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how to make a sourdough starter. It's easy to make and use.

sourdough bread

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Make your own sourdough!

Making bread at home is incredibly rewarding. Nothing beats the aroma of a fresh loaf in the oven, and your family is sure to applaud any homemade bread making efforts.

Homemade bread is almost always going to taste great; but to make really outstanding bread, you need to take a few steps to slow the bread making process down a bit; and sourdough baking is a great way to do this.

Today's baking products are all designed with speed and convenience in mind. Bread improvers, fast acting yeast, etc. Unfortunately, while these products will get a loaf of bread ready for the oven in record time, they also tend to result in a fairly bland and one dimensional loaf.

Great bread has a chewy and dark crust, with a substantial inner sponge. Great bread has a complex flavor, that will change in the mouth as you chew it, and will linger long after you've finished eating the bread. It is very worth your time to slow down the process, and start making better bread.

You might have a great baker in your area that is producing these types of flavorful loaves, but 99% of all the bread sold, even the country loaves or baguettes sold by most bakeries, are really just an accelerated white bread recipe; and the result is a boring loaf of bread.

Make your own sourdough bread and be astonished at what truly great bread can be.

Bread making involves a biological reaction between the yeasts added and the sugars extracted from the wheat. There is a fermentation involved, and it is the byproducts of this fermentation that will give great bread its extraordinary flavor. These fermentation by-products take time to be created, so if you accelerate the rising time, you will not achieve a complex flavor profile. Sourdough breads do not use added yeasts, but instead have naturally occurring yeasts.

These yeasts will work much slower, and the result will be more flavorful bread. Sourdough bread also benefits from the addition of a significant quantity of sourdough starter, and because this starter can by weeks, month, or even years old, there will be a lot of interesting and delicious flavors added from this starter.

Sourdough bread, is of course, sour. Some people love the tart deep sour of a San Francisco sourdough, and some people don't. You can take some steps to control the sourness of your bread, but your bread will always have that characteristic sourdough tang!

Sourdough baking is of course, more difficult, than straight yeasted dough's; and your bread may not look perfect on your first attempt. Even these "failures" though, will taste better than the best of the quick and straight yeasted method. With time and practice, you will develop good techniques, and will start producing what will be a truly world class bread.

The first thing that you need to do though is make yourself a sourdough starter.

This is the starter that will live in your fridge, slowly bubbling away, ready for the next great batch of bread.

The instructions as followed are basically taken from the book "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" by Peter Rinehart, and I cannot speak highly enough about this book. If you are interested in taking your bread baking skills to the next level, you should buy this book.

Sourdough starter culture

This will take a few days, but is not at all difficult. It's quite amazing that with the repeated additions of only wheat and water, you will develop an active and living sourdough starter!

Day 1

Mix together 1 cup of whole wheat or rye flour with ¾ cup of water. Make sure that all the dough is wet into a ball. It will be stiff, but don't worry about it. Keep in a clean container covered with plastic wrap at room temperature.

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Day 2

Mix together 1 cup bread flour with ½ cup of water. Add this mixture to the mixture from yesterday, and mix it all together. Yesterday's dough will likely be a little bit softer than it was, but there will not likely have occurred any rise. Cover with plastic wrap as before, and leave at room temperature.

Day 3

Mix together 1 cup of bread flour with ½ cup of water. Take the dough from the day before, and discard half of it. Mix the new and old dough's together. It will be getting wetter, and there will probably be some rise by now. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature.

Day 4

Repeat the procedure exactly as from Day 3. A few hours after you have mixed the dough's together, your starter should have doubled in size. It is now ready for use.

Take 1 cup of your active sourdough starter, and, mix with 3 ½ cups of bread flour and 2 cups of water. Mix together well and cover with plastic wrap. After about 6 hours, the dough should have doubled in size, and become quite bubbly. It is now ready to use in a sourdough bread recipe!

You can use this starter right away, or it can be held in the fridge until you are ready to use it. I keep it in a clean large covered Tupperware container in the fridge, and take it as needed.

The starter is a living thing, and as such it needs to be fed periodically or it will die. You should feed you culture every 3 days, and after every time you use it. To feed it, take away half of the culture, and mix in an equal amount of flour and water in about a 3/2 ratio.

You can much more than double it if you wish. Doubling the starter will make the sourest bread, and adding 4 or 6 times the amount of the starter while feeding the starter, will make a starter that will produce less sour bread.

Your sourdough starter will last indefinitely, as long as you remember to feed it regularly, and it will get better with age. There are some bakeries in SF that claim to be using a starter that is over 100 years old!

