If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you may want to try creating your own sourdough starter from scratch. Baking bread from scratch is satisfying in its own right, but when you’ve also had a hand in the creation of one of the most fundamental components, the leavening agent itself, you’ll feel an even greater satisfaction and connectedness to the process.

Are there kids in your house? This little science project is ideally suited to sharing with any children you can convince to join in. Culture their budding scientific minds while creating your own bread culture.

This video outlines one simple method that worked for me the first time I tried it. In the video, I give credit for this technique to Peter Reinhart. It has since come to my attention that Debra Wink, a chemist and accomplished baker, is the mastermind and author of this Pineapple Juice Technique. A lot of research and testing went into developing and refining the technique. The choice of pineapple juice over other juices is from much trial and error. Debra was kind enough to email her essay on the Pineapple Juice Technique. Click here for a printable copy of it.

As I mention in the video, the wild yeast spores and lactic-acid bacteria that give your starter its leaving properties are all around you. You are simply creating the conditions ideally suited for them to thrive and multiply. I used whole wheat flour in this recipe because fresh whole wheat flour may harbor greater numbers of yeast spores than ordinary all-purpose flour and so increase your likelihood for success. It worked for me, so you might try the same. If, at any time, you wish to transition your whole wheat sourdough starter to a regular white flour starter, it’s super easy to do so.

I’ve listed the ingredients and approximate steps here to save you the note taking.

  • Step 1. Mix 3 ½ tbs. whole wheat flour with ¼ cup unsweetened pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for 48 hours at room temperature. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. (“Unsweetened” in this case simply means no extra sugar added).
  • Step 2. Add to the above 2 tbs. whole wheat flour and 2 tbs. pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for a day or two. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. You should see some activity of fermentation within 48 hours. If you don’t, you may want to toss this and start over (or go buy some!)
  • Step 3. Add to the above 5 ¼ tbs. whole wheat flour and 3 tbs. purified water. Cover and set aside for 24 hours.
  • Step 4. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 to 1/3 cup purified water. You should have a very healthy sourdough starter by now.

Notes: I do wonder if the fact that I bake all the time with a sourdough starter (and so theoretically have wild yeast floating around our house by the gazillions and covering everything we own) would increase the likelihood that I would have success creating my own sourdough culture from scratch. So I anxiously await feedback from anyone who attempts this process at home. (You’ll see a nifty little form below for comments and feedback. If you’re shy; you can use the Contact link at the top of the page. While I may report your (mis)adventures, I’ll keep your identity anonymous ;).

Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

2,110 thoughts on “Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

  1. Ariel

    Hello Eric,
    I have been doing (for months) a sourdough with Very Strong White Flour (not organic).
    Now my sourdough duplicates its size in three hours and has a fantastic flavor.

    Now I would like to transform this sourdough in Organic Sourdough.
    If I’m refreshing it with Organic Strong White Flour, after some days, will be my sourdogouh ‘ Organic ‘ ?
    Or in your opinion is better if I start a new one with Organic White Flour?

    Thank you very much in advance for your reply.
    Best regards.
    Ariel

  2. Ricky

    Hello, I have a starter that’s on day 6. I used a different method of just flour and water. To my surprise Things progressed pretty fast. I had bubbles in six hours and day 3 it doubled in size. But after that day 4 through 6 it didn’t double anymore it stays bubbled and has a nice sour tangy smell too it. It however seems to be thinner in texture say like a thin pancake batter when I’m ready to feed it again. Does it sound like its doing ok? this is my first attempt at a starter.

  3. Donna caiazzo

    First I tried the starter with white flour and five days later I threw it out and started again. The second time I used the wheat flour as suggested and voila! Sourdough starter success. Thanks for the video and instructions. I was raised on sourdough…pancakes, waffles, bread and the list goes on. Now I’ll be able to make fresh sourdough pancakes for my grandsons on the weekend and enjoy sourdough bread with my family and friends. Thanks ever so much!

    Donna C
    Pensacola, FL

  4. Hilda

    I have tried to make the starter twice now and failed . It looks good and bubbly in 48 hrs and when i add more flour and pineapple juice it stops. It is now the 4th day and there is no activity. What went wrong ? I have 1 batch with white organic and 1 with organic spelt and used the organic pineapple juice from the can . Hilda

  5. Tien Tien

    hello, i’ve tried several recipes to make sourdough starter , things are not going really well and i am curious that what kind of unsweetened juice can be used? and other recipes discard almost half the starters while the first few days but you don’t ! So to discard or not to discard them? thank u!

    • Roni

      TienTien…I have heard people use Unsweetened Pineapple Juice. And I do not discard Starter. I make Pancakes, with the “throw away” Starter…Seems like such a waste to work that hard to get the Starter to just toss it out. You can always share with a friend too.

  6. Have made several sourdough breads so far with great sucess,also sucess with making starter I am hooked.

    • Janice

      At what point does this go into the frig?

      • As soon as it’s all bubbly and likely and spongy and rising well after you feed it.

  7. I have made sour dough starters on and off for about 5 years. I gave up bread for a while and flour in general but I am coming back to wheat but only wholemeal. I don’t want to eat white flour bread and I no longer eat pasta.

    To the point.

    Yeast is every where, it’s in the air and it’s also in the flour already. It was on the grain in the field and it stayed there through the milling process. It’s impossible not to be able to make a sourdough starter.

    Things required. It can happen quickly but usually around 3 to 5 days are need to make the starter. So patience is required. Basically all the bacteria in the flour in the air and in the container will start to grow, but the yeast will dominate and make it impossible for the others to continue. The starter will go through a sour acidic phase. This will probably be the produce of the unwanted bacteria and it will eventually destroy the bacteria and the yeast will become dominant. I’m no expert on the science but that is more or less what happens.

    To maintain the starter you throw away half of the starter and top it up with the same amount of fresh water and flour mix as you threw away. It does require constant monitoring but the starter would theoretically last forever.

    The consistency. I have no recipe to offer. My suggestion is to make a slightly runny paste with flour and water but not a dough. This will enable the yeast to thrive, to move around the mixture and not work too hard to break down and consume the starch.

    Warm conditions but not hot, and to slow down or temporarily stop growth put it in the fridge. Don’t leave it too long or the yeast will die and the unwanted bacteria will take over again. Don’t seal the lid allow it to breath.

    Sugar nor juice is necessary. The final useable yeast should have a slighty heady sweet smelling creamy quality to it, though I doubt it tastes sweet.

    The yeast basically uses an enzyme to convert the carbs to digestible sugars. I know a little science it seems.

    Good luck.

  8. I had forgotten all about making sourdough bread as I haven’t made it for years. Will definitely be making this starter, and having another go at it. Love the smell when it’s baking and the bread? Best you can eat. Thanks for this.

  9. Tammy

    I may have missed this somewhere but I don’t understand how to maintain the starter for continued use. In your instructions it’s always a different amount for the flour and liquid. If I want to keep it going, do I continue with step #4 each time and do I keep it in a sealed jar in the fridge?

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