3 October, 2012 – updated March 2020


*Find a recipe for No-Knead Sourdough Bread HERE and a Gluten-free Sourdough Bread HERE.

I find the art of making bread very grounding and nurturing for the soul. Especially the slow and gentle process of sourdough. This traditional technique of making bread is as old as the cultivation of grains itself. The modern version of bread using baker’s yeast to make a loaf in several hours does not allow for the long fermentation grains require to make them more digestible.

Making a Sourdough Starter

Several notes before you start:

  • The natural wild yeast to kickstart a sourdough starter is found predominantly in the flour used with higher amounts in wholemeal flours. I make a ‘starter flour’ mix of half organic wholemeal flour and half white flour (any type of white flour). Or for a gluten-free starter use brown rice flour. If you don’t have access to organic flour then any flour can be used, however, it is imperative to use warm water and keep the developing starter in a warm position to give it all the help you can.
  • Use tepid water, about 35-40°C (this will feel lukewarm to touch) to support yeast growth. Using non-chlorinated water (filtered water; boiled and cooled water; rainwater; or bottled water) is also important as the antibacterial quality of chlorinated water can create an imbalance in the microbes that we are working hard to cultivate in the new starter.
  • If you have digital scales I recommend weighing ingredients as this is far more accurate than using volume measures.
  • Don’t be tempted to add extra water, the starter will start out thick (especially when using brown rice flour for a gluten-free starter) and will become more liquid as the flour is hydrated by the water.
  • Find my ‘Sourdough How To’ Instagram stories highlights HERE where I make a new starter from scratch and discuss the process.

Day 1:

In a scrupulously clean 400-500ml glass jar combine 30g (2 rounded tablespoons) flour (see notes about flour choice above) with 30g (2 tablespoons) warm water. Stir well to aerate – this incorporates oxygen into the mixture to assist with the fermentation.

Cover loosely with the lid – don’t screw on tightly – to allow the starter to breathe while not forming a crust on the surface. Leave in a warm place – ideally between 18 – 24°C. During summer the kitchen bench will be fine; in winter position the jar somewhere warm such as a sunny table, on top of the fridge or beside the heater/fire (note: a hot water cupboard can be too hot so check the temperature first).

Day 2 – 5:

For the next 3-4 days feed the starter once every 24 hours (ideally around the same time each day) with 30g flour (2 rounded tablespoons) and 30g (2 tablespoons) water. Mix well with each addition and continue to sit the jar in a warm position. During this time you will notice the starter will begin to ‘breathe’ – rise and fall in the jar, with small bubbles throughout and smell sweetly sour and yeasty (not at all offensive). In cooler months, the starter may take 1 – 2 days longer to establish. The starter is ready to use once it noticeably rises in the jar, doubling in height after 5-6 hours with small bubbles visible throughout the mix – it can be helpful to make a mark on the jar after feeding for a visual comparison (or use a rubber band).

Using and maintaining the starter

Once the starter has obvious bubbles and doubles in size after each feed it is ready to use. Although it is important to note at this stage the starter is young and the first 2-3 uses won’t have a lot of yeast strength. I recommend refreshing the starter at this stage to give it a boost. The best way to do this is to scoop 1 heaped tablespoon of the new starter into a new jar (see below for what to do with the rest) and feed with 40g starter flour (1/4 cup) and 40g water (3 tablespoons).

For many of my sourdough recipes, you need around 150g total starter so two feeds of 40g flour and 40g water spaced about 6-8 hours apart will build up the starter ready for use again for bread baking or other sourdough cooking. Or it can be stored in the fridge (my prefered option) after the first feed and then removed 6-8 hours before preparing dough and feed again. When storing the starter in the fridge it needs to be used once a week otherwise it will need to be refreshed before each use as discussed above.