It sounds a little complicated, but there is really very little effort involved in making and maintaining a sourdough starter…and your bread will taste better than ever after you start baking delicious, flavorful, crusty, sourdough loaves!


Mike on April 14, 2012:

Can anyone explain why we throw half the starter away at every step of feeding? I usually keep a 1 quart flip lid jar in the fridge with starter / sponge, and am just curious about the waste.



Randy on March 15, 2012:

Oh, and to those who are asking what to do with the discarded half...if you do your feeding in the morning, use the portion you need to get rid of to make sourdough pancakes or waffles. You can find some very easy recipes on the internet, and they turn out pretty good. My kids loved them!

Randy on March 15, 2012:

Hey I went with the suggestion of Emeril on the food network website. He said to get it going with active dry yeast. As it ages, will natural yeasts lend flavor or will the packaged yeast just keep multiplying? I made a bread today, and it turned out ok as a white bread, but not very sourdoughy in flavor.

Linc on March 01, 2012:

Hey great resource, I started my first starter and was going great really bubbly until I did day three and replaced half the starter and it just went flat no bubbles nothing. I have since added another cup of flour and 1/2 water and have some bubbles again. Do I still consider this day 4 or ? How do I know when it's ready to make the starter for dough?

granny7 on January 28, 2012:

I'm not sure if anyone has asked this, yet, but can I substitute all-purpose flour for the bread flour in Step 2?

moonlake from America on January 12, 2012:

I've beem reading all of this with interest. We have talked about using a starter but not sure if I'm up to taking care of one. It's kind of like having a baby.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on January 12, 2012:

This Hub is a "related Hub" to mine that I just did on how I earned 3000.00 baking and selling Amish Friendship Bread. It uses a starter, but not sour dough. I've never tried your method. I must do that. My bread is a lot sweeter than sour dough. Regards

Sayworth on December 26, 2011:

Hi there

Some websites recommend using sugar to feed sourdough. Is this not recommended? Are there any drawbacks to it?


Don on December 06, 2011:

I'm finished with my sour dough starter, now I need a recipe to use it in. Thanks Don.

Rich Massey on November 19, 2011:

Hi John,

I'm just a little confused for the last day. Is the starter ready for the fridge and to use in a sourdough recipe after the last addition of 3.5 cups of flower and 2 cups of water? Or do I put the starter in the fridge to save it before that last step? Just want to make sure the last 3.5 cups is not the actual sourdough bread recipe ...thanks

Mimig64 on November 10, 2011:

Hi, can anyone help with this....sort of desperate for an answer. Cheers

Mimig64 on November 09, 2011:

Hi John,

I have got to Day 4, lots of bubbles in the culture, however it hasn't doubled in size. What should I do?

enantiomorph on November 08, 2011:

Hi John. It works well and makes great sourdough pancakes as well as bread. Very clear on the whole, just a little clarification required on the maintenance.

When I have my starter happily sojurning in the fridge, when I feed it every three days, does it need warming up to ferment its new break-fast or will it continue to do this in the fridge.

EllieBeerendonk on October 09, 2011:

Hi John, your's was the 3rd starter I tried, and it is working! It is the 3rd day, and it is bubbling merrily away LOL. So thanks for posting this. I will keep you updated of how the bread works out.

IceKat on October 08, 2011:

What happens if you forget to feed a starter? Like when you go on holidays? And is it true that to use it you can mix it in with the bread and then keep the same amount of the mixed dough out for the next lot of bread?


Anthea on September 25, 2011:

hi john,

my husband has been a baker for the last 25 years and aroun 6 years ago he beun teaching me the fine art of baking. i love it and i love learning the theory behind the formulas for making the perfect loaf.i do have to say there are so many bakers out there who exert the fact they are qualified but not a drop of knowledge on the inportance of correct scailing up, the importance of tem. control let alone the basic formula to calculate h2o and flour temps .. i love it and most of all i love putting out consistantly great bread. the lust for any knowledge anf therory about bread making is so unexpecterd. there is great satisfaction in understanding and folowing the precice production I LOVE IT!!! its horrid hours worse when u have young children. i just pray that the young bakers out there put some passion hart and personal commitment to understand follow and respect the art of breadmaking,my husband is a fantastic baker and an everen better teacher. the way he is teaching me my experience alone is worth more than any piece of paper.. and our product looks smells and well its just great. thanks for ur tit bits.. i love it i will never stop.....

Newt on August 15, 2011:

Hey John,

Thanks for the article. I am currently on day 2 of the starter. I was wondering if you had a recipe with which to bake the bread when it is ready, and if so, could you post it? Also, when you talked about more than doubling the starter, is that the part to feed and then bake, or is that the starter as a whole?

