The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Starter Questions

LaurenAshley's picture

Sourdough Starter Questions

When it comes to sourdough, I'm a newbie. I have been baking bread for years but have always been intimidated by sourdoughs but I have decided to finally try. I started the process yesterday using SourdoLady's starter instructions (wheat flour and oj). Obviously I have quite a few days in front of me before I really have yeast growing, but I figured this is the best time to ask questions.

I generally bake whole grain breads, although I do occasionally make other loaves. 


  1.  Is it better to continue the starter past day 4 with whole wheat or should I use white? Why?
  2. On day 4 when I should discard some starter can I put the "discarded" starter in another container(s) to develop different starter "varieties"? I was thinking of creating  rye, white and wheat starters.
  3. If I have 1/2C starter and I need 1 1/2C for a recipe how do I achieve it and how long before I bake should I build up the starter?

Thank you all so much for your help. I hope one day I will posess the expertise to aid others.


marosenthal's picture

As I understand it, the change over to white flour is to keep the organisms down to the ones you've activated in the first three days.  There shouldn't be a problem with feeding whole wheat flour.

Any discarded starter is still starter, and can be fed with other flour to develop another starter, say rye.  Or you could feed with a different proportion of water/flour, to make a thinner, or thicker, starter.  Or give some to a friend who also bakes. 

What I have done, before a bake, is to feed my starter without discarding any, to build up a larger starter.  For example, if I have 110g starter, I will feed with 110g each water and flour, and keep in a warm place for 12 hours, to double.  Then I will take 40 grams to refeed with 40g each flour and water, take the "discard", and build it into a levain to bake with.  I know others feed up to three days before they bake, and keep the starter in the refrigerator until they're ready to bake.  I think it also depends on the recipe you're using.  I have been building a sponge from the starter, and letting that ferment for around 12 hours before building into my final dough.

I am still very much a beginner at sourdough baking, but my efforts recently have been encouraging.  You can check the thread I've been maintaining with some other sourdough questions (see Is there such a thing as too strong a starter) for my ongoing attempts. Good luck!

Alvaremj's picture

All comments look good to me. I also have only been baking sourdough 1-2 times a week for a couple months. I have had good luck feeding at a 1 to one ratio when building a starter for a bake. i.e. 2oz mature starter: 2oz flour: 2oz water. I continue doubling until I have enough for whatever I am baking. I really think how long you feed depends on your starter and your kitchen. Your build can double in 4hrs, 6hrs, 12hrs and need extra time to "smell right". I usually takes me two days to get a build going but I would rather wait longer if the starter isn't ready than take the chance of my bread not rising.

I feel like everyone has an opinion how to work with sourdough. I also think there are too many variables to make any judgments on what "works" just trust yourself and be patient. If the starter isn't moving, wait (and stir occasionally). I also feel that you can feed it whatever you want, WW, AP, Bread flour, Buckwheat, Rye etc. Multiple starters? Sure if you can keep up with them, I can't.

Hope this helps! Happy Baking!


Nicola's picture

Like you, I baked for many years using commercial yeast, and was a bit afraid to try sourdough, worried about having to feed and care for it. But about a year ago I took the plunge. Now I am hooked!

In my fridge I keep three sourdough starters: one white, one whole wheat, and one pure rye. The original starter was all rye but for the white and whole wheat ones, I just kept adding those types of flour every time I fed and divided; so now they are all different. In the beginning, I did not know how much to keep. Now, because there is just me and my husband to feed most of the time, I keep my starters small: each one is about 2 cups total. When I add, I add 3/4 cup water and about the same or a little more of flour, give it a good stir, let it rise, then divide it, using half to make whatever loaf I'm going to make, and putting the rest back in the fridge.

These starters can sit in the back of my fridge for probably up to a week before they start to need attention. At that time, I pour off the alcohol if I don't want the starter to get too sour, then add the fresh water and flour, let it rise, divide it, etc.

At no time have I ever thrown away the half that everyone says to throw away. It seems way too wasteful! I have used it to make bread, crackers, sweet buns, muffins, pancakes --  which have all turned out -- well, some of them have been a bit weird, but they've all been at least edible! -- and some have been great.

So far I have not had a starter "die", but since the yeast comes from the fermentation of the grain (at least, that's what Ed Wood's book said, and he's a scientist, he ought to know) I'm not too worried about it. If it happens, I'll start a new batch. Of course it might be a little sad to lose an old, very complex friend, but I think it's probably best not to worry too much about it (though I'll admit that I did just that in the beginning).

Happy sourdough making!


LaurenAshley's picture

Thank you all for your input thus far.  I feel very encouraged by your comments. This is new territory for me and it is so different having to "grow" your own yeasts instead of purchasing them. I just hope I can keep it alive with 4 children under 10 and always 1 or 2 extras. Thanks!!