Birthing a Starter: A Labour of Yeasty Love

Remember how you have to feed your human and fur/feather/scale etc children?

It’s important for me to mention right at the start of this journey that you will HAVE to remember to feed this starter TWICE a day until she is fantastically active!

It’s a lot to take on for something so seemingly small, but I promise the results you get from a starter fed so regularly, are worth it! Also, you will be able to refrigerate it when you need a break, but it has to be active first.


Before you decide to jump in, make sure you have the following:

  • A Tall Glass Jar/ Container
  • Kitchen Weighing Scales
  • Square of Muslin/Tea Towel/Cheesecloth
  • Clean Hair Tye/Elastic Band
  • Spatula
  • White Flour (Strong Bread Flour OR Plain Flour)
  • Rye Flour (I use dark, but I’m told it doesn’t matter whether it’s dark or light!)
  • Something to mark your jar (Sticker, sharpie, hair band)

Once you have these, you’re set!


Day 1 (Morning)

  1. Start by weighing your jar/container. It’s important you remember this, so if you’re likely to forget then jot it down somewhere.
  2. Leave your container on the scales, and add 100g (yes grams! We are working with weight not volume) of lukewarm water (note: I use boiling water from the kettle mixed with cold tap water. There is no perfection here. Make sure it’s barely warm, NOT HOT.).
  3. Now add 50g of White Flour (I use strong white bread flour, but apparently plain flour works just as well).
  4. Add 50g of Rye Flour.
  5. Mix together using the spatula, scrape down the sides.
  6. Add your square of muslin/cloth to the top of the container, and fix it on securely with the band.
  7. Add a mark on the outside of the jar at the point where your mixture sits. As your starter becomes active over the next 4ish days you will start to see it grow, and it’s really satisfying to know just how much by marking it.
  8. Place your jar in one of the warmer rooms in your house, but not directly over a radiator. It needs warm, not hot. It can become really grim if it gets too hot, ha! (I place it on a top shelf in the dining room. This way it’s out of the reach of the kids, and it’s warm).

Now it’s time to leave it alone for around 24 hours.


Day 2 (Morning)

Have a look for life in there… tiny bubbles, anything. It’s unlikely to be much at this point, but it’s good to get in the habit of paying attention to the appearance as things get going.

The first thing this morning is learning to discard…

In order to keep on top of how big the yeasty beasts get, we have to ‘discard’ some of our starter before every feed.

  1. Weigh your jar.
  2. You need to pour away the mixture until you’re left with 75g of mixture. (My jar weighs 500g, so if I weigh the jar and mixture and it’s 700g then I’ll need to discard 125g of the mixture, leaving me with a combined jar & mixture weight of 575g.)
  3. Keeping your jar on the scales, add in 75g lukewarm water.
  4. Add in 50g White Flour.
  5. Add in 25g Rye Flour.
  6. Mix with your spatula until combined, then scrape down the sides.
  7. Mark the level your starter is at on the outside of the jar again.
  8. Put back into its warm spot.

We are only leaving it for 12 hours this time. We need to come back to it later today.


Day 2 (Evening)

We are repeating this mornings’ feeding instructions again this evening.

This discard and feed process, is a process you’ll become very used to if continuing with sourdough.

  1. Weigh your jar.
  2. You need to pour away the mixture until you’re left with 75g of mixture. (My jar weighs 500g, so if I weigh the jar and mixture and it’s 700g then I’ll need to discard 125g of the mixture, leaving me with a combined jar & mixture weight of 575g.)
  3. Keeping your jar on the scales, add in 75g lukewarm water.
  4. Add in 50g White Flour.
  5. Add in 25g Rye Flour.
  6. Mix with your spatula until combined, then scrape down the sides.
  7. Mark the level your starter is at on the outside of the jar again.
  8. Put back into its warm spot.

Again, we are leaving this only 12 hours before we discard and feed. This is the regular schedule for a really good, active starter.


Day 3 & Day 4

The instructions for day 3 and day 4 (morning and evening) discards and feedings are exactly the same as day 2, so I don’t want to repeat myself and confuse you.

What should be happening around day 3/4 is your starter should be appearing more ‘active’.

An active starter will start to bubble, rise and feel lighter as the days go along.


A very active Sourdough Starter

Once Active

Please follow the above feeding instructions until your starter is doubling in size… I had this happen around day 3 once, but really it can differ depending on flours, temperature etc.

Once I see that amazing growth between feeds, I keep my starter weight to 150g (650g for combined jar and starter weight), because it’s easier for me to keep because I don’t have digital scales.

For 150g my feeding routine sticks to twice a day, but becomes:

  • Add 150g lukewarm water
  • Add 100g White Flour
  • Add 50g Rye Flour

I’m really trying not to put too much information into one post, as I’m no expert and I want to make it simple for beginners, but basically whatever weight of starter you keep, you have to feed it the same weight in water, and then the same weight in flour.


Important Notes

– Once active you CAN feed your starter just white flour (make sure you’re adapting it to be the full flour weight), but it may not stay as active, and if at any point it seems sluggish, just add the rye back in.

– When you’re not immediately planning a bake, you can feed your starter and then pop it in the fridge for a week before needing to feed it again. Take it back out and restart the feeding twice a day a day prior to wanting to bake with it.

– You’ll probably find (very quickly) that you have too much starter for your jar size. It grows a surprising amount sometimes! Haha! I have a 1tr Kilner Jar and it has been known to escape.

– Every now and again you’ll need to use a fresh jar. Just discard into the new jar and feed in there, making sure to weigh the new jar before discarding into it.

– SMELL. It should smell sour, but it shouldn’t smell BAD BAD. If you can smell it as soon as you walk into a room then it’s probably not working right. Anytime I’ve had a starter that’s really stinky, it’s not been successful.

– Needing additional starter? If you’re planning on bulk bakes DON’T leave more starter in one jar (it WILL spill out of the jar when it rises), feed your starter as usual, but pour the discard into an additional jar/container (or even multiple containers) and then feed them up with the same rules as your normal starter. Hey presto! Multiple starter ready to go.

– As above, this is also how to give starter away to people. Discard into a new jar, feed it and give it away! It’s nice to share.


That’s all folks.

I’m not an expert, I don’t pretend to be. But I absolutely LOVE baking with sourdough, and I would love to help people get started, especially around the bake methods for loaves, as I think there’s so many tricky methods out there, that I’m hoping my method will help the fumblers (like myself) out there to get a good rise!

L xxx

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