldn’t call myself a master chef, but I am rather experienced and do well with recipe adaptations. Working with yeast and a sourdough starter have challenged me, and I had to start over as a beginner as far as following directions, watching videos, reading reviews and the blog, and learning from successes and failures. Again, thank you so much for making this process easier and helping me be a success at something very new and different. You truly are a wonderful resource.

    What a great idea to give out birth certificates with your starters! They really are like children, aren’t they? To answer your question, over time your starter will develop a stronger, more sour flavor. Also, sourdough bread recipes really excel when fermented for a longer period of time, the flavor just can’t be replicated with a short rise. We are happy to provide as much help as we can, but it sounds like you are becoming a sourdough master already!-Jon

    Reply
  47. 4bankie12

    I began my new adventure with starter 3 days ago. I have been feeding it every 8-12. I have seen just a few bubbles and a little liquid on top. This morning when I fed it was a little foamy. The consistency is like pancake batter. I have not seen any volume change yet. Does all this sound like it’s suppose to? I also moved it to the oven with the light on, l thought my kitchen maybe too cool. Any thoughts because I don’t know what to look for!! Thanks!

    It will take a few days for the starter to really take off. I would give it a few more feedings to see how much stronger your starter can be. This is a great picture of what starter should end up like by the end of the process: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/files/2012/02/Feb-4-20121-450×450.jpg Finally, the volume of the starter will rise and fall as the yeast feeds (when it starts to fall back down, that is a sign to feed it again before the yeast lose their activity. Persist and I am certain you will have zesty, vigorous starter soon! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  48. Gabelous

    Here’s a question, and probably a problem. Been working on my own starter but there is one parameter I failed to consider, and that is an air purifier. Logically the science is the flour/water mix is supposed to attract the proper microorganisms to settle and feed and multiple, or rather yeast and lactobacillus form a self-sustaining, symbiotic relationship.
    Given this, am I correct to assume the air purifier may in fact be nabbing the very microorganisms I am looking to attract? I live in a medium-sized apartment so there is little chance I could isolate the two.
    Also I know the starch from potatoes (and the the water they are cooked in) tend to have a knack for giving yeast ideal food to eat. Could one add either such water or even potato flakes or flour to a starter or would that simple “over-feed” the yeast and they would become sluggish and not up to the task of leavening bread?

    Great questions! It is possible for an air purifier to limit the amount of yeast available to a starter; purifiers with UV lights often kill most yeast (and bacteria and mold). As such, it is strongly possible that you will struggle to begin a starter in your home: however, you could likely use air from outside to help get things going. Once the yeast are cultivated, it’s a matter of keeping them alive (with proper feedings). As a rule, yeast love the nutrients in whole wheat or rye flours–potato flour may as well, but I am most familiar with wheat and rye. You are welcome to use 50% of either flour when you feed the starter to encourage the yeast to grow. Finally, to get a starter going, you can certainly place the bowl of water and flour outside for an hour initially and then see if that “traps” any yeast cultures. Otherwise, you are welcome to persist in your home, it just might take a little longer! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  49. Tammy

    Would it change anything to start with 2 ounces instead of 4, and then maintain 2 ounce flour/water feedings? The ratio would be the same, but the volume (and discard) would be less. I’m just wondering because this seems like a lot of starter for only 2 people, especially if I’m going to be using the discard in recipes. I guess my question is more about if a smaller starting volume is ok or if it will change the ph or the growth of the yeast. Thanks!

    Tammy, I believe the smaller volume would be fine; though you’re going to be working with tiny little quantities, like saving just 2 ounces before feeding (1/4 cup). The process might be faster (or slower), I’m not sure. Give it a try, let us know what happens – PJH

    Reply
  50. Gallupville_Doughboy

    I’m going to start my starter this weekend, but I can’t help thinking that “back in the day” before bottled water they used water out of a hole in the ground(a well)…just like I do…couldn’t I just use our well water?

    You certainly can use your well water. However, you will need to take into consideration that the various minerals in your water will change the flavor of your starter. Also, your starter will have a higher risk of possible contamination. If you see any pink or orange in your starter, it won’t be good to use.-Jon

    Reply
  51. Alex B

    I have been following these directions for a week now, and I was wondering if it smelling like elmers glue is a bad sign?

    Please call our hotline, 800-827-6836 – this question deserves some back-and-forth dialogue to get to the heart of what might be happening. PJH

    Reply
  52. Pamela

    Can you freeze the portion of starter that is to be discarded? With my work schedule, I know I won’t be making sourdough pretzels or waffles during the week, but would like to use it on the weekends, or beyond, if it will freeze. Any advice?
    Well, it is better to freeze starter after it has been fed to give it strength to survive. How about if you feed your starter on Fridays, and keep the unfed in fridge for waffles on Sat or Sunday? That would work out just fine. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  53. "Mary Elsbrock"

    I hope you can help – I just made a starter yesterday (not using this recipe, sorry!), and it has formed a crust on top.

    Is this normal, and if so, how should I proceed?

    Or do I need to start over? Thanks!
    As long as the crust is not moldy, you should just stir it back in to the starter so it can soften up again. Be sure to cover the vessel you are making it in so that too much air doesn’t get in. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  54. Nicole

    I started my starter per this recipe on Sat. March 2nd. I fed at 24 hours after the original start and then this morning(day 3) approx. 16 hours after the last feeding and not only had it grown some and is showing bubbles, it has a strong smell. I have very sensitive smell and so it was hard to deal with it. Not rotten I would say, just really strong and I guess ripe? Is this ok? Also I saved my discard from yesterday and was gonna mix it with the discard from today to make the pizza crust recipe on here because it had good reviews. Can i keep a small batch of discard in the fridge for use without feeding it? Just adding new discard?

    An active starter will be quite ripe, so you are doing fine! Keeping your discard is also okay, though I wouldn’t keep it longer than 2-3 days.-Jon

    Reply
  55. Staci

    I think I’ve given my starter (about a week-10 days old) too much water. It’s more like a pancake batter. What’s the best way to fix the hydration? Should I just dump some flour in and mix to the right consistency? It was doubling but I screwed it up and now the bubbles seem to be popping right through and not raising the starter at all. I used a plain water/flour mix to start it and only used your regular unbleached bread flour (on a whim and with the assumption that it wouldn’t work). I had activity at around 24 hours, though. :)
    Yes Staci, it is fine to add more flour to thicken up the starter. The joy of starters is that they are very flexible and forgiving, and it takes a LOT to kill one off. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  56. Staci

    Should I wait until it reliably doubles again before I use/refrigerate it or is it actually alive enough in there to make some bread with but I can’t tell because its too wet?
    I think it would be just fine to use in bread now, and will be even better after it gets a bit more flour to chew on. :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  57. imablessedmomma

    My starter has stalled out. I started it on Sat. March 2nd and it’s still not doubling. Today is March 13th. It’s active and bubbling, smells ripe and rises an inch or so in my 32 ounce yogurt container I’m using for this. I’m really wanting to make sourdough bread and I want the starter to be right for it.

    It sounds like your starter is quite active and ready to use. However, you do not want you to store it in a yogurt container because the high acidity of the starter will break down the plastic and leach toxins into your starter. We recommend glass or stoneware as a safe alternative. Betsy@KAF

    Reply
    1. david

      If you use a quart mason jar would you recommend using the canning lid which is watertight? Or maybe a looser cap that is not water tight? Just trying to figure out if it needs a little more fresh air than would be in the container. Obviously you open it up for feedings so new air gets in there.

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      David, just screw the lid on loosely, without tightening it down; so it’s more a “cap” than a screwed-down, airtight lid. I’m sure it’ll be just fine. Good luck – PJH

    3. Amy Trage

      You would not want to screw the lid on if you use a mason jar, but just place it over the top to allow some air circulation. ~Amy

  58. moo2

    Hi, thank you so much for all of your wonderful information. I have followed the instructions and my starter is really active but it smells like nail polish remover. Is this normal? It smelt very mild up until today.

    Sour dough starters will take on a rather strong alcohol smell over time, especially between feedings so this is pretty normal.-Jon

    Reply
  59. mzhelaineous

    Hi! I am making my starter for the first time ever…my family loves sourdough bread and the cost of buying it in the grocery stores is becoming prohibitive!
    At any rate, we live in the desert area of So. Calif. Is it possible for it to be too hot for the starter? Our home is kept at around 78 degrees F. in the spring and summer. However, my kitchen gets morning to noon sun and it can become nearly 85 in the area near my window. I am on day 4 and so far my starter is bubbling right along, but I don’t want it dying from being too hot either. Also, providing the starter keeps its’ progress up to day 7, can I then bake the sourdough bread recipe you have on the website here? How does one know if it’s ready or not? I’ve read all the great ideas and tips as well as the comment sections & they’ve all been a lot of help – I’m just a little afraid my bread won’t taste like the loaves we buy at the store…thanks!
    Your starter will activate more quickly in the constant higher temperatures and you will want to keep it in the fridge for any extended time when you are not using it regularly. Perhaps you should find a cooler place in your home at night for it to rest overnight on the days you are using it frequently. Once your starter is active and bubbly, it should be ready to use in the recipe! Have fun! ~Amy

    Reply
  60. WMikeC

    I thought that yeast only grew on free sugars, such as in grapes to make wine. To grow on starches, one needed to first cook, then add a malt (enzymes) to convert the starch to free sugars, then add yeast. No? What is the yeast consuming as it grows?

    Yeast is everywhere! It exists in the air around us all the time but can concentrate on the skins of grapes or other fruits. Yeast thrive on sugars of all kind, whether from wheat or malted barley or honey (and beyond!). What is important is that the yeast is fed in a proper regimen: always feed as much starter as you want equal parts by weight of flour/water: Example: weigh out 4oz of flour then add 4oz water and 4 oz flour. Then, once fed, the starter will take approximately 12 hours or so to go through the food if kept at room temperature. You should see the starter bubble and swell; when it starts to subside, that indicates the yeast are no longer feeding and are beginning to become inactive. This is where you will want to either feed them again OR begin baking! If the starter is kept in the fridge, it will go through the food in a week. I hope this helps! Kim@KAF

    Just to add to Kim’s great info. here, Mike – yeast is able to convert the starch in flour into sugar on its own, without any help from malting. It’s pretty self-sufficient, given the right atmosphere… PJH

    Reply
  61. Amanda B.

    I started my starter yesterday. I mixed a scant cup of KA Whole Wheat flour and 1/2 cup then let sit for 24 hours.
    This morning, I took half out and fed it a scant cup of KA White bread flour and 1/2 cup water. The starter bubbled nicely and doubled (!!!) after about 6-7 hours.
    The next step was to wait another 24 hours, then on day 3 to every 12 hour feedings, but I’m afraid I’ll let my starter go hungry! It already seems so vigorous, (though I did read that this may be the bacteria causing this bubbling?)
    Do you think I should move on to twice a day feedings now, or just wait the whole 24 hours and follow the directions?

    The way to know when your starter has stopped feeding is to check its volume: when it stops swelling up and begins to sink back down, the yeast have ceased feeding so their activity has dissipated. You will want to wait until the starter has started to sink before feeding again or you will “drown” them in food. If you want to slow them down a bit, simply keep the bowl at a cooler temperature, about 5-10 degrees below that they are at now. For people who live at elevation, their starters rise unbelievably fast, so they often must keep their starters in the fridge to keep them from developing off flavors by fermenting too quickly. I hope this helps! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  62. amytaylor61719102

    I’m happy to say that I have had good success with an entirely different sourdough starter recipe that called for equal parts unbleached white flour and spring water to be added each day without discarding anything. I used the tiniest pinch of commercial yeast to get it started, and I now have a beautiful, bubbly, thick starter that produces a nice layer of hooch every day. It has a lovely beer-ish smell, and a sharp, vinegary taste right from the jar. I am ready to bake with it, and I plan on making a multigrain boule (a KAF recipe!). Am I correct that the bread recipe is the same regardless of the starter used?

    Yes! I’m so glad you were able to make your own sourdough from scratch. Congrats! You can use any kind of starter with the bread recipe: just a healthy, active one will do the trick! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  63. FAY M.

    I tried an unleavened bread recipe that had me leave just flour, water, oil and salt at room temperature for 40 minutes. the person i was making it for said i had to throw it out because it was left too long and already had leaven in it. I have searched internet all day and can find no confirmation. They all say pretty much leave the flour/water mix 24 hours, throw out half, etc. I see in one of the comments here that the discard can be used as pancakes or pizza dough. Does that mean it has leaven in it at that point? Also does anyone know a site that might give specific info on the stages of development as far as when it is technically leavened even though it may not be a starter for bread?

    Fay, if you’re talking about kosher/Passover dietary laws, your best bet would be to consult a site dealing with those issues; this site seems fairly easy to navigate, and gives leavening time as 18 minutes. Beyond that, scientifically speaking, the leavening process begins as soon as you combine yeast, flour, and water – it’s pretty immediate. And yes, the starter has leavening agents – yeast – pretty much from the day it’s started. Hope this helps – PJH

    Reply
  64. cdobby1234

    Love your blog PJ, it very helpful to a very new newbie to sourdough baking like me! Problem (I think), I followed your directions to a T for the first few days (had it proofing in my oven with the light on) and it looks and smells great. I thought I was paying enough attention to the directions, but missed about feeding it twice daily for days 3, 4,5, then continuing for a total of a week. I got sick and got days mixed up and fed it twice daily for 3 and 4, then refrigerated it. Can it be saved and if so, what do I need to do? (I was actually feeling pretty proud of myself until I realized my mistake-go figure!). Have a great day, and thanks for any assistance.

    Sourdough is SO forgiving. I’m sure it’s just fine. Just continue with whatever recipe you want to use it in, feeding it before use; follow our sourdough maintenance directions for feeding. Have fun! PJH

    Reply
  65. Mike

    I used this recipe starting about 2 weeks ago. After the first day i had significant rise with the whole wheat flour. Day 2 seemed to do ok but not great and while there was no rise there were some bubbles at the top. When I went to the every 12 hour feedings it seems like my starter tried to die. There were no more bubbles and no rise for almost 6 days. For the last few days all i have are 1-3 bubbles on the suface prior to feeding and no visible rise. How do i get this thing to grow? I have been at temperatures between 70-75 degrees the whole time and its smell has taken on a very viengary aroma but again no rise and very very little activity.
    Hi Mike,
    There could be a few different things happening, such as your water, etc. Give the hotline a call so that we can help troubleshoot in person. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  66. Chris

    I started making my starter 11 days ago. At first, everything was going well. Lots of bubbles and doubling of the volume. Then I started the twice a day feedings and everything slowed down. My house is a little chilly, so I have been putting the starter in my oven with the light on and turning the oven on every so often to keep it warm. The starter barely doubles in volume and there are very few bubbles. The smell is very ‘yeasty’, like white bread dough. And although I wouldn’t say it gets a ‘crust’, the surface of the starter is not fluid. The surface feels like kneaded bread dough- soft and giving but underneath the skin the texture resembles pancake batter. If you touch the top nothing sticks to your finger. Your photos look like your starter would be sticky. Also, once you break through this skin, there is a faint odor of alcohol. It’s gotten warmer the last few days and the temperature in my house has been in the upper 70s so I’ve let it sit out on the counter covered in plastic wrap. However, this doesn’t seem to effect its growth. Is this okay? Should I just give it more time because of the cool temperatures? Any suggestions would be great.

