The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First sourdough starter

Millerc's picture

First sourdough starter

I'm trying to make my first sourdough starter with the tutorial found in the lessons section.  Its been three days and I only have one bubble.  I was wondering if it should look like the one in the picture by this point with tons of bubbles or if I'm still in good shape.  Thank you for any advice.

Soundman's picture

Welcome to TFL, Millerc!

I looked for the lesson you referred to and I assume it is SourdoLady's starter recipe, Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter, using unsweetened pineapple juice. If I caught the wrong lesson, sorry about that.

First, there are lots of posters here who will respond with good advice. And we may not all agree on starting sourdough starter.

My take is that you have a good recipe there. Stick with it. The only tweaks I would add concern stirring and maintaining temperature.

Stirring the mixture once or twice a day in the initial days seems to help by 1) bringing more oxygen into the mix and 2) by kind of bringing the food to the yeast. (I've read differing opinions on the mobility of the wild yeast, some say they move around, others say they don't.)

Temperature management helped me develop my wild-yeast starter, so it may also help you. The first instance of the so-called "pineapple juice solution" that I read, from Debra Wink, included temperature control. It makes sense to me. (Other TFL posters will tell you not to worry about it.)

Yeast, whether wild or commercial, thrive in what I call a relatively warm room-temperature environment. I have found that a range between 75 and 80 dF makes yeast quite happy. Recently my kitchen was at around 66 dF and my final build of my levain (aka starter) was feeding and growing, but slowly. Time was running out, given my schedule, and I needed to pick up the tempo. So I got them into a 78 dF environment and they perked right up and finished their job (doubling in size) just on time.

(They made an excellent bread the next day.)

Most important advice of all: be patient!

Soundman (David)

Marni's picture


First, welcome to the site.  There are many people here who know a lot about sourdough.  You can search around here and find answers to many of your questions. I know there are a few recipes for creating a sourdough starter.  I, like David, used the pineapple juice method.  I had at least three failures with other methods.  Many people swear by plain flour and water, and of course that's what people have been using for sourdough for thousands of years, so we know it must work.

I also think temperature matters.  Your starter will take a while longer to get going in a cooler room.  It will probably need to be fed more often in a warmer environment.

Right now I would say hang in there, post the specific formula you are following, and I'm sure some of the experts here will advise.

Good luck, and have fun!


PaddyL's picture

I only got into sourdough in March, but I found that the top of my fridge is the warmest place in the house so that's where I kept my flour/water starter for the first few days.  And I only loosely covered it with plastic wrap so it could capture and absorb any wild yeasts flying around the kitchen.  For the first couple or three days, it didn't do much of anything so I stirred it, it expanded slightly, so I kept stirring it twice a day at least, and it's been active ever since.  It (I call it Elsie.)sits happily in the fridge for up to ten days at a time, gets fed, stirred, and used occasionally, and I've never looked back.  You can ask anyone here how nervous and unsure of myself and my starter I was back in March and April, but I listened to the advice I was given and so far, Elsie is almost healthier than I am!

Millerc's picture

Thanks very much for your responses.  I'll be more patient and follow your advice.

gmask1's picture

took about five days to convince me that I wasn't just looking at rising air bubbles (from stiring air into the mix while adding flour and water). I'd have to check my journal, but I'm fairly sure it wasn't until about day 7 that I was convinced that anything was actually happening in the jar (aside from an awful smell!). I'm sure part of the reason for the speed - or lack thereof - was the cold house and chilly room temperature.

Like others have said, hang in there! I remember being thoroughly disallusioned when nothing much was happening, especially after reading about other starters taking off after 2 or 3 days!

halfrice's picture

My experience is the same with gmask1. I started in April and the it was still cool in the house although not cold enough to have to leave the central heating on. I had to wait a week or two before I was convinced that it was working. What I would do is to give it a stir every day until you see a few bubbles appearing. After that, start feeding it and it should be on its way. 


Half Rice Half Woman 

Millerc's picture

I've been busy lately so I apologize for not giving an update.  I am following Sourdough Lady's tutorial and I'm in the middle of day seven right now.  The bubbles had went away around day 4 and hadn't returned by day seven so I added an 1/8 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to the daily feeding.  This seemed to help a little because I began to see a few bubbles later in the day.  I wanted a completely rye starter so I've been feeding it rye flour everyday.  Is there anything I should do different for a completely rye starter or should I do something else to make the starter more active?


Thanks for any help. 

SourdoLady's picture

Sounds like you are doing just fine. Be patient, you are almost there! It is okay to do an all-rye starter. It may not rise as high as a white starter because rye has very little gluten, but that is fine.