The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starting a new sourdough starter

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Starting a new sourdough starter

Some of you may remember me accidentally using all of my starter in 3 loaves, forgetting to hold some back for the next feeding.

I had wanted to start anew for some time, anyway. The starter I was using, while well over a year old at the time, had originally been started from the formula in Bread Alone which starts of with a pinch of commercial yeast. I wanted to try it from scratch, and I thought I'd post my progress here.

My rules: flour and water. No juice, no fruit, no mysterious sourdough dances. No offense to those who use these techniques; I'm not implying there's anything wrong with them. This is just the way I want to do it.

Day 1:

2oz medium rye flour + 1oz unbleached bread flour + 4oz of water. Mix well, put in a container, cover, leave on counter.

Day 2:

No noticeable activity. Sorry I don't have pictures, but nothing to see anyway. Add 3oz unbleached bread flour and 3oz water to existing mixture.

Day 3:

I'm pleased to see some bubbles forming on top! A look at the bubbles forming on the side shows me things are definitely progressing.


I gave the starter a very vigorous stir to incorporate some oxygen, then discarded all but 3oz of it. I added 4oz of bread flour and enough water to make a wet dough, about 3.5oz.


Stuck it back in the container, lidded it and back on the counter.

Tomorrow is day 4!




mikeofaustin's picture

You have the same electric scale as I... (I love that little scale. To top unscrews to clean it).

     My starter is about 2 months old now. Makes great bread. The first few weeks, not so much.   From what I learned, as others have too, is to make sure and add only a little bit of the old starter.   Since you have a scale, you should use that.  I've found that a 1:2:2, or even a 1:4:4 works best for me (the later being the current recipe once it got 'started' well)  .  Also, before I add the new flour, I mix the old starter with the new water very well, to create a 'milk'.  Then add the new flour.

     With my scale, this is how "I" keep my starter alive;

Place container on scale. Zero it.  Pour 25 grams starter in containter. Zero it.  Pour 100 grams water, mix well to a 'milk'.  Zero it.  Pour 100 grams flour and mix till the cows come home.  

FWIW, I found that my breads were very highly tangy during the first couple weeks of life. It was aged at least a month (not counting the 'creation' phase) that the bread really peaked in satisfaction of taste.  

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Thanks, Mike.  For maintaining the starter I do only save a small portion of it each feeding - 1-2oz.

For the initial creation of the mother starter I've been loosely following the procedure laid out in the Bread Baker's Apprentice, and he starts out with more than twice what I did.  I'm working my way down to smaller quantities.


Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Day 4:

Not much new activity.  I didn't take a photo since it would look exactly the same as day 3's.  There was a very noticeable and pleasant tangy smell.  I'm reading that as a step in the right direction!

I gave it a vigorous stir, kept 2oz of starter and added 4oz bread flour and 4oz water.  I marked the container today so we'll see if we have any activity by tomorrow.


andrew_l's picture

My original starter (now several years old) took a good 2 weeks to really get up steam. I'm interested to know how long yours takes! Mine was also pretty slow at raising loaves for the first couple of months but then began to get stronger and stronger. I wonder if a new starter, made from scratch, would make a noticeably different tasting loaf, or if the yeasts are specific to an area? Which would, presumably, create a very similar starter??  Andrew

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Day 5:

Not too much rise, but definite activity and a nice clean smell and flavor.


Same feeding regimen as last time: stir well, save 2oz starter, add 4oz flour and 4oz water.

As a side note, I've been adding the water to the starter first and breaking it up really well.  This makes it easier for me to incorporate the starter fully.


dovescom's picture

Hi I tried to follow your instructions, but my starter doubled on the first day!!! Is this normal? Any help would be appreciated


Feed the starter, smells yeasty.