Feeding Sourdough Starter – A Complete Guide

This sourdough starter feeding guide shows how to create and maintain a sourdough starter to make successful sourdough recipes.

A sourdough starter in a jar with a rubber band around it showing feeding sourdough starter.

When making sourdough bread recipes the most challenging part is knowing how to feed a sourdough starter.

Here I go over all you need to know about sourdough starter and how to maintain it to use in your baking.

What is sourdough starter?

Understanding what sourdough starter is can really help as it really is a living ingredient.

A sourdough starter is essentially a collection of wild yeast and bacteria. They feed off a mixture of flour and water. Add flour and water daily to provide a fresh food source.

When starting a starter, it’s a process of catching and nurturing these organisms. Give them food and the ideal environment to grow and your starter will thrive.

When the starter is ready to bake, the yeast will be responsible for the rise of the bread. The yeast releases carbon dioxide which causes the bread to rise.

The lactic acid bacteria in the starter, which is the lactobacillus strain, also release carbon dioxide. However, not as much as the yeast. The bacteria is responsible for the sour tang in sourdough bread. This is due to the lactic and acetic acid they produce.

It is important to nurture and grow the yeast colony in the starter. This ensures it is strong enough to leaven your bread. This takes time, but it’s crucial if you want a good result.


To create a new starter you need flour and water. You can use unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour for this process and save the nicer flour for the actual bread baking.

Rye flour is often used in starter creation as this can make the starter appear active faster. However, this is often due to extra bacterial action. This can look bubbly and active but doesn’t necessarily mean your starter is ready to go.

The bacteria grow much faster than the yeast. Because the bacteria also produce a little carbon dioxide, this can create bubbles in the starter very early on. However, these early bubbles do not indicate your starter is ready to bake.

Tap water can be used to create the starter. Use filtered water or bottled water if you think your water may hinder the starter process. (For example, if there are large amounts of chlorine in your water)

Ideal environment

Yeast likes warmth in which to multiply. Keep your starter in a warm place between 70°F and 80°F (21°C and 26°C).

If the environment is too cold, a starter can slow right down. In the same respect, if it gets too hot the starter can become dormant.

Sourdough starter daily feeding ratio

This starter is made using a 1:1:1 ratio (starter : flour : water). This is a starter at 100% hydration level. When feeding a starter at 100% hydration, feed it equal parts flour and water. This is measured in weight. The consistency will be thick pancake batter.

It is important to measure the ingredients for a starter this way as equal volume measurements aren’t consistent. Water weighs much more than flour and your starter will become too liquid.

As the starter becomes more mature, you can change the ratios to 1:2:2, 1:3:3, 1:4:4, and so on.  For example, 1:1:1 could be 40 grams of active starter, 40 grams of flour, and 40 grams of water. 1:2:2 could be 20 g starter, 40 g flour, and 40 g water. Both these ratios are 100% hydration. Use a kitchen scale for best results.

This can control how quickly the starter rises. The starter stays at 1 part, but the water and flour fed to it change. This ratio is still 100% hydration because the amount of water and flour in the total starter is still equal.

The more flour added compared to the starter, the slower the rise.

You can also change the 100% hydration element and create a stiffer starter by reducing the liquid. Stiffer starters take longer to rise and are pretty powerful in their rising power. They are great in enriched doughs like sourdough brioche. Wait until your starter is fully established before playing with stiffer feeding ratios.

stiff sourdough starter

Sourdough starter consistency

When a sourdough starter is first fed at 100% hydration, the texture is like a thick cake batter. As it rises it becomes light and airy. Once it has passed its peak and collapsed the sourdough starter will be runny. This is due to the acid and alcohol that have accumulated once the yeast runs out of food.

Sourdough starter and feeding schedule

Day 1 and 2

On day 1, combine equal parts of fresh flour and water in a bowl. How much you want to start off with is up to you. 40g of each is plenty, though you can reduce or increase this if you like. Just ensure you stay consistent during the process.

Starters can be both fast or slow to get going depending on so many variables. Using a consistent feeding schedule will help reduce at least one of those variables.

On days 1 and 2 of the starter creation, nothing is discarded. Flour and water are mixed together on day 1. The same amount of flour and water are added and mixed in on day 2.

However, from then onwards, only a small amount of starter will be fed.

The whole process can take at least 10 days to be fully active and ready to go. In some cases, it can take longer.

Day 3 onwards

From day 3 onwards, the starter will be fed 24 hourly at a ratio of 1:1:1. This is easy to remember and you can slot in the gram amount that you like. Eg, 40 grams of starter, 40g flour, and 40g water.

Mix it up in a bowl and pour it into a clean jar. Wrap a rubber band around the jar, marking where the starter sits. This will clearly show if it rises.

The remaining starter that is left can be discarded, though it won’t be much. Alternatively, this discard sourdough starter culture can be saved up and used in sourdough discard recipes. These are recipes that utilize the acid build-up in the sourdough culture. When it is paired with baking soda it creates a rise.

By days 4&5 you may see some bubbles, though you also may not. You may not notice the starter is quite runny when it’s time to feed it again. This is due to the acid created by the bacteria.

If your starter is splitting and forming liquid on the top or the bottom. Check that the environment in which you are keeping your starter isn’t too warm. You may need to increase the feedings to 12 hourly if this keeps happening.

If by day 6&7 the starter is doubling within 6-8 hours of feeding, increase the 1:1:1 feedings to 12 hourly.

If the starter is doubling within 4-6 hours after 12 hourly feedings, increase the ratio to 1:2:2. At this point, if it doubles within 6 hours at this higher ratio in a warm spot, the starter is ready to bake with.

Why discard the starter?