Trish on May 10, 2011:

Thanks to your recipe I've become inspired and am ready to make a sourdough starter. I just wanted to clarify the last step. When you take 1 cup of the mixture you have from day 4 and let it sit 6 hours…is this the stuff called the "Starter" that will now sit in the fridge and need to be fed? Not sure why I find that last step so confusing, but no matter how often I read it I'm confused as to which bit lives in my fridge for years to come…LOL

David in GZ on April 26, 2011:

Thanks for the great article. I'm living and working in China these days, and many commonplace items and ingredients are not easily available. So, I'm doing a lot on my own that I used to take for granted or get at a local market. I never baked my own breads or pizza crusts before, and I'm so glad to have found this page, because I missed sourdough bread a lot! Now my Chinese neighbors are drawn by the aroma from my kitchen, (hopefully in a good way....)

Sourdough Cursed on April 19, 2011:

I followed the instructions to the letter, and I'm at day 4 with very little rise, only a smattering of bubbles, but a good starting sour smell. The dough is VERY stringy, elastic, and sticky. Day 1 was not a "ball of dough" by any stretch either. More like a thick batter. Should I let it go a couple more days, or start over? My house is pretty much a constant 70 degrees and about 40% humidity this time of year. I've had a heck of a time getting a starter going. Possibly my water? I've used both tap and filtered. HELP! :)

Steph Harris from Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom on March 07, 2011:

Thank you John, I really do enjoy a good sourdough bread, my husband threw my last lot of starter out as he did not know what it was. Silly fool. I shall be following your recipe. Yet again, we can have tasty bread in the UK.

Cbay on November 20, 2010:

I have always made started with simply using wheat flour and water, approximately 110 degrees, mixture is 1 cup to 1 cup. Before covering with plastic wrap or lid, leave the mixture out on a counter for 1 hour, then cover. After 24 hours, remove half, and add another 1 cup flour to 1 cup Water. Take the half you was removed and begin another batch of starter, by adding 1 cup water to 1 cup flour. Continue the process, every 24 hours for 4 days. You will eventually end up with multiple starters to use in your breads, with the first being your oldest.

By leaving the starters out on the counter uncovered, they will gather some of the natural spores in the air, and since this mixture will soon be placed in a warm place it acts to jump start the starter.

If the starters get incredibly wet, and develop a light brown liquid don't worry about it, just pour it off into a measuring cup. Then when you feed the next cup of flour into the starter (after you removed half), just add enough water to the liquid poured off to make another cup, then mix it back in. Some bakers mix it back in and other throw it away. It you keep it, it adds to the sour taste, and that is what you are really looking for anyway. Basically it is beer. And who doesn't like beer?

The Moisture conditions in the air also effect how wet your starter is, if you live in the south and make starter during the summer, when the humidity and the temperature are high, you have a wetter starter, adjust accordingly.

When I make my breads, after my starters have risen, and many will crap out on you, I always cheat, and add yeast. This is a faux paux I know, but so what, its better than spending a week making starters, and buying flour, and kneading and mixing, and covering and waiting only to find out one loaf has rising and three have not.

The secret is to just use about 1/2 of packet or a little less of yeast to a loaf of mixture. This lets the natural leavening in the starter work, but also ensures you get something that doesn't resemble flat bread with a five day's of labor cost included in it. The object is to get the sour flavoring of the starters which yield a great tasting bread, not a lot of work, which yielded nothing. Try it with the yeast and without, then see which one you works best for you. I have worked in several small bakeries and in a few pizza parlors, so trust me when I saw this, there is a lot of yeast in breads that would be considered sacrosanct. Especially sour doughs. Letting the doughs rise as high as you can is also a good idea, and when dealing with a heavy bread like Sour dough, I have found it best not to knock down the dough for on last kneading as many recipes call for. It takes a lot of time for it to rise up again to bake.

Mix it, knead it, let it rise, cut into pieces for rolls or shape into loaves, and let rise and bake, the last kneading process adds time and can result in a dense heavy bread with a closed crumb.

Short loaf pans make better great loaves of bread for the first time baker. Then move to no pan loaves once you perfect you skills. Get a feel of your bread.

Julie on November 10, 2010:

Hi John,

Do you just discard the prestarter after you have created the starter?



David C Williams on November 03, 2010:

Okay, I too am having some serious confusion with the instructions given to achieve a 'dough ball'.

Here's what I did:

3/4 C Water

1 C Bread Flour

Mixed the two together and formed a LIQUID... not a ball.