    There could be a few issues that are having an effect on your starter. I would give our Baker’s Hotline a call so we can speak to you in more detail about your starter troubles!-Jon 855-371-2253

    Reply
  67. Katie

    I see to get started it calls for “4 ounces (1 cup)” flour and “4 ounces (1/2 cup) water” … Am I misreading this? 4 ounces is in face 1/2 cup, not 1 cup as mentioned for the flour. I’m going with the 4 ounces flour NOT 1 cup … so my flour and water ratio is the same. Correct?

    Flour is about half the weight of water: by volume, you need to measure nearly twice as much flour to equal the same amount of water. The measurement is correct: 4 oz of flour is a scant cup while 4 oz of water is a half cup. Kim@KAF

    Reply
  68. Marilyn Achelpohl

    I am new to making a sourdough starter. My recipe said to put it by an open window with cheese cloth over the container. Since my air conditioning is on, I put it outside on day 1 and 2. It looks like the pictures but smells pretty strange. Is it bad to put it on the patio on summer days in the upper 80s? Should I start over and leave it in the house? Thanks for your advice.

    Marilyn, depends what you mean by “pretty strange.” If it smells sour/strong/vinegar-y – that’s how it’s supposed to smell. If it smells “rotten” and unpleasant, or has a pinkish tinge – then you’d probably want to start over. You also might want to check out our blog post on starting your own sourdough starter, for the best, most complete directions for this process. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  69. Frank

    I assume, I need to have some kind of yeast in this Starter. What kind and how much?

    No, no yeast, Frank. The flour will actually already hold some wild yeast spores, and with more in the air in your kitchen (they’re pretty ubiquitous), they’ll settle in your starter, and the liquid, flour, and warmth will gradually bring them all to life. PJH

    Reply
  70. Rebekah

    I’ve been working on growing my sourdough starter all week and it looks happy. I’m making pizza crust tonight with the discard and hoping to make the sourdough multigrain boule tomorrow. I know I should keep some of the starter in the fridge for future use but I’m a bit fuzzy on the details? Do I feed it before I put it in the fridge? Do I feed it when it’s in the fridge? How long does it keep?

    Maintenance and feeding of your starter is all addressed on our Blog: A basic quantity of sourdough to keep is: 4 oz of starter + 4 oz flour + 4 oz water. Stir, let sit at room temperature for an hour or so to begin the feeding process, then keep in the fridge for 6 days and feed again then! Best. Kim@KAF

    Reply
  71. Laura

    So, let’s say you began your starter… and the very first day – it did amazing. Grew quickly, got bubbly, etc. It remained that way for the first three days. I fed it once a day. Now suddenly, it almost seems as though it has died. One morning it has white foam on top. I scraped that off, mixed and fed again and now nothing is really happening. Not many bubbles, no rise, nothing. I’m pretty upset because I thought it was doing SOOO good at first. I even got a clear liquid after is settled the first two days which I was told was a good thing.
    This may be the kicker…. I live in Puerto Rico and our house is at a constant 85 degrees, perhaps maybe even a tad bit warmer since it’s summer.
    Can you give suggestions on what you think I should do with a starter in an 85 degree house? I really REALLY would like this to work! Thank you!

    Laura, I think it’s “full” – you’ve fed it, it’s happy, and it doesn’t need any more feeding. I’d suggest feeding it one more time, then baking with it; and refrigerating the remainder (once you’ve fed it). It should stay happy in your fridge for weeks on end. I like to feed mine once a week for optimal readiness, but it can definitely survive longer with no feeding… Hope this helps. PJH

    Reply
  72. Caroline

    So I’m at the end of day 2 of my starter and it’s growing very quickly. Is this good, bad or wrong? It’s about to overflow out of my 3 cup glass jar. Should I stir it down? Discard some? Be worried it’s going to take over my kitchen???

    You can start with the smaller feedings, Caroline. By weight, it is equal parts of starter-water-flour (we like to do 4oz of each). By volume, it is 1/2 cup of starter, 1/2 cup of water, but a FULL cup of flour (water is roughly twice the weight of water). Then, you’ll want to feed it every 12 hours at that same ratio until it is ready to go in the fridge. I bet if you see plenty of bubbling activity tomorrow, you can give it one last feeding and store in the fridge until you want to bake–but be sure it gets fed once a week. You do want to be discarding any starter beyond the 1/2 cup that you keep to feed. Of course, we have many recipes that use it (we call it “unfed starter”), so be sure to peruse our recipe files and search for “unfed starter”. Happy Baking! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  73. Warren Brooks

    What do I do to create a rye or wheat starter from the white starter?

    You will just need to feed your starter with either rye or wheat flour! Just make sure to increase the water by about 2-3 tsp when you feed it.-Jon

    Reply
  74. Rajiv Gupta

    Hi, I mixed/kneaded KA whole wheat flour and half cup of water in a glass container but the dough looked very dry after mixing it so i added little more water and used my hands and kind of kneaded it. Is that ok or should i start over. It seems like it will always be kind of on the dry side with 1 cup flour and half cup water, is that true or should i not worry about it ?

    The reason your starter seems dry is most likely the way you have measured your flour. Adding a little more water is good, but take a look at this video and form here on out, measure your flour correctly. Your sourdough and breads will come out great. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/videos/how-to-measure-flour

    Reply
  75. SgtSaunders69

    Your starter as seen in the photos here seems pretty wet and foamy. When I mixed mine up according to your recipe it was a somewhat heavy, though very sticky consistency, and upon checking it this morning before heading out to work (after 8 hours or so) it appeared totally unchanged from when I mixed it. It’s summer here and about 70 – 75 all day… so I’m wonderein g… Is that normal?

    Thanks….

    It sounds like you may be using a little too much flour in your starter. We suggest to fluff up your flour and then spoon it into your cup. For other questions, please give our Baker’s Hotline a call so we can try to troubleshoot your baking problem with you!-Jon 855-371-2253

    Reply
  76. Steve VanDeBogart

    I’ve tried twice with the same result – It doubles 12 hours after the first feeding, but grows less and less after each subsequent feeding. By day 4 or 5, it doesn’t grow at all. I discarded the first batch because I thought there might be too much chlorine in the Brita water, but the second batch with distilled water is acting the same.

    Help, I’m going through lots of flour with no result.

    Please give our Baker’s Hotline a call so we can try to troubleshoot your baking problem with you!-Jon 855-371-2253

    Reply
  77. Kitkat_lucky

    This is more of a nutrition question. Sourdough is thought to be super healthy. I want to give sourdough a try, but all I got handy is regular (bleached) flour and tap water. I know some people boil or “evaporate” tap water on a counter, and that’s ok. I know there’s a preference for rye or wheat flour, for its minerals and health boons. What I’d like to know is how much of the minerals carry on to the switch to all purpose flour, even after you’ve had a starter for a while?

    I know I’m a bit ahead of myself here, but I was wondering. Is it better to seek out wheat/rye, or would the overall benefit be the same? Any insight would be welcome. Thanks ahead of time.

    Whole grains are always better but not as easy to digest as white flour. The sour dough helps break down the gluten. I think it’s best to go ahead and use unbleached while flour even if you are using rye and whole wheat in your bread.

    Reply
  78. Bess long

    I have been making bread for years with a starter which is fed with sugar, potato flakes and warm water. Although my bread is much sought after, I have too many air bubbles and air pockets in the finished product to suit me. Any suggestions? Thank you.
    Oh, I used to have a sour dough starter about 45 years ago. Made lots of French type bread but my husband’s favorite was the dollar size pancakes w/ orange syrup (melt 1 small can frozen concentrated orange juice, 1 stick butter, 1 cup sugar). As well as I remember I fed the starter the night before, put a half cup back, used what the recipe called for and threw away the rest. Your method seems more complicated.

    Please call our Baker’s Hotline and we can help to troubleshoot your bread!-Jon 855-371-2253

    Reply
  79. filmsforme

    Please help. I can’t find a good way to dispose of my extra starter. It’s like cement so I can’t put it down the drain, it’s too messy for the trash can. I’ve tried putting it into gallon sized plastic zip bags left open a bit but they expand and I fear an explosion. What do people do with the extra from feeding everyday? I’m on day 8 and my bread didn’t taste so sourdough-y, more like a really good tasting bread, so I kept feeding the starter. Is there something that I can put into it to stop the bubbles and expansion when I dispose of it into the trash? Please don’t laugh. I love good sourdough and can’t buy it where I live so I have to get this done.

    I would suggest to give our Baker’s Hotline a call. We can go into more detail about what you can do about your discard and starter!-Jon 855 371 2253

    Reply
  80. MF Luder

    I think it’s great that you folks @ KAF support your customers and the entire baking community as a whole, down to the finest process and recipe. There is so much of a community and customer-service feel here that it is truly a class act! Thank you KAF.

    Reply
  81. Audrey

    Can the sourdough starter be used for whole grain breads also, or just for sourdough bread?
    Yes, you sure may use the starter for whole grain breads. The majority of the dough will be whole grains while the starter is maintained with an all purpose flour. Enjoy! Elisabeth

    Reply
  82. Abigail

    My starter is doubling in size in less than five hours; I started it less than 48 hours ago, so I’ve only given it two feedings so far. Is this normal? Does this mean that I will be able to use it to bake bread soon?
    Sounds like you have a great starter going. I would say you’ll be able to use it today or tomorrow and you should get a great rise. ~ MJ

    Reply
  83. Paul gerhold

    Can you use bread flour in place of all purpose flour?

    PAul

    Yes, Paul – you’ll want to increase the water you use by 1 tablespoon, to account for bread flour’s higher protein. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  84. glacierlily

    I was very excited to find this Zojirushi Bread Machine recipe for sourdough….. I loaded everything into my machine #BBCC-V20 and found that I cannot set my rise timers past 2 hours…… so I’m setting all three rises for 2 hours….. not sure how this will turn out. Has anyone else had this problem? Don’t know what I’ll wake up to in the morning.

    Sourdough is so very forgiving, I’m sure those three 2-hour rises will give you excellent results. If you have any questions, though, please contact our baker’s hotline toll-free, 855-371-BAKE (2253). We can help – PJH

    Reply
  85. Joy

    I am new to the world of sourdough but have been excited to try it as I’ve been reading about the health benefits. I tried to make a gluten free starter simply using gluten free flour and water. I notice some fuzzy, moldy growth around the rim of the bowl where starter had splashed. Do I need to throw it out and start over? The recipe I used was from a different site and it was 1/2 cup water and flour. Not sure what to do from here. Please help!
    I would definitely discard the moldy starter and if you’d like, you can refer to my gluten-free sourdough starter blog for a new recipe and method. ~Amy

    Reply
  86. Monica in Phoenix

    Hi everyone. I believe I have mastered the starter. It is rising and falling within an 8 hour period. It definitely is ripe.

    Here is my question though. After much reading and a few attempts with using this starter I have had marginal success in the outcome of the finished bread. I was thinking it has something to do with the density of the starter being used. The dough at the beginning is so wet and sticky is putting it lightly. The recipe in your Whole Grains Baking book page 285, Whole Wheat Muli-grain Sourdough Bread said that it would be springy and elastic and DO NOT INCORPORATE more flour into the dough. But I could have literally poured (and did) it into the proofing bowl. It said to knead the dough, impossible even with a bench knife. So, what is the issue, is my starter too thin even though ripe? Or am I being too literal with the directions? I baked it anyway after the long rises called for (about 3.5 hrs). The loaf did not Oven Spring so pretty much same size going is as coming out, a bit gummy but not bad, it had the traditional holes in the crumb. Taste was pretty good but not the outcome I was looking for. I would like to try this recipe again but have some fears. Also, I don’t have a banneton pan and used a colander with a flour sack towel and what I thought was enough flour in it. But to make the situation worse, it did not fall out but stuck to the towel causing the rise to be diminished.
    Sorry this is long. Basically, how does the relationship of the liquid in the starter relate to a recipe. Perhaps we have to dial the liquid in the recipe down a little? I find it hard to believe the dough should be so wet as to pour out to knead.

    This sounds like a perfect opportunity to call and chat with one of our bakers – we love helping our customer/bakers with their sourdough journey. Call us at our toll free Baker’s Hotline 855-371-2253. We’re here on the East Coast from 9AM to 5PM weekends and from 8AM to 9PM weekdays. Irene@KAF

    Reply
  87. Stephanie

    I have created a starter from your recipe on line and have also purchased your bread book. I am an avid cake baker and have recently obtained a contract to start making bread for a local store. What is the best way for me to create a LARGE amount of fed starter? The store is wanted roughly around 200 loaves of bread a week. HELP please!!:)

    Stephanie, please call our bakers’ hotline, 855-371-BAKE (2253). They can connect you with someone who can help. PJH

    Reply
  88. Shannon

    I have used this recipe and religiously fed it on time for a week. I have a nice aroma and consistency, but it does not seem to double with each feeding. I have bubbles on the top. Am I doing something wrong, or does it just need more time?

    The starter should rise, then fall – creating bubbles along the way. Sounds like you’ve been following the directions, we wonder if you used the optional sugar/honey as it would provide some food for the yeast? This may be a good opportunity to call the Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253 and we’ll chat about possibilities. Happy Baking – Irene@KAF

    Reply
  89. John Johnson

    Did I follow the recipe correctly? 1 c. Rye and 1/2 c. water? After Day 1 my starter is still hard as a rock! All other research indicates that equal parts of flour and water shall be used. I’ll throw away and start again……
    The equal parts reference is by weight, not volume. So yes, 1 cup flour to 1/2 cup water is correct. ~Amy

    Reply
  90. Laura

    Oh No! It’s day 3 – time to start the daily feedings – and I’m leaving for the weekend? What should I do? Feed once and put it in the refrigerator until I get home?

    Reply
    1. bakersresource

      That is exactly what you should do. Feed and store in the frig for a few days. No problem! Have fun! Elisabeth

  91. Leanne

    I just made my starter with1 cup whole wheat floured 1/2 cup of water, it looks like a ball of dough and is hard. Should I use sifted flour?

