The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Best sourdough cultures to buy

MasterChef's picture

Best sourdough cultures to buy

Hello, i'm from Italy and next month i will fly to NYC for a short vacation.

I would like to start sourdough bread and i'll buy a sourdough culture to be ready when i'm back home.

There are several types of sourdough starter (french, sanfrancisco..) , wich one could be considered the most flavour and easy to mantain ?

It's important to buy  cultures with no flavor additives and  absolutely no  Baker's yeast inside.

You know any place in New yORK ?

Thank You.

jp's picture

I've been making my own wheat starter and the best sourdough bread : 100% natural and organic since I buy organic flour. Are you sure you'd like to buy what is only flour and water mixed together  on a regular basis ? Nothing easier than that ... check any receipe about wheat starter and PLEASE don't get intimidated by the procedure : feed it twice a day then once a day then once a week (if you keep it in the fridge) and that's it. When it's getting bubly and has a chocolat mousse texture you've got a winner and can start baking your bread.

good luck,

jp in L.A. (not SF though!)

MasterChef's picture

I've heard that some cultures were born 200 years ago thats for sure better than a new one.

Second i need something ready to use cause for christmas i've some request from my friends.

In any case could u give me some link just to start myself with a culture ?

Thank you.

RobynNZ's picture

Hi there

Go to the top of the page, you will find in the black banner: Home, Forum, Lessons, then Handbook. Under handbook, click bread basics, then ingredients, then sourdough starter.  That will take you to an easy to do method for making a starter. 

It would be a good idea to read the following too:

The last one is  a daily record (with photos) comparing use of water only and pineapple juice in making a sourdough starter.

It is true it takes a bit of time for the starter to reach its full potential, but if you follow the procedure outlined, it will be making good bread before Christmas. Actually opinion varies regarding the age of a starter. Some people choose to start a new one from time to time while others like their 'old' starter.

Make good use of the search box top left too, there is a wealth of information to be gleaned from the archives.

Have fun!



JoeV's picture

Dried starter is your best option to get a starter going, as it transfers easily. I keep a couple of ounces of my dried starter in a sealed jar in the freezer in case of a disaster. I also give it away to anyone who wants some (complete with directions) by sending me a self addressed stamped envelope. I can be contacted by e-mail at

I would like to clear up some confusion about regional starters like San Francisco sourdough starter. The flavor imparted in your bread formula by the starter is unique to the geographic location of the starter. If you get a sample of SF starter and move it to Milwaukee, within a week or so the flavor will change to that of a Milwaukee starter. This is because the micro orgamisms in starters are constantly dying and being replace by airborn yeast organisms at the home of the starter. There are different ways of altering the flavor by changing flour, etc., but at the end of the day, the starter and its flavor is unique to where you store your starter. Even when the pioneers crossed the country, thier starter "evolved" in flavor as they moved west. The SF starter is very unique in its flavor, because of its geographic location. If you took that starter to Idaho it would not taste the same within a week or so.

In short, it matters not where you get a starter from, as it will become your own flavor very soon. It's more important to get a dried starter or a fresh sample of an existing starter. You could try contacting a local bread bakery and see if they would sell or give you some of their starter. You only need an ounce or two to get going.

ehanner's picture


Would you have any evidence to back up your statements about the flavor of starters becoming adapted to the region?

This is one area where we should park the old wives tales at the door. There isn't much science on the side of those who want everyone to believe that only San Francisco can make "that" bread. It's a great bit of marketing but, that's all it is.

And what of Dr. Ed Woods, who claims he has exotic cultures from around the world? Tested and verified in laboratory studies.

And what about the La Brea Bakery in LA winning the best sourdough bread blind folded challenge, 2 years in a row?

It's complicated.


Meat Loaf's picture
Meat Loaf

Why is a 200 years old sourdough culture better than a new one? I made some sourdough starter from dry yeast, flour and water a couple of weeks ago, why isn't that as good as an old one do you mean?

LindyD's picture

That November 2009 comment about the 200-year-old sourdough culture is just a myth.   Wonderful breads can be created from newly matured sourdough, as they can be from older ones.   