Please help.

(I understand that I did not use whole wheat or rye, but I am doing this for pizza and was hoping that this method would work for that application as well)

Thanks in advance!


John D Lee (author) on November 01, 2010:

Hi Rucus7,

I can find those items pretty easily in a number of supermarkets and in bakery supply stores. Here in Chiang mai there is enough of a baking crowd to demand such items - and I would think for you, Pattaya would be the closest spot to get your gear.

rucus7 from Rayong, Thailand on October 30, 2010:

John, do you have any idea where I can purchase whole wheat or Rye flour in Thailand??

iliana on October 09, 2010:

I am in my second day of the starter I can't wait to bake my first Sourdough bread!!! THank you for this beautiful information! :)

BigFatBaker from West Lafayette, IN on September 29, 2010:

Definitely bookmarking this for a later time. I don't know if I am ready for this yet but soon hopefully...

mania on September 25, 2010:

You say "Day 1 Mix together 1 cup of whole wheat or rye flour with ¾ cup of water. Make sure that all the dough is wet into a ball. It will be stiff, but don't worry about it." But mine can not be made into a ball... and it is not slightly stiff. Its just a gooey goopey mixture. I am confused.. please clarify.

Chuck C on August 24, 2010:

OK, I totally missed the part about using bread flour on day two and kept using whole wheat flour. Did I mess it all up? It didn't rise as much. But smells good and it got bubbly.

Elya on July 02, 2010:

I am on the final day of the starter process and here is my question: On day 2, my starter grew almost right out of my bowl onto the counter- then deflated. I fed it the next day per instructions and it hasn't grown anymore...I fed it once more to see if that would help. Since it grew into a monster on day 2 does that mean it is active?

John D Lee (author) on June 26, 2010:

Hi aperry,

Yes that is all correct. Best of luck!

aperry on June 25, 2010:

A quick question ... I'm on day three and I'm reading about day 4.

I will take 1 cup of the active (which should be about 1/4 of the total, right, because it will have doubled?) and mix it with 3.5c flour and 2c water. Do I toss the 3/4 rest out?

I gather the active which is 1c start, 3/5c flour, 2c water is what should be used as Mama.

Just want to be sure.



PaisleyGypsy on June 06, 2010:

Can anyone help with a recipe or guide as to how much starter I should use. I have successfully finished making my Sour Dough starter and am keen to start making bread. I have purchased Spelt four and 5 different grains. I am keen to get started.

PaisleyGypsy on June 03, 2010:

Hi John,

I am currently making your starter as described above. Day 2, so far, so good. I am in Australia in the midst of winter, however the house is centrally heated. I would like to know how much starter I need to use to bake a loaf of bread? Can you post a basic bread recipe for me to follow for when my starter is ready to use. Thanks

John D Lee (author) on May 03, 2010:

Thanks very much breadlady - it would be interesting to hear how this turns out!

breadlady on May 03, 2010:

I have been making bread since the age of eight; I'm 56 now. Over the decades, I've made all sorts of interesting breads to the delight of family and friends. One of my earliest childhood memories is of my grandmother making sourdough coconut buns after dinner for breakfast the next morning. We didn't have access to an oven so she cut a large tin in half lengthwise. The buns go into the bottom half that sits over the wood burning stove and the top half is filled with burning coals and placed cutside up over the bottom half. Those were good buns!! Having been diagnosed with diabetes recently, I am rediscovering sourdough breads. At the moment, I'm experimenting with three different types of sourdough starters. A commercial one that I bought in San Francisco (I live in Ontario), one that I cultured from organic rye flour, and one from organic raisins (the store couldn't tell me the raisins' country of origin). Right now all three of them are going through their initial development. I shall be able to taste all three of them in a few days' time. Will let everyone know how they turned out and more importantly, if there is a taste difference; and if there is, which is better.

Bob Hand on April 10, 2010:

I had a starter thet I kept alive for about 35 years, partly in Illinois and partly in Colorado. In addidtion to sourdough bread, I regularly made pancakes, and sourdough sticky buns. I'd take it on camping trips, sleep with the starter in my sleeping bag to let it ferment overnight.

I'm now living in Brazil and your site inspired me to do it again. I'm going to try your method to make a new starter. We'll see how it goes from there. Thanks.

John D Lee (author) on March 25, 2010:

Hi Scottowego,

I'm guessing a cool dark place would be fine - but you'll probably need to feed the starter more regularly. The nice thing about keeping it in the fridge is that you let it rest dormant for a few days between feedings

scottowego on March 25, 2010:

Hi John!

