Make or buy starter

Hi all,
I was recently advised that one shouldn't make a starter culture in Australia because the bacteria/yeasts are not as good for you as those in countries where the grains used to make the flour originate, and it was better to acquire starters elsewhere??????? Has anyone else heard of this?????
I would appreciate any opinions.
Thanks, LJ
163 users have voted.


matthew 2008 June 24

I've never heard that theory before.  But if you look around the ABA bakeries I think you'd be hard pressed to find one that had imported it's starter from overseas.  Just follow Dom's instructional blog and you'll have a healthy starter of your own.  If you want to import one, feel free, but you certainly don't have to, you'll get wonderful bread from your own home grown starter.

celia's picture
celia 2008 June 24

I bought mine from and have been delighted with them.  All I managed to raise before that was mould. :)

The North West starter is great, but the SF one is outstanding.  Shipping is cheap, and they came through quarantine without any problems at all (they were opened and inspected).


Cheers, Celia
lily 2008 June 24

Hi LJ,

There certainly is an addictive rush when you produce your own loaf from your own starter and are glad you persisted!

I too grew beautiful mould (candidum penicillum by the looks) on the surface of the starter.  It seemed to be each time I left the refreshment for more than 12 hour intervals.  I used to be a cheesemaker so it didn't scare me, but I was careful with hygiene and would use the goo underneath to refresh on.  Now it seems the endemic population in the starter creates unfavourable conditions for mould, but I may be eating these words in summer when everything is more lively..???

The starter took about 6 weeks to produce more predictable stable results (January to March, dry warm weather day and night, 100% hydration).

If winemakers, cheesemakers, and salami makers from around the world can use natural local yeasts and moulds to ferment their goods, why can't breadmakers?

Cheers, Lily.
baxel 2008 June 24
hi LJ

a theory i have heard & makes a lot of sense, is that an imported starter  used and refreshed, once, twice or say 10 times will be more a local product than imported as it 'picks' up the endemic bacteria/yeast each time it is fed and handled,... sounds plausible to me


davo 2008 June 24
I only know that I followed some internet instructions about how to get a starter going, using a mix of rye and unbleached bakers flour. I had activity within 2 days, a nice beery aroma shortly after, and baked after 7 days from scratch (it was a bit heavy but rose reasonably - a 40% rye batch of sourdough). Now a few short months later this starter is cooking with gas. I'm making bread that I'd be very happy to pay for, and getting much enjoyment out of it. I've also distributed some to two others who are making reportedly great bread out of it, too.

What I read (who knows whether true or not) is that the wild yeasts are mainly in the flour rather than in the air or general environment, and that the balance of your bugs will eventually trend to whatever is in the flour you use. I also read that rye hasa good mix of bugs in it generally and is therefore a good bet to incoporate into the starting up of a starter.

Where the lactobacillus comes from seems less certain; one bit of speculation I got was that it may come off your skin, which carries a squillion types of microbes constantly. Anyway, if the flour being the source and ultimate controlling factor of the wild yeast mix is true (and it may not be!), that "100 year old starter" might in fact be like grandpa's original favourite axe that 's had 17 handles and 6 heads - i.e. little to do with the original strain. Or not.

Anyway, I guess in the end I am saying that in my very very brief and humble experience, there doesn't seem to be any problem starting your own starter, and no need for cultural cringe about doing so.

The only thing I will say about Australian conditions is that
I've had some advice about the lack of amylase in our flours meaning it can be a good idea to add diastatic malt to the mix. I've done this and the bread is better  - but I've not done a control experiment to see what it would be like going back to no diastatic. Maybe the starter was just getting more mature, and the improvement would have come anyway??!! Given it (diastatic malt) is a natural grain product and it costs only a few cents per loaf, I think I'll just keep on using it.

Cheers and good luck...
Catharina's picture
Catharina 2008 June 25
[color=blue]...because....there is nothing more satisfying than producing a loaf from a starter that you have cultivated yourself.   I feel like the fact that 'my' starter produces marvellous loaves gives me bragging rights!

I had 10's of failed attempts - the mould took over or the culture turned pink and then red... but then I discovered the pineapple juice method (the recipe is all over the internet) and VIOLA!!! I had a viable starter in just 5 days --- it was truely amazing!  I do think, however, the real trick is to diligently and briskly stir the starter several times a day --- even if there is no sign of activity.

Anyway --- have a go --- what have you got to lose???  Flour, salt and water is not that expensive... I think there are far worse habits and addictions! [/color]
Panevino 2008 June 25
Nothing wrong with buying starter but if you wanted to make it, this is what I would do:  all of my baking friends have used this simple method with much success.

