The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Purchased Dried Starter Reactivation Survey

Candy_DaMilleri's picture

Purchased Dried Starter Reactivation Survey

  1. I see lots of people promoting Sourdough International's dry cultures on this forum; has anyone had any negative experiences with their cultures?
  2. Has anyone had any luck with dried cultures from any other companies?


greydoodles's picture

Can't help you with info on Sourdough International's dry cultures.

I have reactivated starters from and I used the instructions from for both, and both were bubbly and active in two days, though the breadtopia one seemed the most active at first. I have made bread with the breadtopia starter. Nice. The nybakers one is only a week old, is looking good, but has not yet been used. has a video on the site about reactivating dry starter. Well worth watching. Yeah, I watched it several times.

I purchased the one from breadtopia. I noticed the New York Bakers offered three, free starters, so I added one to an order I placed with them.

Before attempting the dry starters, I played with a yeast-flour-water starter and read tons of info on the internet about sourdough starters. The yeast-flour-water starter is very healthy and makes good bread, but it now has a permanent place in the fridge and is pulled out and fed weekly. It's my backup if needed.

I have some of the dry starters stored in my freezer. There was plenty left over from breadtopia (they included enough for several tries) and a smidgen from nybakers.

ryeaskrye's picture


I have SDI's South African Whole Wheat and have had no trouble with it at all. It proofs quickly and has an unique flavor. I like the starter quite a bit. I also had their SanFran and it worked well, but eventually replaced it with one from a friend in CA. SDI starters work quite in my personal opinion, but I think they are a bit pricey.

When I first started out 3 years ago, I also purchased 2 starters from Teresa at Northwest Sourdough [], her Desem Whole Wheat and her own Northwest and still have them both going. They both became quite active within a couple of days of receipt. Each works quite well.

In addition, I have my own rye starter started from scratch and another Desem created by a fellow baker from all organic WW.

I received the 3 free starters from Stan at NYB with an order I placed there, but have not got around to activating them as yet...too many beasts to feed already.

If your concern is whether dried starters work, I would say most certainly. Many bakers create dried starters at home as a method of backing up/archiving their own precious pets.


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

My starter originated from NY Bakers. It was active within two days and has been dependable ever since. It will feed on any good flour I add in the refreshment and can be ready in an easy refreshment after an 8 day vacation in the fridge. I dried some of my starter as a backup and to pass around to other bakers. I got a new starter from the backup in less than two days when I visited my parents in Massachusetts at Christmas.

In the next couple of months I'll be trying out some Kansas organic flours from Heartland Mills and Norm's Flour in the refreshments just out of curiosity since I live in Kansas. If it all works out, I'm going to work on an entry for our local county fair in August.

davidg618's picture

from King Arthur Flour, and I was dissapointed, As my knowledge of the care and feeding of sourdough starter grew, I still couldn't coax comparable vigor out of their sourdough starter, compared to my second starter bought from:

I've been using this starter for about 10 months, and am very happy with it. I keep two versions, both at 100% Hydration. One I feed with First Clear flour, and the other with Bread Flour (both KA brand). The first one I use to develop more acidity, the second I use when I want a less sour taste. Both are vigorous. I routinely complete bulk fermentation in 2 - 3 hours, and final proof in 90 - 135 min. depending mostly on the percentage of starter in the final dough (25% - 40%) equally well with both starter versions.

Today I initiated a packet of Ed Wood's Italian (Ischia Island) sourdough culture on the recommendation here on TFL by professional baker Alpine who ocassionally posts. I purchased it curious to compare it with my established starters. Obviiously, it's too early to comment. Sourdough International is at:

David G.

davidg618's picture

Three days ago, I initiated Sourdough International's Italian (Ischia Island) sourdough starter. Yesterday, morning using 19g of that starter, which had been fed three times; and spent it's first 12 hours at approximately 90°F, and the next 24 hours at 76°F, I initiated my usual three-build formula ready levain creation. At 11PM last night it was obvious the formula ready levain would peak at about 2PM, consequently I threw away 250g (half) of the third build, and added back 125g each of flour and water.