I'm triple batching your starter recipe. My question is do you think it's safe to store it in a cool, dark place instead of the fridge? My container will be too big for my fridge and I'm thinking cooks of olden days on the prairie probably just kept it in a jar somewhere since they didn't have refrigderators! Thanks!

Emily on March 11, 2010:

I followed your instructions. I used tapwater, though, and then I just read that non-chlorinated water is better. Today is day 4. I discarded half of it this morning and then fed it and waited and it has not grown much in size (if at all). I guess I'll just wait and see what it looks like tomorrow morning? Not sure what to do now...maybe it's not a good starter?? This is my second attempt at making my own s.d. starter, and I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. Maybe I need to do much more research. :)

John D Lee (author) on March 02, 2010:

HI Surfereddie - No, I've never been to San Fran - although I'd love to make a sourdough pilgrimage someday!

Sourdoughs do tend to taste different in different areas of the world - but they taste just fine here in Thailand - so I suspect they'd taste equally good in your neck of teh woods.

Best of luck!


surfereddie on March 02, 2010:

John, I'm going to try this today. I'm in Florida, USA and heard that our sourdough is not so good here. I assume you're originally from somewhere else. How does the sourdough taste in Thailand? Have you ever been to San Fransisco? That is my favorite sourdough. Can you put up a Pad Thai recipe with instructions? I've attempted quite a few and still have not found the perfect recipe. I have to believe it's my technique. Thanks for the HUB page.

John D Lee (author) on January 23, 2010:

HI Eva,

I live in Thailand, so I am familiar with the challenges of dealing with a hot kitchen while baking!

Visible mold in your culture is not a good sign. It's happened to me before as well and when it happened to me I was getting some bubbling, but not as much as I should have and they were unusual looking bubbles - it eventually stopped bubbling, as yours did.

I suspect this is a case of a different 'wrong' type of bacteria inhabiting the dough - while in a healthy starter, the right organisms keep smelly and non helpful bacterias away.

It only happened to me once - so I hope it will be a one time negative experience for you too.

Best of luck,


Eva Mulligan on January 21, 2010:

Hi again,

I did the entire procedure up to stage 4. It was bubbly and growing before I added the 3 1/2 cups of flour and two cups of water. I left it to rise for 6 hours (more actually) and nothing! No rise at all. What now? Do i chuck it out? Or keep trying to save it? Thanks :-)

Eva on January 21, 2010:

Hi John D,

Is it normal to have mold (there was a bit around the edges) in the plastic container in stage 3. I'm living in a Caribbean country so the room temp. is elevated but i've been leaving it outside anyway (ie. not in the fridge). So please let me know if you have any advice.

John D Lee (author) on January 18, 2010:

Hi Steve

Sorry myself for the ambiguity.

1. The combined final batch of ingredients is your final ready to use sourdough starter - not a ready finished bread dough.

2. You should not use the remaining starter in the fridge in place of fresh flour in the final bread dough - the dough needs a combination of sourdough starter and new flour for best results.

Best of luck!


Steve Richards on January 18, 2010:

HI John.. Just to clarify, when you say...

"Take 1 cup of your active sourdough starter, and, mix with 3 ½ cups of bread flour and 2 cups of water. Mix together well and cover with plastic wrap. After about 6 hours, the dough should have doubled in size, and become quite bubbly. It is now ready to use in a sourdough bread recipe!

Is that combined batch of ingredients THE final dough for the bread itself, or is that the basis for creating the starter to be added with additional flour to create the dough? Sorry for the ambiguity on my part..

Also the remaining starter in the fridge, can that simply be added to flour to become the final dough for bread making?

John D Lee (author) on December 06, 2009:

Hi Cranwell,

Yes the bread flour on day 2 is used instead of the whole wheat or rye flour from day one.

Best of luck with your sourdough!


Cranwell on December 05, 2009:

Hi John,

This is most informative.

Quick question: I noticed that on Day 2 you suggest using bread flour. Is this to be used in place of the wheat flour used on Day 1?

Many thanks

Deborah on July 08, 2009:

thanks again starters are looking superbly bubbly and have definitely expanded but more like around a third bigger not double.........should i continue to feed and hopefully they'll double in size.....

also when you feed you feed then put straight in fridge or do you have to leave out for a whiile..sorry for all the questions!


John D Lee (author) on July 08, 2009:

Hi Deborah, Here are the relevenat instructions for you:

Once you have an active sourdough starter...

