How to Activate Your Sourdough Starter
Note: Directions are the same for all varieties of Sourdough starters – the only difference is the type of flour used.
Our Sourdough cultures are used to bake authentic sourdough bread. They are a simple mixture of flour and water which acts as a natural leavening agent. Wild yeasts are present in all flour and a starter is a way of cultivating it in a form that can be used to bake with. The characteristic sourness in a sourdough comes from the bacteria present that grow alongside the yeast in the starter and can range from very strong to quite subtle. As the sourdough starter matures the wild yeast and bacteria develop making it ‘stronger’ and more complex in flavour.
Our Sourdough starter cultures are remarkably resilient and will live forever if taken care of properly. Only a small amount of sourdough starter is needed to make a batch of bread.
What kind of flour can you feed your Sourdough Starter?
- Rye – White or wholemeal rye flour.
- San Francisco – Plain white flour.
- Alaskan – Plain white flour.
- White – Plain white flour.
- Colorado Brown – Plain wholemeal flour.
- Gluten Free – Rice Flour (We recommend brown rice flour), Tapioca Flour, Oat Flour, Almond Flour or Coconut Flour.
About your Starter Culture.
- Your starter culture is a living culture and for best results it should ideally be used within 48hrs of receiving it.
- Feed it regularly to keep it in top condition.
- Our Sourdough cultures consists of water (not hot) and bread flour (organic is always best as it does not contain nasty pesticides that will harm your yeast.
- Humidity and temperature will influence the activity levels of the starter.
- A well fed, active starter will make the proving process shorter and thereby prevent long, slow rising which can lead to very sour tasting bread.
You received your starter, what now?
Firstly, get a container that can be closed with a lid (glass jar, Tupperware, etc.). Wash it out well with hot, boiling water and a little soap. Rinse out VERY WELL and allow the container to cool down if hot.
- How to feed your starter: As a rule of thumb feed the starter with the same amount as it weighs. The starter that you received will weigh 80g. So mix 40g of flour and 40g of water into your starter until well combined. Now put the lid back on, either tightly or loosely. Remember, the starter will produce carbon dioxide so pressure will build up in the container if closed tightly, so be careful when you open it again.
- It’s fed, what do I do now? Put it somewhere where the temperature is fairly constant with no draughts. Most find the kitchen counter is a good option. Some people put them in airing cupboards. As long as it isn’t too warm it should be fine. Aim for 16-22⁰C.
- When can I use it? In theory, you could use it as soon as you’ve received it in the mail. However, it won’t be really active as it hasn’t been fed whilst traveling to you. The ideal method is to feed it once or twice a day to get it very active and bubbly. How long this takes depends on how nutritious your flour is and your kitchen conditions. This is part of the fun of using sourdough, and will take some time on your part to figure out. As a general rule, if you feed the starter in the morning, you can use it in the afternoon/evening.
- If I keep feeding it won’t I end up with too much? Yes, a good idea is to discard half of your starter prior to every feed and then to feed it enough to make up what you have just discarded. For example, if your starter weighs 80g you would discard 40g so that you are left with 40g. Now feed with 20g flour and 20g water so that your total starter weighs 80g again. TIP: If you don’t discard some of your starter prior to feeding you will have to give it more flour and water with each feed. This is because the volume of starter is increased with every feed which results in more yeast cells requiring more food.
- Storing your starter: If you’re not baking every week and don’t want to feed your starter every day, and end up with too much starter (yes it happens), you can store it in the fridge providing you feed it at least once a week. The low temperature of the fridge will make your starter inactive. In essence, it will go to sleep. It can sleep in your fridge for a long time. We’ve had one strain which was revived after a year’s sleep without any issues. So go ahead, give it a good feed, make it a bit stiffer (like cold porridge), tighten the lid and place it in the fridge.
Two things to note: A layer of brown liquid may separate on the top of your starter. This is normal and should be discarded when you next feed/revive it. To revive your starter from the fridge, just feed as normal and store in its usual place outside of the fridge. It will take a few extra feeds to get it going again and could take a week or longer depending on how long it was stored in the fridge.
Troubleshooting & FAQs:
If you experience any problems with your starter culture please contact us immediately as refunds/replacements will only be issued if you have contacted us within the first three days of receiving your starter culture.
My starter is not showing any signs of activity after its first feed:
It may have got a bit too warm or cold in transit to you and will need a few additional feeds to get it going. Try feeding it twice a day for a couple of days. Discard half of the starter prior to every feed.
If you would like to test the rise on your sourdough, simply use 75% flour and 25% water with a strong flour.
What if I do not have enough sourdough starter for my recipe?
If you need more starter than you currently have just keep building it up by not removing any starter prior to feeding. It builds quite quickly.
My starter has separated with liquid on top?
This is called HOOCH and is actually quite natural. Stir it vigorously and feed it morning and evening instead of only once a day. Try feeding it with 60% flour and 40% water for 2 days and see how it reacts. If that does not resolve it then try feeding with 70% flour and 30% water.
Are your sourdough cultures dairy-free? Vegan?
Our sourdough cultures contain no animal byproducts.
Do you carry a gluten-free sourdough starter?
Yes, offer a gluten-free sourdough starter which can be found here.
Are the sourdough cultures reusable?
Yes, our sourdough cultures are traditional starter cultures and with proper care they can be re-used indefinitely.
The bread tastes very sour, like vinegar:
Make sure your starter is active before using it. If it isn’t it will result in long, drawn-out proving times which will result in higher levels of acidity.
There you go!
Remember, sourdough can be temperamental and will take a while to master. These instructions should only serve as a guide and are a reflection of what works for us. After a while you are likely to find your own way and methods which is the beauty (and fun!) of working with sourdough.
Our products are living cultures and for best results they should ideally be used within 48hrs of receiving them. The faster the cultures are used the higher the success rate. All live cultures require settling after being shipped. It is normal for cultures to take 3-5 brews to fully settle into their new environment. Please see instructions for more details.