Top 5 Sourdough Starter Feeding Tips for Beginners + FAQ’s!

By Amanda Paa – Updated September 23, 2023

If you want to start your own sourdough journey, you can BUY MY SOURDOUGH STARTER HERE! – and I will ship it you with instructions for feeding and maintaining. Cost is $12.


A friend of mine has been baking the most gorgeous sourdough bread for a few years. Last summer she gifted Brian a loaf, and although I’m gluten intolerant, she mentioned real sourdough might be okay for me to eat since the process happens through a long, natural fermentation, which “eats” much of the gluten proteins.

I did some research myself and found hope in several reports, and especially this one by Michael Pollan, stating that sourdough fermentation allows bacteria to fully break down the carbohydrates and gluten in bread. This makes it easier to digest and releases the nutrients within it, allowing our bodies to more easily absorb them.

Mixing Sourdough Bread with Hands, Whole Wheat

The curiosity in me resulted in slicing a piece and eating it. And then another slice. And another. With absolutely none of the symptoms I typically get from eating gluten.

Two weeks later I was in Canada and tried real sourdough again to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and no issues – again! I felt great. So happy to have real bread in my life again. *EVERY PERSON IS DIFFERENT THOUGH, SO CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS.

It was a breakthrough, life changing in fact. To think that not only could I eat sourdough, but also explore the practice of bread making. However, I was intimidated to start. I’d heard stories of traveling with a sourdough starter to keep it alive, flour/water ratios, scientific baking words that I had no clue about, oven techniques, etc. But it really doesn’t have to be that complicated, as I’ll teach you. 

Sourdough Starter in a Weck Jar

I acquired sourdough starter from a friend in dried out form, to rehydrate and start feeding. Less than a week later I had a bubbly mixture of flour and water, rising and falling naturally. The time came to make my first loaf, and although I felt unsure the whole time, it WORKED!

I firmly believe that anyone can bake sourdough bread. You don’t need to have years of baking experience, nor understand scientific terms. You don’t need an abundance of cooking tools or a special oven. All you need is flour, water, salt, and patience…. they do all the work for you.

Here are my Top Sourdough Starter Tips for Beginners that I wish I would have known before, and a sourdough starter video to go along with it!

1. How do you make a sourdough starter?

  • You can certainly create your own starter from just flour and water. However, I found a 100% success rate when using a strong, mature starter from someone else because it already has active cultures present. It eliminates so many variables that often result in starter fails.

You can BUY MY SOURDOUGH STARTER HERE! – and I will ship it you in the mail, with instructions for feeding and maintaining it so you can bake amazing bread. Cost is $12.

2. What flour do I feed my starter with?

I find the best way to keep a healthy starter is using unbleached, organic all-purpose flour. Because all-purpose flour has a medium protein percentage, it is easier to stir and work into your dough than say, bread flour. Organic all-purpose flour is also less expensive than organic bread flour, and you don’t need the added strength.

If you get a starter from someone else that has been fed with a different flour, you should continue feeding it that way. So if that’s rye, you should feed it rye. If it’s all-purpose, you should feed it all-purpose.

What about the water you feed your starter with? And the temperature?

Yes, the water quality does matter. Make sure to use filtered water instead of that from tap, as this may have chemicals or bacteria that you don’t want harboring in your bread.

The best temperature for a sourdough starter to thrive is around 73 degrees. I usually put my in the highest shelf in my cabinet, as I know it’s warmer there. If it’s cooler in your house, that’s okay, just know it will take longer to peak.

How to Know When Your Sourdough Starter is Ready to Bake With

3. How often and how much should I feed my starter? Why do I have to discard some of the starter?

  • There are varying thoughts on this. My thought is it all depends on how often you’re baking bread. For me, that’s usually once a day if the starter is sitting on the counter, or two times a week if I am storing it in the fridge. When I feed it once a day, it’s usually equal parts flour and water to how much starter there is left in the jar after discarding. I try to keep a small amount on hand, so I discard less. Usually that looks like 20 grams starter in the jar, and feeding it 40 grams water and 40 grams flour. This is called a 1:2:2 ratio and helps keep the acidity balanced.