Take 1 cup of your active sourdough starter, and, mix with 3 ½ cups of bread flour and 2 cups of water. Mix together well and cover with plastic wrap. After about 6 hours, the dough should have doubled in size, and become quite bubbly. It is now ready to use in a sourdough bread recipe!

You can use this starter right away, or it can be held in the fridge until you are ready to use it. I keep it in a clean large covered Tupperware container in the fridge, and take it as needed.

The starter is a living thing, and as such it needs to be fed periodically or it will die. You should feed you culture every 3 days, and after every time you use it. To feed it, take away half of the culture, and mix in an equal amount of flour and water in about a 3/2 ratio.

Deborah on July 08, 2009:

Hi John,

thankyou.....also i'm not ready to make bread just i throw half out and feed and leave 24 hours.....a bit confused with all the starter..but have just made a bakers loaf so just not ready to make one with the sourdough!


John D Lee (author) on July 08, 2009:

Hi Deborah, it should be fine - just remember to feed it when you get home (once it has doubled in size)

Deborah on July 08, 2009:

Hi John,

is it ok to leave for more than 6 hours..for example if i am going out or whatever and want to leave it for 10 - 12 hours...what do u think?

i mean the starter with the flour...


Deborah on July 07, 2009:

Hi John,

I am very of my bowls has definitely risen considerably and the other 2 have quite a few bubbles now too!I will need to look at what to do then...when everything has gone as it should.....

That really bubbly one looks ready now!

thanks again for all your help!


John D Lee (author) on July 07, 2009:

Hi Deborah,

I would just repeat the day three procedure for a couple more days, or until it gets good and bubbly!

Deborah on July 07, 2009:

thanks very much again the moment there is just one bubble and it has been added to about 2 hours or so ago....i imagine I would keep repeating procedure day 3 until it works..what do you think?

i am actually making 3 at a hopefully atleast one should work..

one has just has white with rye and one has just white.using alot of flour and time with this procedure!


John D Lee (author) on July 06, 2009:

Hi Deborah,

No don't aim to make it very wet, it's not necessary. It's very possible that when you handled the dough it lost its bubbles, which is not a problem. Try the quantities in the recipe and see what it looks like tomorrow.

Best of luck,


Deborah on July 06, 2009:

Hi John,

I must admit I am a bit confused now....I put the mixture in a container and put glad wrap over container...but lost all its bubbles.......the bubbles looked so good when it was all wrapped in glad wrap. and very moist. I have now followed 3rd day procedure...It is all a bit lumpy and very sticky..all a sticky damper......any ideas why it lost the seemed to me that being really moist helped to create heaps of bubbles....It was definitely moist but not extremely runny like before.

Should I aim to make it really very wet?

Thanks again for all your I first started about 9 days ago on another recipe...the waste of flour with failures is getting rather annoying!


John D Lee (author) on July 05, 2009:

Hi Deborah,

I have always just added the starter to the bowl and covered the bowl with plastic wrap - otherwise things could get messy (as you mentioned) when it starts to grow and expand!

I am glad to hear that it is working out for you (fingers crossed). Keep us posted about how it turns out!


Deborah on July 05, 2009:

actually..i just added ingredients for second day...but added less water...

the starter was so runny...a bit of a sticky i have added extra fflour so it is not all sticky..hope it works

Deborah on July 05, 2009:

Hi John,

sorry,,was thinking of my other mixture..with your recipe i have used biodynamic wholemeal light flour

Deborah on July 05, 2009:

Hi John,

also i was not aware of my flour being low gluten...did not mention it at all on the packet.....i am using biodynamic bakers white flour..

also i am excited to say the starter is expanding as well......thanks very much!! I tried another recipe 8 days ago and don't seem to be having much luck with it..

this mixture of yours seems to be working very is in a warm room with a wood fire going..perhaps around 26 degrees..sometimes a bit warmer!

Deborah on July 05, 2009:

Hi John,

thanks alot is certainly looking really good with lots of bubbles in it...did you mean wrap the starter in glad wrap or cover bowl with glad wrap....I wrapped the actual starter in glad wrap which is what I think you meant......cetainly looks good!The bowl is plenty big enough.

Do you worry at all about the plastic contaminating the mxture?

John D Lee (author) on July 05, 2009:

Hi Deborah,

It sounds as though you are using a low gluten flour and if so you did the irght thing by adding a little extra flour- Don't worry about that, it should be fine.

Are you keeping the starter in a bowl covered with plastic wrap? Make sure you put it in a bowl that is big enough to allow for some rise, as the starter will start to bubble and grow, once it becomes even slightly active.

I hope that this helps. Good luck!