To use up the leftover starter after refreshing, often referred to as the ‘discard’ (although I find this misleading because it can be and should be used) add it to a batter or dough such as pancakes or hotcakes, or even a cake or muffin batter. Find the following recipes on Homegrown Kitchen to use up extra starter:

Fluffy Sourdough Pancakes

Sourdough Brunch Hotcakes

Handmade Sourdough Pappardelle (Pasta)

Little Fruit Cakes with a Sourdough Variation

+ Find a recipe for No-Knead Sourdough Bread HERE + Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread HERE

Sourdough Trouble Shooting

  • If you are using all white flour the starter can still work but it will be slower and need a little help (it will be faster if using half organic wholemeal flour as this is where the natural yeasts are concentrated on the outside of the grain). If after the day three feed there is no obvious rise in your jar refresh the starter as I suggest above to give it a boost. This will give the small amount of yeast in the jar more food. Continue with 30g feedings for 3 days and then refresh again. If you can get some organic wholemeal flour this will make all the difference and save time and flour.
  • Another scenario I am receiving queries about is that the starter shows bubbles for the first 2-3 days then after the next feed it flattens and possibly separates with a layer of water on top. This is often related to either not enough yeast activity (again using wholemeal here will make a difference) or a change in temperature. Go ahead and follow the refreshing instructions detailed in the point above.
  • And worst-case scenario, the starter grows mould or starts to smell very sour. This is often related to the starter getting too warm and bacterial growth dominating the yeast growth (read my notes about optimal temperature above), or too much humidity if you live in a humid climate. Unfortunately, the starter is not usable and will need to be started again. If you live in a warm climate 12-hour feedings can help slow down the bacterial growth.
  • And lastly, sometimes a starter for whatever reason just won’t get going. Most often this is due to flour and water quality, and inconsistent temperature. If this is the case, take a break and try again when it is warmer – or cooler, in summer it can be too hot. The new starter I made recently (March 2020) took me 5 days from start to finish to be able to bake a well-risen bread, but keep in mind I have been baking bread for over 10 years and made numerous starters from scratch. I know what signs to look for and I use the best quality flour (because this is the real key), I nurture it and move it around during the day. Sourdough doesn’t happen overnight it is a long process and takes many months of getting to know your starter and dough. In fact, I am still learning!

Give it try, it is a wonderful thing to make with children – tending and watching the starter change daily. Make sure to tag me @nicolagallowafood on Instagram if you are making a sourdough starter at home. And find my ‘Sourdough How To’ Instagram stories highlights HERE where I make a new starter from scratch and discuss the process.

*Find more detailed instructions on making and keeping a healthy sourdough starter in my latest cookbook The Homemade Table – Available HERE. Including a whole chapter on sourdough bread making with starter maintenance and troubleshooting, gluten-free bread, and many more everyday ways to use a starter in home cooking.







Join the Conversation

  1. Susan O'Leary says:

    Hi Nicola,
    I have my starter underway (6 days old) and will give the pizza dough a try when it is ready, but I was wondering if the recipe to make a loaf bread is the same?
    Cheers Susan

    1. Nicola Author says:

      Hi Susan, well done on making the starter! I will email you some links for some bread recipes I use. The pizza dough recipe will be too light for bread but would make a nice focaccia.

      1. Good day,
        Thank you for the sourdough starter, I recently discovered you instagram account. Would it be posible to have your overnight sourdough bread recipe? I would love to try it while we are under a three week lockdown here in South Africa during this Covid19 challenge.
        Kind regards

        1. Hi Charlene, sorry I am unable to share that recipe as it is in my cookbook and it is under copyright with my publishers.
          I have this No-Knead Bread recipe that is a good place to start.
          All the best in SA,

  2. Lorraine Harvey says:

    Hi Nicola,
    Thank you for your emails,which I find so helpull.
    I am excited about making sourdough bread.I have read so much about it being the best bread to eat.
    Could you send me some recipes for making it please.
    Thank you so much.

  3. If you were making a gluten free starter what flour would you use? Would buckwheat work?

    1. Hi Nicola, if you check out my Gluten-free Sough dough bread recipe – link on top of left hand column – there is a recipe using rice flour. I have tried buckwheat but didn’t work so well.

  4. Hi Nicola, I am wanting to give the sourdough starter a try – is it ok to use spelt/arrawa to make the starter, and once it is ready to use how important is freshly ground flour to keep it going?

    1. Hi Kjesti, yes that is fine to use arawa/ spelt for the starter. I find a white flour is more consistent but you can also use wholemeal. Once it is going you can use store bought flour no worries. Happy baking 🙂

  5. Carolyn Bauer says:

    Hi Nicola, I made your Sourdough starter and have made over 5 GF loaves now and am SO HAPPY with the great bread it makes EVERY TIME! YAY!
    I did find it the top 1/3 of loaf a little crumbly at first so I added 1 egg plus 1 1/2 tsp
    guargum and it works great!
    So pleased I don’t have to buy GF bread anymore and I find the recipe so easy.
    My husband even gets a loaf of Sourdough made with ordinary flour now and he loves it too! MANY THANKS!