At 7:00 AM this morning I mixed 500g of the formula-ready levain made with the three day-old Ischia Island starter, with flour, water and salt to make what I've nicknamed 010110 Sourdough  (because I created the formula on Jan 1, 2010). Here's a picture of the results.

This is why I choose to buy dry starter, from vendors with good reputations, rather than create my own starters. Please, I admire all of you that work diligently to create sourdough starters from scratch; that's just not where my head is at. My mission is to provide my family, and a few friends and neighbors with good bread. Supporting that mission are three main priorities: flavor, mouthfeel (texture, crust and crumb), and eye-appeal. Building my own starter is not high on my priority list.

David G.

greydoodles's picture

Nice looking bread!

I'm with you on purchasing a dry starter from a reputable vendor. After originally playing with a yeast-flour-water starter (tad of sugar too) and using it for my learning curve, I wasn't about to fool with a natural starter from scratch when there are so many starters available at reasonable prices. If I had a friend with a sourdough starter, I would have gone that route.

Now I have my original practice starter and two purchased starters, all happy and active, and I cannot come up with a rational excuse to buy any more starters. Darn! It's kinda fun to watch them become active and to feed them for awhile before refrigerator storage. My next step is to focus on making bread. I'm still lousy at kneading, and I tend to lose focus before baking the bread, but practice will take of those problems.

robadar's picture

I have used their dry cultures a number of times with good success in terms of activation.  Now, I cannot say the same for "Gold Coast."



Candy_DaMilleri's picture

Wood's, Teresa's & Carl's Dried Starters


I regularly bake my own sourdough bread and was very disappointed with Sourdough International's dried cultures. I tried to reactivate several using the instructions included and I also compared these instructions with the standard instructions in Ed Wood's two books "Classic Sourdoughs" and "World Sourdoughs From Antiquity". Each time I got the same poor results. After 14-25 hours there was a very vigorous and foul smelling foam separating out on the top. After 10 plus days of following the feeding schedule and following the written instructions for washing the mixtures, there was never any evidence of a healthy functional starter. Mr. Wood did not have any helpful suggestions and never offered any compensation or replacements.

Undeterred, I decided to try another company so I ordered a dried San Francisco culture from Teresa at Northwest Sourdough. Her instructions were a little different (activation at room temperature instead of Mr. Woods' 30°C/86°F) , but I had the same foul contamination take hold again at round 34 hours with no improvements after several days of feeding. The BIG DIFFERENCE was that she was very helpful in resolving the issue and promptly mailed me two replacements free of charge. I now have one of her San Francisco starters bubbling some of my doughs.

My biggest surprise was the free (plus SASE) dried culture from Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough. It reactivated from a dried state perfectly and was ready to bake after 43-48 hours.

So the old saying "you get what you pay for" is not always true (in CAD):

  1. $50 Sourdough International, Failed each time, No Replacement Offered
  2. $20 Northwest Sourdough, Good the second time, Prompt Replacement & Very Helpful
  3. $2 Carl Griffith's 1847, Excellent reactivation, Helpful
  4. $Free local baker, Excellent-wet culture, Helpful
tananaBrian's picture

Question:  Did you start your Carl Griffith's starter from a different bag or brand of flour?  The timing and smell issues that you mention sound like what this thread talks about:

If so, then I would suspect the flour more than the starter... chances are, given more time, the stinky starters would've worked OK ...IF my guess is right.  I've started many new starters from scratch and have seen a variety of 'early stages' that go away as the starter matures: early hooch or lots of hooch, stinky or musty, puke smelling, gelatinous and globby, dead flat starter, etcetera.  The 'good' bacilli and yeast overcome these things however, and I've never had a starter fail ...and I've been baking with sourdough for (gosh!) 35 years now.  The key is to not quit, keep going, trust the glop!  I used to ferment my starters at 85 F or so, but no longer.  I find that room temperature works just fine and seems to improve the flavor profile, e.g. 70-75 F.



