Making your own sourdough starter is easy and it’s the first step in baking delicious artisan bread. 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.

The video below outlines one simple method that worked for me the first time I tried it. Further down the page, I’ve also included printable instructions with measurements for the ingredients.



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 PDF.

As I mention in the video, the wild yeast spores and lactic-acid bacteria that give your starter its leavening 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.

Make Your Own Sourdough Starter
Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

Create your own sourdough starter from the wild yeast floating all around you. The starting point for the ultimate in artisan bread DIY.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 96 hours


  • Whole wheat flour
  • Unsweetened pineapple juice
  • Purified water


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.

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. If you give this method a try, please let us know about your results in the lively discussion below.

How To Make Sourdough Starter

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  1. txtita says:

    Eric, I am super impressed with your method for creating a sourdough starter. I live in Costa Rica and prior to moving here I dried my starter into flakes for transporting from Texas to Costa Rica. I was able to revive it successfully and have made some wonderful bread in the past few years.

    I stopped baking my own bread because we found a terrific baker in town making excellent artisan sourdough breads. I actually neglected my starter to the point I could no longer get a decent rise in a loaf of bread. Two months ago the baker retired and we have no longer have a source for sourdough bread. So, it was time for me to get back to baking and I needed to create a new starter from scratch. This it what lead me to your Breadtopia website.

    I am just now on step 3 of your method, and I added the flour and water about 3 hours ago. The volume has already doubled and it's bubbling and brewing just like a healthy starter should. (I should mention here that Costa Rica produces some of the finest pineapples, and we have an abundance of pure fresh pineapple juice.) Just 2 more days and we'll have fresh sourdough bread again.

    Thank you so much for publishing your starter recipe.

  2. Eric says:

    Excellent. Glad to hear it. smile

  3. Eric, I am new to sourdough starts and would like to better understand how and what to store my start in when its in the refrigerator. I have a large plastic bottle that was once used for coconut oil and would like to use it, but I'm afraid of the lid closing in the gasses or the plastic breaking down. Otherwise I have a home made crock bowl with no lid. Could you help me with that basic question?

  4. Eric says:

    Hi Sue,

    Being at 5000' shouldn't make a big difference in how you do things. You can thin your starter by adding some water. Once the starter is going, all you need is flour and water to maintain it. When your starter rises well after feeding it and it's bubbly and spongy, you can bake with it.

  5. I'm a rank amateur baker, but I love sourdough bread, especially rye. Thanks to your instructions, I'm just about to transfer my first sourdough starter to a jar - after almost giving up on the process. I got as far as stage 3 on your list, with no signs of life at all. Then I moved the container out of the kitchen and into the den where it's a consistent couple of degrees warmer, and the next day the soupy mixture had tightened up and there were bubbles! I expect to try my first bake in a cast iron container the next few days. My question, though, is this: Do I need to match the starter with the bread I'll be making? It's a whole wheat starter; can this be used to produce a sourdough rye, or do I need to morph a bit of the whole wheat into a rye starter? Thanks so much for your hugely informative and entertaining site.

  6. fishmael says:

    Hi Eric! I had a decent-looking starter going, very elastic with some bubbles, but after the final step of adding more water and flour, the bubbling has ceased. I tried feeding it some more filtered water and flour but it hasn't helped. It's in my kitchen which ranges from temps 60-80 degrees fahrenheit. Any ideas as to what's gone wrong?

  7. Rowdee says:

    OK, please be patient with me here so I can solve this mystery. I have tried many times to make a starter so I can make sourdough bread. Im from San Francisco and living in Rio and I miss the stuff a lot. I cook for a living and host in my home in a group that cooks and chefs here use. Its really fun. I oove to bake and successfully make lots of bread. Heres my problem. I start my starter with "weighed" amounts of flour and water. I use bread flour because I cant get rye here, but theres no reason it shouldnt work. I mix in a glass bowl with a loos cover and always get a huge reaction within a few hours. I wait for 24 hrs and then weigh and add water and flour again. Its alwasy alive and really growing, but.... after that feeding it always fades and wont come back. Ive tried adding only flour and get a lot of bubbles, but never does it come back enough to be usable. I tried Chef Johns method and others many times. Quite often I get a bowl of liquid, thats why I dont add water. What is wrong and what am I looking for after that first or second feeding? Why do I never succeed with this? A mystery...

  8. Eric says:

    Mysterious indeed. It does really well and then dies out?

    Is this a natural sourdough starter you are working with or commercial instant yeast?

  9. chosun2hs says:

    Hello Eric,

    I am dying to make sourdough starter & I am on my second attempt. The first was with starter from a friend that never showed any signs of being alive. The second is using the method on your site. I have followed instructions perfectly. It smells nice and sour, yet there are very, very few bubbles. It is not doubling at all. I am on day 5. I decided to proceed into day 5 because of the sour smell alone. It seems slightly puffy & thick like pancake batter. I've kept it in my microwave (not while running) because my house temperature is only 67 and I hope that it is warm enough in my microwave. Could you please help me? I desperately want it to thrive soon so I can bake lots of goodies for my family 😊 ~H

  10. Bradford says:

    Thanks Eric,

    I really appreciate your quick response. I think you accurately describe exactly what is going on with my starter. It is clearly too thin. I also did not realize one could let the dough rise too long. Your description of a "soupy mess", perfectly describes what happened to my dough. I will carefully follow your recommendations. I am much more optimistic. I appreciate your generous offer to send more material, I don't think I need it now.