    1. That is great to hear Carolyn. I find it is a very versatile recipe. It sounds like the bread may have over risen to have the crumbly layer. In this summer heat it can rise quite fast compared to winter, keeping an eye out for when it is perfectly domed and almost doubled in size is when I cook it, however, the addition of an egg and gum would stop this happening also. Unfortunately some people with gluten intolerance cannot tolerate vegetable gums as they act in a similar binding way as gluten therefore I don’t use them in my recipes.

  6. Triscena says:

    So just to check – days 1-6 you don’t add any extra flour & water, do you just whisk daily? Only days 6-10 you add extra flour & water?

    1. Hi Triscena, you add water and flour every day until the starter is ready. The heading reads – ‘for the next 6-10 days’ because it can take somewhere between 6-10 days to be active. The starter for my no-knead bread may help clarify:

      1. OMG, my bread worked 🙂 Thankyou Nicola! It is so delicious! Now for the pancakes 🙂 So with the starter, do I need to keep feeding it every day or is it ok to miss a couple? THANKS AGAIN x

        1. Awesome! It is best to feed it once a day but in winter every few days would be OK. I keep mine in the fridge and take it out 12-24 hours before making a bread mix. I feed it when I take it out of the fridge and wait for it to my bubbly before using it in bread. Happy baking!

          1. Thanks Nicola, so if you keep it in the fridge you don’t need to feed it daily, just when you take it out? PS, the pancakes were a hit – they are sooooooooo delicious!!!

          2. That is right. I feed it as usual once I remove from the fridge and then you need to wait for the starter to become bubbly – anywhere from 4-12 hours and then it is ready to use. It is best to use once a week or it can take longer to become bubbly. If I am going away for several weeks or longer I put the starter ‘to sleep’ in the fridge then bring it out once we home and feed it once a day for 3-4 days until it is happily bubbly again. It takes a little getting used to but makes the best bread and pancakes and crackers too!

      2. Abigail Harris says:

        Hi I can’t seem to find the heading for the 6-10 days . My starter is on its 6th day and unsure how much to keep feeding it!

        1. Hi Abigail. Your starter should be ready to use around day 5 – it will have active bubbles in the mix and smelly sweetly sour. If not, which can be the case when it is cooler, refresh the starter. To do this discard all but 1 tablespoon of the starter mix, scoop into a new jar and continue to feed as for days 2 – 5 every 12 hours. Use luke warm water and keep in a warm place until it is actively bubbling, then you can use to make bread. The first few breads may not rise a lot as the starter is still gaining momentum but after a few bakes they will rise well. Good luck!

  7. Hi Nicola, I have made several breads now with your starter, which all comes out great. Thanks! However, I have noticed that there isn’t much sour taste in the bread, except the pancakes that I made with the first batch of the starter. My starter smells very sour and bubbly, breads all raise nicely, I have also tried to leave the bread dough in the fridge overnight during the first fermentation to enhance the favor, but didn’t have much change. I kind of like the strong sour taste in sourdough bread.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    1. Hi Mon, that is fantastic you are having success with the bread. It takes a little time and attention but really makes the best bread. You will need to add more starter to get a more sour taste. Adjust the flour and water quantity. For example. If you use 1 cup starter rather than 3/4 cup you will need to adjust the flour and water by 1/4 cup total. I hope that helps, leaving it longer will also result in a more sour bread but then there is a fine balance between too long for yeasts to stay active. Good luck!

      1. Hi Nicola
        Just wanting to clarify re ‘adjusting the flour/water quantity’ when using more starter to get that sour taste – if I use 1/4 cup more starter, do I then REDUCE or INCREASE the amount of flour & water that I add by the same 1/4 cup (in total) amount?
        Thanks for all your great tips – I’m totally new to making sour dough bread.

        1. Hi Sheryl, if you are only adding 1/4 cup extra starter then you don’t need to make any adjustments. If it is more then yes, you would need to reduce the water and flour by the quantity. For example, I work in weights as it is much more accurate, if you wanted to add 100g extra starter then you would reduce the water by 50g and flour by 50g.
          Adding extra starter isn’t the only or best way to increase the sour taste as it can disrupt the microbe balance. You are better off doing this by leaving the dough to rise longer in the first rise (if making a tin loaf from my book – Everyday Bread), or when making the Rustic sourdough bread leaving the dough longer in the fridge – up to 24 hours. Adding some rye flour will also increase the sour taste as it ferments faster than wheat.
          Hope that helps 🙂

  8. Hi, love the posts. I am a kiwi living in NYC making my own sourdough daily but I’m about to head to Aotearoa for 6 weeks. Can you point me in the direction of where to source ingredients for my starter? Also, we’ll be in Nelson for a bit, where do you recommend fr good eating/visiting? Thanks!