2 cups of water
1 Australian organic apple - cored and diced (compost the core)

Place the water and the diced apple in a bowl and after it bubbles for a couple of days, strain off the liquid and add equal amount of flour to it - organic white

It should be puffy after 24 hrs.

Throw away 3/4 and refresh back up to original amount you started with - with equal amounts of water and flour

Keep this up without lapses and eventually the starter will roar within 8 hrs, more or less

Then you are ready to bake

good luck


PaddyL 2008 June 30
I would never have believed I'd get such a magnificent, healthy, active starter from a simple mixture of flour and water, but the breads I'm making are spectacular.  I will try for some pictures later this week.  Whether white or whole wheat, they rise in a couple of hours in the bowl, then less than an hour in their pans and they're ready for the oven.  I don't even feed my starter that often, maybe once every ten days, or when I see it in the fridge, or just before I'm going to use it.  I am totally blown away by this stuff, what a high!
Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 June 30
It's easy to make your own starter as long as you stick to tried and true methods.

Understanding all the details of what's actually transpiring during the making of a starter requires more reading. However, going further and applying the understanding to specific situations to create new methods and or solve problems requires an even better understanding of the dynamics. But in most cases this is an interesting and useful journey to take.

Check out these posts here but the rest of the thread is interesting also:

This ia a link to a gallery of pictures that shows in visual terms what I described in the posts of the above thread.

Good luck

PS there's nothing wrong with Australian starters, they are equivalent to European and American simply because [sourdough] flora as a group is global. 

DVTO2 2012 September 29

I had homemade a starter last winter and was getting good tasting whole rye and whole wheat breads - I did less well with white flour breads in that my would not adapt to the white flour as well.  My bread tended to be dense and chewy, but very tasty.  I was and still am relatively new to bread making and, so I realize there are many factors here: hydration, kneading, proofing, oven temperture etc, but I never really got anything close to a light an airy loaf of white bread. 

I took the summer off because I couldn't see heating up the house with a hot oven, and now my domrant starters are mostly mold.  I dumped most of it and am basically starting over, but am revisting the idea of buying starters.  I reread Ed Wood's different starter descriptions and they sound so appealing.  He insists his starters do not become contaminated by local yeasts - any thoughts here? Would I do better with my white flour efforts with one of his starters?

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 September 30

Hello DVT02,

There is absolutely nothing wrong with making your own starter.  You should , with practice, be able to make perfectly good and light bread (that is still nothing like the fairy-floss that you buy in the supermarkets).

I maintain a 'mother' culture that is based on 15-20%rye/80-85% white flour at 100% hydration.  The rye is an activity booster/maintainer but if I want to make a 'whiter' loaf when I am preparing my levain (loaf starter) I build it up with white flour alone.  Mostly this is just half 'mother' and half new feed but if I want to go really 'white' I build it up in stages from a few grams.

The other thing to remember is that you have to adjust what you do (a bit) and the time that you take to match what your starter and recipe does.  The timing that is printed with a recipe is, at best, a guide and you should be prepared to experiment to see what is best for your conditions.  I have found that you have to work quite hard to over-prove a loaf.  And so what if you do - you will have learned something from the experience and will do better next time.

Welcome back to sourdough baking.  Good luck with your projects and let us know how you go.


crusty044 2012 October 20


I used my wheat starter to make a rye starter. I certainly goes off the map when I refresh it.  It more than trebles in volume.

Can I mix wheat and rye starter( 1/2 and 1/2) and would it still work to produce and edible loaf of bread.

I am only a beginner but I have a wheat starter that I have been nurturing for about 3 years but I also like rye bread.

Ovet the last year I have only produced flat heavy discs of Bread???. Only suitable for the compost heap.



Brisbane. Australia.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 October 20

Hi crusty,

I could see no problem at all.  I don't have separate cultures.  I feed with 20%rye and 80%white wheat flour but for preparing my loaf starter I will often build it up with only white or only rye or any blend in between depending on what i want to finish with.

A bit sad to hear that you have been having so little success.  Perhaps if you tell us a bit more of what recipe you are using and what your methods and timings are and what goes wrong, perhaps we can diagnose for you.

I assume that you have read the beginners blogs by SourDom on this site.  I have found them to be a good reference and starting point.

Keep on bakin'


crusty044 2012 October 20

Thank you Farinam.

I can see that I will have to start to do a lot of reading on the forum and also the book I just received by Yoke Mardewi about sourdough.

My biggest problem is that I am impatient and sometimes spare time is at a premium.

Your advise is appreciated.

Best Regards,


DVTO2 2012 October 16
Adding a little rye flour to my wheat cultures is my new strategy and really seems to help the .wheat

Post Reply

Already a member? Login