How To Easily Make A Sourdough Starter Without A Scale

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Learn how to easily make a sourdough starter from scratch in your own kitchen using just a mixture of flour and water.  No fancy equipment like a kitchen scale is needed.  If you’ve tried to make a starter before and been unsuccessful, follow these tips below that will ensure your success.  

easiest way to make sourdough starter

My sourdough journey began over 15 years ago when I first made a starter and began experimenting with how to bake with it.  I have since started several different sourdough starters, and I’m excited to share with you the tips needed for success.

What is a sourdough starter?

A sourdough starter is simply a fermented mix of flour and water that is used to make all kinds of baked goods.  Because it is a fermented food, it is very easy for your body to digest and is one of the most traditional and healthiest foods on the planet.

Wild Yeast

When we make a sourdough starter, what we are actually doing is capturing some of the wild yeast microorganisms that live naturally in the air around us.  The flour and water mixture we call sourdough is where the wild yeasts will live.  Those wild yeasts are the leaven we can use to make our bread rise, instead of using commercial yeast which can be harder to digest because of it’s fungal and chemical elements.

Digestive Benefits of Sourdough

One of the biggest reasons for making fermented foods like sourdough is because it is easier for your body to digest.  Sourdough breaks down most of the phytic acid that is present in flour which hinders the absorption of certain minerals such as zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron. Since wheat bran is especially high in phytic acid, it is one of the biggest causes of gluten intolerance.  If you or someone you know has experienced gluten intolerance, you should try eating long-fermented sourdough foods.  A lot of people with gluten intolerance have found they can eat sourdough and not have any adverse affects. 

Is sourdough starter gluten free?

No, sourdough starter is not gluten free, but because the phytic acid in it has mostly been broken down, it is much easier for gluten intolerant people to digest.  If you are celiac (which is an autoimmune disease that reacts with gluten), then sourdough won’t be safe for you to eat because sourdough will still have trace amounts of gluten.

Why Sourdough?

Health Benefits 

Sourdough recipes can be made with long fermentation times which gives your body all the benefits of eating a fully fermented food.  This is important for gut health, which is directly related to the health of the rest of your body.  Sourdough bread has a low glycemic level of 54, making it much better for people that are diabetic.  

Unique Taste

Foods made with sourdough have a unique taste.  There’s nothing like a fresh slice of traditional sourdough slathered with fresh butter.  You can make sourdough taste more “sour” by letting it ferment longer.  You can also make it taste sweet (so you don’t even know it’s sourdough) by adding sweetener.  

Sustainability and Tradition

Commercial yeast wasn’t widely available until the twentieth century.  Prior to that, everyone made all of their baked goods with sourdough because it was all that was available.  In this modern age we have become far too dependent on ingredients in our food that we cannot produce ourselves like commercial yeast.  Sourdough is a sustainable way of baking.  As long as you have flour and water and know how to start a starter, you can have delicious bread without having to depend on the grocery store.   

Flexibility

When you bake with sourdough, you can almost always pause it wherever you are in the fermentation process by just putting the sourdough recipe in the refrigerator.  If I’m in the middle of baking bread and my husband calls me out to help on the ranch with cows or whatever else might be going on, all I have to do is just stick the whole project in the refrigerator.  If I am baking with yeast, I have to pay close attention to the bread to make sure I don’t over raise it or it will be ruined.  Sourdough is much easier once you understand the process.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is starter?

A sourdough starter is a mix of flour and water that has an established colony of yeasts present.  It can be in a dormant state (needing to be fed) called discard or in an active state (recently been fed) called active starter.

jar of sourdough starter by egg basket

What is active sourdough starter?

Active sourdough starter is discard that has been fed a mix of flour and water and has risen to it’s peak.  It is the state in which the yeasts are most active or sometimes we say “happy”.  If using sourdough to raise bread or other baked goods, it is best to use it at it’s most active state, or before it starts to fall.

What is sourdough discard?