    1. Hi Paul, there are some great organic stores in Auckland and Wellington, look out for Commonsense Organics in both centres.
      I love the markets for fresh food in Nelson. The Wednesday farmers’ market is small but some great fresh produce and the Saturday market is more busy with crafts as well. Cafes worth checking out are Broccoli Row, Devilles, Urban Oyster Bar for something a little flash, and Nicola’s Cantina (not mine!) is simple Mexican food but I think they are closed for the winter. Happy travels!

  9. Can you use any flour to make a sourdough starter? For eg, Organic Stoneground Wholemeal Flour?

    1. Hi Triscena, yes most gluten flours work OK to make a starter. I have found starter made from wholemeal flour can go off fast so either keep it in the fridge once established or feed twice a day in warmer weather it will go very sour. Good luck!

  10. Hi Nicola

    I’ve just prepared my first sourdough starter and can’t wait to use it! I was wondering if you have any sourdough bread/loaf recipes?


    1. Hi Charlotte, find a bread recipe here:
      I will share a number of sourdough recipes in my new cookbook out next March with detailed info about sourdough maintenance and using in recipes beyond bread.

  11. Nanette mann says:

    Hi Nicola
    I have started my first sour dough starter, I have use organic wholemeal stone ground flour and water of equal quantities, but how wet should it look like, or should I be using white flour. Are you having a course on Sour dough this year in Nelson.?

    By the way went to your preserving course this year and since have been making the kusandi and the paste sauce, oh my gosh so yummy, thanks for all the recipes. Looking forword to your new book – have put it on my Wish List for the family to buy for my birthday.

    1. Hi Nanette, that is the best flour to use. Use equal weights flour and water, it will start off quite thick but as they quantity increases it will thin out – my book has a thorough explanation. I will be running my sourdough workshop next term in Nelson and Wellington so keep an eye out 🙂

    2. p.s. great to hear about the preserving success! They are both on high rotation in my kitchen this time of the year to stock up for winter.

  12. Hello Nicola
    I love your site am definitely going to buy your book
    Please clarify I am reading the Sour dough Starter recipe and it says
    30grams of flour (3 heaped tablespoons)
    NZ tablespoon is 15grams please explain what I haven’t understood

    thank you

    1. Hi Kim, thanks for checking this with me. 30 grams is 3 tablespoons of flour – not ‘heaped’ tablespoons. I have just updated this recipe and had not adjusted the flour quantity accordingly – I have fixed this now. 1 tablespoon of flour weighs *about* 10g compared to water which is 15g per tablespoon. If you are serious about bread making it is worth investing in electric scales, as I explain in my book, you will have much more consistent baking results. I always weigh my ingredients for bread now and get perfect bread every time, while when I was using volumes it was very hit and miss! I hope that helps, and happy baking 🙂

  13. Hi Nicola
    I have just discovered your website via Edible Back yard. I am excited to find a sour dough GF recipe. I am a bit confused about the sour dough starter. I understand that after 5 days of feeding it I can use it to make bread. Do I then store it in the fridge and remove 12-24 hours each time before I need to use it? Is this the only time I need to feed it now 12 – 24 hours before making bread if using once a week?

    1. Hi Shona, you can either keep it at room temp and feed daily once the starter is bubbling happily or keep in the fridge and feed minimum of once a week. Correct, remove it from the fridge about 12 hours before making bread, feed the starter and then make bread once it is bubbly and happy again. It can take a bit to get used to working with sourdough, it is not as simple as commercial yeast. It is wild and can have a life of it’s own. In my new cookbook Homegrown Kitchen I haven included a sub-section on sourdough with thorough instructions on making and maintaining a sourdough, check it out if you have a chance 🙂

  14. jeanine corke says:

    Hi Nicola
    I have tried to make gluten free starter with organic brown rice flour. Both times my starter has started to grown mould after a few days. I live in the country, so bought store bottled water to use both times. Can you tell me what I am doing wrong?