The day before I bake my Everyday Sourdough recipe, I feed it every 12 hours to really get it activated. Some sources will say that you need to feed it upwards of 100 grams of flour and water and that simply is not true. . I ended up with way too much excess starter that way, and found it still performed well when feeding it a lesser amount. Ultimately, the most important thing is always feeding equal parts flour to water, whatever that number may be.

As soon as you feed it, the yeast and bacteria in your culture will begin to metabolize the sugars found in the flour, creating gasses as a byproduct. These gasses cause the starter to rise through the day and your dough to rise when baked. Once they are no longer viable, the starter falls. Discarding will help to remove much of this exhausted starter and balance the acids, but still keep the culture in the jar to continue growing with the new feedings.

sourdough starter in a mason jar

4. How do I know when my starter is active and ready to bake with?

Look for these signs:

  • it has doubled or tripled in size
  • has the texture of roasted marshmallows when you move a spoon through it
  • is puffy on top, with aerated bubbles on top and through the sides.

5. I travel a lot. Won’t my sourdough die? How can I keep it alive without being able to feed it every day?

It won’t die! It’s a myth that it needs to be fed every day. Your sourdough starter is resilient. If you’re traveling: Discard as normal and then feed your starter extra, like 100 grams flour and 100 grams water. Place it in refrigerator. It will keep fermenting, but at a much slower pace because of the cold temp. When you return, take it out of the refrigerator and let it warm up on counter for an hour. Then discard half and feed 2x per day leaving it on the counter, for a few days. It will get back to thriving!

6. How do I get sourdough to hold its shape? I’ve had problems with it spreading too much when I take it out of the banneton.

That’s a sign of overproofing your sourdough, OR not developing enough strength via “stretch and folds”, which is gently stretching the dough in the air, and folding it over the top of itself during bulk fermentation. Here is a VIDEO I filmed to demonstrate this. For all of my sourdough bread recipes, you’ll do 4 sets of stretch and folds.

7. What are the bare minimum tools for sourdough baking that I’ll need?

woman scoring sourdough bread with bread lame

8. I’ve heard there’s a lot of waste because you discard some of the starter every time you feed it. Is there anyway to avoid this, or use it in another recipe?

9. There are only two of us in the household. Are there small batch recipes out there?

  • Definitely! The sourdough recipes I have here on this blog make a medium size loaf that’s perfect for eating in two-ish days, when bread is freshest. It also helps keeps the cost of baking bread manageable.

10. I see sources that talk about a “baker’s schedule”. It seems like a lot of planning, and I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to that. 

  • Yes, sourdough baking takes a little bit of planning simply because the bulk fermentation takes about 6-8 hours. But the nice thing is you can let the second rise happen slowly in the refrigerator. So what I typically do is feed my starter in the morning, let it rise. When it’s ready to bake (usually around 3pm), then I mix and do the bulk fermentation. That usually ends around 10pm when I’m headed to bed. So I shape the dough, put it in the refrigerator, and bake it when I get up!

I know that’s a lot of information to digest, but hopefully it helped answer some of your questions. And I’m certainly not an expert. I learn something every time I bake another loaf, still 3 years later!

I will continue to share more topics here and also on Instagram, so be sure to follow me there. And if there is something specific I didn’t get to in this post, leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to answer.

Sourdough Bread - 10 Things To Know Before Baking Your First Loaf
Sourdough Bread - scoring pattern, how to use a bread lame

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April 30, 2018

COMMENT & RATE

I look forward to your comments, reviews and questions! If you love this recipe, please rate it when you leave a comment. Star ratings help people discover my recipes. Your support means a lot; thank you for being a part of the Heartbeet Kitchen community.

Amanda

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67 comments

  1. Lisa Rosado

    Does the Dutch over have to be ceramic or can it bake in stainless steel?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi! I wouldn’t recommend stainless steel because it doesn’t hold heat well. If you are looking for an affordable cast iron option, which is the best for baking sourdough bread, I highly recommend this combo cooker.

  2. Terri

    Can you freeze soutdoughbstarter?

    • Amanda Paa

      I have not tested that!