Deborah on July 05, 2009:

Hi John,

thanks very much for your response..still a bit confused.....because when I put 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup water...was more like a paste and would not roll at i must have added atleast 3 tablesppoons of extra flour and sort of turned into a ball..i've since noticed it has kind of oozed out of the glad i put some more plastic wrap around it........

any extra help would be greatly appreciated!

John D Lee (author) on July 04, 2009:

Pedro B.,

Sorry to be so long in replying. You should wait a full 24 hours.

John D Lee (author) on July 04, 2009:

Hi Peggy,

I've started with both and they ultimately taste the same. Peter Reinhart suggest that rye flour can get get things going faster though...

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 04, 2009:

Did you start with the wheat or rye flour? Which ultimately tastes better in the finished product?

John D Lee (author) on July 04, 2009:

Hi PL,

Yes, non chlorinated water is a great idea.

John D Lee (author) on July 04, 2009:

Hi Deborah - sorry for confusinsg you! On the first day you want all of the flour to be hydrated (wet) but the dough to be quite stiff. I just mean that you don't want to leave any losse dry flour in the bowl.

Hope that clarifies

Deborah on July 04, 2009:

I am really confused..I have just done what is required for day one...but don't understand how it can be all wet and stiff at the same time......I added quite a lot of extra flour....more than a it did not form a ball...seemed too wet and would not be able to form a ball with it...

Please tell me how you can have it all wet and stil be stiff?

PL on July 01, 2009:

Does they type of water make a diference? Should we use bottled (non-chlorinated) water?

Pedro B. on May 31, 2009:

Hello John, the average temperature in my kitchen is between 76º-80º. What I'm not very sure is to understand "the moment in which I have to remove half of mixture and add some more". Is dictated by "time every 24hrs" or when "the mixture rise". Thank you, Pedro.

John D Lee (author) on May 30, 2009:

Pedro, are you making this in a very hot room? The instructions above work for people baking in a room temperature environment - in a hot room, things work faster and the starter can go "off"

Pedro B. on May 30, 2009:

Thanks for your response John. However, I'm still not very clear when I have to remove half of the mixture and add flour and water... is it every 24hrs or when the mixture bubbles and begin to rise? here is what's going on...1st Day - Everything went well.2nd Day - Prior the removal of the mixture, moderate bubbles occurred during the 24hr. and some rise as well. The same day 8hrs. after, my mixture bubbled and almost triple its size, shortly after went flat.Any comments?Thanks,Pedro.

John D Lee (author) on May 28, 2009:

I have heard that sometimes the starter in progress can get pretty stinky, although oddly enough, I have ever had that happen (except for one time when I overheated it and it went off).

The different strains of bacteria and yeasts in different environments can make different smells I think; until the good bacteria and yeasts start to dominate. I would give it another day, and see if it doesn't start to smell better - if after the fourth day it still smells terrible, I think you may want to start again.

Best of luck,


Pedro B. on May 28, 2009:

Awesome Process!!! I have a question regarding my sourdough which still in progress. During the third day the mixture had a realy strong smell (like if I was making cheese). I was told that as long there was no fungus it was OK... Any comments?

John D Lee (author) on March 22, 2009:

Hi Patricia,

Yes, you could certainly do that - and once you get your starter really going well -a cup full of sourdough starter makes a great gift for anyone who likes to cook!

patricia Coleman on March 17, 2009:

just one question: instead of discarding half can you use that other half for a second starter?

BreadMaker on October 18, 2008:

Perhaps I've been doing it wrong all along, not to mention a plethora of other folks who've posted century old starter recipes online. What ever happened to the basic 1 cup of flour (your choice), and 1 cup of water? Day 1 - remove about half, add 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of water and so on? Ditto for day 2 and so on until one has their bubbly/frothy starter to then be fed once weekly?

Christy on July 14, 2008:


Thanks for the article! Does the Bread Baker's Apprentice talk about baking other breads w/o the use of fast-acting yeast? I'd like to make more "real" foods in general, and the "fast-acting" yeast doesn't seem to fit.


Melinda on June 09, 2008:


Great page! Thank you for taking the time to keep replying. I made a starter once, but as I had a baby and toddler, I just forgot to feed itand never got around to actually making bread! So! 20 years later, here I am reading up on it and was surprised to read that you can get a 'bad' starter if you get 'bad' spores! Yikes. What are your thoughts on this? I read that you should do mail order to get specific wild spores that have been tested, etc. Seems that it would take 1/2 the fun out of it and they are expensive. Have you ever had a bad batch, one that tasted bad? I would really like to make my own and have my 9 yo. son join in the project. Thanks.