Sourdough discard is just an inactive or dormant sourdough starter and oftentimes the terms discard and starter are used interchangeably.  It is active starter that has fallen back down after the bacteria in the sourdough have consumed all the “food” available to them in the flour and water they were fed, and are therefore no longer as active or “happy”.  Sourdough discard can be used to make lots of wonderful foods that don’t have to rise or are dependent on other things like baking powder for raising them.  Some of these include muffins, pasta, quick breads, tortillas and more.  When replacing some of the flour and water in a regular recipe with sourdough discard, thereby making it a sourdough recipe, you are adding a fermented component to the ingredients, which makes the end result easier for your body to digest

sourdough discard

What is “fed” starter?

Fed starter is just discard that has been fed a mix of flour and water but hasn’t fully risen yet and become active. 

Can sourdough starter go bad?

Sourdough starter cannot go bad unless it is very moldy.  You can leave it in your fridge for months at a time.  It will develop a black liquid on top which is called “hooch”.  This is just a result of it being fermented too long.  Just pour off the liquid, feed the starter and discard part of it twice a day, and in a couple of days it will be happy and active again.

Where to keep sourdough starter warm?

If the temperature of your kitchen is less than 68-72 degrees, you may need to find a warm spot to put your starter.  A good place is next to a coffee pot, or on top of your fridge.  My house is fairly warm so mine is just fine sitting out on the counter.

Why sourdough starter isn’t rising?

Most common causes of sourdough starter not rising is it was fed with cold or chlorinated water.  You always want to feed it with warm water.  If you have chlorinated water, just set some water out on the kitchen counter for a few hours first to allow the chlorine to evaporate before feeding your starter.  Another cause of sourdough starter not rising is because it’s too thin.  You want a thick starter especially for making bread.

Which sourdough starter is the best?
 

The best sourdough starter is your own sourdough starter that is used to living in your environment.  Even if you purchase a dehydrated sourdough starter from somewhere else, it will have to adapt to the wild yeasts present in your environment to be the happiest.

Where to store sourdough starter

The best place to store sourdough starter when you’re not using it often is in your refrigerator.  If you’re done baking with it for awhile, just put it in your refrigerator and forget about it.  When you’re ready to bake, take it out a day or two before and feed it until it’s happy.  I like to keep a lot of sourdough starter in my fridge because then I always have it ready to use for discard recipes without planning ahead.  The only time I have to plan ahead is when I want to make bread or other items that need to rise.

What sourdough starter should look like?

In it’s active state, sourdough discard should look bubbly and be stretchy or almost stringy.  This is from the development of the gluten in the starter.  Sourdough discard will be flat with few if any bubbles.

bubbly sourdough starter

Will sourdough starter rise the first day?

A brand new sourdough starter most likely will not rise the first day.  By day two you should be seeing some bubbles on the top and the sides of container.  By day three of feeding morning and night, you should start to see it rise.

Will sourdough starter work with bleached flour?

Yes.  It is a good idea to use unbleached all purpose flour in your sourdough baking because bleached flour is not as good for you and is lacking a lot of nutrients.  But I have made brand new starters with bleached flour and have been successful.  The best flour I have found for sourdough bread is a high protein unbleached all purpose flour from Azure Standard. If your starter seems to be weak, you can also add some whole wheat flour in with your regular flour when feeding it and that will make it stronger.

Can I make a starter with whole grain flours?

Yes you can. It will develop faster and be stronger, but in your baked goods it won’t be as light and fluffy. Typically when making sourdough bread you will still want to use at least half all purpose or bread flour for best results

Why is my sourdough starter runny?

If it is runny and has recently been fed, then you didn’t have the right ratio of flour and water.  Add a little more flour to it to thicken it up and you’ll be just fine.  Sourdough discard will be a lot more runny than active starter and that is totally fine.

Does It Matter What Kind Of Utensil I Use To Stir My Starter?

You may have heard that you can’t use anything metal with sourdough and that was true back in the days before stainless steel. But any modern-day stainless steel spoon or container will be just fine to use with your sourdough.

stirring sourdough starter

What is the float test?