    Just one more question. I have read that some people like to use bread flour to feed and others like whole wheat. Do you have a strong opinion on what type of flour should be used or does it really matter?

    Thanks again,


Earlier Comments

2,120 thoughts on “How To Make Sourdough Starter

  1. Nadine

    Hi Eric,

    After a few months off from making bread, I tired of the store-bought offerings and decided to give it a go again. Even though I’ve never come close to my original goal of re-creating Trader Joe’s 100% organic whole wheat demi miche, I did come up with a pretty tasty organic rye/whole wheat loaf. So to refresh my memory, I looked at your starter recipe above, watched the video and decided to try the “pineapple starter.” Miraculously, I had some unsweetened pineapple on hand, which I strained and added the juice in the required quantity to organic dark rye flour in a small glass container. I covered it, kept it on the counter, mixed it a few times as recommended and as recently as this morning, it looked just dandy. Now, 2pm and 48 hours after I began, ready to add more juice and flour, I removed the cover and was horrified to find furry things growing on my starter!! See attached. Where did I go wrong?! I’m kind of afraid to try again, but I really want some decent bread and good whole grain is nowhere to be found in Baja where we live. HELP, PLEASE!!

    • Mark.

      Just tried this with whole wheat flour initially and have been feeding with white bread flour and charcoal-filtered tap water (plain tap water has a chlorine smell). The starter seems rudely healthy and I put a small amount in a no-knead recipe instead of my usual 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast. It took nearly two days for that to look leavened to my satisfaction, but the result was very runny and I made the mistake of adding quite a lot more bread flour to get something I could handle, then probably not allowing enough time for the result to rise before I dumped it into a hot Dutch oven. The result is dense and not quite sour enough for my taste. I’ll have experiment with using less water, more starter now that I have plenty (aiming for 18 to 24 hours to rise)… something. After managing to kill several dried starters I’ve bought, I’m pleased.

    • Gus

      This can occasionally happen with a new starter. Don’t worry. It’t the mix of good and bad bacteria which are fighting it off until a “good” balance is reached. Right now the “bad” is winning 🙂
      Either start again with VERY clean kitchen tools & bowls, or (my preference), throw away 90% and repeat step #1 with *all* the ingredients of step #1, plus the 10% balance that you kept (it already has active bacteria in small quantities. Scoop the furry stuff out and keep 10% from the bottom, just like you would do for home-made jam) If you repeat the above process enough times, eventually the good bacteria will win. One trick that can really help if you live in warm weather, is to put everything in the fridge overnight (covered with damp cloth). Take it back out and continue at step #2 irrespective of how it looks. The temperature shock helps to break the balance of “bad” bacteria and gives a better chance for the good ones to dominate the mix quickly.
      Furry sourdough will smell really awful; good sourdough will smell really nice, and possibly a little acidic. The process of cutting 90% out ensures you are not eating awful stuff. If you are going to do this, I suggest proceeding with “maintaining your sourdough”, cutting and feeding as many times as you feel comfortable, if you are worried about smell and taste. it doesn’t matter much, but after a few days any fear you might have will definitely go away 🙂

      • Nadine

        oooh…Gus…This was helpful. Wish I hadn’t panicked and thrown it away. I will forge onward! Thank you.

  2. Lisa

    Thank you for this video Eric, I cannot wait to try it! Which wheat flour would work best for starter, whole wheat pastry, sprouted, or bread flour?


    • All of those flours would work very well, but I recommend starting with bread flour as it’s easier to see when the starter is doing well. Once it’s going strong, it’s easy to switch it to a whole grain starter or sprouted wheat flour or whatever.

  3. Jim Lee

    Why 3 1/2 Tbs. and 1/4 cup the first day, 2 Tbs. and 2 Tbs. the second day and 5 1/4 and 3 Tbs. the third.
    If I used 3 Tbs. the first, second, third and fourth day would it not work? Not being sarcastic I’m just curious.
    I was making a sourdough that was to die for. I know that because I work for a hotel and took it to our bakers and that was their comment. I ruined that starter and have yet to recreate that flavor so I am trying to understand all of this.

    • It’s pretty random, really. There are infinite possibilities for making a starter. They’re all about mixing flour and water together and waiting. Sometimes they work out well and sometimes not.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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.

    • Terri

      Hi Hilda

      It is very common for a starter to bubble on the 3rd day and then go flat for a day or two. Don’t throw it out! It should start to bubble again by day 7. If it does you can add a tiny bit of cider vinegar- about 1/4 tsp to lower the PH. I’ve never had to add the cider and if you are patient, you probably will not have to either.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

    • Terri

      You can increase your starter by repeating step four daily.

      You can also refrigerate it in a clean glass jar. Leave plenty of head space and do not screw down the lid tightly. At least once a week, take the starter out of the fridge, let it warm to room temp in a non-metal bowl and feed it with equal parts of flour and water.

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