What, How, and Why of a Sourdough Starter (Free Video and Instructions)

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What, How, and Why of a Sourdough Starter | How do you make a sourdough starter? What's happening in a sourdough starter? What's so great about sourdough bread? This video and sample chapter-- a free release from our Sourdough eCourse and eBook -- answer all your burning questions... and more! | GNOWFGLINS.com/starter

How do you make a sourdough starter? What’s happening in a sourdough starter? What’s so great about sourdough bread? The video below — a free release from our Sourdough eCourse and eBook — answers all your burning questions… and more!

Want to get these instructions in print? You can! Just grab our free sample chapter from the Sourdough eBook. Click here and I’ll send it to you right away for FREE.

You Can Do It!

Making a sourdough starter is easy, thanks to the already-present and abundant wild organisms on whole grain flour (the fresher the better). My two daughters have done it — I know you can, too! (You can get the instructions in our free sample chapter.)

What, How, and Why of a Sourdough Starter | How do you make a sourdough starter? What's happening in a sourdough starter? What's so great about sourdough bread? This video and sample chapter-- a free release from our Sourdough eCourse and eBook -- answer all your burning questions... and more! | GNOWFGLINS.com/starter

What’s Next?

Pretty soon your sourdough starter will be bubbly, active and ready to work. Use it in any of these yummy, easy, recipes, great for beginners or experienced bakers alike: fluffy pancakes, waffles, english muffins, crepes, chocolate cake, spice cake, or pizza crust — all free recipes right here on this blog.

Because we add more all the time, feel free to go here for a current list of all sourdough articles.

The recipes linked above — as well as the additional recipes in the eCourse and eBook — use whole-grain flours. In addition, we always call for the entirety of the flour to be “soured” by the sourdough starter — ensuring maximum reduction of phytic acid and pre-digestion of gluten. You can bet that these recipes are the healthiest around!

Have you made a sourdough starter before? Now that you’ve seen why sourdough is so much better than modern bread baking practices, what do you think? What’s your favorite thing to make with sourdough?

Before you click away, be sure to click here for the free sample chapter of the Sourdough eBook!

Like my free videos? Please subscribe to the GNOWFGLINS Channel on YouTube — and give this or any other video a thumbs-up!

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!


  1. says

    I LOVE this! I’ve been wishing I could take your sourdough eCourse (too busy and not enough $$ in the budget right now…) as I enjoy baking with sourdough. I feel like my homework has been done for me in just this one video since on my to-do list is “research how sourdough works.” Thank you!! Will be posting a link to this. :) Blessings, ~Lisa

  2. Lydia says

    Hi Wardee! Thank you for making this available for free! I would like to start some sourdough, but need a gluten free starter. Do you think I would have more success with oat flour or millet flour?

    Thanks for the help.

    • says

      Hi Lydia!
      I personally haven’t made starters with either of those flours. The GF starter recipe I use is here: http://glutenfreesourdough.blogspot.com/2010/01/boosted-brown-rice-starter-gluten-free.html There are also lots of tips in the Sourdough A to Z book, which I would highly recommend getting if you’re going to be doing lots of GF sourdough baking!

      I suspect that you could use millet flour to feed the starter once you have it established, but I found that oat flour gave it a funny smell and taste when I used it with sourdough, not sure why? Do you have a particular reason for avoiding rice flour?

      • Lydia says

        Thank you Sara!

        I wasn’t really avoiding rice flour, it’s just that the bread I’ve made so far turned out best with millet and oats, however they weren’t sprouted or soaked. I’m just now getting into the soaking part of our food prep. I will check out the link you provided.

        By the way, Wardee, I am planning on purchasing the e-books for fundamentals and sourdough. Just as soon as I have some pennies scraped together!

        Thank You Ladies, God Bless you and your loved ones!

