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How to make a starter

A beginners guide to sourdough

How to make a starter

A beginners guide to sourdough

This is a part of an in depth 'beginner's guide to sourdough baking' from CooklyBookly founder Freddy May. Having spent months researching how to reliably bake sourdough. Click here to see the full collection. Feedback is very welcome, so please send comments to fmay@cooklybookly.com.


How to make a starter

A healthy starter is the single most important thing in sourdough baking. It's also the point where a lot of people give up. Either they are disappointed by the fact that it takes several days to get to a point where it's ready to use. Or they don't stick to a proper schedule for getting it up and running.


So, in many ways, it's a good way of finding out if sourdough is right for you or not.


Inspiration from the was taken from The Perfect Loaf's starter guide. It's a top sourdough blog that I can strongly recommend.


Starters do not have mystic properties

Almost everywhere you read about sourdough, you'll hear about the mystic properties that a sourdough culture has. It's all complete rubbish. Some well known french bakers throw their starter away and start from scratch every 8 weeks or so.


Your starter will be perfect as long as you build it reasonably carefully and continue to look after it. The next post talks about starter maintenance.


What to have ready

Make sure you have the following on hand before you start. See my Equipment page if you like.


  • Digital scales - if you're serious about baking, you will definitely, definitely want to measure your weights accurately.
  • Water in jug - most water is chlorinated and chlorine is a disinfectant and your starter, depending on the levels in your area, may find this rather disagreeable. Just fill a jug and leave it overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate.
  • Good quality white flour - the quality of what you put in will affect the quality you get out.
  • Rye flour - this contains more natural yeasts than white flour and so it will help your starter get off to a good start.
  • Glass jars - they don't have to be glass but glass lets you monitor the rise and fall of your starter much more easily. I use the 850ml ones from Weck. Buy at least 2 but I recommend more. I bought a box of six and use them for all sorts of things.


Daily schedule

Don't panic if you see little activity in the early days. Just stick with the schedule. Also, don't panic if you feed a little early or late. It's not supposed to dominate you.


Day 1

  • 100 grams of rye flour.
  • 125 grams of water from your jug (see above in 'what to have ready'). Use tepid water, about 27℃
  • Mix thoroughly together until the flour is fully incorporated into the water.
  • Put somewhere close to 27℃ and leave for 24 hours.


Day 2

  • Take a clean jar.
  • Spoon out 75 grams of the day 1 mixture and throw the rest away.
  • 50 grams of rye flour.
  • 50 grams of white flour.
  • 115 grams of water from your jug (see above in 'what to have ready'). Use tepid water, about 27℃
  • Mix thoroughly together until the flour is fully incorporated into the water.
  • Put somewhere close to 27℃ and leave for 24 hours.


Day 3

  • Take a clean jar.
  • Spoon out 75 grams of the day 2 mixture and throw the rest away.
  • 50 grams of rye flour.
  • 50 grams of white flour.
  • 115 grams of water from your jug (see above in 'what to have ready'). Use tepid water, about 27℃
  • Mix thoroughly together until the flour is fully incorporated into the water.
  • Put somewhere close to 27℃ and leave for 24 hours.


Day 4

Be prepared - we are now going to do 2 refreshments in one day. Do the first one in the morning and the second one 12 hours later.


  • Take a clean jar.
  • Spoon out 75 grams of the day 2 mixture and throw the rest away.
  • 50 grams of rye flour.
  • 50 grams of white flour.
  • 115 grams of water from your jug (see above in 'what to have ready'). Use tepid water, about 27℃
  • Mix thoroughly together until the flour is fully incorporated into the water.
  • Put somewhere close to 27℃ and leave for 12 hours.


Repeat the above process in the evening and leave for another 12 hours.


Days 5 and 6

Repeat the same twice daily refreshments as on day 4.


Day 7 onwards

By this point, you should see that your starter is rising to double its height compared to just after you have refreshed it. If this is not the case, then carry on the the Day 4 refreshment schedule until you get there.


At this point I personally refresh as follows. Note I now only use white flour but you can use any mix of you like. I recommend, for this beginners sourdough guide, that you only use white flour.


  • Take a clean jar (you should try to do this each time you refresh your starter).
  • Take about 20g of your starter and spoon it in.
  • 80g of white flour
  • 80 g of water
  • Leave it to rise in a warm place as usual.


Refresh one ore more times when it reaches it peak by using the same process described above. The white only flour might change the rise a bit but it should settle down very quickly.


What now?

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