    That whole wheat flour does absorb more liquid than all purpose flour, so simply add tablespoons of water until you get that pancake batter consistency. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    Reply
  92. Nicholas Zindorf

    I have been using a starter for about 6 years. The recipe is from Nancy Silverton’s book “Breads From the La Brea Bakery.” Her method utilizes organic grapes with flour and water and makes excellent tasting breads. I am at the point where I make up my own recipes using the basic starter as a baseline leavening/flavoring element for baking. I especially enjoy making different kinds of bread using semolina flour and fresh herbs from my garden. This kind of flour is also much easier to work with and less messy. The issue I have about my starter is that when I store it in the refrigerator, the liquid that forms at the top begins to turn a dark color if I don’t use it for a long (say 1-2 months) time. I don’t know if this is unhealthy or not. I have continued making it without any ill effects to date. What causes the liquid to turn color and is it safe to use?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The liquid is changing color because it is slowly fermenting. The liquid is actually alcohol that is produced as your yeast is dying in your starter and it is completely normal and as far as I know has not been known to cause any issues. However, it can be removed if you have any fear! Jon@KAF

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Yes, you can use spelt flour to start your starter. It is a different variety of wheat. ~ MJ

  93. Esther

    Hello,
    This is my first time making a sourdough starter, and I have followed your instructions and have been feeding my starter for about 10 days now. I keep my starter in a glass mason jar on a windowsill, lightly covered with plastic. My starter bubbles nicely, however I do not notice any increase in volume. I have tried waiting longer before feeding it, but that did not make a difference.

    I am living at an elevation of almost 8,000 ft, but have only been living here a few months and have no prior experience baking at high altitudes. Are there any adjustments I should make due to the altitude? I have made the sourdough waffles and pizza crusts with the discard, and it definitely has a sourdough flavor, I just don’t know why the starter is not doubling in size.

    Thank you for your help!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      It may be that your starter is a bit too thick. Try giving it a bit more water than flour so that it is a little on the looser side. ~ MJ

  94. David P

    Hi I’ve been using your recipe for about 2 weeks now, but it hasn’t gotten thick. It has stayed somewhat watery like pancake batter. It smells good (a bit like bread) and has some bubbles in it. But I tried baking with it and got zero rise. I think it is too watery and is not “maturing”? How much water should I cut back to? Or what should the consistency be?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      David, it could be your starter isn’t warm enough. And it could be you simply have to add more flour with each feeding. Add enough flour that it’s a bit thicker than pancake batter, and then try to keep it someplace where it’s in the high 70s, temp-wise; a cooler house (e.g., below 65°F isn’t going to make your starter very happy. Also, if you’re baking with starter and not adding any commercial yeast, again, you need a warm rising spot; you need to give the dough a lot of time; and even then, sometimes your starter simply isn’t vigorous enough (and it sounds like yours isn’t). This is a situation where I think it would really help you to call our baker’s hotline, for some dialogue; call 855-371-BAKE (2253), and I think they can help talk you through this. Good luck – and don’t give up. You’ll get there! :) PJH

  95. Ron Gray

    I just realized the amounts you show in the recipe could throw some folks off…it thru me off. You suggest 4 oz (1 cup) of flour and 4 oz of water. You have 1 CUP in parantheses. The recipe is 4 oz which is a 1/2 cup. Am I missing something or is this a typo?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sorry, Ron, I’m not seeing where in the post we refer to 4 ounces of water as being 1 cup. Could you maybe count down the pictures, and tell me which one it comes after? Thanks – PJH

  96. Ron Gray

    It’s in your Day 1 description:
    Day 1: Combine 4 ounces (1 cup) whole rye flour (pumpernickel) or whole wheat flour with 4 ounces (1/2 cup) non-chlorinated cool water in a non-reactive container. Glass, crockery, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic all work fine for this. Here, I’m using a 4-cup glass measure.
    Day 2: Either way, discard half the starter (4 ounces), and add to the remainder 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) cool water (if your house is warm); or

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Ron, this is all correct, so far as I can see. 1/2 cup water weighs 4 ounces. 1 cup flour weighs 4 ounces. Is that where the confusion comes in, the weight of the ingredients not being what you expected? PJH

  97. Ron Gray

    Dear PJH,
    I apologize for the error of my ways…lol. Totally thinking in liquid instead of dry measure. I have been baking shortbread the past few days and after looking up dry measurements for a cup realized it was 4-4.5 oz. Will be interested to see how the shortbread comes out after weighing my flour. Thanks for the starter. In the process of brewing.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      That’s what I was figuring, Ron. It’s VERY confusing when you have in your head, “a cup is 8 ounces.” We all make that mistake at first. Good luck with the shortbread, AND with the sourdough! :) PJH

  98. Gary

    Hi PJ. Great, helpful site. I have been using my starter (Colin) for some years now based on organic wholemeal spelt. I was living in Coffs Harbour (semi-tropical) and have moved back to Tassie (cold) and as a result of unforeseen circumstances Colin was stored for a year. He has now been re-activated, smells normal and looks happy but my bread is not coming out as successfully as in the warmer climate. I have spoken both softly and harshly to Colin about lifting his game but he just plugs on! I think my main problem is a different brand of flour, and having to use a fan forced oven that forms a skin, but we shall persevere as we are on the right track. Having read your information on your site I am now wondering about whether Colin is too wet. I am not a cook of sweets or cakes so have no idea what the consistency of pancake mix is. Your photos seem to show a starter with a rough surface (small peaks) Could you please clarify this for me before Colin gives up on me and leaves home. Regards Gary.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Gary, I don’t think Colin is necessarily too wet; he’s probably happiest when he’s just barely pourable (think having to help him out of his container with a spoon or spatula), rather than too thin, but sourdough is endlessly flexible (though sometimes erratic, as well), and can perform well under many different circumstances. I’d suspect your problem isn’t Colin, but the cold climate and change of flour. I’m betting Colin might have been enjoying a higher protein flour in the past, which would also explain why he’s getting thinner; the less protein in the flour, the thinner sourdough becomes, AND the more difficult it is for any bread to rise, due to reduced gluten. Also, Colin does like his warmth, so cold Tassie is a shock after warm Coffs Harbour. Here’s what I’d do: see if you can find somewhere warm for him to rise, when he’s out of the fridge and being fed. And look around and see if you can find something marked “bread flour” or “high-protein flour.” I think once you give him some warmth and some more nutritious food, you’ll find him bouncing back to his former heights of glory. Good luck! PJH

    2. Brittany

      Hi Gary, my oven is also fan-forced. I don’t have the option of turning the fan off, and it bakes very unevenly. What I found works really well for bread is a cast iron pot and lid (google “french oven”). While my dough is finishing the last rise on baking paper in a bowl, I’ll preheat the pot in the oven, then move the dough (baking paper and all) into the pot and bake it at 230C for about 12 minutes with the lid on, and then 15-18 minutes with the lid off. Good luck!

    3. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Brittany. It’s great how we all have something to add to the conversation. PJH

  99. Christina

    When your starter is ready for baking bread with and the recipe calls for “fed” starter like in the KAF recipe you linked to, do you add the starter to the recipe immediately after feeding it or do you let it sit at room temperature for a while to double before measuring into the recipe?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Christina, feed it and let it sit in a warm place to become active and bubbly. By warm, I mean over 65°F; starter is happiest in somewhere in the high 70s, but I realize in cold houses this isn’t always possible. It might take a few hours for the starter to bubble, or even up to 8 hours or so, depending on how vigorous it is/how warm the room is. So – to answer your question, “fed” starter means one that’s been fed and then sat awhile. Good luck – PJH

  100. Gary from Tassie

    G’day PJ. Thanks heaps for your reply. Helping Colin out of his jar with a spoon is just the explanation that make sense to me. He is currently in the oven at low temperature to activate and I fed him up to the required consistency that you have advised. I also added a stronger organic wheat flour to give him a boost as per your recommendation. With your help I’m sure Colin will produce the goods. Take care, Gary.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Gary, that sounds like just the ticket. I’m sure Colin will be much more cooperative after a warm night’s sleep and some wholesome food. Thanks for letting me know how he’s doing. :) PJH

  101. Teri

    My starter is on day four and has been very bubbly from the start. The consistency is like pancake batter and I can just poor it…. is that right? Also, the “tangy” smell you say it should have, well mine smells a bit like baby poo!! Is it right? wrong? good? bad? I’m going to feed again today, but not sure if I should.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      There’s actually not much “right” or “wrong” regarding sourdough, Teri; there are all kinds of ways to build a starter and make sourdough bread. The consistency of starters will vary over time – it’s OK for it to be pourable. To thicken it up, if you like, simply add more flour when you feed it. As for smelling like baby poo – well, that’s so subjective, it’s hard to comment. To me, sourdough should smell strong and sour – like vinegar with a warmer, floury overtone. So long as your starter isn’t pinkish, or smelling REALLY disgusting, then it should be OK. Since you say it’s very bubbly, why not try baking with it? You’ll soon find out if it gives you the result you want. Good luck – PJH

  102. Julie

    With the discarded starter–is it possible to build another starter using only whole grain flour? I like the idea of a whole grain starter used only for pancakes and biscuits. What is your thought?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, that will be fine to do! Simply feed it with an equal amount of whole wheat flour and water by weight. Jon@KAF

  103. Jean

    Do you really just start this with only flour and water? That is, you didn’t reference adding starter organisms to the flour/water mix! I didn’t know starter could be made this way, but it makes sense to me that there might be natural Lactobacilli bacteria in the flour. However, your reference to yeasts confused me (they are not the same thing as the bacteria.) Are there any concerns that the wrong bacteria will grow within the a starter culture?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jean, that’s right – the natural (wild) yeasts in the flour (and to a lesser extent in the air) are activated by warmth and liquid, and they gradually colonize and permeate the starter medium. And there are also natural bacterias in the flour (and in the air) that help. It’s possible for a “bad” bacteria to take up residence; but you should be able to recognize it if that happens. The starter will turn pinkish in color, and have an unpleasant odor, rather than a sharply acidic/vinegary/floury smell. Hope this helps – good luck! PJH

    2. Meta Brown

      Jean,

      These instructions do seem unlike any of the others out there, don’t they? They work, though! I have tried this in my own unremarkable kitchen. With just flour and water, I was able to get a vigorous starter. And with my own, unremarkable baking skills, made some remarkably good bread. I was surprised what a nice crunchy crust I could make with this, even with a small and erratic home oven.

      One thing about doing this – you have to use or discard some of the starter each time you feed it. If you feed it daily, that’s a lot of starter. I’ve used some to make sourdough pancakes, which have a wonderful flavor and texture. But I wish I could find more recipes for using the starter.

  104. Roxanne

    when making the starter, you said to cover loosely. Do you mean cover with cheese cloth or a plastic food wrap ?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Definitely plastic wrap! Cheese cloth or a towel will let in too much air and cause a dry skin to form on your starter. Jon@KAF

  105. David

    I see you recommend 70s for starters. My house gets cold at night – 65-70. Is it OK to keep my starter warmer during the day (80ish)? Or is that too high? I’m keeping it in the oven with the light on, which gets the food thermometer up to 80.

    Also I got some dried out starter from a friend. Can I just toss that into my starter (it is not yet mature enough to bake with I don’t think). Or do I need to keep them seperate?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      80 degrees during the day is fine for your starter, so no worries! Also, I would keep the starter you have separate from your dry culture or perhaps use the culture in some of your discard to test how it will react. Jon@KAF

  106. Jen

    For beginning the starter you say 4oz. flour to 4oz. water but refer to the cup amounts as one cup and 1/2 a cup, respectively. Am I starting with one cup of flour to 1/2 a cup of water or should I skip the confusion and use a digital scale? Thanks for this article, I’m extremely excited to start my own starter. I’m interested in seeing how long (years, even) I can maintain one and how the complexities change with time.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jen, many people are confused by weight vs. volume, so you’re not alone. Many people think “1 cup = 8 ounces” – but that’s only true for some liquids. A cup of flour weighs about 4 1/4 ounces; a cup of molasses, for instance, 12 ounces. So 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water are just about the same, weight-wise. Absolutely, do it all by weight (not volume) if you have a scale; it’s much easier. Good luck – PJH

    2. Amy Trage

      Yes, the equal measurements by weight would mean 1 cup of flour and 1/2 water by volume. If you do use a scale, you will get a more accurate flour measurement. We always recommend using a scale whenever possible. Please let us know if we can do anything else to help! ~Amy

  107. Saba

    PJ could you please tell how long can the starter be saved for after its fed? and should i store it at room temperature or in the fridge?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Saba, so long as you keep feeding your starter regularly (once a week is optimal, though you can stretch it out to once a month), it will stay healthy indefinitely, so long as you store it in the fridge. Starter stored at room temperature is much more finicky and “needy,” and has to be fed more often, so if you’r enot baking with it practically every day, I’d leave it in the fridge. Hope this helps – PJH

  108. Richard

    You start off with 4 oz of flour and 4 oz of water which equals 8 oz by weight. The next day you say to discard half of the starter, 4 oz, but then you add another 8 oz which equals 12 oz. Therefore you are increasing the total size of the starter by 4 oz with each feeding. This may be necessary for creating enough for using, but shouldn’t you just be adding 2 oz of flour and 2 oz of water each feeding to maintain it at 8 oz indefinitely, or only 4 oz as you state at the end? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Richard

      I understand keeping the flour/water ratio by weight. I am asking what weight you try to maintain. With each feeding, as you divide it by half and add 8 oz, the total weight approaches 16 oz and stays there. Is 16 oz the total amount that you maintain? That would be wasteful. I am still confused because of the line that says, “Remove however much starter you need for your recipe (no more than 8 ounces, about 1 cup); and transfer the remaining 4 ounces of starter to its permanent home: a crock, jar, or whatever you’d like to store it in long-term.” Why don’t you feed it the same weight you discard to maintain it, until you need more for a recipe? Does the water evaporate? BTW, it is working beautifully so far. Thanks for the recipe and your patience in explaining it to an engineer.

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Ah, Richard – I should have guessed you were an engineer! We find our engineer bakers like precision. You start with 4 ounces of starter (after discarding). Then you feed it with equal parts water/flour by weight, right? Which is 4 ounces water, 4 ounces flour. Then you remove about 8 ounces (1 cup) for your recipe, and feed it again with 4 ounces water and 4 ounces flour, which means you’re maintaining 12 ounces. Does that clarify things? If not, probably it would be best for you to call our baker’s hotline (855-371-BAKE (2253)), so you can actually have a real-time discussion. Glad it’s working well for you, anyway. :) PJH

    3. Richard

      That clears it up. I am also perusing thefreshloaf.com and finding out there is so much more to learn, and that precise weights are important. Thanks for getting us “startered” on the right foot.

      Glad to hear that!