  3. Sue Rine says

    Thank you Wardee. Your video added some more tips for managing my sourdough starter. I made the gingerbread from your sour dough book a few days ago. Sooo delicious and the sourdough shy members of the family didn’t even guess that it was sourdough! :-)
    I had a day in the kitchen recenty and had the starter sat near the woodstove which was fired up for baking. It was fizzing away and I was able to use some and refeed it during the day with just a few hours between feeds. It was like having a wee friend in the kitchen as I baked. :-)

  4. says

    I was blessed with some mature starter from a good friend of mine and I’m really enjoying it! I’m going to have to find the extra $$ in the budget so I can take this ecourse. This video was very interesting! I’ve always wondered about the “mechanics” of sourdough.

    Here’s a question for those who leave their starter out all the time: Do you find that your house has a yummy, sourdough-bready kind of aroma all the time? When my friend gave me that starter I took a big whiff and it smelled so good! I couldn’t wait to start making something with it. I think some people might think it doesn’t smell good, but I find it comforting and homey. When I walk into my house (through the kitchen) I am greeted by that lovely sourdough smell and I love it. It kind of reminds me of my grandma, although I’m not sure she worked in sourdough. She did teach me how to knead and make bread though and every time I make bread I’m briefly transported back to when I was a little girl, kneading along side my grandma and being fascinated with the dough rising in the round, white-enameled pans with the black rims….sigh…I’m glad she’s still alive, but I know she won’t be forever and I will always cherish those memories.

  5. Sheila says

    Thank you so very much! I’ve always liked the taste and smell of sourdough bread better than regular whole wheat, but now I understand why! I can’t wait to get started on my Starter! Thank you for all you do!

  6. Clare says

    Just wanted to say thanks!! I had been wanting to do this for a while and for homeschooling we are in the middle of learning about bacteria and fungus so this video will be the perfect lesson for tomorrow!

    • says

      Sarah, it is okay if it forms a hard crust. Are you in a dry environment? Just stir that stuff back in. To get it to double in volume, you can make a thicker starter (they rise more). Keep up with the feedings and over time the organism concentration will increase and it will perform better.

  7. Kim says

    I love sourdough bread but we eat bread so infrequently is one loaf a month that it is not economical to keep a starter. I have been baking with kefir as my sourdough stater. What is your experience with that? We like the kefir sourdough bread but it does not rise as well. Any tips for that ?

    • says

      Hi, Kim! :)

      My only thought is to add a bit of baking soda just before you shape the loaves. I haven’t tried it, but it could help give a nice lift. It will react with the acid in the kefir. Start with small amounts and work up from there. Also keep in mind that it is fast-action and once it rises, won’t rise again. So really you want to work it in quickly, shape the loaf, and let rise undisturbed, then bake. Just an idea… let me know if you try it and how it goes. :)

  8. Sarah says

    Hi Wardee, When making the starter, will it still Wok if I happen to let it sit till 18 to 20 hours to feed it?

    • says

      Sarah — It might, but it probably isn’t the best idea. You want to baby it to get it going and that means regular care every 12 hours. If it was the winter and cooler temps, it’s more likely to work at that time of year than the hot summer.

  9. Karen says

    Thanks for this helpful explanation! I was just wondering if I got the proportions right? If I use 1/4 cup water and 3/8 cup flour I get a really thick paste, not liquid at all. Is that okay?

  10. kathy says

    Am I not getting something here? I have the typical size of measuring cups. How is it that you measure 3/8 of a cup? Just thought that was a strange measurement.

    • Vashti says

      Hi – I had the same query too…

      After doing QUITE a bit of other online research, I discovered that this is a 100% hydration starter which basically means the ratio of water to flour is 100% (it’s the way bakers discuss proportions/ingredients).

      So, get out your weight scales and measure THAT way… exactly the same weight of flour and water.

      The other complicating factor for me was that Australian Metric measurements are significantly different to US/Imperial measures…

      So, discovering the bakers measurment method, was a godsend, literally.

