a loaf of sourdough bread on a cutting board

Welcome to the newest post in our series, “How to Make Sourdough Bread.” Today’s post is ALL about how to make a sourdough starter completely from scratch in one week just using flour and water — and a little know-how. I’ll take you step by step through everything so the process is a breeze. BONUS: Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a free printable starter feeding schedule!

HI HELLO. Are we ready for this? Do we have all the essential sourdough tools in place and a ridiculous eagerness to continue our sourdough bread baking journey? Good. I’m excited, too.

Today’s post is all about how to make a sourdough starter from scratch. If you follow along with me, in about a week’s time you’ll have a thriving, bubbly, happy starter. You should name it, too — that’s totally a thing. Say hello to Lucille III.


a loaf of sourdough bread on a napkin with a knife next to it

A FEW TIPS BEFORE WE GET STARTED

A few things that are important to know before we dive into this sourdough starter journey:

1. The ideal storing place for a starter is somewhere warm, around 73-77 degrees F. For me, this is in my oven with the light turned on. I place it on a baking sheet for some stability on the grates and, depending on how quickly it rises/falls, will move it closer to or farther away from the oven light to adjust its growth rate. Some people use a proofing box to maintain exact temperatures for their starters at all times. Others will store it on top of the refrigerator or high up in a cabinet. It all works — just be sure to keep it somewhere in your home that averages 73-77 degrees F.

2. In the first few days of creating a starter, you’re unlikely to see too much activity. Some people experience a surge in their starters in the first day or two, but that’s never happened for me. Regardless, in about 7-9 days I’ve developed happy, healthy starters — but for others, it may take even longer. Don’t stress! If you follow the directions, it will happen for you.

3. The formula for this sourdough starter is not absolute. I have tried starters with different amounts of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, or just all-purpose flour, and I know some people use rye flour for their starters, as well. It all works — the important thing is that once you start feeding your starter with a certain flour(s), it’s best to keep feeding it with those flours.

4. Review my post on essential sourdough tools for the best options on a starter jar, kitchen scale, spatula, flours and water.

5. Generally speaking, I feed my starter every 12 hours — around 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. When you first start feeding a starter, you’ll only do it once a day, and I’d recommend starting with the morning time to stay on track. So, on day one, feed your start at 8 am., day two at 8 a.m. and so forth until you begin to feed it twice a day — 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. You can refer to the printable schedule at the bottom of this post for the full rundown.

6. I place a rubber band around my starter jar where my starter, once stirred, is at its full height. This helps me to visualize how much the starter grows over the course of the day, which is important to be aware of once your starter is mature and behaving predictably (after a week or so) so you know how warm of a setting in which to keep it. If it grows too quickly, it will fall after just 10, 8, even 6 hours, and if you let a starter fall too much after it has reached its peak before another feeding, it can turn the flavor in a bad, sad way. We want the starter to rise to its peak after about 10-12 hours, tops, so we can feed it at its peak and stay on schedule. As I mentioned above, for me that means sometimes moving the starter closer to my oven light, farther away from my oven light or even sometimes leaving it in the oven with the light off, depending on what my high-tech rubber band method is telling me. Again, the ideal temperature is 73-77 degrees F.

OK, I think that covers the basics! LET’S GET STARTED.

sourdough starter in a jar

sourdough starter in a jar

DAY ONE

Congrats! You’re already on your way to the best sourdough bread of your life. To get started, place your starter jar on a kitchen scale. Tare the weight so it reads “0”, then to the jar add 100g whole wheat flour and 150g distilled water at room temperature. Stir the mixture vigorously with a spatula until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the starter jar loosely with a lid (enough to allow air flow but to keep anything from going into the jar or out). Place your jar in a warm place (see above for options) and let rest for 24 hours.

sourdough starter in a jar

sourdough starter in a jar

DAY TWO

As I said before, at this point you may see a ton of activity, or you may see little to none. Either way, it’s good. Place a clean starter jar on a kitchen scale. Tare the weight so it reads “0”, then to the jar add 75g of your starter, 50g whole wheat flour, 50g unbleached all-purpose flour and 125g distilled water at room temperature. Stir the mixture vigorously with a spatula until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the starter jar loosely with a lid, and place somewhere warm for 24 hours. Discard your excess starter.*

*NOTE: I wouldn’t recommend using your sourdough discard for another recipe yet, such as pancakes, since it’s so young and void of flavor and growth. We’ll use the discard later. But if you’re really bummed about wasting it right away, you can compost it.

sourdough starter in a jar

sourdough starter in a jar

DAY THREE

Again, at this point you are unlikely to see too much activity — maybe a few bubbles here and there, but nothing too outrageous. Mine even has a little hooch, aka the rim of water on top, meaning it has run out of food and is beyond ready to eat. This is normal — stir it in and carry on. Place a clean starter jar on a kitchen scale. Tare the weight so it reads “0”, then to the jar add 75g of your starter, 50g whole wheat flour, 50g all-purpose flour and 125g distilled water at room temperature. Stir the mixture vigorously with a spatula until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the starter jar loosely with a lid, and place somewhere warm for 24 hours. Discard your excess starter.

sourdough starter in a jar

sourdough starter in a jar

DAY FOUR

Heyo! Today, we might start seeing some real activity — this is exciting! You may see a few bubbles forming on the surface or throughout the starter, and it might even have a slight hint of a sour smell. If you don’t, do not worry! Some starters just take their sweet time.