  3. Jim

    Amanda, I have been baking sourdough bread for a few years now using a well established starter. I have used several of your recipes and really like them as they always turn out great. I bake bread once a week and store my starter in the frig. How many times do you recommend feeding it before baking?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Jim! So glad you’re enjoying sourdough baking. If the starter has been in the fridge more than 4 days, I recommend doing 2 feedings to wake it back up before baking.

      • Jim

        Thanks Amanda.

  4. Laura Kelly

    I am going to try sourdough again and I just ordered your starter. I tried it a few months ago and it failed. It didn’t rise . I only have organic whole wheat bread flour and organic pastry flour in my house. Do I need to buy white flour to make the starter? Last time I thoughtlessly used my pastry flour which may have been what was wrong. I have a blood sugar problem and only use whole foods. If I use my organic whole wheat bread flour will that work or do I need to buy white flour?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hello! You can use organic whole wheat flour to feed the starter, but it will go through its food quicker, fermenting faster.

      • Laura Kelly

        Thanks for the answer! I will buy what you recommend and then make the bread with my whole wheat flour. I got the starter today and I am excited to try it!

  5. Merrie

    Hi – I’ve been using your starter for a few months with great success! Quick question – I’m using a clean jar every time I feed my starter so that I’m sure to use 20g of starter each time and I’m not sure how else to have the correct amount if I’m always using the same jar. Am I missing something ? I just watched your starter video on YouTube and it seems like you always keep it in the same jar – your video showed you adding flour and water but did not show how you actually did the discard part beforehand. Thank you!

    • Amanda Paa

      That’s a great question! Here’s what I do to use the same jar (for about 2 months): I weigh the jar I am going to use with nothing in it and no lid. Then I put that number on a sticker and put it on the bottom of the jar. So when I go to discard, I know how much is in the jar by subtracting what it weighs with the starter in it minus what the jar weighs empty. For example, if my jar weighed 280 grams and it now weighs 380 grams when I go to discard, I’d need to remove discard until I get the jar at 300 grams. That would equal 20 grams left in the jar.

      • Merrie

        Thank you! Is it important to continue to use the same jar or can I use a clean jar every time I feed?

  6. Inge Black

    hi, I started using my started on Monday and still feeding it.
    My question is: I never use salt, do I need to use salt when making Sourdough Bread?
    Thanks, Inge

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi! You’ll want to use salt so that the bread has flavor.

    • Lorraine Devereux

      I mistakenly left out the salt. My sourdough worked fine and I didn’t mind the flavour without the salt so I’ve stopped using it. It’s bad for my menieres disease so I decided to get used to a no salt bread.

  7. Bob

    In general, will sour dough bread off the shelf be better bread then the awful gluten free bread you have to buy.? Im single , baking is not in the cards for me..Bob.

    • Amanda Paa

      If you buy from a bakery that makes true sourdough bread with the long fermentation bread, yes. If you buy sourdough at a regular grocery store, those have commercial yeast + sourdough starter and often “natural sourdough flavor” to mimic true sourdough. So sourdough off the supermarket shelves is not properly long fermented to reduce the gluten proteins.

  8. Bob Alexander

    I want to know about no celiac sour dough bread. Before i buy..

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Bob, if you have celiac, I would consult with your physician. I have a gluten intolerance and do not have any reactions to naturally fermented sourdough, but every body is different.

  9. sara

    Hi – I’m just starting on my starter/sourdough journey and already have people asking if I can “share” my starter with them. Can I just share some discard and have them start with there? or how do you dry out starter to share? Thanks!

  10. Nina

    I am a brand new sour dough maker. I have had success with making an actuv sourdough starter but I’m a bit lost with where to go next. I am ok with mainatining (discard, feed, wait) but how do I make leavin?
    Do I just take some out of my active sour dough starter and then feed what is left and store?
    Or do I need to discard half of what is left of my starter, feed and then store?
    Thanks

  11. Mirka Tropepe

    Hi Amanda, I just received your starter today and I was wondering if it’s ok to feed it King Arthur unbleached organic bread flour or do I need to buy all purpose flour?
    Thank you.
    Mirka Tropepe

    • Amanda Paa

      Hello! You can use bread flour, but I prefer organic all-purpose because it is less expensive. It also has a slightly looser consistency than bread flour because it is in lower in protein, so that makes it easier to mix it into the dough.

