Sourdough starter

SteveTwigg's picture

I have started my first sourdough starter.  It is bubbling but not a great deal.  I have refreshed it once but it still seems slow.  I have just put it in the airing cupboard where it is warmer.  How will I know whether my starter is ready for baking a loaf?  The recipe has used strong white flour, water and 7 chopped grapes.

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Hugo's picture
Hugo 2013 April 12

You need to feed it for a few more days (up to 2 weeks) before it’s at full speed. The grapes are optional, really. Just stir the mix, dump half the mix in the kitchen sink, and "feed" your starter equal amounts of water and flour (in weight, e.g. 50g water and 50g flour). Do this each day. When it’s bubbling more, feed it twice a day.

I hope you have used organic flour and bottled water (or water from a well). Chlorine in water and chemicals used to "stabilize" food products can inhibit bacterial/yeast growth. Also, make sure your flour hasn’t been irradiated (some commercial food products in the US are).

Keep us informed of your progress!

With simply pure water and unbleached flour, you can have your starter, well, started in just a few days.


phaz 2013 April 12
lots of good info here in the forums, but I'm sure most will ask for more info on your process and at what stage it is in. all critical info when trying to making a diagnosis. so how are ya doing it? and how many days into it are ya? that's what I was asked as I was thinking I was having trouble with my starter.
SteveTwigg's picture
SteveTwigg 2013 April 12

I began my starter 2 days ago.  I did not use filtered water or unbleached flour.  It has been bubbling quite quickly at one stage but has now slowed down.

Recipe :

5-7 seedless green grapes

250g strong white flour

250ml tepid water (boiled and tap water)

for feeding:

100g strong white flour

100ml tepid water



phaz 2013 April 12
initially, there is a day or so where the bacteria takes control over the starter. I just went through this myself a few days ago with my new starter. I thought I was all set when I saw the high activity, not so. what does the starter smell like? I had a very strong cheese smell and mostly large bubbles in the foam, practically none underneath. this was followed by 2 or 3 days of a paint smelling starter with about no activity. leave it alone for 24 hrs then feed every 12 for a few days more. now, today actually, things took off, I mean really took off. starter has been doubling every 1.5 hrs since about 6am and has just started to slow down, which means it's time for a feeding. stiring here and there to spread things around and get some air in seems to be a good thing. you've got a new born there. keep it warm and feed when it asks and you'll be good. it will grow up and mature, but like a child, it takes a little time
Hugo's picture
Hugo 2013 April 12

In typical unbleached flour, for every gram, you get something like ten thousands yeast spores, and only about 250 bacteria waiting to be awaken. The bacteria will take a few days reaching their full potential (each bacteria "clones" itself every few hours, it’s an exponential growth but it’s also a slow start). They’re self-regulated: when the acidity increases past a certain point or when they’re running out of food in their immediate environment, they start dying and some of them will switch to "survival mode".

And that’s why when you stir, knead or fold your mix, you allow the bacteria to reach food-rich spots and the mix starts bubbling again (at least for a while). And that’s also why youy want to discard a substantial part of your starter prior to feeding it: you don’t want acidity to reach a critical level, where the yeast and bacteria will be unhappy (and your bread will taste like a football dipped into vinegar).


SteveTwigg's picture
SteveTwigg 2013 April 16

How do I know when the starter is mature and ready for bread making?  And once it is ready, will it always be ready if I keep feeding it (ready in a day or so for the next bake). 

I started my new batch last Friday using bottled water and unbleached flour (the same amount of flour as water) and within a day it had started bubbling.  Some days it bubbles more than others but it has never bubbled vigourously (but I am sure it will).

I hate throwing food away (half the starter) as we never throw any food away in our household (or seldom) but I guess one it is mature there will be less waste.

SteveTwigg's picture
SteveTwigg 2013 April 12

Many thanks for your time and help.  I think I need to ditch my 1st starter!  I have been into town this morning and sourced some unbleached strong white stoneground flour and I have mixed up my next starter 300g flour and 300ml bottled tepid water.  The mixture is the consistency of thick porridge and I have stored it in a Kilner (sealed) jar.  My flour is from Boston in Lincolnshire, UK.  I have included a link, for those who might like to view one of our 5 sail working windmills.  I will keep you posted on how my efforts are progressing.

Watch the video, if you have time.  One of the outside shots shows Boston Stump which is a well known church called St Botolphs.

Another link is The Traditional Cornmillers Guild.

I did go to a health food shop and they had some strong white flour.  I was informed that the organic flour was probably unbleached but he wasn't sure.  Looking at the ingredients told me that it wasn't!  At the next shop I visited, on the packet of unbleached flour it described the ingredients : wheat.

SteveTwigg's picture
SteveTwigg 2013 April 13

Many thanks for the link.  I mixed my new starter at 10am this morning.  It is now 5pm and it has already started bubbling.  Fingers crossed that this starter will be OK.  8.35pm and it is bubbling even more!

Spirited Starter 2013 April 14

wow thats quick...mine took 7 days to get going....see thread "Starter help needed". It may ebb and flow...patience is definately a virtue when it comes to starters...Good luck and enjoy the ride...its so much fun.


SteveTwigg's picture
SteveTwigg 2013 April 19

I am still persevering - still bubbling steadily but nothing major.  I have added some wholemeal flour recently and I have just bought some rye flour, which I hope to add tonight.  Nearly getting on for 2 weeks but still smells OK.  Do I still persevere?  Someone mention they had had 2 cracked glass containers and thought it was due to the fermentation!  Well 2 of my sealed containers have cracked as well, so I have now left the starter slightly open.

Electricboots 2013 April 19

Hi Steve,

Just keep up the feeding and it will be fine! If you are worried about waste keep the overall amount small eg 100 g and just feed it up to the amount you need for the bake. Most people seem to find that the first few loaves are a bit flat looking but the taste is usually good. It takes a while to get the timing right for max activity.


SteveTwigg's picture
SteveTwigg 2013 April 20

Still bubbling.  The best activity was yeaterday when I put it on the window sill in the sun.  It slowed down as the evening wore on but is looking lively again.  Still keeping my fingers crossed.  Having baked 'normal bread' (granary) since 1978 I'm getting a little frustrated but I have been assured that it will be worth waiting for.

SteveTwigg's picture
SteveTwigg 2013 April 20

Added 60g flour and 60ml water at 8am.  Bubbled quite a bit and then not a lot of activity.  3 hours later (probably a bit soon) added another 50g flour and 50ml water ( mixture of wholemeal and unbleached white).  Sunning itself on the window sill (it seems to like it nice and warm!) and bubbling well.  Hopefully I'm getting there.  I think I am impatient!  Started 8 days ago.

SteveTwigg's picture
SteveTwigg 2013 May 13

My starter is fine now and I have made several successful batches of sourdough.  I have passed some of my starter on to friends, hoping that they will also enjoy baking tasty sourdough.  My last batch was left in the fridge overnight and took 7 hours of proving before it was ready for the oven.  I tried the flax seed heaven recipe but adapted it a little to include some rye and spelt flours.  Pretty tasty result.  I also reduced the water content, as I found the really sticky dough difficult to handle.  I hope with experience to add more water.

shasta's picture
shasta 2013 May 13

Great to hear Steve! Congratulations!

Have you tried the stretch and fold technique in the first proofing stage? I think its easier for wet doughs

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