Because you want to nurture your yeast and bacteria with ample food. Keep only a small amount of starter and feed it. This ensures there will be plenty of food to feed those organisms. If you feed the entire starter each day, it starts compounding. Soon you’ll be going through an overwhelming amount of flour.

How to store sourdough discard

Sourdough discard starter that you don’t need can be stored in a container in the fridge. Each time you have a starter to discard you can simply add it to the same container. This way there is no waste. The acid that builds up in this discarded starter can be used to make delicious and tender sourdough recipes.

Maintaining a sourdough starter

Looking after your starter is just as important as creating one. It’s important to keep it refreshed often so there is not a buildup of acid.

An overly acidic starter can ruin the gluten structure in sourdough bread. This can make it extremely hard to bake with.

To keep the acid content low, give your starter frequent feedings if it’s at room temperature. You can do it 2-3 times every 24 hours at 1:1:1. Or twice every 24 hours at 1:2:2. This may need to be increased or decreased if the environment is very warm or cool.

Your starter will rise to its peak, after which it will collapse when the yeast has run out of food. Ensure you use your starter when it has at least doubled but before it passes this peak height.

The aim is always to keep the yeast active and happy and the acid content low.

Sourdough starter storage

Once your starter is well established, you can keep it at room temperature and keep feeding it regularly, or store it in the refrigerator.

Sourdough starter fridge

An active sourdough starter can be refrigerated when it isn’t being used. Feed the starter before placing it in the fridge. Either 1:1:1 if you plan to use it within the next day or two, or 1:2:2 if it will be longer (up to 10 days).

When you’re ready to bake again, take it out a day before you need it. Give it a feed or two before using it to get it active again. This will reduce the acid that will have built up after refrigerating.

Sourdough starter lid on or off?

When keeping a starter at room temperature, add on a loosely balanced lid or use a cloth. Starters rise quickly when it’s warm and create a lot of gas which needs space to escape.

When refrigerating a starter you can use a sealed lid. The rise and accumulation of gas will be much slower.

How long can sourdough starter last in the fridge?

Feed your starter before placing it in the fridge. It should last easily up to 10 days and in some cases longer. When you’re ready to use it, take it out a day before you need it. Then feed it once or twice to get it active again.

Starter not rising? Check out these common issues with sourdough starter post.

Happy baking!

Sourdough Recipes to try

a glass of sourdough starter.

Sourdough Starter Recipe

Yield: 1 jar
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 10 days
Total Time: 10 days 5 minutes

How to make a sourdough starter, step-by-step.


  • Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Filtered water


  1. Day 1: combine 40 grams of flour and 40 grams of water in a jar and stir very well. Leave in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, covered with a loose lid or cloth.
  2. Day 2- Feed your starter 40 grams of flour and 40 grams of water. This means, adding in a fresh 40g of flour and 40g of water and mixing it really well with yesterday's mix.
  3. Day 3: Pour 40g of the starter into a fresh jar and feed it 40 grams of flour and 40 grams of water. (A ratio of 1:1:1.) Discard the rest.
  4. Day 4:  Pour 40g of the starter into a fresh jar and feed it 40 grams of flour and 40 grams of water. Discard the rest.By days 3 and 4, your starter might be bubbling and have a slightly sour smell.
  5. Day 5-10: each day pour 40g of the starter into a fresh jar and feed it 40 grams flour and 40 grams water. Discard the rest.
  6. If your starter is doubling easily by day 6 or 7, within 6 hours of feeding, you can start feeding it 1:1:1 twice daily.
  7. By day 10 it might be ready to use, though it could be earlier. Test to see if your starter Is ready by feeding it at a 1:2:2 ratio and seeing if it doubles within 6 hours. For example, 30g starter, 60g flour, and 60g water. If it doubles within 6 hours, when kept In a warm spot it's ready to use.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 46Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 1g

This is an informational estimate only. I am not a certified Dietitian or Nutritionist

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  1. Hi there, just wondering if you’ve ever created a gf sourdough. I would be very interested in your results.

  2. Help.. I thought the 1.2.2 ration was 20g starter and 40g of flour and water? In day 10 you suggest a 1.2.2 to test with that example of 30g starter and 60g flour and water. I am confused on what the 1.2.2 should be. Thanks!

    1. Heya, 1:2:2 means 1 part, 2 parts 2 parts. So, 30g starter and 60g flour and 60g water is at a ratio of 1:2:2 (the 30g is 1 part, and the 60g is doubled to make 2 parts.). This is just like 20g starter, 40g flour, and 40g water. They’re both the same ratio, just different total amounts. Hope that makes sense 🙂

  3. Hi there! My starter looks great and I’m pretty sure it’s ready to bake with. Started the 1:2:2 ratio a couple of days ago and it more than doubled in 12 hrs. My question is, once I start using it and refrigerate the rest, you say to feed it first. Does that mean I still discard and use the same 1:2:2 ratio? Or am I just adding flour and water?? I don’t want to ruin the starter. It looks so good and bubbly!

    1. Hey! I usually discard and feed it 1:1:1 or 1:2:2 before refrigerating :). Usually 1:2:2 for a more established starter or if I plan to leave it in my fridge for a while. It won’t look like it rises much in the fridge, so don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t look bubbly when you take it out 🙂

  4. Good morning! So I made a loaf of bread about 2 weeks ago and it came out great! My starter has been in the fridge since because I haven’t had time to bake. It looks like it may be getting runny. Should I just add flour and water to what’s already in the jar or should I discard, feed and replace it to the fridge?

    1. That’s normal after being in the fridge, and it can stay a long time in the fridge even when runny. You can discard some and feed it if you like though! If mine has been in the fridge for ages and it’s super runny I’ll usually give it a boost feed at room temp at 1:2:2 the day before baking with it (then when baking with it I’ll feed it again)

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