    4. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sourdough can be as complicated/precise as you want it to be, Richard – or as simple. Some people believe that following directions exactly and measuring ingredients to the gram will yield the best result; and, sometimes, it probably does. But there are so many variables of temperature, humidity, water type, the climate you live in, the micro-climate of your own kitchen, and the flora living there, that it’s hard to use precision to guarantee results. I just keep trying different things, seeing what works in my own kitchen, in my own neck of the woods, being the imprecise baker I am – and I always get good results. Maybe not “the best” (who knows what the best is, after all?) – but satisfactory to me and my family. Bottom line – approach this however you want. Your engineer sensibilities will head towards complete clarity and precision in both ingredients and methods; and that’s great, as it gets you most of the way there. But remember to use whatever experience you have – good, very good, or otherwise – to build your next recipe. It’s OK to change things and see what happens; sourdough is a journey, as much as the destination. Happy travels! PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Please call our baker’s hotline, 855-371-BAKE (2253); it’s much more effective and quick to have a back-and-forth conversation “live” than it is to try to diagnose and advise via these comments. I’m sure we can help you- we look forward to hearing from you. PJH

  109. Marie | FeelingFoodish

    Hi PJ! I’m curious about how you would make a starter or levain with a 75% hydration? After all the feedings, and pouring off, isn’t hard to keep track of the hydration? Would you simply use 1 cup flour and then 3/4 cup spring water initially and then keep the proportions consistent for each subsequent feeding?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Marie, hydration is based on weight, not volume. So for 75% hydration, you’d use 4 ounces flour (a scant 1 cup) and 3 ounces water (6 tablespoons). It’s true, the starter will very gradually become more “hydrated” due to the formation of alcohol, but I wouldn’t worry about keeping it at exactly 75%; just keep feeding it with those same proportions. Your starter will be stiffer than normal; most starters are 100% hydration. But if you want 75% hydration, then the info. above is how to achieve that. Good luck – PJH

  110. Lynn

    You consistently say 4 oz of water and 4 oz (1 cup) of flour.
    I read it quickly the first time and did a 1/2 cup measure of each water and flour for a starter sitting next to my Bunn coffee maker as we speak.
    Later on I saw that you say feed with equal parts water and flour, 4 oz by weight (1 scant cup)
    Is flour measured 8 oz by volume cup actually weight 4 oz?
    Did I just ruin the starter with 4 oz volume each?

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      You may find that your starter is a little runny with only 1/2 cup of flour added. A cup of flour actually weighs just over 4 ounces, but a cup of liquid, such as water, weighs 8 ounces. The proper feeding is equal parts by weight, flour and water. By volume measurements, this would be 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. You will probably need to add some more flour to your starter. ~Amy

  111. ironmandk79

    This is my first time making a sourdough starter. Is the dough after mixing supposed to be moist and have liquid still outside of the dough before covering? Or the dough should be drier sort of like clay. I am using KA whole wheat flour and bottled water.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The sourdough starter detailed in this blog is a wet one, but the water should be mixed into the flour, creating a thick pancake-batter-goop. If you use whole wheat flour in the recipe given here, your starter will likely be a bit drier. That is fine. Whole wheat sourdough starters are at a greater risk than white ones for going rancid due to the oils in the germ. Please give your starter a good sniff before using it.~Jaydl@KAF

  112. leandro koiti

    Hello, I decided to try this starter, however I noticed something that made me wonder, on day 1 you say:
    “Combine 4 ounces (1 cup) whole rye flour (pumpernickel) or whole wheat flour with 4 ounces (1/2 cup) non-chlorinated cool water in a non-reactive container”, 4 ounces of whole rye flour + 4 ounces of water, right? however, when you measured in cups, you said 1 cup of whole rye flour + 1/2 cup of water, which one is correct? 1:1 flour/water ratio, or 1:0.5 flour/water ratio?
    thanks for the greast post!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It is 4 oz. of flour and 4 oz. of water by weight (if you were to scale your ingredients). If you are using measuring cups, it is 1c. of flour (equals 4 oz by weight) and 1/2 c. of water (4 fluid oz.). 1:1 by weight and 1:1/2 by volume. Hope that clears it up! Elisabeth@KAF

  113. Rebecca Kunz

    Hi there, my starter has been going for about 8 days. It bubbles nicely and smells right, but only rises about 25%. It is not doubling. Also, when I do the “float test” in warm water, it does not float, but sinks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It is important to maintain a regular feeding schedule for best results. The temperature in the room should be in the low 70′s if possible. If this is a problem for you, PJ provides some good tips on this blog, such as setting the starter on top of your water heater, refrigerator, or another appliance that might generate heat. Or, set it near a heat source such as a baseboard or electric heater. Or set the container of starter on a folded dish towel laid on top a heating pad on its lowest setting or invest in a bread proofer. Also, be sure you are using non chlorinated water for feedings. I am not sure what is meant by doing the float test. Please give our toll free Baker’s Hotline a call for further assistance, 1-855-371-BAKE. We would love to speak with you! Elisabeth@KAF

  114. Jordan

    I started my starter on Sunday. So today (Tuesday) is day 3. It looks like the pic, a little darker since I didn’t have white ww flour. Starting to have the sour smell. When I discard and feed it today; can I use that or is it too soon?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jordan, sourdough starter varies widely depending on how and where it’s built; some becomes vigorous very quickly, some takes awhile. I’d say try using it today, and see what happens. If you’re making a loaf without any added yeast, you’ll quickly find out whether or not it’s strong enough to raise bread on its own at this point; if your loaf includes yeast, then it will probably take care of most of the rise, and the starter can contribute its flavor without having to work too hard. let us know how it comes out – PJH

  115. Heather

    Dear PJ and KA friends,
    I’ve been using KA’s starter for a while now, and I decided to try these instructions for making my own. I measured by weight using my scale, but found that my rye flour absorbed so much of the water that I wound up with more of a paste than a slurry. It’s a bit hard to find rye flour here in Brooklyn, so my guess is that the bag I got was dried out and that four ounces of weight was a lot more volume than fresh flour would have been. Did I do the right thing to add water until what I had looked more like your pictures?

    One more question: over time, my KA starter has become very sour–more than we like. What causes this, and what can I do to sweeten it up? Many thanks for your time and expertise. I’m devoted to KA flour and I love this site!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Rye and other whole grain flours will certainly require more water when making a sourdough so you were absolutely correct to add more water. However, a rye starter will make for a more sour starter. As such, you may want to switch to feeding with a white flour or reduce the rising time for your breads. Jon@KAF

  116. Jeannie

    I started my starter 48 hours ago. It doubled in size today. Is that OK? Am I doing anything wrong? Tomorrow will be day 3. I’m keeping it on top of my fridge because my kitchen & house are on the cold side. I hope it’s doing what it’s supposed to just a little precocious.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sounds like you have a very happy starter, Jeannie – it may be ready to use sooner than you think! Keep up the good work – PJH

  117. K. ingle

    I misread the directions and have diligently poured off 4 ounces of starter and discarded THAT and feeding what is left in my bowl for a week now! Only tonight did I read and figure of what my problem was. I am getting bubbles..so I assume that’s good. But what should I do? Pour off everything in the morning, discard, and use the 4 ounces or just cut my losses and start over?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I think we “chatted” this morning, but others may also come across this problem: please discard all but 1/2 cup of your starter, and then feed the saved 1/2 cup of starter with 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. You will soon be back on track. ~Jaydl@KAF

  118. Mike

    I don’t really have a question, just a comment. I spent the last hour reading this recipe and every comment and reply since the article was posted. I think it’s so cool the way KA has kept up with the article and everyone helping each other.

    My wife and I have the wonderful smell of sourdough spreading through the house. It’s a bit cool, so we’ve moved the starter under some halogen lights to help keep the warmth. I like the idea of the heating pad, too.

    Thanks for the post and constant upkeep.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thank you for the encouraging words, Mike. I am pleased to see you find the info and upkeep helpful! Elisabeth@KAF

  119. Suzan

    Thanks for all the specific instructions. I’m on day one and can’t wait to move forward. I have a couple questions though. First, I noticed that many websites sell sourdough starters from different parts of the world and that affects the taste of the starter. If I did travel could I just go through the same steps you have listed and capture my own foreign sourdoughs? Second, I’m kind of confused about storing the starter. If I’m going to be making a loaf of bread everyday or every other day, should I keep it in the fridge or on the counter? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It is likely that sourdough cultures brought home from abroad will eventually be colonated by your local wild yeasts. If you bake bread everyday, you could keep your starter out in your kitchen. ~Jaydl@KAF

  120. jj

    I was pleased to find someone in the neighborhood to take half the starter. In case mine dies at some point. Until I get into a habit of using it, I’m afraid it will wind up in the back of the fridge, forgotten!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Luckily, you can forget it for quite some time and it’ll still bounce back (although that’s not the optimal way to treat your poor, hard-working starter)… :) PJH

  121. Joan Maslin

    I am on day 3 of attempting this. So far so good. However, I was wondering if I could change from unbleached white flour to unbleached bread midstream. Reason being that I might not have enough unbleached on hand for next 2 days AND due to impending snow storm might not want to leave apt. Just wondering. Thanks

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Absolutely, Joan – add an additional teaspoon of water to account for bread flour’s higher protein. I hear you about the blizzard! I need to get out there and get some errands done before it gets too crazy… PJH

  122. Joan Maslin

    Today should be interesting. Mine is (was) coming out perfectly. In fact, it seems almost ready to go. However (I’ll make a long story short!) I had a mishap when weighing out my discard and wound up with less than 4 oz of the keeper. I fed the usual amounts (I weigh flour) and we’ll see what happens. I look at this as somewhat of a science experiment

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Joan, sourdough starter is remarkably resilient. Yours will grow from the smaller amount of “keeper”. Have no fear. ~Jaydl@KAF

  123. Jody

    I made a starter from the recipe that is on this site but not this one. I says to use 2 cups all purpose flour 2 Cups Warm water 1 tablespoon yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar or honey (optional) I followed this recipe. It gives no other directions which was very frustrating. So I am coming here to post my questions. I put these all together then it raised and bubbled the first day the next morning I stirred and left it the next morning I stirred it again. So I started on Saturday it is now Monday this morning I stirred it each morning it has had a layer of alcohol on the top the mixture is very thin has very tiny bubbles. the recipe said it could take 2-5 days. It seems to me that it is not doing anything. Do you know how I can tell when it is ready to use or refrigerate. The other recipe on this site does not tell you anything. I wish I had followed this from the start but when I went to recipes it did not list this one in the recipe area. So do I have to start over with this recipe and if that is the case you should get rid of the misleading recipe on your site. I would call or use chat if it was available at night when I can be on the computer. I read all or your post but non gave me the answers to my questions. using the recipe I started with also I have a lot of starter so to through out 3/4 of it to get it down to the 4 oz starter is a big waste and is the starter I have going to work in unfed recipe if I have to get rid of so much of the starter.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jody, tell me the name of the recipe you used so I can see what’s up with it, OK? At this point, I’d suggest discarding about 3/4 of it (18 ounces, if you have a scale); and feeding the remainder with 1 cup flour and 1/3 cup water. Repeat the feeding 24 hours later. At that point, I’d suspect the starter will look much thicker, show some bubbles, and be ready to use. Going forward, to keep your starter healthy, feed with 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water (equal parts flour and water, by weight). Hope this helps – PJH

  124. Patricia L.

    Thanks for these wonderful instructions for making sourdough starter. I finally had good results but it did take a while. After 7 days and only a scattered few of the larger size bubbles on the surface of the starter, I was ready to give up and left it out on the counter, abandoned and unfed, for two days. This evening when I got home from work and lifted the cover, lo and behold, a wonderful, yeasty smell wafted into my nose and as I looked closely, what did I see but the same scattered few bubbles on the surface of the starter–and lots and lots of tiny foamy bubbles as well! Success at last!

    Nothing changed, temperature-wise. Could simply leaving it alone to populate itself and just do its thing be what I needed to do? Maybe it was growing, albeit very slowly, and feeding it twice a day was just too much for it. Whatever the case, I’m happy and off to look at recipes now…

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Patricia, sourdough can be a mystery; it’s alive, and does its own thing. I’ll bet it just finally reached the tipping point while you weren’t paying attention! :) Anyway, have fun with it – PJH

  125. Diana

    Hi there,
    I am on day 3 and after getting up this morning, I found the started 4X the size as it was last night (after the first feeding) – is that ok? I am using organic dark rye flour, put in too much initially (1 cup, not 4oz wt). It smells like beery flour so I think its OK, but am creating the starter that ate milwalkee apparently. It is in the fridge now as I am scared it will overflow while I am at work today.
    Is the goal for bread to just ensure it is growing happily , even if it takes 2 days or 7 days?
    thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Wow! Happy starter, Dianna! What you should be feeding your starter (after discarding 1 cup) is 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water OR (by weight) 4 oz. of flour and 4 oz. of water. Your starter may be unusually active if using dark rye. The minerals are loved and therefore will create an especially active starter. Definitely store in the frig unless you are planning on baking every day. You know it is happy when the starter rises and bubbles nicely. If you have not fed it for a while (over 1 week with no feedings), it could take 2-3 feedings to get it up and running again. Have patience and continue on! Elisabeth@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Pete, 1 cup of all-purpose flour weighs 4 1/4 ounces – is that what you’re referring to? Remember, 8 ounces = 1 cup ONLY works with certain liquids; other things you measure weigh various amounts, from 6 ounces for a cup of maple syrup, to 3 1/2 ounces for a cup of rolled oats… PJH

  126. Saule

    For Suzan who posted on Dec 30; When I travel, I pick up a small bag of flour – you can usually find one of 1 kg – and a bottle of natural spring water from that country. I make the starter with those ingredients. I think if you do not have multiple starters sitting out at the same time, you can maintain the separate characteristics. Drying out some of each starter (at separate times!) and keeping it as a backup can be your insurance in case you think you’ve had cross-contamination. They do act differently. I think once the yeast for that starter is established, it will overwhelm any yeasts on different flours that you eventually will have to add – maybe just wishful thinking, but Im sticking to it!

    Reply
  127. Kathy M

    Help! At day 3 my started developed a thick brown crust on top. I lifted it off and threw it away – was that a mistake? I couldn’t see how air could get through it. What am I doing wrong? I used 100 percent whole wheat in my batch and followed the directions that came with my starter culture.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Whole wheat absorbs more liquid than all-purpose flour. If you want your whole wheat starter to have a texture similar to the white starter you see in our photos, please add more water.~Jaydl@KAF

  128. Deborah Fairall

    I have been researching sourdough starters and bread for a week now. I started my own starter 5 days ago. I don’t have the website url handy, but it said it was a variation of the KAF starter. This lead me to your site. I was concerned, because my starter was bubbly, but runny. From reading your blog, I now know that the equal 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup spring water was the culprit there.
    Pouring off all but 4oz by weight, and feed that makes sense, otherwise there is more cultures and less food. Now to my question. When is the starter ready to bake bread with? Do I need to weight until the started doubles in volume within a 12 hr period?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Glad you found us, Deborah – welcome! Yes, as noted in this blog, once it looks very bubbly and vigorous 12 hours after feeding, it should be ready to go. Enjoy – PJH

  129. Willow

    Hi. I only have Bread Flour from KAF, will that be okay to use as “starter” and to use to feed the starter? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Yes, that will be fine to use. You’ll need to increase your liquid by a few tablespoons to get a soft, smooth, cake-batter like consistency. ~ MJ

  130. Sherry

    Hi, I’m a newbie to creating my own starter. Maybe a silly question but do I stir the start before feeding? I am on Day 1 of this creation of life. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sherry, yes, give it a good stir, it helps to distribute the food and oxygen. Good luck – call us if you have any questions, 855-371-2253. PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Yes, Sherry, stir it first; this will give you a more accurate read of its true volume. PJH

  131. Emily

    I have had my starter going about a week now -there’s a lot of what seems like excess water floating on top? My house is normally colder than stated, could this be it? Am I still able to use for sourdough?