  12. Bev

    Hi can I use spelt flour and what other flour. Thankyou

  13. Kathleen

    I came back from a weekend away and began feeding my starter again, but it hadn’t risen at all. How can I tell if I killed it?

      • Kathleen

        Thank you! Just watched and will take more active care in the next few days to see if I can get it back on track.

  14. Marilyn Mahmud

    I need more help on how to store my starter in the refrigerator. I live alone and don’t need to bake bread more than once a week. What do I do with the starter after I take it out of the fridge and want to use it?

      • Marilyn Mahmud

        Thanks so much! I watched the videos and they are very helpful. I still have a question about when I take the starter out of the fridge and how soon it is ready to be used? It sounds like I feed it and then wait until the next day?

        • Amanda Paa

          Hi! You should go through 2 feeding cycles after taking out of fridge, then use.

  15. Kimberly

    HI Amanda, I’m a bit confused as to how to increase my starter. I have been doing the basic 40 grams water and 40 grams flour. I want to try the recipe for incorporating rye flour, but it calls for 100 grams of starter. How do I achieve this? Maybe I’m overthinking the process !?!

    • Amanda Paa

      Hello! You would just feed it a bit more. So next time you discard, feed 60 grams flour, 60 grams water and you’ll have enough for the recipe.

  16. Joel

    Hiya, GREAT site! Thx! What if your home temp at a minimum is around 78 degrees? Arizona … how much should you alter the times? Thx!

    • Amanda Paa

      hi Joel! if your house runs warm, everything will move at a faster pace. you’ll want to rely on assessing the dough, rather than time, to know when things are ready or complete.

  17. Eri Tusha

    Hi Amanda,do you have any tips to have more bubbles on your starter and can you use the starter that you took out to make sourdough bread?

  18. Simone

    I stirred my sourdough starter the second day, will it be ok?

    • Amanda Paa

      Yes, it will be okay!

  19. Joleen Jorge

    Can I use my bread machine to make the sourdough bread?

    • Amanda Paa

      Unfortunately, sourdough cannot be made in a bread machine.

      • Susy

        What if the bread machine says it makes sourdough? Like the Neretva?

        • Amanda Paa

          It’s not something I would recommend.

  20. Emily Dingmann

    Hi Amanda, I’ve been busy baking bread and while it tastes fantastic, it’s a little flat. I think the dough isn’t very strong as it spreads out during the resting phase before shaping it for banneton. Should I do extra stretch and folds to strengthen it?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Emily! It sounds like you might be overproofing, which will cause the dough to lose its strength and spread. Try reducing your bulk fermentation by an hour and see if that helps.

  21. Ania

    I’ve been enjoying the bread baking process and loving the breads with the all purpose and bread flour recipes from you. Some in my family are asking for a loaf with more sour or tang flavor. I’ve heard of adding rye flour to create a more sour starter.? Also, I use refrigerated filtered water but have heard that it doesn’t filter all the fluoride or other things completely and I’m wondering if that has anything to do with flavor of the starter?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Ania!
      If you’d like your bread to be more sour, do the final rise overnight in the refrigerator. And yes, using rye in your starter will also increase the sour flavor, but I’d try the cold rise first.

  22. Belinda Biron

    I have an enameled 3 1/2″ quart cast iron dutch oven with a lid and I also have an 11″ cast iron skillet with lid. The skillet is 2 1/2″ high, and the lid is also 2 1/2 “. Can I use either of these for baking sourdough bread? Is there a particular recipe I should use that will work in one of these pans? Ii would prefer using the cast iron skillet if it would work.

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Belinda! The dutch oven size you have swill work for my all purpose loaf. Either of them should work actually, but I would try the dutch oven first, and when it’s finished cooling, see if the loaf would have had enough clearance inside the skillet with 2 1/2 inch lid.

  23. EMILIE

    I am on the second day of activating my starter from you. Can you use the discard right away in something like pancakes or should you wait until it is fully activated and can float?

    • Amanda Paa

      yep, you can use it right away!