Wes on May 25, 2008:

Hey John

I believe that this article is Hands Down the best article I've been able to find (and boy have I seen alot). I've been using several different resources for my sourdough attempts and your article has all of the info that is not misleading or incomplete. Your wording clears up any confusion that sometimes occurs while explaining yeast cultivation without getting bogged down by technical theory. I REALLY do appriciate your time spent educating the masses on this topic. Thank you!


Jecca on April 12, 2008:

Hi John D Lee,

In regards to the wild spore comment, I have read that the wild spores are actually already present on the grain. If you expose the mixture to the outdoors, it will add other non grain dervived spores, that may change the taste/texture of the bread, and some like this difference other people don't. Its a matter of preference from what I can tell.

Instead of placing the mixture outside, the best way to increase spore content in the begining (if one is worried about this) is to use organic whole grain berries and grind them yourself. Using organic will remove toxic chemicals that disrupt spore growth. Using the whole grain will insure that the bran (which is the outside part that has the most spores on it) is part of the mixture. Grinding the grain itself will insure a fresher starter that also impacts spore growth.

Whole grains make heavy breads but if you just use whole grain for the starter, the difference is minimal and you have a higher quality starter. I have also heard that whole rye berries make the best starters, but I have not noticed a difference myself.


John D Lee (author) on April 07, 2008:

Hi Newnew

Not having much of a rise by three days isn't uncommon. I'd definitely give it another day before assuming the worst. Haviing a rise by the second day is unusual though...

Wait and see - and cross your fingers!

newnew on April 06, 2008:

Hello john lee,

I follow your instruction to make sourdough starter.

Day 1 normal.

Day 2 after first feeding, the batter is rising up but not to double size, before day 3 feeding, it decrease to half.

today is day 3, before feeding it has not rising, only has more small bubble and much sour smell. I feed the batter again threw half out.

I want to know is the batter go to worst, what can I do now, discard it?


John D Lee (author) on April 05, 2008:

I have always built my starters in an open air kitchen - but I think that the spores in the air would be minute enough as to enter inside the home, unless you live in a hermetically sealed environment. Interesting point though. I would wager that it doesn't make a difference - but won't bet the farm on that one!

Anyone have a definate answer?

blackjava from Canada on April 05, 2008:

I love sourdough.

I have done some baking with it but have been lax for a while. I want to start again. I have made a few different starters. I think the best one was made with poataoes. Once it was fermented the fumes would knock you on your butt, but it made great breads.

I have read that with a basic starter it is a good idea to place it outside for a few days, covered with cheese cloth, to collect the wild spores in the air. have you ever done this?

Rachael on March 14, 2008:

It'd be really helpful to have some information on how to actually bake the bread it self, I'm so excited to try it!!

jen on February 05, 2008:

I've followed the Peter Rhinehart method for five days and have a problem that is not covered in the book: my seed culture did not double on the fourth day, so I left it an additional 24 hours on the counter, as directed. Still nothing. So, I went ahead and discarded half and added the one cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. It has been 18 hours and there is no movement; there are bubbles, though. Should I leave it out on the counter for awhile longer? Thanks for any advice.

jenny on January 27, 2008:

The dough you say to discard--what can I use it for? Thanks

Allison on January 15, 2008:

John - Im ready to start my starter - can you point me in the right direction of how to actually bake the sourdough bread? Or can you recommed the procedure yourself?


MrMarmalade from Sydney on November 18, 2007:

ignore the good lsdy, she is jealous at your apparent ease with dough.

Perhaps she thinks you sahould share it

John D Lee (author) on November 09, 2007:

Thanks...Grammar Bitch,

I'll try to be more careful! Maybe you should be too, lol (read your comment)!!

Grammar Bitch on November 06, 2007:

John Lee -

The plural od dough is doughs, not dough's, as in "mix the new and the old doughs together"

Irena on June 19, 2007:

By the way, since you are a cheff, do you know a nice peanut butter sause that is flavourful but not spicy to be used with rice or meat?

Irena on June 19, 2007:

I think you gav e a very simple and honset way of making a huge difference in your menu by adding a "real" bread to it. i loved it and thank you for sharing the info. I am very exited o start one tomorrow monring.

John D Lee (author) on June 13, 2007:

The starter is what you end up with after you have taken your original mixture and added the last flour and water to it, prior to putting it in the fridge, or using it.

I've never tried to use the pre starter for a bread, but since it is bubbly and active, I think that it would work. Sourdough develops flavor and character as the starter ages, and I think that by skipping one step, you would notice some loss in flavor.

Thanks for the comment,


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