Sourdough Starter: How to Make, Store, and Check If It’s Bad

Making sourdough starters from scratch is surprisingly simple.

With a few ingredients and some patience, you can quickly have your own starter to make delicious, homemade sourdough bread.

All you need is flour, water, and a little bit of time! Let’s take a look at the basics of how to make sourdough starters from scratch. 


The Basics of Making Sourdough Starter:

Making your own sourdough starter requires only two simple ingredients: flour and water. You will also need a large bowl, something to cover it with (a lid or cloth works great), a spatula or spoon, and measuring cups/spoons. 

  • Start by mixing together equal parts of all-purpose flour and lukewarm water in a large bowl (1 cup of each is recommended).
  • Mix until the mixture is thick and paste-like – this should take about 3 minutes.
  • Once you have your paste-like mixture, cover the bowl with a lid or cloth and let it sit for 24 hours in a warm area (about 70°F) away from direct sunlight. The next day, your mixture should be bubbly which indicates that fermentation has begun!
  • You can stir it once more before covering it back up and letting it sit for another 24 hours.
  • Repeat this process until you get the desired consistency (it should be thick but runny enough to pour). This usually takes between 2-7 days depending on your environment as well as other factors such as temperature, humidity levels, etc.  
  • Once you have achieved the desired consistency, use 1/2 of your starter to bake bread; discard the remaining half unless you plan on baking more later in the week.
  • If so, store your starter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before using it again.

If not using within 5 days then discard any remaining starter in order to avoid spoilage or foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria growth in old starters!  

How Long Does It Take To Make a Sourdough Starter?

The general time frame for making your sourdough starter is between 2-7 days depending on temperatures and other factors in your environment.

The process consists of mixing together equal parts of lukewarm water and all-purpose flour, letting it sit in a warm area for 24 hours, stirring every day after that until you get the desired consistency, and then discarding or storing the starter in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

This process can be sped up by increasing temperatures and stirring more frequently, but it is important to remember that allowing your starter time to ferment will give you better-tasting bread!

What Is the Point of a Sourdough Starter?

A sourdough starter is a fermented mixture of flour and water that helps bread rise.

The natural yeast in the air will enter the mix and start to ferment, resulting in flavorful, dense bread with an enjoyable texture.

Sourdough Starter in a jar

This process also aids in digestion as well; because of the fermentation process, the starches and sugars are broken down into simpler, easier-to-digest forms.

How Old Is the Oldest Sourdough Starter?

The oldest known sourdough starter is believed to be over 400 years old!

This particular starter was brought to the United States from Italy and can still be used today.

It is said that this starter has been used in the same family for generations and passed down through the years.

Is It Cheaper to Make Your Own Sourdough?

Yes, it is definitely cheaper to make your own sourdough starter than it is to buy store-bought bread.

Homemade sourdough requires only two ingredients – flour and water – and the cost of these ingredients is minimal compared to pre-made loaves purchased from a bakery or grocery store.

Additionally, making your own starter allows you to control the flavor and texture of your bread, giving you further cost savings in terms of not having to buy different types of bread for different recipes.

Is Sourdough Starter Good for Your Gut?

Yes, a sourdough starter is good for your gut! The fermentation process helps break down the starches and sugars in the flour, making them easier to digest.

Additionally, it contains beneficial bacteria which can help improve digestion as well as support a healthy immune system.

Finally, the probiotics found in sourdough help balance out the natural flora in your gut, leading to fewer digestive issues.

Is Sourdough Starter Just Yeast?

No, a sourdough starter is not just yeast.

A sourdough starter is made up of flour and water that has been fermented with natural yeast from the air. This fermentation process causes the dough to rise as well as imparts a unique flavor to the bread.

Yeast may also be added to help speed up the fermentation process, but it is not necessary for a successful starter.

Is Sourdough Healthier Than Bread?

Is this type of bread actually healthier than regular white or wheat bread?

Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of sourdough. 

1. Nutritional Profile of Sourdough Bread 

Sourdough is made with a combination of flour, water, and naturally occurring wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. This fermentation process helps to break down the starches in wheat, making it easier to digest.

Additionally, the slow fermentation process gives sourdough its unique flavor and aroma. 

Compared to regular white or wheat bread, sourdough has a higher amount of dietary fiber and contains important vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, manganese, iron, and selenium.

In addition to providing essential nutrients for your body, the high fiber content in sourdough can help keep you feeling full for longer periods of time which may help with weight management. 

2. Benefits of Eating Sourdough Bread 

In addition to being nutrient-rich and delicious, there are other potential benefits associated with eating sourdough bread that may make it a more desirable option than regular white or wheat bread.

For example, since it is fermented it can be easier on the digestive system because it contains beneficial probiotics that help promote gut health.

Another benefit is that sourdough bread has a low glycemic index which means that it will not cause spikes in blood sugar levels like other types of carbohydrates might.  

Do You Have to Discard the Sourdough Starter Every Time You Feed It?

No, you do not have to discard the sourdough starter every time you feed it.

Instead, after feeding your starter with fresh flour and water, you can keep a small portion of the starter for future use.

Then, simply cover it tightly and store it in the refrigerator or at cool room temperature until you’re ready to use it again.