When your sourdough starter is active and you put it in water, it should float because of all the bubbles that have formed in it.  If it floats then it is strong enough to make bread.

How long will the whole process of creating a starter take?

The whole process should take about a week, but will only take about 5 minutes of your time twice a day.

Why do you have to discard some of your starter before feeding it?

How much starter you have in your jar to feed, depends on how much flour and water you have to feed it to keep it happy.  Your starter is a living thing, an important part of your homestead.  I like to think of it like I think of our cows.  If you have a small number of cows, then you only need to feed them a small amount of hay.  But if you have a whole herd of cows, then you must feed them a lot of hay or they will be hungry and unhappy.  It’s the same with sourdough starter.  

The amount of starter you have depends on how much you have to feed it in order for it to be happy.  So If you don’t discard before each feeding, you will have to feed it more and more flour and water each time to keep it happy and before long you’ll need a 5 gallon bucket to be able to hold all of it.  For example, if I have 2 cups of starter, I would need to feed it several cups of flour and water or else it would be hungry and unhappy (in other words it wouldn’t rise well).  But if I only have a couple of Tablespoons of starter to feed because I discarded some of it, then I can feed it a small amount of flour and water and it will be fed and happy.

sourdough starter jar by egg basket

Step-by-step instructions for making a sourdough starter from scratch

Supplies Needed

  • 1 pint jar
  • All Purpose Flour
  • Warm Water
  • Stirring Utensil

In a pint jar, place ½ cup all-purpose flour and ⅓ cup warm tap water. 

Stir well.  Cover with cloth and rubber band and place in a warm location on your counter.  Do not place it in your oven as there is not enough wild yeasts present in that closed environment. 

Leave it sit for 24 hours. The next day, discard all but about 3 Tablespoons of the starter.

Add another ½ cup flour and ⅓ cup water to the pint jar with the starter.

Cover with cloth again and let set out at room temperature for another 12 hours approximately

Discard all but 3 Tablespoons again and feed with another ½ cup flour and ⅓ cup warm water.

Repeat twice a day until you are seeing it consistently double in size.  It will probably take about 6-7 days.

After the first couple of days, you can start saving your discard from each daily feeding in a quart jar covered with a lid or plastic wrap and putting it in the refrigerator to be used in discard recipes like pancakes, waffles and pasta.

Once your sourdough starter is strong and active, you can either put it in your fridge to store it, or you can keep it out on the counter and continue feeding it at least once a day.  I like to keep my starter in the fridge and use it in discard recipes until I’m ready to make a loaf of bread. 

The day before I want to make bread I take out 2-3 Tablespoons of discard and put it into a clean jar that is at least as big as a quart. Feed it 2 cups of flour and 1 ⅓ cups warm water (same ratio as when we made the starter).  Once it has fully risen, I use it to mix up my bread recipe. In the meantime, my discard jar remains in the refrigerator waiting for me to want to bake muffins or cookies or sourdough discard pizza on a whim.

The older your starter gets, the stronger it will be.  There is nothing wrong with just making discard recipes for a week or two until you are ready to graduate to bread making.  Your sourdough starter doesn’t need to consume your whole life.  If you feed it, and then decide you don’t have time to make bread, just put it in the refrigerator and it will turn into more discard.

Top three tips for successfully making a new sourdough starter.

  1.  Use warm water when feeding
  2. Leave it out on your counter in a warm place covered by a cloth (not plastic or a lid)
  3. Make sure it’s the consistency of a thick pancake batter when you feed it.  

How to care for your sourdough starter

Although you can leave your sourdough starter in your fridge for months on end, and it will still be okay after a few daily feedings, it is best if you feed it once a week for awhile especially while it’s new.  I like to use my starter 2-3 times a week in the winter months when I have more time to make big breakfasts and bake.  Things we make weekly are sourdough buttermilk pancakes, waffles, crackers and bread.  We also regularly enjoy sourdough tortillas, pasta and english muffins.  In the summertime we have a large baking day once a week as we prepare lots of sourdough bread to sell at our local farmers market.  Whenever we aren’t using our starter, we keep it in the fridge.  If you leave your starter out on the counter, you will need to discard some of it and feed daily with flour and water.  

