Sourdough Part 3: Starting & Feeding

How do you make sourdough starter?

As mentioned above, you can start from scratch with just flour and water. You CAN do this, but for most people, I recommend just finding a friend who already has a strong sourdough starter and ask for a bit of theirs (about 100g will do). This is much easier than starting from scratch. (You can also buy sourdough starter online. This dried starter is similar to asking your friend, but will need a little extra attention at the beginning to “wake it up”.)

Assuming that you already have a mature sourdough starter, you will do the following to feed it!

Mix your sourdough in three equal parts. For example if you have 100g of sourdough starter, you will mix that with 100g of flour and 100g of water.

Water on the bottom, then add Sourdough Starter, then Flour


The bacteria in sourdough is smart, it knows what is good for it. 


You should use whole grain flour to feed your starter. We use whole grain wheat flour. If you try a variety of brands, you will find that for some brands your sourdough really comes alive. It is bubbling and growing quickly! These flours have life. On the other hand, with some flours it may just seem to get by. These flours likely don’t have much life. (Note: Bleached white flour basically has the life and nutrition removed, so is not good for feeding your Sourdough. When making BREAD with the sour dough, we occasionally add a little white flour along with mostly whole grains to make it softer. You can use 100% whole grain flour to make sourdough bread, though it might take a little longer for the bulk fermentation. From the good microbes perspective, it’s like Thanksgiving to have all that good nutrition. This is another area the commercial yeast is not as potent to make the whole wheat dough rise so effectively. 


Chlorine (and other chemicals in city water) are there to kill bacteria and other life. For feeding your sourdough, which is full of good bacteria, it will be better to give them spring water, cooled boiled water (that evaporates out the chlorine), etc.

Back to our 100g starter, 100g flour, 100g water. These measurements don’t have to be exact, but it’s good to be pretty close to equal amounts (a kitchen scale can be helpful until you get a good feel for it).

First put the water in a mixing bowl. Then add the sourdough starter.

You can now do a little test called the “sink test”. If the sourdough sinks and sits on the bottom, it is HUNGRY. It wants to jump right in and get started feeding. If it floats, it isn’t so hungry, though it is always happy to eat. (A slightly more scientific look at why it floats when it has been well fed is that it is eating more and making more gas. This gas is making bubbles in the dough and bubbles float!)

After adding the water (100g), then the dough (100g), you will add the flour (100g). 

Now stir it all together. (It may help to have two scrapers to stir with, to fold it on top of itself while also scraping the sides, etc.

You can now store this in a jar with a loose lid or a coffee filter held on with a rubber band (to let air in).

Let it sit out overnight to have the warmth and air to grow. (It will likely double in size by morning.) This stage is usually referred to as bulk fermentation. 

Sourdough Starter ready to rise

What to do with your sourdough after you feed it?

As mentioned, this can be stored on the counter at room temperature or you can store it in the fridge. (The good bacteria will continue to eat and grow and protect against mold, bad bacteria, etc.) There are advantages to both on the counter or in the fridge.

Basically if you leave it on the counter (as many do) it will eat quickly and grow quickly. You will then likely need to feed it every day (including when you use it to make bread). This can result in either a lot of extra sourdough starter, or in your making a lot of bread.

If you would like to slow things down, you can store it in the fridge. This doesn’t hurt the good bacteria, but does slow them down. Then you can wait several days or even several weeks without feeding it. (We have gone on trips for several weeks and come back to a good, healthy sourdough starter.) To store it for a while, you will want to keep your sourdough starter on the drier side rather than a more wet and runny condition. And if possible, you can always bring your starter with you and make fresh bread as you go. 

Chilin’ in the fridge, ready when needed

Note: When you feed your sourdough (using our 100g example), you have 100g of starter dough and added 100g of water and 100 g of flour. This means you now have roughly 300 g of sourdough. The next time you feed it, you can use 100g of the starter. This leaves 200g of extra starter. What can you do with it? Well, you can give it away, sourdough sometimes being called “Friendship Bread”. You can throw it away (or compost it), but that seems like a waste. Or you can make bread from it! (Or you can combine two of those and make bread and give it away!)

That leads to a natural question…

Continue with “Sourdough Part 4: From Dough to Bread“.

Photo Credits: We rarely think to take pictures, so these are random pictures of our regular baking, likely taken by our children for fun. :o)

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