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      Hi Emily. The water on top is actually an alcohol byproduct that we affectionately call “the hooch” and you can either pour it off before discarding and feeding or stir it in to the rest of the starter. ~Amy

  132. Jennifer Gerring

    On Day 1 the recipe says to use 4 ounces (1 cup) flour, is it really 4 ounces or 1 cup? I used 1 cup of flour and 4 ounces of water. My mixture is too dry.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      1 cup of flour is 4 ounces by weight. When measuring flour by the cupfuls – be sure to stir the flour, sprinkle into the cup and level, then you’ll be closer to that 4 ounces. Scooping the measuring cup into the flour then level won’t be the same. If your sourdough is too thick – simply add a tablespoon or two more water to get it to the pancake batter consistency. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  133. sapihia

    I’m going to make your Hot buttered soft pretzels for a Super bowl snack. Had a friend ask me if you could make these using the sourdough starter? I(I gave her part of mine) What do you think?
    Thanks

    Reply
  134. Colleen

    I love cooking with amaranth flour. This is my first time making a sourdough starter. Is amaranth a good flour to use?

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      I would not recommend using amaranth flour for your starter. Are you making a gluten-free starter? ~Amy

  135. TravelGayle

    I’m on Day 5 of my first starter, and after reading these comments I wonder. My starter is very thick, sticky, and elastic, not bubbly or foamy much. Since I didn’t use a measuring cup I can’t tell whether it’s doubled–probably not, but it seems to grow. I see that I needed to fluff the AP before measuring; I just filled the measuring cup and leveled with a knife, which may mean I’ve been adding 1.24 cups of flour each feeding. It also doesn’t smell so much fruity as maybe buttery, with the butter smell being slightly off. So now I’m wondering if the whole wheat flour I used had gone rancid or has started to go rancid. I’m not sure when I got it–some time last year! So now I’m wondering if I should toss it and start over. I’ve been using the discards in the recipes, and there is a distinctive taste–not awful, but just a little different, not like the usual sourdough flavor of commercial breads I’m familiar with. Advice?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Gayle, we don’t advise building a sourdough starter using whole wheat flour, especially if this is new to you. If you didn’t have your whole wheat flour stored in the freezer, then yes, it could be a bit “off” – its oils do get old over time. And it does sound like your measuring cup of flour is a bit “heavy.” So at this point, it’s probably better to cut your losses and start again – using all-purpose flour, and measuring flour by stirring, sprinkling into the cup, and leveling off; this video shows you just how to do it. I think by measuring more accurately, and using all-purpose flour, you’ll get the results you’re looking for. Please call our hotline, 855-371-2253, if you have any questions along the way. Good luck – PJH

  136. Lindsey Severson

    When working with other types of flour (I’m currently on my third day of a spelt stater, and I’m planning to make an emmer starter in the near future), obviously things like consistency aren’t going to be the same as when using rye/whole wheat/all-purpose flour. Does it work as well if I use equal weights of flour and water and have a thicker starter (and one that’s easier for me to do the math on when adding it to recipes), or is the consistency important?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Start with equal parts of each by weight, and then adjust the liquid until you have the right consistency. Add up the original water amount and your added water amount to get your new feeding amount. ~ MJ

  137. Laura

    Quick Question:

    I began my starter about 36 hours ago. I didn’t give it the day 2 feeding until the 30 hour mark at which point the starter had doubled from its beginning size. It is now doubling every two hours without any additional feedings. I gave it the day 2 feeding 4 hours ago and have had to stir it down twice to prevent it from overflowing my quart jar.

    Should I continue the week long process before I refrigerate it or did I luck out and get a strong yeast from the start?

    A couple of notes:

    (1) This morning’s feeding was with rye flour – I didn’t see the AP instructions until after I had fed it.

    (2) I live at moderately high altitude, ~ 4500 ft.

    Thanks!

    – Laura

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      As long as you have done the first 3 recommended feedings, you can just establish your own feeding schedule from here. Once a week, when stored in the fridge should do it. ~ MJ

  138. Angie

    Love this page, very helpful.

    My S.Starter is very dry…I think it is much too thick for what it is supposed to look like.
    Should I be fudging the ratio’s of flour and water to account for my cold/dry location?

    p.s. I have placed the S.S. on a heating pad set to warm as suggested.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  139. Siri Ingebrigtsen

    Hi, does anyone know if I can use whole wheat flour to feed the starter? I’m baking for someone who does not touch white flour of any kind. Any suggestions would be very welcome :-)

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Siri – Yes, you may begin and maintain a starter using a whole wheat starter. We recommend feeding it more often than the once per week since it will be more active. Whole grains are packed with minerals and oils. The minerals are a nice boost for activity while the oils make the starter susceptible to becoming rancid so more frequent feedings are best. Elisabeth@KAF

  140. Sarah

    HELP!!! I am trying to make rye sourdough starter I started with 1/2 rye flour 1/2 water by day 2 it more then doubled! Then after feeding it on day 3 it just went flat no bubbles so now day 4 still nothing no signs of being active? Where did I go wrong? I have thrown any out but I have taken the starter out cleaned the jar and put it back in day 1 and 2 went great but then days 3 and 4 nothing! Can I save this starter or do I need to start over please any help is appreciated! This is my 2nd go around and I really want to be able to make sourdough bread with Rye

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sarah, after the first two days, your starter will be more active and will benefit from being fed not every 24 hours, but every 12 hours (twice a day). It will be easier for you to keep your starter under control if you make it a little thicker. You might try feeding it 7/8 cup of rye and 3/8 cup of water at each feeding. (By weight, these quantities are just about equal.) ~Jaydl@KAF

  141. Sarah

    Also if I can ever get it to work how long should I feed it before refrigerating and then how often should I feed it? Do I feed it on e a week then put back in refrigerator or do I feed it once a week and let sit on counter for 12-24 hrs before putting in refrigerator? Thanks so much

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Feed your starter once a week to keep it healthy. After you feed it, please let it sit out for about 2 hours before returning it to the refrigerator. ~Jaydl@KAF

  142. James means

    First I must say I am thrilled with you’re site and products. No my question I am on my third day so day one some growth. day two went crazy doubled quickly but before the next feeding 24 hr later it fell and became inactive. Morning three still the same almost as it grew so fast on day two it ate all the nutrients and then starved. At this point I am going to feed again but do 50- 50 unbleched and whole weat and see what happens or shoul I start over? Thanks James

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      James, you obviously have lots of good activity in your starter; you feed it and it takes off. The trick of using sourdough is to catch it on the way up to bake with it. Once you see that slow motion bubble going on, it’s primed to use. Your question seems to be one of how to keep things on an even keel between firing the starter up to bake with. You can do that with temperature (feed it, let it get going at room temperature for an hour) then put it in the frige. If you know you won’t be baking with the starter for a couple of days, that’s your best course of action. Also, when you feed it, keep it a little on the stiffer side. All you have to do is take the starter out the night before you want to use it, discard and feed it, leave it at room temp overnight, and by morning you’ll likely have a nice, slow motion bubble going on and you’re ready to make your dough. Susan

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Not if you want to use the sourdough for bread; oat flour has no gluten, and thus your starter will be liquid, clay-like, or something in between. It’ll be a drag on any yeast baking you do, though you could probably add it to pancakes or waffles for flavor. PJH

  143. Rudy

    I apologise if this has been answered.

    Can I use whole wheat flour throughout the entire process of creating a starter, and then also while maintaining the starter? If not, why not? If so, what differences are there between a 100% whole wheat starter and a whole wheat/AP blend starter?

    Thanks. Great articles, BTW.

    Rudy

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Rudy, whole wheat starters ferment faster than white starters. If you feed your starter frequently – preferably daily – and keep it a little stiffer than these instructions call for, you can keep a 100% whole wheat starter going. The danger is that if you don’t feed your whole wheat starter regularly, the oils in the whole wheat can go rancid. The starter itself can mold.~Jaydl@KAF

    2. RudiSourdoughTootie

      @Jaydl@KAF Thank you. I keep reading articles that say “use this”, “use that” but they give no explanation. Thank you for the science. Much appreciated! – Rudy

    3. Amy Trage

      Please give us a call on the baker’s hotline if you have specific questions about the use of an ingredient. We will be happy to help you! ~Amy

    4. Rudy

      Actually, on another note, I forgot to ask… is there a resulting flavour difference as a result of the faster fermentation from the whole wheat?

    5. Amy Trage

      A faster fermentation typically reduces opportunity for optimum flavor development. ~Amy

  144. Mari

    Hi P.J. I am into day 3 with the sourdough starter and I get removing half every feeding and then when it is ready to take no more than 1 cup and storing the remainder in the refrigerator. However, when I want to use it again, I take it out, feed it Once? and wait 12 hours before using? Then there would only be enough for one recipe. What if after day 3 or 4 I decide I want a bigger batch to save; can I then delete the removing of the starter and how much would I feed at that point? Thank you. Mari

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Mari – Take the starter out of the fridge, discard all but 4 ounces, and feed it as usual with 4 ounces water and 4 ounces flour. Let it rest at room temperature for about 12 hours, until bubbly. You may be able to use it at this point. Or repeat as necessary, every 12 hours, until you notice the starter doubling or tripling in volume in 6 to 8 hours. If you are like me (neglectful!) I am sure to pull my starter out to the frig at least 3 days in advance and feed several times before using in a recipe. It is not uncommon for my starter to go for weeks without seeing the light of day so I plan on at least 3 feedings. To increase your starter, simply feed the starter without discarding or increase what you feed the starter while remembering to feed in equal amounts of water and flour. Pj has another great blog called Maintaining your Sourdough Starter. I encourage you to take a look! Elisabeth@KAF

  145. Liz Haeger

    Hello, I have not yet had a chance to read through all the above comments, so I apologize if this is a duplicate question. I started a starter a few days ago and by Day 3 (today), I noticed the top of the starter was gray in color and had several areas of yellow/organge spots (bacteria??) eww! I wonder if this is expected or if I should discard this starter and begin anew.

    Caviat: I had followed a different recipe for making the starter and did not wrap the bowl in plastic wrap as you show above. “Steve the Bread Guy” had suggested lightly covering the bowl with a basket top. = Does the starter bowl have to be covered with an airtight cover? Or does it require air movement? I don’t want to allow too much bacteria and junk from the air to get into the starter!

    Thank you!
    Liz

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Since it’s turning colors, Liz, I’d start again. Some grayish liquid is to be expected eventually, but probably not by day #3; and orange spots aren’t a good sign… :( the bowl doesn’t have to be wrapped in plastic; people have been making sourdough starter since well before plastic was invented. You just want to keep out bugs, dust, etc., while still permitting some air flow, so however you choose to do that is fine. Good luck, and remember – our baker’s hotline is a great resource for all your questions, sourdough and otherwise: 855-371-2253. PJH

  146. Maeve Robertson

    I’m so excited! Began the starter night before last. Last night it didn’t look like much, but I threw out half and fed it. This morning, I have have a lovely, bubbly starter that’s doubled in size. I may have to change containers. I have a table lamp with a 40 watt bulb on the kitchen counter, keeping it warm. Working great, although it looks a little peculiar.

    Reply
  147. David Sanderson

    You write: “…discard half the starter (4 ounces), and add to the remainder 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) cool …”
    Are you using “ounce” as both a fluid and a weight measure in the same sentence? Why not use grams instead when you reference the weight of the discard?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello David! We offer both the weight and volume equivalent for our recipes and instructions as our readers use both. We find that offering the weight in ounces reaches a broader spectrum of bakers as the gram measurement is still not a widely used unit of measurement in the USA. However, I strongly advise to use grams when possible as it will be more accurate. You will find that the majority of our recipes offer this conversion. Jon@KAF

  148. Tbella

    Ref. to all the questions – why discard yeast – Think of it as pruning a rose bush! To promote growth, stronger plant and eventually yield a beautiful rose!

    Reply
  149. ruba

    Hi,
    I have tried using your recipe 3 times & I am not getting anywhere any time fast… I use 1 cup of whole wheat flour stone ground… 1/2 cup of warm water… my starter is very thick even I end up adding a 3/4 cup of water to it… it is also not bubbling, not even after 3 days…

    am I using the wrong flour? is my flour too old? is my place too cold? should I bring the flour to room temperature before mixing it with water?

    this is seems so simple yet it is getting quite frustrating… I bought a coffee mug warmer just for this purpose now, but any help will be appreciated on my 4th attempt…

    thanks

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      Try using the AP flour for the starter. You may find you have better luck this way. If you use the whole wheat flour, you will definitely need to add more water so that the starter does not end up a dough. The whole grain flours absorb more water than white flours. ~Amy

  150. Dean

    About three years ago, I had my own starter and was making bread, pizza crusts, waffles, etc. Life was wonderful. I kept my starter in the fridge and one day, it just died. I knew as soon as I took it out of the fridge that day that something wasn’t right. The only way I can describe it is to say it was shiny. I fed it, nevertheless, but it didn’t respond.

    I searched the Internet high and low to get ideas on what could have killed my starter but never found anything. I’ve had more unsuccessful attempts at starting one again but as soon as i put the starter in the fridge, it dies. Any ideas?

    Thanks a million.

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      Please give us a call on the baker’s hotline so we can talk about your starter in more detail. It may not have been maintained/refreshed often enough, but there could be other reason’s that it didn’t thrive. ~Amy

  151. josh

    How about a bit of editing, the first day says 4oz (which is a terrible form of measurement) which is apparently 1 cup then no more than 15 words later apparently 4oz is half a cup, no wonder people get substances that are too thick.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sorry for the confusion, Josh. There is no actual editing required here as various ingredients have different weights based on their volume equivalent. As such, 1 cup of whole grain flour will weigh about 4 ounces, 1/2 cup of water will weigh 4 ounces as well. Also, the starter also weighs about 8 ounces to the cup, so half would be 4 ounces. I hope this helps to clarify this issue! Happy baking. Jon@KAF

  152. Rudy

    RE: Brita Filtered Water

    Hi. Great educational part of your site.

    I’ve read a couple of comments regarding Brita filtered water and I just wanted to share my experience with that in the case someone else is having the issues that I did.

    I spent a good two weeks trying to develop a starter using Brita filtered water. It never quite got going. It would bubble no more than a few miniscule air pockets. The smell was there, just very faint. (and yes, I even let the Brita water sit for 24 hours for the chlorine to dissipate.)

    So, I gave up and washed everything down the sink. Later that day, in a bodega, I picked up a bottle of Poland Springs water and decided to start again from scratch.

    Wow! Huge difference. Within three days, the starter was actively bubbling and doubling and I could smell the aroma in the next room.

