Activating the Sourdough Starter
- Pour the entire contents of the package into a quart-sized jar or similar container.
- Add ¼ cup room-temperature water; mix well.
- Add ¼ cup flour; stir vigorously.
- Cover with a tight-weave towel or a coffee filter, secured with a rubber band.
- Place in a warm area, 70°-85°F, for 12-18 hours.
NOTE: Maintaining a warm culturing area around the clock is important for successful activation. Consult our article on Cold Weather Care for Starter Cultures if your home is colder than 70°F.
- After 12-18 hours, feed the starter: mix in ½ cup water and a scant ½ cup flour. Stir vigorously to incorporate plenty of air.
- Cover as before and return to the warm spot for 12 hours.
- After 12 hours, discard all but ½ cup starter.
- Mix in ½ cup water and scant 1 cup flour; stir vigorously. Cover as before.
- Repeat steps 8 and 9 every 12 hours, until mixture becomes light and bubbly, typically 3 to 7 days.
- Once starter is bubbling reliably within a few hours of being fed, feed for two more cycles, it is ready for....
- Preparing to Bake or Maintaining Starter at Room Temperature
- Storing in the refrigerator. See below for Weekly Maintenance Feeding for Refrigerated Starter.
- Add packet of starter to 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon water in a quart-size glass jar and stir thoroughly. Cover the jar with a coffee filter or breathable material secured with rubber band and culture in a warm place for 12-24 hours.
- After 12-24 hours, feed the starter with an additional 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons water. Stir vigorously. Your starter should have the consistency of pancake batter, and you may need to add more flour or water.
- After 12-24 hours, feed the starter with an additional ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup water. Stir vigorously.
- After another 12-24 hours, feed the starter with an additional ½ cup of flour and ½ cup water. Stir vigorously
- Every 12-24 hours, discard down to ½ cup of starter and then feed the starter with ½ cup water and ½ cup flour. Continue this feeding schedule, and after 3 to 7 days, your starter will be bubbling regularly within a few hours of feeding.
Using and Maintaining Fresh Starter for Frequent Bakers
When maintained at room temperature, the starter will always be fresh and ready to use for baking within a few hours of being fed.
Use the instructions in this section if your recipe calls for more fresh starter than you currently have ready, or to prepare refrigerated starter for baking.
When stored in the refrigerator, the starter should be brought to room temperature and fed at least 3 times before being used for baking.
- Measure room temperature starter or remove ¼ cup starter from refrigerator.
- Feed the starter with flour and water every 8-12 hours using one of the following methods: If using a scale to measure ingredients, combine equal amounts by weight of starter, water, and flour. For instance, 50 grams of starter, 50 grams of water, 50 grams of flour. If using measuring cups, combine 1 part sourdough starter, 1 part water, and a little less than 2 parts flour. For example, ¼ cup of starter, ¼ cup water and a little less than ½ cup flour.
- Cover; place in a warm area, 70°-85°F, for 12 hours. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have enough starter for your recipe, with a little leftover.
- When preparing to bake, use the fresh starter within 3-4 hours of being fed, to ensure the starter is at its peak of activity.
- Extra starter may be discarded, stored in the refrigerator or kept at room temperature and fed again as above. Always retain at least ¼ cup starter to begin your next project.
Feed your starter once every 12-24 hours using 1 part starter, 1 part water, and 1-2 parts flour (review the instructions included with your starter culture for specific ratios).
We suggest discarding down to 1/4 or ½ cup starter to keep your feedings smaller and your starter manageable.
To build up enough starter to bake with, feed your starter according to the directions above—just don’t discard as you go. Bake with your starter 12-24 hours after the last feeding.
Weekly Feeding for Refrigerated Starter
If you bake infrequently, storing your sourdough starter in the refrigerator may be more practical. The refrigerated starter should be fed weekly, to keep it healthy. To prepare the starter for baking, see the instructions above for Using and Maintaining Fresh Starter.
- Remove at least ¼ cup starter from refrigerator. Discard remaining starter.
- Feed starter with flour and water: If using a scale to measure ingredients, combine equal amounts by weight of starter, water, and flour. For instance, 50 grams starter, 50 grams water, 50 grams flour. If using measuring cups, combine 1 part starter, 1 part water, and a little less than 2 parts flour. For instance, ¼ cup starter,¼ cup water, slightly less than ½ cup flour.
- Cover; let starter sit for 1-2 hours, until light and bubbly.
- Put a tight lid on jar and return it to the refrigerator.
- If maintaining both fresh and refrigerated starter, extra fresh starter may be added to refrigerated starter for weekly feedings, instead of performing steps 1-3
In colder temperatures, your starter goes into hibernation, and you don’t need to feed it as often. Feed it every 5 to 7 days just like you would keeping it on your counter.
Be sure to plan ahead when baking with a refrigerated starter, as it needs to come to room temperature and be fed 2-3 times according to the counter top instructions before baking.
Note About Discarded Starter
While it may seem wasteful to discard extra starter, maintaining a large amount of starter for infrequent baking would use large amounts of flour over time. For more information on why we recommend discarding starter, and for recipes for using discarded starter, consult our article, How to Use Discarded Sourdough Starter.
Below are PDF versions of instructions for all of our Sourdough Starter Cultures. You can view them on the web, download them to your computer, or print them.