This Post takes you step by step through the fermentation prosses of a sourdough starter as it turns from water and flour into your very own starter.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. This post may contain affiliate links. For more information see my full disclosure here.
“I like reality. It tastes like bread.” —Jean Anouilh
Before we get into it, I’d like to say that this is a long and very detailed version of making a sourdough starter. In this post, I’ll be walking you through exactly what a starter looks like, smells like, and how it changes as it turns from water and flour into a live active starter. A step-by-step, day-by-day tutorial for those who want to know any and everything about what happens when you make a sourdough starter. As well as I few things I learned along the way as a sourdough newbie. Things like why you discard half the starter each day. What a hooch is, and what to do if your starter develops one.
I will also be posting a much shorting and straight-to-the-point tutorial for making a sourdough starter from scratch as well.
Making a sourdough starter has been on my list of things to do for a very long time now. Both I and my Mum had tried making it a time or two before, but either something when wrong, or we were just too new to sourdough. We didn’t know things like you can still use your starter even after it’s been forgotten in the fridge for a month. Regardless of how or why our past starters had failed, I knew that someday I would try again. And after months and months of putting it off, I decided that now was the time. No more excuses. And so I challenged myself to make a starter and keep it alive.
Here are the first seven days in the life of my sourdough starter.
Supplies and Ingredients
A glass container or jar to store your starter in
a wooden spoon or spatula
a glass or wooden measuring cup
flour-I used Einkorn
Don’t use anything metal for your starter!
Day One- Starting your sourdough starter
Not much happens on the first day of making a sourdough starter. For day one all you do is combine 1 cup of filtered water and 1 cup of flour in a jar or bowl. Mix it, until it looks like pancake batter. Then cover with a tea towel or a loose-fitting lid(don’t make it airtight) and set in a cool dry spot in your kitchen. I just set mine on the counter, just about anywhere will work for storing your starter just make sure it’s kept out of the sun and isn’t in a spot that is overly cold. And that’s all for day one.
Needless to say, a sourdough starter is pretty easy to start. Just don’t forget to set a reminder or leave yourself a note so you remember to feed it again in 24 hours.
The pictures above are actually from when I fed it the second day. I took a video of making it the first day but forget to get pictures! You can find the video over on my Instagram
Day Two -Before and After Feeding the Sourdough Starter
On day two you discard half of the sourdough mixture then add 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of filtered water. Mix well. Cover and place it back on the counter.
Sourdough starter ferments slowly so don’t worry if your starter doesn’t look like it’s done anything. This is what the process and the starter are supposed to look like.
On day two the starter smells slightly sour and looks about like you would expect a jar of flour and water that sat on the counter overnight to look like.
Why Do You Discard Half the Starter?
Primarily because if you didn’t you would have more starter by the end of the week you’d know what to do with. You discard half to keep your starter at a more manageable size, and so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Some people save the discard, but I don’t really see the point, since all you are really doing is creating a second starter which would then defeat the whole purpose of discarding, to begin with.
It might seem a little wasteful, and I’ll admit that just throwing out half your starter sounds a bit strange. But this is one of those things in life where you have to trust the process and trust me by the end of the week you will have plenty of fresh bubbly sourdough starter!
Days three-five. before/after feeding the Sourdough Starter
On days 3-5 repeat the steps you followed on day two. Discard half the starter then feed it 1 cup of filtered water and 1 cup of flour. Mix, cover, and return to its spot on the counter.
The starter has started to ferment nicely. It was very bubbly and smelled very yeasty. It started bubbling again right away after I finished stirring in the new flour and water.
The starer is definitely starting to smell sour, but still very yeasty. Mine was also a bit more separated than the day before.
The starter smelled very sour today, it was also very separated again. But still very bubbly and alive.
Day 6 and 7
On days six and seven, you repeat the same process as before except now you feed the starter every 12 hours instead of every 24 hours.
The starter smelled sour and like yeast, and is definitely live. It’s really fun watching it bubble back up after taking out the discard for the day.
I did learn(a little late) that the water settling on top of the starter, is called a hooch. it can be drained off or stirred in to give your starter more flavor. Whichever you chose it should be done before discarding and feeding.
The hooch is actually a good sign in a way, as it means your starter is fermenting and alive. But it also means that your starter is hungry and needs to feed more. Basically in my case, I should have switched it feeding it every 12 hours instead of every 24 hours a bit sooner than I did. Or increased the amount I was feeding it.
The starter smells good and sour today and looks great, it’s bubbly and alive. I did feed it a little extra for the second feeding yesterday and that seemed to do the trick. There was no hooch on it this morning!
After the first seven days, you should have enough good bacteria and yeast, to start using your sourdough starter for bread, pancakes, and just about anything else that calls for a starter!
I’m super excited to have a starter that turned out and amazed by everything I’ve learned in only a week, I know this is a lot more left to learn, and honestly, I can’t wait to dive deeper into the world of sourdough. And I hope I have in some way or another encouraged you to try making your own from-scratch sourdough starter!
Also, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to anyone that actually made it through this very long and overly detailed version of making a sourdough starter, I had a lot of fun working on this post and documenting the start of my sourdough journey!
Great visuals of what each day looks like before and after feeding. Nice to know what to expect when first starting out as well!
I have been meaning to start sourdough for so long… thanks for the concise directions!
My sourdough journey is just starting as well! This is going to be great fun 😉
I always wanted to start a sourdough starter myself. Very helpful blogpost. Thank you!
Love the easy step-by-step instructions and pics. Thanks so much for sharing!