  24. aida

    you mentioned above about only feeding it 30 grams of water and 30 grams of flour. About how many grams of starter are you leaving after discard? You said you discard a 1/3 but about how much is left if you are feeding 30 grams of water/flour?

    I wanted to try your way since I’ve been feeding equal parts flour and water to starter and I am having too much discard.

    does that make sense? Thanks!

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Aida! Yes, that makes sense. I keep a small amount of starter, that I do not measure actually. So I just approximate taking out 1/3 and then feed the 30 grams flour and 30 grams water. That keeps my starter at a healthy level, without having too much discard.

  25. Olivia Sorenson

    I started my starter 3 days ago. The first day I put in 4 oz of AP flour and 4 oz of filtered water and it was a sticky thick dough. The second day I added 4 more oz of flour and water and it was a sticky thick dough, but I didn’t discard any of it because the recipe I was using didn’t say to do that. So the third day when I fed it after mixing it, it wasn’t a thick sticky dough it was more of a liquid that was a little thick but not really that thick. So should I just restart it and discard some of it next time or is there a way I can fix it? Is it too late to start discarding half of it?

    • Amanda Paa

      You can discard, and feed. Wait about 12 hours then, discard and feed again. The warmer the temp of your home, the easier it is for it is to activate. So keeping the home at least 70 degrees is helpful!

  26. Paul

    Weekday recipe for me follows:
    I start with 2oz. cold starter from the refrigerator at 9PM.
    Feed it 3oz. Organic non gmo bread flour and 3oz lukewarm filtered water.
    At 5am I mix 24oz flour
    12oz lukewarm water
    2tsp salt
    Fold and knead every 10 minutes for an hour.
    Cover and let it rise unrefrigerated
    Around 5pm I fold it and shape it into a ball and place it in a banneton for 90 minutes.
    Bake in a covered clay baker for 30 minutes at 500 degrees farenheit .
    Remove cover and bake at 450 until internal temperature is 210 degrees.

    • amandapaa

      Thank you for the detailed notes on how you make your sourdough bread! I love to learn all the different ways, and hear what works best for people.

  27. Traci | Vanilla And Bean

    So excited about this and that you’re enjoying bread again! Hooray Amanda! Your loaves look over the top beautiful. I couldn’t agree more about Emilie’s book… I’ve read so much on the subject and her book is the most approachable by far! Now about that grain grinder 😍🙌🏻

  28. Karen Tedesco

    This is a great post Amanda! I’ve been making sourdough for many years, starting with Nancy Silverton’s method, then later the one from Tartine. I also was lucky to reactive some of Emilie’s starter recently and I’m back to the bread making ritual. It really is so satisfying to make a loaf of crusty bread, not to mention a million times more delicious and wholesome than most of what you can buy.

  29. amandapaa

    I think you would love the process! And naturally vegan for you. :)

  30. Laura

    Thanks for this information! I really love sourdough and miss it since going gluten free several years ago. I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to try it gluten again, but maybe rye would be the best way to reintroduce it, since it naturally has less gluten than wheat?
    I would also love the recipe for the pancakes you mentioned, but the link isn’t sending me to them, for some reason.

      • Laura

        Thanks, Amanda, for all this information! The prospect of having real bread again is exciting, and the pancakes look great! 😊

    • Sarah

      I am also aiming for a whole rye sourdough loaf. I read that if you add grapes when you make the starter It will have more acetic acid and work better with rye flour. I found the grapes helped my new starter a lot, and now its smells better and it works better on the rye. My recipe is 3rd’s by weight, whole wheat, whole rye, and bread flours. I’m still learning ads I go. But the flavor is there, and the structure is improving with each loaf.

  31. Cassie Thuvan Tran

    Thank you SO SO much for these tips! Sourdough bread is one of my favorite breads in the world. Have you had success in trying to make whole wheat or even oat sourdough? I don’t know how they do it, but those seem like really delicious and healthy options. And even if I’m the ONLY one making sourdough bread and end up with a giant loaf, I wouldn’t mind at all. ALL THE BREAD FOR MEEEEEEE! ;)

    • amandapaa

      Yes, I’ll be sharing a whole wheat sourdough recipe later this week!