Today is the first day that we’ll feed our starter twice in one day, so plan accordingly. You’ll feed your starter from here on out about every 12 hours.

In the morning, place a clean starter jar on a kitchen scale. Tare the weight so it reads “0”, then to the jar add 75g of your starter, 50g whole wheat flour, 50g all-purpose flour and 125g distilled water at room temperature. Stir the mixture vigorously with a spatula until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the starter jar loosely with a lid, and place somewhere warm for 12 hours. Discard your excess starter.

In the evening, repeat the process exactly as written above.

sourdough starter in a jar

sourdough starter in a jar

DAY FIVE

Today we should start seeing some serious activity in our starter — lots of bubbles, a slight sour smell, maybe even a little rise and fall. Again, if you don’t, do not panic. It’ll happen!

In the morning, place a clean starter jar on a kitchen scale. Tare the weight so it reads “0”, then to the jar add 75g of your starter, 50g whole wheat flour, 50g all-purpose flour and 125g distilled water at room temperature. Stir the mixture vigorously with a spatula until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the starter jar loosely with a lid, and place somewhere warm for 12 hours. Discard your excess starter.

In the evening, repeat the process exactly as written above.

DAY SIX

I don’t have photos of this day because my starter basically looks identical to the way it did on day five. Let’s keep feeding!

In the morning, place a clean starter jar on a kitchen scale. Tare the weight so it reads “0”, then to the jar add 75g of your starter, 50g whole wheat flour, 50g all-purpose flour and 125g distilled water at room temperature. Stir the mixture vigorously with a spatula until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the starter jar loosely with a lid, and place somewhere warm for 12 hours. Discard your excess starter.

In the evening, repeat the process exactly as written above.

sourdough starter in a jar

sourdough starter in a jar

DAY SEVEN

OK, friends. Here is where the magic happens. Today, or maybe in a few days, or maybe even a week from now, you should start to see your starter pick up activity. What this means — there are bubbles all throughout the starter; it smells sour but in a fresh, wheat-y way and not in a pungent, off-putting way; it rises and falls predictably (usually a starter rises over the course of 10-12 hours, then plateaus for an hour or two, then begins to fall. You want to aim to feed it at its peak, just before or just after it begins falling). All of these are signs that we have a mature starter.

In the morning, place a clean starter jar on a kitchen scale. Tare the weight so it reads “0”, then to the jar add 50g of your starter, 50g whole wheat flour, 50g all-purpose flour and 100g distilled water at room temperature. Stir the mixture vigorously with a spatula until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the starter jar loosely with a lid, and place somewhere warm for 12 hours. Discard your excess starter.

In the evening, repeat the process exactly as written above.

sourdough starter in a jar

sourdough starter in a jar

DAYS EIGHT AND BEYOND

Today is a big day. Today, you’re either staring at a mature, ready-to-bake-with starter, or you’re staring at a starter that still needs some love. If the latter is your case, DO NOT FRET. I’ve been there, and I promise you with a little bit of time, patience and TLC, your beloved starter will get its act together.

IF YOUR STARTER IS RISING AND FALLING PREDICTABLY at this point, follow this schedule: In the morning, place a clean starter jar on a kitchen scale. Tare the weight so it reads “0”, then to the jar add 20g of your starter, 50g whole wheat flour, 50g all-purpose flour and 100g distilled water at room temperature. Stir the mixture vigorously with a spatula until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the starter jar loosely with a lid, and place somewhere warm for 12 hours. Discard your excess starter.

In the evening, repeat the process exactly as written above.

At this point, you can continue to feed your starter in this exact way, twice a day, until you’re ready to bake. We’ll talk next week about storing your starter in the fridge for a week so you don’t have to give it such constant attention!

IF YOUR STARTER IS NOT YET RISING AND FALLING PREDICTABLY at this point, follow this schedule: In the morning, place a clean starter jar on a kitchen scale. Tare the weight so it reads “0”, then to the jar add 50g of your starter, 50g whole wheat flour, 50g all-purpose flour and 100g distilled water at room temperature. Stir the mixture vigorously with a spatula until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the starter jar loosely with a lid, and place somewhere warm for 12 hours. Discard your excess starter.

In the evening, repeat the process exactly as written above. Continue to feed your starter in this exact way, twice a day, until you begin to see it rise and fall predictably each day (again, ideally reaching its peak at 10-12 hours so you can feed it at its peak). Once you see that happen, start feeding it in the above method (with 20g starter) until you’re ready to bake.

As promised, below is the free printable starter feeding schedule. Print it out, place it on your fridge or tape it to the inside of a cabinet, and use it as an easy reference for bringing your starter to life.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE PRINTABLE SOURDOUGH STARTER FEEDING SCHEDULE HERE

OK, that was a short novel. I hope this was helpful to you! As always, refer to the previous posts in this series for more information and be sure to share your own sourdough journey with #GVDsourdough — I would LOVE to see what you’re up to (and what you’ve named your starter, obviously). Finally, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below, e-mail me, or send me a message on Instagram or Facebook.

Finally, a huge thank you to The Perfect Loaf for helping me develop my starter. This method is adapted from the method he shares on his blog.

READY TO BAKE? Here’s the next post: How to Make My Favorite Sourdough Bread Recipe.