BTW,  quoting from the TFL Handbook Glossary (

Sourdough: a preferment that is a culture of wild yeast and bacteria that is perpetuated by the periodic addition of flour and water, or a bread leavened in whole or part by this culture.

Technically, dry yeast isn't used when creating a sourdough culture.  Flour and water (or pineapple juice) will do just fine as the wild yeast is present in the flour.  

Regardless of the preferment you use, all that counts is your own satisfaction with the breads you bake.

Meat Loaf's picture
Meat Loaf

What do you mean by that dry yeast isn't used when creating a sourdough culture? Does my sourdough not contain real sourdough culture?

Regardless of the preferment you use, all that counts is your own satisfaction with the breads you bake.

I really have no preferences, so I don't know if my sourdough is good relative other kinds of sourdough or not. I think my sourdough bread tastes good, but I can imagine that it's possible to make much better. I just started to make sourdough and sourdough bread because I thought it seemed interesting.

I don't know anything about other kinds of cultures. Does sourdough made from dry yeast give bread that tastes more like normal bread (made from yeast) than other kinds of sourdough bread? Is there a big difference between this sourdough and other kinds of sourdough? (I don't think I want to buy one from here yet, though, since I'm still trying to figure out how to keep it alive in the freezer. I tried to freeze down a batch before but now when it's thawed up it doesn't really seem to be alive anymore.)

By the way, can sourdough bread be made with self-raising flour, or is that cheating?

wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

I just ordered some Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter. He started a tradition of giving it away and his friends have continued in his memory. It has been in his family since 1847. Check it out.


Royall Clark's picture
Royall Clark

Thanks for the link Wayne. I just may give that a try! I've got the pineapple starter but it wouldn't hurt to have this just to compare to!



rottenfood's picture

The topic of which starter always presents the question of do they retain their regional taste enhancing characteristics. In my area, mild tang has been the best I can do, while friends near San Diego have to work to tone it down.

Either the culture persists with it's characteristics - cause the bacteria continue propagating, or they are overwhelmed by the continual introduction of different bugs.  There seems to be no definitive evidence to show which it is. Has anyone come across studies that speak to this?

Many Thx.


logdrum's picture

In either C & C or BBA, he mentions the isolation of a culture from SF that includes the designation "sanfranciscus" or something like that. He goes on to make the assertion that eventually, all starters become regional.



kmrice's picture

I've been using a starter which my sister, who lives in Alaska, gave me in 1973. It is reputed to be from the gold rush, which would make it well over 100 years old.  I can only vouch for the last 39 years. I kept it in Syracuse for about 8 years, Georgia for about 5 and Virginia for the last 26.

Recently, reading about grapefruit starters in Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, I thought it would be interesting to try starting one. The method worked well, and I achieved a very active starter without using any commercial yeast.

After it regular cutting and feeding for about three weeks, I found that the starter acted pretty much identical to my Alaskan starter. The bread was the same.

I don't know whether my Alaskan starter had, over the years, been taken over by Virginia flora, or whether the last 26 years of frequent use had so loaded my kitchen with Alaska flora that any sourdough started in my kitchen is now Alaskan, but the two starters act the same and produce the same results.


Meat Loaf's picture
Meat Loaf

This is just a guess, but I rather think that your Alaskan starter became not so Alaskan anymore when you took it from Alaska and started to feed it with another kind of flour.

My theory is that for every kind of flour, there is one kind of bacteria that will reproduce faster than any other kind of bacteria in a starter made from that flour, and if there is just little of that kind of bacteria in the starter (one bacteria is enough), that kind of bacteria will increase in amount relative to the other kinds of bacteria and will always eventually take over and start to dominate the other kinds. This makes a starter extremely unstable if you start to feed it with another kind of flour regularly. It is likely that one of those other kinds of bacteria, which reproduce faster for the new flour than the kind of bacteria that is currently in the starter, will slip in there eventually, and in that case the starter will start to host that kind of bacteria culture instead. Am I right? Did that make any sense?

Meat Loaf's picture
Meat Loaf

...Which would of course mean, I don't think either that it matters which starter you start with, in the end all that matters is what you feed it with, i.e. which flour.