If you follow this simple process on how to easily make your own homemade sourdough starter without any special tools like a kitchen scale, I know you will be successful and will soon be on your way to enjoying healthy and nourishing sourdough!  And beof all, you won’t ever have to go to the grocery store to buy yeast or bread again. The same sourdough starter can be kept alive for years and handed down from generation to generation. Let’s bring back these valuable traditional skills that have been lost over time and be proactive in changing our health and our future.


Be sure to watch the full video tutorial below. If you have any questions or if there is anything I can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Cheers to happy sourdough!

Full Video Tutorial

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simple sourdough starter

Easy Sourdough Starter

bubbly sourdough starter

Learn how to easily make a sourdough starter from scratch in your own kitchen using just a mixture of flour and water.  No fancy equipment like a kitchen scale is needed.  

Ingredients

  • 1 pint jar
  • All Purpose Flour
  • Warm Water
  • Stirring Utensil

Instructions

  1. 1. In a pint jar, place ½ cup all-purpose flour and ⅓ cup warm tap water. 
  2. 2. Stir well.  Cover with cloth and rubber band and place in a warm location on your counter.  Do not place it in your oven as there is not enough wild yeasts present in that closed environment. 
  3. 3. Leave it sit for 24 hours. The next day, discard all but about 3 Tablespoons of the starter.
  4. 4. Add another ½ cup flour and ⅓ cup water to the pint jar with the starter.
  5. 5. Cover with cloth again and let set out at room temperature for another 12 hours approximately
  6. 6. Discard all but 3 Tablespoons again and feed with another ½ cup flour and ⅓ cup warm water.
  7. 7. Repeat twice a day until you are seeing it consistently double in size.  It will probably take about 6-7 days.

Notes

After the first couple of days, you can start saving your discard from each daily feeding in a quart jar covered with a lid or plastic wrap and putting it in the refrigerator to be used in discard recipes like pancakes, waffles and pasta.

Once your sourdough starter is strong and active, you can either put it in your fridge to store it, or you can keep it out on the counter and continue feeding it at least once a day.  I like to keep my starter in the fridge and use it in discard recipes until I’m ready to make a loaf of bread. 

The day before I want to make bread I take out 2-3 Tablespoons of discard and put it into a clean jar that is at least as big as a quart. Feed it 2 cups of flour and 1 ⅓ cups warm water (same ratio as when we made the starter).  Once it has fully risen, I use it to mix up my bread recipe. In the meantime, my discard jar remains in the refrigerator waiting for me to want to bake muffins or cookies or sourdough discard pizza on a whim.

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6 Comments

  1. I just want you to know I’ve been putting off jumping into sourdough because I’ve seen so much confusing, complex info about starter, but you broke this down for me in a way that made me feel confident enough to go ahead with it. Thank you!

    1. You’re so welcome Mary! Some people make it so difficult when really it’s very simple. Please let me know if you have any questions and I’ll help you all I can along the way. Keep watching the blog for all of my favorite sourdough recipes.

  2. I’m confused. In your Notes in Easy Sourdough Starter. ‘ The day before I want to make bread I take out 2-3 TBS of discard and put it into a clean jar…………..’ What do you put in a clean jar?
    The starter or the discard?
    I started my starter yesterday morning and it is going like gangbusters. I am looking forward to baking my first loaf of sourdough bread, which I love. I found your instructions easy to follow except the portion above.LJS

    1. Hi Lynda, sorry if that was confusing to you. The starter and discard are actually the same thing. So put 2-3 Tbl. of the discard or starter from your jar in the refrigerator into a clean jar, and then feed it with flour and water which will turn it into active starter. Once it’s risen and is active and happy you’ll be ready to bake bread. My simple artisan sourdough bread recipe will be up on the blog next week, so be sure to look for it. Let me know if you have any other questions.