    The point of this story is, if you are using Brita filtered water and your starter isn’t performing well, try some Poland Springs. I’ve read that there is a chlorine derivative that Britas can’t filter, so perhaps that’s what the issue was. I live in Manhattan in a large apartment building so there could be other chemicals in the water that caused the starter to stifle. I don’t know. Makes me want to get our water tested.

    BTW, all other variables were the same (KAF, temperature, etc.)

    Hope that this helps.

    Reply
    1. Rudy

      UPDATE:
      I did a “scientific” followup study to determine whether it was indeed the water. I pulled the starter out of the fridge and divided it in two. I fed one with Brita filtered water and the other with bottled spring water. Sure enough, the one fed with bottled spring water was bubbling within four hours. The one fed with Brita, on the other hand, was barely active, even after 12 hours. I went a step further and tried to resurrect the one I hurt with the Brita and it took three days of feeding with bottled spring water before it came back to life. All in all, a very informative study.

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Rudy, thanks so much for sharing your “sourdough study” here. It’s definitely a subject that invites a lot of study; luckily, the homework’s usually delicious! PJH

    1. Amy Trage

      You will need to discard before feeding your starter UNLESS you’ve just used it in a recipe. If that’s the case, you’d consider the portion you used to be the discard. ~Amy

  153. Helenna Snowden

    Hi, I started a starter three days ago, and it was double it’s size today but the top layer was darker than the rest. I fed it anyway, but i’m wondering if that means it’s gone bad? It don’t think it looked pink or red though, but i wanted to check.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      No, that is perfectly normal to see some grey/blackish liquid on top. You are cutting of most of the O2 so the by-product (alcohol) is what you are seeing. You may pour it off for a less tangy flavor or stir it back in (that is what I do) for a more tangy flavor. Your choice! Elisabeth@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The white whole wheat flour will get your sourdough off to a good start.~Jaydl@KAF

  154. Donna D

    PJ, why do you keep referring to 1 cup flour as 4 ounces, or is that a typing error? I started with 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup water. When I discarded half the starter on Day 2, I added 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (4 ounces) and 1/2 cup water (4 ounces). Am I doing this wrong?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Donna, a cup of flour weighs about 4 ounces; and a cup of water, 8 ounces. So add 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water to your starter, and you’ll be feeding it equal parts (by weight) of water and flour, which is what should happen. I think you got confused by the weight thing; only water, and a few other clear liquids, actually weigh 8 ounces/cup. Most other things weigh different amounts: e.g., chocolate chips = 6 ounces/cup; molasses = 12 ounces per cup, etc. Hope this helps – PJH

  155. PJHansen

    PJ, at the top of your blog of discussion of sourdough starters you mention investing in a proofer that has a temperature control. About 2 years ago I purchased a new stove that among other thinngs had a control for proofing dough. My question is: Can the oven proofer in the my stove also be used for starting some sourdough starter?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Do you know how warm your oven proofer gets? You might put a pan of water in the oven-proofer for a half hour and then take the water’s temperature. Ideally, you would want to keep your sourdough starter in the 70 degree range.~Jaydl@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you want to use grapes, please choose organic ones and include them in the starter during its first few days.~Jaydl@KAF

  156. Linda

    My starter is finally one week old From the first mixing I have had to add extra water I have used a scale every feeding to assure 4 oz of ea. Even w the addition of more water my consistency is more like brownie batter It has finally started to foam and rise nicely and when I measure out the discard I get 4 oz of starter and barely a cup of discard
    My house is quite dry and I have determined that my flour is feeling it also (yes when measuring I do the fluff and spoon) My first pizza dough was a little tough Baked up like a cracker crust and my intention is for a soft chewy crust Suggestions?

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      Your starter should have the consistency of a thick waffle batter. If you end up with doughs that are too dry, you can try holding back a little on your flour when you mix. You can always add more if needed and usually, incorporating more flour is easier than trying to add water to a dry dough. ~Amy

  157. cyndi

    Hi PJH,

    Two questions: first, I missed a day of feeding and throwing out half of the starter, is my starter still okay or is the ph level off and should I start over? Second, I have a group of ladies who want a piece of the same starter but this technique keeps reducing the starter to the same amount. Could you just feed the starter and not discard and keep growing it to a large enough starter for a group of bakers to each take a cup? Sorry if you’ve already answered these. I’ll keep browsing the comments for information. Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Cyndi, never worry about asking questions – that’s what we’re here for. Go ahead and feed it; it should be fine. Sourdough is actually very versatile, and its pH will change continually over time – which is no problem. And sure, you can discard 1 cup, but then give it a double feeding for awhile (2 cups flour, i cup water); that will build the volume. Or you can feed/discard as usual, but instead of discarding, refrigerate each day’s discard in a separate container, refrigerate them, then give each lady a container with feeding instructions. If you give them away within a week, they should be good to go with a few feedings. Good luck – PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Starters fed with whole grains will ferment more quickly. If you are feeding and using your starter daily, it would be fine to use whole grains.~Jaydl@KAF

  158. Michelle

    Help! I began my starter 3 days ago. It is already bubbling like crazy but I have a question. I thought I knew what to expect smell wise but now I’m not sure. My starter smells like sour baby vomit to me. My Husband thinks it is okay but I’m not sure. I used regular AP flour and filtered water. There is no discoloration in/on it. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hmm…the starter will have a sweeter smell when it is fed regularly, and a stronger, sour smell if it has been left in the refrigerator for a week or more. I have never heard the smell described as sour baby vomit. If your starter is bubbling up and doesn’t show any odd colorings – pink or green – it should be a healthy one.~Jaydl@KAF

  159. Maria

    Thanks for posting this recipe. I finally had success starting my own sourdough starter! In my past attempts, I used AP flour from the beginning. I used whole wheat flour this time and started to see bubbles by the middle of the second day! Thanks!

    Reply
  160. msatre

    There are a lot of comments on this blog with concerns over the measurements in this recipe. When an ounce can refer to volume (fluid ounce) or weigh on a scale, it is easy to get confused. A 1 cup measuring cup contains 8 fluid ounces by volume. The ounce measurements in this recipe refer to weight. While a cup or flour and a cup of water each contain 8 fluid ounces, the cup of flour weighs 4 ounces, and the cup of water weighs 8 ounces.
    How right you are. We spend a lot of time trying to explain the difference between weight and volume. A cup of feathers won’t weigh the same as a cup of rocks, right? Susan

    Reply
  161. Robert Brown

    Just a note: one cup of rye flour and a half cup of water = cookie dough.
    Might have been an idea to have someone with no cooking skill to try out the initial recipe first.
    I didn’t check all of the replies, but from what I did scan, it seems odd that nobody else noticed the problem.
    So, I’m guessing that all additions are in a 1:1 flour to water ratio by measuring cup?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      No, Robert, the ratios for feeding starters are by weight, not volume. 1 cup of water is 8 ounces by weight. 1 cup of white flour is just a bit more than 4 ounces by weight. 1 cup of rye flour is around 3 3/4 ounces by weight, which may explain the texture you ended up with. Susan

  162. Annette Holbrook

    Hi! I’ve never made a starter before and I’d REALLY like to try it. This is my dilemma: We don’t use AP flour, only whole grain flours. (And we’re still pretty new to that lifestyle change too!) I have your (KA) whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour in my cupboard. Can I use the same proportions of either of these instead of the AP flour? What are your recommendations? -Thank you so much in advance for your help! I’m grateful for any advice you might be able to give me.

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      Sure, using whole grains flours is fine. You may need to add a few extra tablespoons of water when you’re feeding your starter. ~Amy

  163. Miriam

    I know I’m a little late to this post! I am making this starter and am on day three. I’m afraid I’ve utterly messed it up! I was using, without looking, bleached flour. I plan on going to the store today to pick up some mealier flour. Will my starter begin activating soon? It occasionally gets a few bubbles, but nothing huge yet. Maybe I’ll call that baker’s hotline number you posted…

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Miriam,
      Your starter has been showing signs of life, so that’s good. When you get the unbleached flour, discard all but 1/4 cup of the starter. You’ll have plenty to keep going and you’ll be eliminating most of the bleached leftovers. Good luck! ~ MJ

  164. Maria

    Is it necessary to feed the starter left over and which you wish to maintain?
    If you share the starter, should you give 4 ounces and retain 4ounces?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Maria, I would suggest to call our Baker’s Hotline. We will be able to chat in detail about your starter, it should help! Jon@KAF 855 371 2253

  165. Nancy

    I am on day four of feeding the starter. I don’t have the aroma you describe. Is something wrong or should I feed it an extra few days?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Nancy,
      Starters will develop at different rates in different areas of the country, so don’t give up on yours yet. Just keep feeding, and when it’s ready to use, bake. The flavor will develop over time with food, water and TLC. ~ MJ

  166. Elizabeth Songer

    I made my starter and everything went beautifully! It worked so well the first try and I was so amazed. It is like magic science. I just baked my first sourdough bread tonight and it is the most delicious bread I have ever eaten. I am so happy. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Wow, Elizabeth. Are you prepared to bake every day? How will you be without such wonderful bread on a daily basis now?! Elisabeth@KAF

  167. Elizabeth Songer

    I made the starter per the instructions and it turned out perfect. It seems ready to go after about one week. I made sourdough bread this evening and it is the best bread I have ever tasted. I am so happy! Thank you so much for the instruction.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That is wonderful news, Elizabeth! Have fun with getting to know your sourdough starter. Elisabeth@KAF

  168. LaWanda

    I followed the directions.By day 4,my starter is bubbly,but not growing.At the its feeding,I marked the jar to see if the starter had grown,when I checked at the 12th hour,it was at the same amount.Should I continue or toss and start again? I t does have large bubbles on top.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      It may be that your starter is a bit too thick to rise much. Try thinning it down a bit with more water until it is like cake batter. That should help give it some lift. ~ MJ

  169. Deepti

    Hey, I have a question. During the twice a day feeding on days 3-5, do I discard 4 ounces of starter everytime I feed it?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Here’s what the instructions say:

      “For each feeding, weigh out 4 ounces starter; this will be a generous ½ cup, once it’s thoroughly stirred down. Discard any remaining starter. Add 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water to the 4 ounces starter.”

      So you’re KEEPING 4 ounces of starter, and discarding the rest. Make sense? PJH

  170. Carrie

    Hello! Sorry if the question has already been asked but I couldn’t find it in the comments above. Why would one need to use All Purpose for the feedings rather than continue with rye or whole wheat? Wouldn’t the multiple All Purpose feedings negate any of the benefits of starting with rye or whole wheat? Thank you for your consideration.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Carrie, the whole grains used at the start are for the benefit of the extra wild yeast they carry with them; with more wild yeast to start with, your starter gets a jump-start. Once it’s started, though, whole grains don’t contain as much food for the yeast; and they also tend to carry more bacteria that can cause your starter to sicken and die. So it’s best to continue feeding with an all-purpose flour – unless you’re an old hand and can recognize and correct immediately any signs of “illness.” Give it a try, for sure; it’s just more dicey. Good luck – PJH

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Carrie- We recommend you switch over to the all-purpose flour because the whole wheat and rye based flours have fat compounds in them that can go rancid over time, and those are not found in white flour. The whole wheat and rye flours are very helpful when you are just starting out the culture, but once you have a good deal of active yeast and bacteria in the culture, the all purpose flour is perfectly suitable. Hope that helps and happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  171. Lyazzat

    Hi!
    Thank you very much for the detailed instructions. Today is my 2nd day and looks good so far!!! I have one question, how often I have to feed second half starter if I plan to make bread twice per week? Should I keep it in fridge and take out some our before baking? I am bit confused in here, would appreciate for any help.

    Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You want to feed your started at least twice a week, and we recommend leaving it on the counter and feeding it at least once if not twice before using it to bake. You want to use it when it is nice and active (usually about 4-8 hours after a feeding). Hope that helps, and feel free to call our Baker’s Hotline (855-371-2253) if we can help you with anything else. Happy Sourdough Making! Jocelyn@KAF

  172. Quin Hinrichs

    I put together my first starter last night, and when I woke up this morning, just fourteen hours later, it had already doubled in size and was getting ready to crawl out of the mason jar I chose! I suppose this is a good sign, and obviously I’ll need to put it in a bigger jar. My question is this:

    If it’s doing so well already, should I start feeding it twice a day already, or stick to the original plan of feeding it every twenty-four hours until Day Three?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Quin, I think you could move right along to the twice daily feedings.~Jaydl@KAF

  173. Robin

    When the “starter” is started the recipe state that you should use whole wheat or rye flour. Later in the process however it state that all-purpose flour should be added. Is there a reason for this or will the process still yield a quality starter if whole wheat flour is used?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The whole wheat and rye flours are a great source of food for the yeast that is just starting off, but unless you are taking really good care of it and refreshing it regularly, the whole wheat and rye flours have elements that can go rancid in them and give an off taste to your starter. Thus, long term, the all-purpose flour is not only a perfectly good source of food for your starter, but also will keep nicely for you as well. However, long term whole wheat and rye starters are possible if you take very good care of them. I hope that helps and if you have any more questions, please feel free to contact our Baker’s Hotline at 1-855-371-2253. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  174. Katerina

    Hello from Greece! I am trying to create my own sourdough based on the post, but the problem is that temperatures here are high during summer. Inside my house temperature is 26 degrees Celcius and the dough has a smells like cheese. I am guessing it has gone bad, but how do I do it? Should I start from the beginning and put it in the fridge and instead of 24 hours let it grow 48 for example? I would very much appreciate your help on this! Thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Your starter should actually have a somewhat fermented smell, so cheese isn’t far off the mark. Your home temp is also fine for sourdough, though I would expect faster fermentation times. You mind find that using cooler water will help regulate this during the summer months. Jon@KAF

  175. Arun Hegde

    I started this on Wednesday night, and it is Saturday morning, so middle of day 3. On Friday morning (day 2), I got a lot of expansion, but it seems to be less now, though there is clearly microbial activity (bubbles and some expansion). Is this normal? I am using KAF 100% whole wheat so far, and the temperature is in the mid 70s. Also, if my calculations are correct, you discard two thirds of the starter each time and replace it by an equal weight of the 50/50 flour/water mixture, correct?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like your sourdough starter is progressing exactly as it should. This might be a good point to switch to the unbleached all purpose flour as your regular feeding flour. You can always feed whole wheat flour to convert your starter if you need it for a recipe, but the all purpose works best for maintaining your starter. Yes, your calculations are correct. You want to discard all but 4oz of starter and feed 4oz of water and 4oz of flour. Please feel free to call our Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253 if you have further questions about your starter. We love talking sourdough! Barb@KAF

    2. Arun Hegde

      Thanks! It actually seems to be progressing very well now. The last three feeds more than doubled. This morning’s feed doubled in under 3 hours! Can’t wait to use it.