It’s important to note that sourdough starter can last up to several months in the refrigerator before being fed, so you don’t necessarily need to discard any of it if you are not going to be baking regularly.

Signs That Your Sourdough Starter Is Bad

If you’ve had your sourdough starter stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature for a while, or if it stops rising when fed, then there’s a good chance that it is no longer viable. The signs of a bad starter include:

  • A strong odor of alcohol or vinegar
  • An off-white or greyish tint
  • Mold or discoloration

If you detect any of these signs, then it will be best to discard your starter and start fresh.

Fortunately, creating a new sourdough starter is relatively easy and requires only four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast.

What Can I Do With A Dead Starter?

There are a few things that you can do with a dead starter.

  • The first option is to simply discard it and start over with fresh ingredients.
  • Another option is to use the discarded starter as compost for your garden or plants.
  • Alternatively, you can also add the discarded starter to your recipes as an ingredient, such as in pancakes or other baked goods.

What Happens if You Miss a Day of Feeding Sourdough Starters?

If you miss a day of feeding your sourdough starter, it may become sluggish and start to produce less gas.

To get your starter back up and running again, simply feed it with fresh flour and water as usual. It is also important to note that the temperature of the environment in which your starter is stored can have an effect on how often it needs to be fed.

For example, if your starter is kept in a warmer environment then it will need to be fed more frequently than one stored in a cooler environment.

Can You Go 2 Weeks Without Feeding Sourdough Starter?

Yes, you can go up to 2 weeks without feeding your sourdough starter.

However, after two weeks of not being fed, the starter will become inactive and will need to be refreshed with fresh flour and water before it can be used again.

It is important to note that if you allow your starter to remain inactive for more than two weeks, it may need to be discarded and started over with fresh ingredients.

Does the Sourdough Starter Need To Be Airtight?

No, it does not need to be airtight.

However, it is important that you store your sourdough starter in a container that is big enough for the starter to double or triple in size after being fed with fresh flour and water.

This can help prevent any overflow when the starter starts to rise.

Additionally, you should also make sure the lid of your container is securely fastened to prevent any spills.

Can You Keep a Sourdough Starter Alive Forever?

Yes, you can keep a sourdough starter alive forever.

As long as you feed it regularly with fresh ingredients and store it properly in the refrigerator or at cool room temperature, your starter should remain active over time.

Additionally, if your starter starts to become sluggish or produce less gas then simply refresh it with more flour and water before using it in recipes.

Is A Starter Better Frozen or Dried?

Generally speaking, a starter is better frozen than dried. This is because freezing helps maintain the flavor and structure of the starter, as well as its ability to ferment dough quickly.

Additionally, freezing your starter also makes it easier to store for longer periods of time without degrading in quality.

However, if you are planning on using your starter within a few weeks and need to store it in a dry place, then drying your starter is also an acceptable option.

A Tip For Keeping Your Starter Long-Term:

A great tip for keeping your starter healthy and viable over time is to keep it in the refrigerator.

This helps slow down its activity, which can help maintain its flavor and structure better than if it was stored at room temperature.

Additionally, when you need to use your starter simply take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for a few hours before feeding it and using it in recipes.

What Can You Do to Store Your Starter Properly?

When storing your starter, it is important to make sure that you store it in an airtight container.

This will help prevent any accidental spills or mold growth while the starter is stored away.

Additionally, you should also make sure that the container is big enough for the starter to double or triple in size after being fed with fresh flour and water.

Can I Use a Mason Jar for My Sourdough Starter?

Yes, you can use a Mason jar for your sourdough starter.

However, it is important to note that the lid of your container needs to be securely fastened in order to prevent any unintentional spills or overflow when the starter begins to rise.

Additionally, you should also make sure that the container is big enough for the starter to double or triple in size after being fed with fresh flour and water

What Flour Is Best for Sourdough Starter?

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with each type of flour. 

1. White Flour

White flour is the most commonly used type of flour for sourdough starters because it is easy to work with and produces consistent results every time.

White flour is also less prone to contamination than other types since it has already been processed more than other flours.

However, white flour does not contain as much flavor as other types, so if you are looking for something with more depth in flavor then this may not be the best choice for your starter. 

2. Rye Flour

Rye flour has traditionally been used in bread-making because it adds depth and complexity in flavor while still being relatively easy to work with.

Rye flour also contains more vitamins and minerals than white or whole wheat flour, which makes it an ideal choice if you are looking for something more nutritious.

The downside is that rye can be difficult to find in stores and may require special ordering online if you want to use it for your starter. 

3. Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour is another great option for making sourdough starters since it contains more fiber and nutrients than white or rye flours do.

Whole wheat flour also adds more structure to the dough which makes it easier to handle when kneading or shaping into loaves.

However, whole wheat can sometimes lead to a dense end product due to its heavier consistency when compared with white or rye flour. 


No matter which type of flour you decide on for your sourdough starter, one thing is certain — all three varieties have their own unique benefits that make them suitable candidates for use in bread-making!

Making sourdough starters from scratch doesn’t have to be intimidating or difficult! With just some basic ingredients and plenty of patience, you’ll be able to create delicious homemade bread with ease.

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About the author

Natalie is a food enthusiast who spends all of her time trying out new recipes, testing out new appliances, and making her kitchen as awesome as possible. She is a professional writer and blogs here about her love of food & kitchen.

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