The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

3-day Gluten-free Starter

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

3-day Gluten-free Starter

Hi all, 

I haven't posted in a while but I've been busy developing a 3-day starter for sorghum flour, inspired by Ars Pistorica's whole wheat starter.  Here's a link to see the process if you're interested:

I've been maintaining the same starter for several weeks now and the bread is nice and sour with a beautiful LAB flavor and smell.  I thought you all would be interested in hearing about it!


clazar123's picture

Love your loaf! It has a very nice crust but do you have a crumb shot?

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

Clazar, I do have a crumb shot but the crumb didn't come out how I wanted on this one.  It's a little closer than it could be.  I think I under-proofed.  The crust came out almost perfect this time though!  I'll post more shots of my version of a perfect loaf when I have the recipe ready - I'm still tweaking!  Thanks for the encouragement!

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

3-Day Sourdough Starter



Sourdough starters, and gluten-free starters in particular, tend to grow yeast in abundance at the beginning at room temperature.  The following method gives the starter a much warmer environment favorable to acetic acid bacteria in the first step.  Once this type of bacteria are present, an acidic environment is quickly achieved and the desired lactic-acid bacteria (LAB) and acid-loving strains of yeast will grow in the culture.

ToolsMost of what you need are common kitchen tools:


  • Sorghum flour,* as fresh as you can get it.  If you grind your own, that's even better.
  • 1 gallon of Spring Water (DO NOT use tap water in the starter mixture)
  • Gallon-size Plastic bags that seal tightly
  • A digital scale 
  • A kitchen thermometer.  
  • A small plastic container with a lid.
  • Some sort of vessel for holding your plastic bags of starter and maintaining a 95 degree temperature.  An insulated cooler can work, but you have to use lots of warm water and weigh the bag down to keep it from floating. You can use a large Thermos or insulated coffee carafe.  People have also used a bowl of water over a heating pad and, but you have to have a heating pad that doesn't turn itself off.


Step 1


In a gallon-size bag, mix:


50 g Sorghum Flour

120g Spring water at room temperature


Seal the bag and mix the flour and water until well-combined.  Let any air out of the bag and re-seal.  Double bag the mixture and let any air out of the second bag, too.  Place the bag in a container of water heated to 95 degrees (35 degrees C).  Seal the container or keep it on a heating pad.  Check it frequently to make sure the water temperature stays constant.  Keep the bag at 95 degrees for 24 hours.



Check to make sure that small bubbles have started to form at the top of your mixture.  If not, let your mixture cool a few degrees over the next few hours and wait for bubbles to appear before moving to the next step.




Step 2


Open your double-bagged sorghum mixture, being careful not to get tap water inside the bag.  If the mixture smells bad, this is a good sign.  It means you have successfully cultivated some of the bacteria that you need for the starter.  Add:


50 g sorghum flour

80 g spring water


Seal the bag and mix as before.  Let any air out, re-seal, double bag, and immerse the mixture in 90-degree water (32 degrees C) for 24 hours, making sure the water temperature remains constant.


Step 3


Your mixture should be bubbling after the second 24 hours in warm water.  This is a good sign.  The bad smell should be replaced by a more sourdough-type smell, but it can vary at this stage.  Mix the contents of your bag thourough.  In a small clean (but not chemically sanitized) plastic container place:


15 grams of the water-and sorghum mixture from step 2

60g spring water

50 grams sorghum flour


Let the mixture rest for 24 hours, covered,  at room temperature.


Congratulations, you now have a sourdough starter!




Feed your starter every 24 hours at the same time of day:


5 grams starter from the last batch

60 grams spring water

50 grams sorghum flour


Mix with a wooden spoon to combine, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.  You can use your starter any time after the first 6 hours of fermenting, but always leave enough to make your next batch.  The starter will give you the best yeast flavor at six hours, but the optimal time for a sour bread flavor is between 18 and 24 hours.


Double/triple the recipe if you need more starter, but you should only need about 50 grams of starter per 2-lb. loaf.



If at any point you mess something up, don't hesitate to start over.  You will probably end up saving flour in the long run.


The number one problem I had was getting leaks of tap water inside the bag.  Tap water has chlorine in it to kill microorganisms.  You are trying to grow microorganisms.  Once I started double-bagging the mixture in step one and two I got much better results.


Don't worry about weird smells, especially at the beginning.  Sometimes it can take a week before everything really stabilizes in the starter, and it can smell different at different times of day, too.  The only smell that's a sign of serious problems is the smell of acetone, like finger nail polish remover.  It's a very strong and unmistakeable smell.  Acetone means you have to throw your starter out and start over.


If anyone has questions to trouble-shoot, leave them in the comments and I can add them to the trouble-shooting list.


* This recipe should work with dark teff flour as well, but I haven't tested it extensively.  Amaranth flour is the only other flour I think might work, but I've used sorghum because it's the most economical and the most widely-available gluten-free flour.  Other GF flours have not done as well as these three flours in published scientific experiments as well as in my own kitchen experiments.

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

Here's a link to the recipe for the GF SD Bread we were talking about:

And a crumb shot as promised.  I think the crumb looks a little more open sometimes, but I can't always reproduce that.  At any rate, I haven't ever seen a really open crumb on gluten-free bread.  If anyone figures it out, let me know!