  176. Judith K. Arthur

    I am making your starter recipe, but I think it has too much flour to water ratio. Your instructions are saying 1 Cup, but then you say 4 oz. which should be 1/2 Cup. Which is it? Yesterday, when i started this mixture, the 1 C. flour to 1/2 C. water made wallpaper paste. Finally, I added more water until it looked like your picture (I have made starter with another recipe so I knew this wasn’t right). I am thinking you mean 1:1 ratio–1/2 C. flour to 1/2 C. water, but I would like to be sure. There is no way 4 oz. is a scant 1 C. as stated in the recipe.
    Thank you for your help.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Judith, I think the confusion may have to do with the difference between fluid ounces and a weight measurement in ounces. This recipe does call for a 1:1 ratio, but that is by weight. 4 oz of flour by weight is a scant 1 cup of flour. The stiffness of your starter may be due to how you measure your flour by volume. We recommend a fluff-spoon-level method to give you a less compacted cup of flour. Also, if you are using a whole grain flour or bread flour to feed your starter, these flours will absorb more water and give you a much stiffer starter. It is fine to add a bit more water to make your starter come to the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Please call our Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253 if you have more starter questions. We love to talk sourdough! Barb@KAF

  177. jkennedya@bellsouth.net

    Okay, I understand, but if one is by weight and the other is by measuring cup standards, it might be a good idea to say that. It is working great and I did use rye flour and whole wheat flour to start this mixture. It is already showing many, many bubbles and the part I took out and put into a measuring cup was rising so fast, I decided to throw it away before it went over the measuring cup. Your directions said to feed it with all-purpose flour, but I have all the flours so maybe I will feed it some with one of those. I have never made a starter this way–without sugar or yeast–but it looks like it will be fine.
    Thank you so much for your answer/explanation.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I’m glad you’re starter is up and running! I’ve baked sourdough breads professionally for more than 10 years and I still find the process magical! I hope you enjoy sourdough baking as much as I do, and remember we are always here to help. Barb@KAF

  178. horto

    this starter info is a bit difficult to find, as i just started a starter, its a little buried in the site….

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I apologize for your difficulty in finding this information, but I will be sure to pass along your concerns to our Web Team so they can consider your feedback further. Best of luck with your newly formed starter and Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  179. Cindy

    I am on day 4 of making this starter….using bread flour. I see bubbles, and it smells like the start of sourdough already, but I am not seeing much ‘rise’ in it after feeding it (now 2 times a day) even though when I go to feed it the second time the previous feeding seems to be incorporated well….the starter ‘pours’ now where it used to be really sticky like a ball of dough. I ASSUME this is still a working starter? I still feed it. I keep it in my oven and occasionally turn the oven on warm for less than a minute, just enough to warm the oven to ‘room temp’ since my house is cooler than needed at the moment. (where are the 90+ degree days when I need them?!!) …..does this sound like the starter is still ‘alive’ or do I need to start over??

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Cindy! It sounds like your starter is fine if you are seeing bubbles. Have you noticed any marks on your container that show where the starter may have risen then collapsed? Much like dough, your starter will only rise to a certain point before receding back down. If you are keeping it in your oven then it is likely doing so quite quickly as your oven is pretty warm. Your starter doesn’t actually require temperatures that high, yeast is pretty happy between 75 and 80 degrees. If you have anymore starter questions, please feel free to give our Baker’s Hotline a call! 855 371 2253 Jon@KAF

    2. Cindy

      well, since I posted this yesterday….my starter looks like a soda exploded….LOTS of tiny bubbles in/on it….and I have fed it twice already today and it looks like its ready for a 3rd feeding and it hasn’t even been 8 hours since the second ‘feed’…..and only on DAY 5. Have been feeding it bread flour but going to switch to AP flour at the next feed…..it hasn’t been 7 days yet…..but is it ready NOW? because it LOOKS like the last pic with all the bubbles (it just doesn’t double when it rises, like it did at the very beginning)…it does have that sourdough smell to it though.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Cindy, I would give your starter the full 7 days before you try to bake with it. It is developing flavor and becoming a more healthy and balanced starter. Barb@KAF

    4. Cindy

      …..also I plan to make your Extra Tangy Sourdough recipe when the starter is ready….it doesn’t call for yeast like the other sourdough recipe here calls for (instant yeast)…I have Active Dry yeast. Do I use yeast in the Extra Tangy recipe or not? This is my first time making a starter or making bread from scratch like this, so I am sorry for all the ‘stupid’ questions. Thanks for your help :-)

    5. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Cindy, I would recommend trying the Extra Tangy recipe without yeast the first time you bake it, and see how it rises. There is something so satisfying about making your bread with your very own starter and watching it rise! Magical! But if it doesn’t rise quite as much as you would like, there is no shame in adding a little yeast the next time. And remember, the Baker’s Hotline is a great resource for questions about your sourdough baking (or any kind of baking). Give us a call at 855-371-2253. Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I would really not suggest to do so as this starter will need to remain outside of the refrigerator for quite some time. Your whey will likely spoil during this time and cause different types of bacteria to infiltrate your starter. As such, I would stick with water. Jon@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I think it’s simpler if you choose just weight, or volume, and don’t try to mix the two. If you have a scale, then the obvious choice would be weight; if you don’t, simply ignore the weights and go with the volume measurements. Make sense? PJH

  180. Cindy

    I was talking to my landlord yesterday about sourdough starter….he said he had one in a crock that he has had for over 35 years. I said ‘and you are just now telling me this??!!’ lol…..he said it was dried out. Is there a way to bring it back?? Can you ‘feed’ it with flour and water, will it come back to life or is it ‘toast’? seems a shame to lose a starter that has been around that long. Is it beyond hope? (I don’t know how long it has been dried out in that crock)

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Cindy- You certainly are welcome to try adding some water in and a little bit of flour as well to see if you can bring it back, but as that yeast was most likely living in a very unfavorable environment for quite a long time as the starter dried out, it most likely will not come back. Just for your information, if an old starter is what you are looking for, our culture you can purchase on the website is actually over 200 years old! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  181. Erich Dorfner

    I used 1 cup of whole weat four and half cup water, the mixture was so dry you could have make a ball out if it, so I added more water until is was like a heavy pancake mix,
    So it taken 1cup of water not a half cup as you recomment? What did I wrong?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It might be that your flour was drier than ours – particularly if you live in a dry climate. I am glad that you adjusted the starter with water until it resembled the photos. You will find that once you start feeding the starter with water and all-purpose flour, it will be looser. The whole grain flour does absorb more liquid than the all-purpose flour.~Jaydl@KAF

  182. annette

    once i am to the point where I am refrigerating my finished starter, do I need to feed it every so often, or only when i take it out to make a loaf of sourdough bread…

    Reply
  183. Mike W.

    Reinhartt suggests on the initial mix to use pineapple juice instead of water and than water on every feeding. To support bacteria growth.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Interesting, Mike. I will have to give the pineapple juice a try sometime. Jon@KAF

  184. Jean

    Hi! Thanks for your good info. I was gifted with a starter kit from KAF and had a good beginning, but soon fruit flies invaded the little covered crock. I scooped off the top of the starter and kept the remaining in a plastic wrap covered container. It rose much more slowly, but fruit flies STILL invaded the container. I’d like to start all over, but don’t know how to outsmart those little pests. Keeping in the fridge would be counterproductive. HELP!
    Jean

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Gosh Jean, I have never heard of this happening before. If this is a major issue, I would perhaps switch to using plastic wrap under the crock lid. It will still allow in air, but it will keep our bugs. Jon@KAF

  185. Kathy

    PJ,

    I love reading your blogs, especially when you reminisce – I’ve lived in Wisconsin all my life! I’m new to sourdough, but anxious to give it a go. On Day 1 when starting can I use KAF White Whole Wheat flour, or it is best to start with regular whole wheat? Also will the starter have a different flavor profile using pumpernickel on day versus the wheat flour?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Either types of whole wheat flour will work, so feel free to use which ever you prefer. The pumpernickel will make for a different flavor in your starter, give it a try and see if you like it! Jon@KAF

  186. Sue Gage Jennings

    I used to have aquariums with fish and we had to use non-chlorinated water or the fish would die. There is a chemical we could add or we could pour out a gal or more water into a container and leave it for 24 hours and it would be chlorine free. I do the same thing these days to prepare chlorine free water for my worm bin (wetting the paper, cardboard etc).

    For our drinking and cooking water we have a reverse osmosis filter system which not only takes out the chlorine and fluoride (yea!), but other chemicals that get into city drinking water. That is the water that I use for baking and feeding my starter.

    Reply
  187. Carol Ann Speight

    Hello from Canada! Way back yonder, when the world was still covered in ice….I had an established “batch” of sourdough given to me by a friend. I was told to feed it 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar & 1 cup water to keep it alive(only after using OR IF it looked “anemic”). I also kept it in a large glass peanut butter jar with a screw on lid in the refrigerator. Made biscuits, “the worlds best chocolate” cakes, bread & buns, pancakes & waffles using 1 cup monster dough for each batch. At no time did I ever discard any of my dough NOR was it ever suggested that I do so. I have read many posts you have shared on sourdough and never seen anything mentioned about refrigerating the sourdough in them. It is not an option with this/your recipe? I sure am hankerin’ for a piece of that extra moist chocolate cake and am “this close” to mixing up a batch! Can you please let me know IF I can/could refrigerate this? I remember that I had to leave sit on the counter in a clean bowl, the portion I was going to use for the particular recipe. I then fed the dough and put it back in the frig.! Put the peanut butter jar back in the frig. eft it to sit until I needed it again. Thank you so much for consideration of my e-mail.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Carol Ann,

      Some folks do like to keep their starter at room temperature, but it really does require much more attention. We feel as home bakers that storing in the fridge and feeding a little less frequently gives us the best of great flavor and easy care. Why don’t you give it a try, keeping in the fridge for say 2 months and then see how you feel about it? ~ MJ

  188. Kim

    Most of your recipes for sourdough starter call for 1 cup of starter, but if you’re only discarding 1/2 of a cup, how do you get that 1 cup of discard? Should I just save the discard from two of the feedings, or just take out a little extra to get that 1 cup? Thanks

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kim, when feeding my starter, I discard all but 4 ounces. Since I feed it with 4 ounces flour and 4 ounces water, that means I’m storing 12 ounces starter in the fridge – which means I’ll discard 8 ounces (1 cup) next time I go to feed it. Make sense? PJH

  189. mstrong

    My starter separates with a clear layer on top and sediment layer on the bottom. I don’t have a consistently warm place to put it overnight. Is that the problem?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      It’s normal for it to separate like that – just stir the liquid back into what’s underneath. As for a warm place, I assume you’re talking about feeding it, since when you’re not using it it’s best to let it live in the fridge. During the feeding process, try leaving it in your turned-off oven with the light on (if you have an oven light). Surprisingly, that little light bulb will produce quite a bit of heat. Good luck – PJH

  190. Summer

    Hello~ I am new to the sourdough world. I started your starter, on 2nd feeding I accidentally fed it with whole wheat flour instead of all purpose. Is this ok?? Today was day 3 feeding so I used all purpose flour. Also, it has a funky smell! Smells almost like sour vomit. (Sorry to sound gross!). Is this a “normal” smell?? I’m a little afraid I might be creating a batch of toxins for my family according to the smell!! How do you know if you’re on the right / safe path?? :)

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Summer- Feeding with whole wheat flour that one time won’t be a problem at all. The starter should have a strong sour smell, which that whole wheat will have contributed too, and if you have kept it well covered and don’t think there is any chance of something foreign contaminating it, I wouldn’t worry to much about it too much, and you may find when you switch back to the all-purpose flour only, that the smell may mild out a bit. If you still have concerns, please feel free to give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 1-855-371-2253, and we’d be happy to talk through things with you further over the phone as smells can be a tricky business since what you find offensive vs. what I find offensive can be very different smells in the end. Best of luck with your starter and happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

    2. Summer

      Thank you!! I am so excited to venture into sourdough bread making!! It’s my daughters Amorites so I’m really excited!! I’ll press on and see where it takes me :)

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re very welcome and best of luck on your sourdough quest…I hope there are many delicious rewards in your future! Jocelyn@KAF

  191. Jessi

    Hi! I’m really new to this. This is my first attempt at making sourdough, and I am just completely lost. I’m not sure if things are going well or not, because my starter smells AWFUL!

    I started off with whole grain flour and distilled water and covered loosely with cling wrap (as directed, I did not add yeast). The first day, it took off – like, really took off. It overflowed the 4-cup glass measuring cup that I was keeping it in. I’m guessing that this was because we don’t have air conditioning and my house hovered just under 90 degrees that day. I’ve trudged on, following the recipe. Since then, it’s been a little cooler. Let’s say around low to mid 80′s in my house. Day 2, I stirred it up, and tossed all but 1/2c., then fed with unbleached all-purpose flour and distilled water after 24 hours. It smelled… rank. Just ripe and pungent and not pleasant at all. I let it sit for 12 hours. Day three came, and I followed the same procedure, feeding twice (every 12ish hours). Still active, and although I haven’t been paying close attention to the volumes, it looks like it’s about doubling. It still smelled ripe like days one and two. Day four, the same thing, although I ran out of my all purpose flour and switched back to the whole-wheat flour. Still doubling over the 12 hours, though I’m not home or awake in between to see if it’s rising much more than that and then falling, the container looks like it can’t be rising too much more than the double-ish mark. On day four, the smell has changed, and it’s reminiscent of vomit… it’s not quite as strong of a smell as it was before, but it’s still not pleasant by any means. It’s now day five, and I’ve done the morning feeding and left for the day.

    There’s no noticeable discoloration (I know to watch for the pink or orange hue, and it’s not there). It’s not getting watery or anything. It’s a thick, gooey paste after I feed it, and it seems to get a little more wet throughout the 12 hours it sits, but it’s still oozy after I stir the air out come the next feeding time.

    Does this sound right? I’m mostly just scared by the smell… and I waiting for that trademark sourdough smell? Or something else? Am I doing this right? Has something gone wrong? Please help!!!

    I just realized that the measuring cup that I’ve been using to measure out the 1/2 cup of reserved starter (as well as my flour and water) is stainless steel… I’ve been keeping the mixture in a glass or plastic bowl and using a silicone and wood spoon to mix, but the measuring cup is metal… does that matter if it’s only in contact for a few seconds???

