Sourdough Starter, Day One: Getting it Together

Intro[Day 1] • Day 2 • Day 3 • Day 4 • Day 5 • Day 6 • Day 7 • Final Thoughts • Day 15

Basic Procedure for Making Sourdough Starter

by Debra Wink

If you are the curious, investigative type (or a sourdough purist :-) ), this can be done with just water in place of the juice throughout. But for many (not all), a vigorous gas-producing bacterium will grow on day 2 and quit growing on day 3 or 4, followed by a few days or more of agonizing stillness. The fruit juice or cider should keep this bacteria (and a few others that are smelly) from growing and delaying the process. Either way, the end result will be the same sourdough starter.

Starter-Setup

Our Sourdough Starter Mis-en-Place:

Walter will live on the left and get normal tap water (Walter, water.. get it? Oh, I are soooo clever!) PJ will be on the right and get unsweetened Pineapple Juice. Yeah, that’s avery large can of pineapple juice for three servings of 2 Tbsp each.

Day 1:

mix . . .
2 T. whole grain flour* (rye or wheat)
2 T. unsweetened pineapple juice, apple cider or orange juice

* Organic is not a requirement, nor does it need to be freshly ground.

Notice that Debra chooses to use simple measuring here. 2 Tbsp (1/8 cup) is an easy measure to get and is also small enough to not build up a huge amount of starter. I happen to have these little medical measure cups which make it easy but I also have a 1/8 c scoop. Obviously two 1 Tbsp measures would also work fine.  At this stage, accuracy isn’t terribly important, as long as the conditions are set up properly. I’ll add here that I’m using rye flour during our beginning process, as this is what I have on hand.

20090812_mixed

Here they are mixed and on the counter. It’s 82ºF or 28ºC in the kitchen. It’s middle of summer right now.

Water added & stirredJuice added & stired

Looking deep into the jars…. nothing happening at all after four minutes! I’m shocked.

We’ll let these sit on the counter, with their lids on, until tomorrow.

Intro[Day 1]Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Final ThoughtsDay 15

11 thoughts on “Sourdough Starter, Day One: Getting it Together

  1. Deka

    Started my starter today. Wish me luck! LOL
    I will share my day by day experience on your site because you have done such a great job explaining the process.

    BTW: Thank you for the pics, instructions and site to glean this information from.

    Deka

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Should work for you, no reason it wouldn’t. The only thing to be careful of is if your pineapple juice contains added chemicals which are in there to preserve the juice and, well, kill yeast. As long as you are using real 100% pure juice, you’ll be fine. If you find your juice does have added preservatives, you can also use fresh orange or lemon juice. It will take a bit longer for that to work as the pH level it brings isn’t as “perfect” as pineapple juice, but it will still work.

      Keep us posted on your progress, add your comments under the appropriate day’s post!

      Reply
  2. Sean

    I’ve been struggling with making sourdough starter for months now.
    I kept getting a disgusting soured-yogurt smelling mixture that really
    grossed me out, and after two or three days the starter just seemed to
    die, so I’d throw it out.

    Now, after reading your experiments with sourdough starter, I
    finally understand what I’ve been doing wrong. I’ve been far too
    impatient, and if I’d just stuck with my original attempt I’d have
    been enjoying good sourdough bread for a month now.

    The blogs I initially read were very informative… but none of them
    mentioned the “stinky” and “looks dead” stages the sourdough starter
    goes through. I have no idea what they did differently (they claimed
    to use just flour and water), but now I’m going to stick to my guns
    and hold out for the 7-15 days it might take to really get this hobby
    underway.

    Thanks much for all the great information!

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Thanks, Sean! Glad the info is helpful.
      Don’t hesitate to post again if you have any questions and also to keep us updated on your starter progress.

      Reply
  3. Ben

    Great article! Very informative. I may have messed it up with using Dole pineapple juice, I guess we’ll find out.

    Reply
      1. Ben

        Well, by the third day I was seeing no activity in the starter. I was planning to buy different pineapple juice, maybe online or something. But before going to bed on the third day, I noticed that the starter was full of bubbles. It was not as active as your pictures, but it had almost doubled in size. I am now in the second day of 2:1:1 and I think I may stay in this phase a little longer until the starter is a little more vigorous. Once I am seeing it looking better, I will move into the 1:1:1 phase. Thoughts?

      2. Paul Post author

        That sounds excellent. Remember that things like “Day Four” and such are just guidelines; the yeasties don’t have watches or calendars. So stick with the current set up until the starter is nice and active and reliably doubles in a set amount of time, say 8 or 6 hours.

        Now this does mean keeping a close eye on thing for the next day or so. But when you know it’s doubling well and it is peaking faster, then you can cut back on the “old” starter you keep and feed more new food.

        This will mean there’s a bit less starter colony and more food for it to get through so it will slow the doubling time up a bit as the old colony has more “new stuff” to take over and is starting with a smaller batch of critters to start with. But that’s all good.

        Once your starter is going nicely, you’ll want to go from 1:1:1 to 1:2:2 (as a suggestion, see how YOUR starter behaves) and possibly cut back to a total of, say, 50 grams of starter after feeding, just enough to easily live in a 1 pint mason jar. That will mean 10 grams old start, 20 grams water, 20 grams flour. For your 1:1:1 ratio, you can do 20:20:20 grams. Either way, you’ll still be discarding a tiny 40 grams of used starter at each feed. When you’re ready to start baking, you then use that 40 grams as your bread’s “levain” which you then build up to whatever amount the recipe you are working with requires.

        Meanwhile, your “mother” starter stays safe and unused, getting its normal 1:2:2 feed, three times a day, “morning”, “late afternoon” and “night”. Again, starters don’t wear watches so at breakfast, after work – for most people – and before bed is close enough. Keep doing this for 2 weeks, then she can go live in the fridge.

        Keep going, sounds like you have a good one on its way!

        - Paul

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