greydoodles's picture

It was my understanding that if you use someone's dried starter, it should be a functioning starter in a matter of days since it is already a mature starter but in dried form. It is not like doing a starter from scratch and going through the various maturing stages.

tananaBrian's picture

I agree, but I wonder if the dried starter either wasn't very viable or was too small of a sample ...would the infection that's mentioned in the pineapple starter method be able to retard or inhibit the growth of the new?  Hard to say without experimenting, but the timing and funky smell thing sounded awfully familiar...



greydoodles's picture

I have tried two different dried starters, and I only used 1/2 teaspoon of each to reactivate. Both were bubbly and expanding in two days, and both are doing well and smelling great after one month for one and two months for the other. Their scents are slightly different but good with each. If 1/2 teaspoon is sufficient for good reactivation, the problem is probably the dried starter.

3 Olives's picture
3 Olives

I bought King Arthur's and it has been perfect. I kept one plain and converted 1 to rye and 1 to whole wheat. All 3 are thriving.

Yumarama's picture

Way back when I though making my own was impossible (and gone through most of a 10 Lb bag of flour trying), I broke down and ordered Carl's. It arrived just as Mini got my own starter woes under control but I fired some up anyway. It went like gangbusters pretty much immediately following their reviving steps.

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

At the suggestion of Alpine, I also ordered the Ischia Island starter, along with Mr. Wood's book. That has been interesting and many of his methods differ considerably from what are advocated here. His methods use volume measures......I suspect for simplicity's sake, but as such, his recommendations are for a "wet" starter......about 110% by my calculations.

That aside, after about a week, my starter has settled in and doubles if not triples in about 6 hours, and it has a "fluffy" texture, like it has egg whites whipped into it. The odors are not bad.....more like butter or butterscotch. Yeasty. The ripe starter at the end of a 12 hour build period is tangy.....starting to build acid. Rye or whole wheat in the starter build might help.

This starter was fed about 5 hours prior......a little above the bottom red line and about a 1:1:1 with AP flour:


Sample loaves.........first an all white.....and later a couple partial whole wheat with rye and steel cut oats...........



In both cases, the doughs were proofed about 12 hours, then shaped and proofed an additional 2 hours, then baked. The crumb was just ok, but it had a good flavor....not at all sour. I'm going to try some longer cold temp proofs to try to squeeze some more sour out of it, and shape before the long proof to improved the crumb. But overall, I'd say the Ishia Island is a good robust starter. Certainly different and I'd say better than the one's I've built.....and that is about 6 or so.

Ricko's picture

I have used three of the SI starters for over a year now. They are Austria,Bahrain and SF, and they all work fine. I also started my own, which works just as well.To be honest, the only difference I find between the different starters is how quick one expands and bubbles over the others. I believe it's the Bahrain which is the quickest. As for taste, I can detect no difference in the final outcome between any of them. They all seem to taste the same, and there is no noticable degree of difference in sourness either.

quickquiche's picture

Well, I can say I've had a bad experience with this company, but not because of their cultures. More because of their atrocious customer service practices.

I ordered a package of two cultures from them; the Ischia starter and the French sourdough starter. But I was so put off by their lousy practices and rude behavior that I returned the package unopened.

The business manager said I could send the package back and they would issue a refund. Well, two weeks have passed since they received the package and I'm still waiting for the refund. When I contacted the company about them issuing the refund, rather than getting a reply from the business manager about it, I got a reply from the owner (Ed Wood) who basically said "don't hold your breath."

Due to the lack of responsiveness by the company's business manager since requesting the refund, I have been forced to file a complaint with the BBB, as well as disputing the charges with my credit card company.

I would not recommend doing business with this company. They are blatantly rude, and they have yet to issue the refund they told me they'd issue.

If you want to do business with Sourdough International, do so at your own risk!!