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Jessi-
      The smell of a well-fermented sourdough starter is definitely one that some people will not find pleasant and each culture’s smell can be a bit different than another’s smell as it is the natural yeast and bacteria in your local air that determine the character of your starter. If you feel confident that there isn’t a chance your starter got contaminated with anything bad, then what you are describing just sounds like a happy healthy starter. Using a metal measuring cup shouldn’t be a problem at all either. I would recommend switching back to all-purpose when you can, especially if your culture is already as over-active as it sounds like, but other than that I think you are probably doing everything just right. If you have any further concerns, please feel free to call our baker’s hotline at 1-855-371-2253 and we’d be happy to help you out over the phone. Happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  192. Sophia

    Hello, I am new to baking so I have a few questions about making sourdough. Would it be OK to use white wheat flour at the beginning? What if I use wheat flour throughout the whole process instead of AP? How is the bleached white flour going to affect the starter? Is filtered tap water going to spoil the starter? You mentioned before that the beer like liquid at the top of the starter is dying yeast; is this what it’s suppose to happen? I have read so many different recipes for sourdough starter and I am confused. I could really use some help. Thank you

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      White whole wheat flour may be used to start a sourdough. If you continue feeding the sourdough exclusively with whole grain flour, please don’t neglect a feeding. A starter fed with whole grain flour will ferment more readily (and spoil more easily) than one fed with all-purpose flour. We don’t recommend feeding your sourdough starter with bleached flour. Filtered tap water should be fine for your starter. A starter that is left alone for a time may develop a liquid layer at the top; that is normal.~Jaydl@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Kathy-

      I don’t believe that is one we have tried here but it certainly may work. If you want to give a try for the first few feedings and find you are having trouble, you can always switch over to another flour at that time. Best of luck and happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  193. Judy

    I love to eat home made bread and I love to bake it. However with just 2 of us it gets stale before we can even eat half of it. What can I use to preserve it?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Judy, the more fat in your bread, the longer it’ll stay fresh. That said, most sourdough breads seem to be rather low in fat – though luckily, sourdough breads stay fresh longer than “straight” breads. Your best bet isn’t to add something to the bread to preserve it; but rather to slice it into slices once it’s cool, and freeze any of it you’re not going to use within a day or so. It’s easy to remove however many slices you want from the freezer and toast them – either just to thaw, or until they’re toast. Warming bread helps restore it to its original freshness. Hope this helps – PJH

  194. Kiz

    I’m a bit late catching this train. My house is usually between 76-78 degrees. Would that be too warm for the starter?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Not at all, Kiz – sourdough LOVES that kind of warmth! Go for it, and good luck. PJH

  195. CJ Staples

    I’ve tried a couple of different sourdough starter instructions to no success. I thought I’d give this a try and if it didn’t work, I would order some. Woke up on Day 3 with the starter almost overflowing the bowl. It’s coming together like a charm and we should be baking a loaf this weekend. The family can’t wait!

    Reply
  196. Gene Hill

    My question concerns the sourdough starter cycle for the zojirushi model bb-cec20. For reasons to numerous to explain I have discarded my starter and am going to start over. The owners guide for cec20 gives instructions to use this cycle, but I lack confidence in it after reading this blog. I currently use the cycle to make a sort of polish for a buttermilk bread which is our ordinary toasting bread. Leaving it in the machine overnight, given the temperature used for mixing, gives me an adequate starter for the dough cycle to follow. Any suggestions as to using this cycle to develop and maintain a sour dough starter?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Gene,
      I would say next time you make your poolish in the machine, save out about 1/4 cup. Put it in a non-reactive bowl and give it 2 ounces each flour and water. Lightly cover it and let it sit overnight. If you get good bubbles, you can start with a normal feeding schedule and larger amounts of flour and water. If not, you can try again with your next poolish until you have a starter that perks up and becomes healthy and bubbly. Good luck! ~ MJ

  197. Sara

    I followed this method this past week, started with rye and then fed the starter with white flour once a day for a week. I made a GREAT bread this weekend with it. Thanks for these easy instructions. I am now going to try to maintain it in the fridge with weekly feedings. Question: I noticed that some recipes call for fed starter and some just say starter. SO does that mean for a recipe I’d take it my starter out the night before, feed it, and let it sit out overnight before I bake with the next day? or can I take it out just a few hours before? Should I always assume, regardless, that I should feed the starter 6-12 hours before baking with it? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Sara-
      Congratulations on such a great baking success! Unless a recipe specifically calls for “unfed” starter, you would always want to use fed starter, usually ideally within 6-8 hours of feeding depending on your kitchen environment. We recommend you take it out the day before you want to use it and give it a feeding in the morning and evening and then feed it once more the next morning to use it for your bread that day. If you have any further questions, please feel free to give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 1-855-371-2253 and we’d be happy to discuss starter with you further. Happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  198. Kenr

    I am grateful for this guidance and this blog – it is reassuring and I agree, after years of making yeast bread, that dipping one’s toe into sourdough baking (no, not literally) can be both exhilarating and a little daunting. I am on Day 4 of the process and I’m a little worried that my house could be a little cold for that extra punch (I’m not at all sure it is doubling), but on the other hand my starter is very bubbly and aromatic and ought to be worthy of a test baking in a few days.

    I have two questions – first, when one taps in to the artisan bread community, one of the first things you see is a lot of “baker’s math” – bakers exchanging information about the hydration of their dough. Can you walk me through how this corresponds to these instructions? Is this a 100% hydration starter, because we are using equal weights of water and flour both in the initial mix and in the feedings? And then does one compute the hydration of the dough for the actual loaf? Guidance welcome.

    I also splurged on a pair of 8″ banneton baskets, I am just itching to use them in the first baking and see how the appearance turns out. I’m wondering if the proportions of the basic 5-cup-plus-starter sourdough recipes you have will favor baking two loaves in bannetons of this size? Or do I need to make more dough than that? I’m sure experimentation will shed light on this, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks for everything you do!

    Ken
    Saratoga Springs, NY

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Ken, welcome to the wonderful world of sourdough! It’ll be a journey – and you’ll take lots of side paths, but I guarantee they’ll all be interesting. after all, it’s as much journey as destination, right? I’ve found a good place for a bit of extra warmth is the oven; even without any heat, it seems to stay a touch warmer than other parts of the house. And if you have a light in the oven, turning it on for a couple of hours, then off helps, too.

      Baker’s math: apply it to the dough for your final loaf. Think of your starter as 100% hydration, as you say; it’s even a bit more than that, due to the alcohol produced in the process, but start with 100%. So if you use 8 ounces starter (4 ounces water + 4 ounces flour); 12 ounces flour; and 8 ounces water, the hydration of your dough will be 12 ounces water divided by 16 ounces flour: 75%. Always divide any other weight into the flour weight, which is always pegged at 100%.

      As for the bannetons – a 9″ is good for a recipe using 3 to 5 cups of flour (the variation is due to whether or not you’re using a high percentage of whole grains), so it appears to me a 5-cup-flour plus starter would work fine in two 8″ bannetons. If not – hey, just another side path and another learning experience, right? Let us know how it all comes out – good luck! PJH

    2. kenr

      Okay – one more question – since much of my previous baking uses the no-knead technique (Lahey by way of Mark Bittman), I’m curious as to whether no-knead baking is compatible with sourdough. I don’t see a no-knead sourdough recipe on the King Arthur site but I may have overlooked something. Do you have a favored one, PJ? Also, is no-knead compatible with my bannetons? I’m guessing no because the dough has to be too wet.

      Appreciate your guidance. Waiting impatiently for Day 5 …..

      Ken

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Ken – I am sorry if you have been waiting for an an answer for several days! I see no reason not to do use your sourdough culture in a no knead recipe. You may replace 1 cup of the flour and 1/2 cup of the water in a recipe with one cup of starter. Some no kneads are more batter like while some are able to be shaped. A banetton or brotform is a prefect candidate for the latter. Brotforms are really wonderful because they serve to offer the support the dough needs while it rises. If you are concerned about the dough sticking, dust the banetton well with flour. Or use a liner or tea towel (should still be floured) for lining the basket. Have fun! Elisabeth @ KAF

    4. PJ Hamel , post author

      Ken, I imagine a no-knead sourdough would work; but perhaps you don’t want to go to TOO high a hydration, since the bread’s structure is already somewhat impaired, due to the acid’s work on the gluten. Give it a try, see what happens.

      You could still use bannetons with a no-knead, high-hydration sourdough – but you’d need to add the cloth lining they sometimes come with. In the absence of a “real” cloth lining, a smooth cotton dish towel (like a flour sack towel) can be fitted into the banneton. Flour it HEAVILY; and understand that the dough might or might not stick. Either way, though, you will have learned something, right? Good luck – PJH

    5. Kenr

      not impatient with you guys – impatient to get started baking my sourdough! Thanks for all the help. While I would really like to try the classic recipe and the no-knead option, I probably would be best off doing this incrementally and will try the rustic variety over the weekend. Keep your fingers crossed for me and again thanks!

      Ken

    6. The Baker's Hotline

      We are crossing fingers for you, Ken! Also, we’re here on the hotline to answer any of your weekend sourdough questions at 855-371-2253. Barb@KAF

    7. Kenr

      Okay, after a lot of bubbling and not much volume growth for quite a while – and a couple blatantly failed test loaves – Day 12 was the day! I checked in the wee hours of this morning and it was nearly popping out of its Mason jar. And after the next feeding it sprang right up. I can’t post a photo here but the Artisan Bread group on FB chronicles my attempts and anxiety. I got a lot of support and encouragement to be patient, and I was able today to post an image of my volcanic starter.

      Very excited to see how tomorrow’s test loaves turn out!

      For anyone going through this process who is itching to bake but whose starter isn’t fully established, I would encourage you to feed your bread baking jones by using your starter discard with added yeast (essentially the “Rustic” recipe on this site) to make some loaves. Even if the starter isn’t strong enough to shoulder the entire responsibility of leavening, the flavor it gives is very noticeable. I used some whole rye flour in one of my feeding cycles – and whole rye and wheat flours for 1/3 to 1/2 of the flour in the “Rustic” loaves – and I got fantastic flavor and crust consistency.

      I think I’m nearly there! Thanks for all the support. Just don’t be disappointed of it takes two or three weeks instead of one.

    8. Susan Reid

      What a sensible way to go about it! We often us less-than superhero starter discard for its flavor and added keeping qualities, in tandem with some yeast “insurance”. It’s still tasty, fresh, wonderful bread. Good for you! Susan

  199. Tina

    When my Grandmother became ill and had to leave her house no one thought to take her sourdough starter or to ask how it was made/fed!! I remember that it smelled **very** sour and she kept it in a stone crock covered with thin material in a dark room. It was not liquid; more like little clumps that she called rivels. Can you tell me anything about hot to make/feed/bake bread with this yep of starter? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Tina, it’s so interesting to hear these stories about how our grandmothers used to bake sourdough. It sounds like your grandmother had a form of dehydrated starter that would reactivate when she added it to the water in her bread recipes. I like that the clumps of starter are called “rivels.” While I don’t have experience using this type of starter, you can certainly dehydrate a starter by spreading it out on parchment paper and allowing it to dry. This can be stored indefinitely and will reactivate when fed with water and flour. Barb@KAF

  200. Ted

    I’ve followed the schedule and have fed my starter regularly. However, it is semi-liquid and it has all of the other characteristics. is it OK to use or should I start over.

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like your starter will work fine, although you may want to work on making it a bit thicker. It should be the consistency of a a thick pancake batter. I feed my starter by weight and when I first mix in the flour and water it is very thick, but tends to thin out as it ferments. If you are feeding your starter another brand of all purpose flour this may account for the thin consistency, since other all purpose flours tend to be lower in protein and will not absorb as much water as ours does. You can either add a bit less water or a bit more flour to correct the consistency. In any case, if your starter is showing good signs of activity you should be fine to bake with it. Barb@KAF

  201. Laura

    This is day 7. There are lots of bubbles, but there is no change in volume. I had it in a glass bowl with more surface area exposed, but I couldn’t tell if it was changing volume. I have changed to a mason jar, and I can easily tell there is no growth in volume. I’m using proper ingredients and my temperature is 74-78 degrees in the room. Please help!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sorry, we don’t have this in printable format. Good suggestion, though – I’ll put it on my list to make this into an actual printable recipe. In the meantime, your best bet is to copy and paste the words into a word doc, and print that. Good luck if you have any issues, contact our hotline, 855-371-2253. PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Love to hear that, Josette! Please know you can always call our Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253 if you have any sourdough questions along the way. Barb!KAF

  202. Daniel

    How is the starter supposed to gain volume if I’m reducing it back down to 4 ounces each time? I’m a bit confused.

    Reply
  203. The Baker's Hotline

    The directions call for discarding the dough to keep it at a manageable level. If you need to increase the volume, just don’t discard the extra starter. Laurie@KAF

    Reply
  204. Jimmy B

    Hi,

    I’m on day three of a sourdough starter, and I keep getting this stiff “skin” on top of the the semi-liquid starter. I’ve been removing it when feeding it, and nothing I’ve read says it’s dangerous, but what causes this? Too much heat? Dry air? Poor covering? I’m hoping it’s not impeding the growth of my starter!

    Thanks,
    Jimmy

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Jimmy,

      A skin will form on your starter if too much air is allowed into the starter. This can be stopped by covering your starter with plastic wrap. Jon@KAF

  205. Connie

    Dumb question: you measure the flour with dry cup measures and the water with liquid cup measures (such as the pyrex the starter is being made in here)? — correct? just a bit thrown off by mention of ounces of flour… thanks!

    Reply
  206. Connie

    Another question: In the pictures I see the pyrex is covered with plastic wrap. How then does the starter pick up the ambient yeast from the air? To cover or not to cover is my question. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Connie, the wild yeast is on the flour, not from the air. Definitely cover; otherwise the top will dry out and get a skin.

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Plastic wrap is not trapping the air flow. Air is freely being transferred. Happy sourdough baking! Elisabeth@KAF

  207. Cecily Van

    I’ve used this method before for making starter in Virginia with well water. And it turned out wonderfully. But I forgot to feed it (or put it in the fridge) for a couple days and it went bad (pink and smelled *wrong*) so I tossed it. We’ve since moved to Portland, OR and we have municipal treated water. So after the first batch went bad before even completing the week, I started a new batch using distilled water. But the texture of the starter isn’t at all the same. Last time it was like batter, pourable but this a bit more cohesive. I currently have my first batch of bread from it rising. But curious as to why I have such a different texture using the same recipe.
    I weigh the ingredients (both water and the flour) I’ve used KA AP flour both times. The only difference is location and well water versus distilled bottle water.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Different climates will have a drastic impact on a sourdough starter. Consider that the Portland weather may be less humid than Virginia during certain times of the year, or your kitchen may not have had years of baking yeast floating around. Try adding a bit more water to the starter to create the desired consistency, and feeding it a few more times to encourage the yeast growth. You might want to consult with some of the area’s wonderful bakeries, including Ken’s Artisan Bread, Baker and Spice, Grand Central Baking, Pearl, and Fleur de Lys, for help with the water issue. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You certainly may store your starter in the refrigerator! Just pull it out and give it one or two feedings before using it to make bread. We also have some recipes that use unfed sourdough starter. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  208. Terence Moore

    Hi I just started a wholemeal spelt sourdough starter and its day three, I have healthy bubbling but yesterday I did not throw half off mine out. Should I do this now or forget about it?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Terence, you certainly can discard that portion of the starter at a later feeding if you like. The goal is just to keep a good proportion of new flour and water to the older culture. I hope that helps and if you have any more questions, please feel free to contact our Baker’s Hotline at 1-855-371-2253. Happy baking! JocelyN@KAF

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