      So I started mine with 100g each of flour and water. At the first feed, I added another 100g each of flour and water, which brings the total weight of the starter to 400g.

      Once the starter is established, each dispose/feed cycle, I weigh out 200g starter into a crock with a lid, then feed my original starter with another 100g each of flour/water. Into the crock, I add however much water/flour I need to bring the starter up to the amount required to make whatever it is I’m ‘extending’ it for…

      (does that make sense?)

  11. Megan says

    Hi, just wondering how the baking affects the lactobacilli? How does it have enough time to break down phytic acid in a dough before it gets put in the oven? Or does it just neutralize the phytic acid within the starter?


    • says

      Megan — The lactobacilli and yeasts work when the flour is souring with the starter. We recommend 8-12 hours to make it the most effective. The organisms don’t survive the baking.

  12. Rhonda says

    Wardee, I’ve had an accident with my sourdough starter, I am so sad! I was making pancakes the other day and I accidentally put milk in my leftover starter. Is there any way to save it? I started another one right away and set it beside the old one in hopes to catch the wild organisms a little easier than the first time around. It seems to have gotten bubbly a lot faster than the first time I grew one. I am sure you can understand my disappointment, I’ve had it going for about 3 years from when I originally took your e course :-( Rhonda

    • says

      Hi Rhonda,

      I’ve done that also! Here is what I did for my starter; I gave it flour equal to the amount of milk. Then a few hours later I gave it a small feeding of water and flour. The next day I gave it regular feeding. My starter bounced back and was fine. Like you my starter was a few years old and fairly strong. Hope that helps.

      GNOWFGLINS Support Team

  13. Meagan Hope Baker via Facebook says

    Just as long as you don’t have a “sick” house to sabotage your efforts. I tried and tried. I’m going to go to my parents and tend one over there. That and a ginger starter .

  14. Karen Questél via Facebook says

    Oh Wardee… HELP! I don’t know what I do wrong, but mine never turns out. I’ve tried it 3 different times. What kind of flour do you use? Do you grind your own?

    • Vashti says

      The very first time I tried to establish a starter, it didn’t work… So I did HEAPS more online research, and since then I’ve never had a problem.

      Here’s what I do:

      Put equal amounts (by weight) of water and flour into your large jar. I’m in Australia, so we use grams. I use 100g each of flour and water. 12 hours later, I add the same amount – 100g each flour and water which gives me a starter weighing at 400g total. Each and every 12 hours, for the next however many days it takes (about 4 from memory) at every feed I measure off 200g (half of the current amount of starter) and add another 100g each of flour/water.

      * I cover my jar with cling film/saran wrap
      * when it’s winter time (like it is here right now) and daytime temperatures are around 12C/53F and it drops close to zero/frost point overnight, I pop my starter/s into the cupboard above my oven. I add a tealight wamer underneath a HUGE ceramic serving bowl so that the ceramic bowl can be gently heated and radiate said heat throughout the entire cupboard.

      This week, however, it’s been even colder, so I used a polystyrofoam insulation box to warm things up a bit… Mine is huge (I get groceries home delivered from time to time, and they put the frozen things into the large foam boxes) and I heat my wheat bag in the microwave, and pop it into the foam box at one end, then pop my starters/doughs/etc at the other end. They stay much warmer inside the box and go pretty much ‘nutso’! *laughs*

      Whatever you can think of to keep your starter warm enough (or cool enough if you’re in a particularly hot climate) is the other key to getting one established easily…

      Hope this helps.

  15. Vashti says

    Thank you so much for this awesome site, Wardeh, and your podcast. I’m a big fan and love your down-to-earth nature.

    A quick question if I may… I have the Sourdough A-Z book and haven’t seen the answer there… apologies if this is answered somewhere else (just point me in the right urldirection if that’s quicker for you *grins*)

    Regarding GF sourdough starters and baked goods…

    Is it ‘safe’ to keep a GF starter in the same kitchen/cupboard/area as a regular wheaten starter – or would the GF one become contaminated and therefore unsafe?

    Also, would I have to treat GF starters and baked goods as if they were kosher? Keeping a separate set of utensils/baking trays etc for baking the GF products in? Two of my outlaws (mother, and mother-in-law of two of my sisters in law) are newly diagnosed coeliac and I was really wanting to bake them some GF breads and cakes that they could freeze and have on hand instead of having to buy GF baked goods…




  16. says

    This video was absolutely amazing!!! So so well explained! I’m looking into making my own sour dough bread so this was so helpful! I’m considering takin your course in the near future! Soo happy an thankful Renee introduced me to you!

  17. Jaime Ryan via Facebook says

    I will watch this video but just curious, does anyone know if sourdough bread can be done gluten, dairy, and egg free? Allergies make fermenting a little tough…

    • Vashti says

      Yes, absolutely!

      The sourdough a-z ebook (& class) explain how to establish a gluten free sourdough starter, and how I modify all the included non-gf recipes.

      For what it’s worth, I have two gluten sensitive family members that thrive on regular wheat sourdough bread, and the loaves I make (in my machine) are allergen free (per your list) and many recipes in the A-Z book are too (or can easily be amended).

      God Bless,


    • says

      Hi Michelle,

      The link to the free sample chapter? It should work as a popup when you click on it that will allow you to enter your name and email to have it sent to you. You may need to make sure you have popups allowed. If you still have troubles you can email contact@traditionalcookingschool.com and I can send it to you. :)

      Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS
      Support Team

  18. Melissa says

    I’m on day 4 of my starter. On day 2-3 I had quite a few bubbles but now before feeding there are almost no bubbles. I’m grinding my own white wheat. I was wondering if the proportions need to be different since I’m grinding my own because it seems so thick? Any ideas?

  19. Jessic P. says

    Should the starter rise and then fall? Mine was rising so well at first and then fell! If this happens, I cannot remove any and compost because it grows and then shrinks! I am thinking this means it isn’t healthy? I will say, it is a cold NY winter! Is that okay? Thank you!

  20. Melanie says

    Great video!!! Thanks. Is it feasible to use this recipe for a starter (as well as other recipes) with Einkorn flour?

    • says

      Melanie – Yes, you can! It might act differently – like be a little gloppy and less activity showing. But it works. :)

      I started my starter with spelt and now I use einkorn flour to feed it.

  21. Amelia says

    Thanks so much for the information. I am wondering if using sprouted wheat/spelt, etc. will be started or continued differently?

    • Amelia says

      Sorry, I didn’t go into enough details. When I mentioned that the first starter I tried worked, I was using Sharon Kane’s Gluten free recipe. Also, now that I listened to your podcast, it certainly helped to explain that I need to be more patient, since I do live in a colder climate.
      But, I also noticed when trying to make a starter that as much as I stir and clean off the sides of the bowl/jar, after a couple of days it gets hard like cement around the bowl or jar. I then transfer it to another bowl. Is this normal and is it the right thing to do? Also, if Einkorn starter may be less active than regular flour, when would I know it’s ready to use in a recipe? Thanks again! Your knowledge is truly a blessing!

  22. Christine says

    I’m planning on using fresh ground wheat. What would be the best to use to make the starter? I have hard white, soft white, and einkorn.

    • says

      Hi Christine,

      You could use any of the flours to start your starter. The einkorn may be a little more finicky in the beginning so you may wish to start with one of the white’s and then you could change over to einkorn after your starter matured (by changing the flour you feed).

  23. Christine says

    Also, we’ll be out of town for a few days during the starter growing period. What do I need to do so that I don’t ruin it?

    • says

      During the time a starter is beginning it does need special care. I would suggest you either take your starter with you so you can feed as needed or wait until you return home to start it. Once a starter is mature you could put it in the fridge while out of town with no worries.

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