    1. Hi Jeanine, are you using warm water and keeping the starter in a warm place? The first 4-5 days is crucial to get the starter going, after that it is fine to keep on the kitchen bench at room temp. A high shelf, hot water cupboard or near the fire in winter are good options. Also what I would suggest is at day 3 tip out (discard) all but 1 tablespoon of the starter, put this into a new jar and feed as usual. This will give the small quantity of yeast plenty of fresh food. I hope that helps, warmth really is the key esp. with a gluten-free starter.

  15. Hi Nicola,
    I’ve been making your sourdough bread from homegrown for a couple of months now and loving it. My starter is going really well which I feed everyday 30g of flour 30g water and I make usually 2 loafs of bread a week. I find this is a good amount to keep the starter at a good level of getting too big. However, I have friends which I would like to make bread for too but if I increase production to making a loaf every 2nd day I think my starter will run out! Can I increase the amount I feed it everyday to bulk it up?

    1. Hi Rose, yes you can easily increase the starter feeding to make bread more often. I bake every second day and feed it once after using 40g and 40g then 24 hours later with the quantity of extra flour and water I will need for the bread/s I am planning to bake. I do find I have to think ahead to work out the quantity of starter I will need and if I do end up with extra starter I can always make a batch of crumpets to use up the excess. I hope that helps 🙂

  16. Hi Nicola. I have just made my first GF starter using brown rice flour and have a few questions. 1. When you feed it, do you whisk or just stir? 2. Should I have an actual lid on the jar or does it need a bit of air? 3. After you take a cup of starter out to make bread, do you just keep feeding the rest, or reduce to 1Tb? Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Helen, to answer your questions. 1. I stir the starter with a spoon to incorporate the flour and water well. 2. I put a linen cover over my starter jar, or a cheesecloth but you can also just sit a lid on. The main thing is to allow for circulation but not let dust and bugs in. 3. Once you use the starter for bread you always replenish the starter with fresh flour and water. The quantity will depend on how often you want to bake to build it up again for your next bread dough.
      I hope that helps. Good luck!

  17. Albertine Lello says:

    Thanks so much for this starter recipe, Nicola! It’s my first time making this and your instructions are incredibly clear and well explained. I can’t wait to make my first loaf of sourdough!

    Albertine x

    1. Thanks Albertine, happy baking 🙂

  18. Hello,
    I came back to this page to make sourdough starter and I find that you changed recipe for it. I see now you use only 3 tbs flour to 3 tbs water, old recipe required more flour/water and you would have to fees it 3 times a day. Can you please tell me how much flour/water you used in old recipe because it worked great for me.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Alex, it was 1/4 cup water + 1/3 cup flour. I found the 3 feeds a day was too much for some people and find very little difference with 24 hour feeds. The smaller quantity is also more effective so to not end up with a large jar of starter fed with a small amount of flour which will starve off the yeast too quickly. Good luck with your baking 🙂

      1. Thank you very much!!!

      2. I did not have time for long reply yesterday. This recipe is my favorite, I also make sourdough pizza and it is fantastic.
        Thank you very much for sharing this with us.

        1. Thank-you Alex, that is wonderful to hear. Happy cooking!

  19. Hi Nicola,

    What kind of consistency will I have day 1?

    Thanks : )

    1. Hi Maria, it will be thick to begin with but will soften once the starch absorbs the water and after a few days of feeding.
      Good luck!

  20. Yay! Thanks Nicola, I tried it and it was really thick, so, I am on the right track then. Thanks : )

  21. Kia Ora Nicola,
    Many thanks on sharing this helpful starter recipe. I’ve been enjoying your beautiful cookbook and making the overnight rustic sourdough loaf regularly. Do you have any recommendations for adding seeds (e.g. Sunflower) to this loaf in terms of quantity and at what stage of mixing/rising?

    1. Kia Ora Hannah 🙂 Yes you can add seeds to the dough, although not too many as they will make the dough heavier and interfere with the rise. It is important to pre-soak the seeds so they don’t take moisture from the dough. Use 75g mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin and flaxseeds are a nice combo) cover with 75g water and pre-soak for 6-8 hours. I do this at the same time I feed the starter so they are ready at the same time. Add the seeds at the same time as the salt.
      Enjoy! Nicola

  22. Hi Nicola,
    Getting back into making sour dough bread again. Went on holiday and didn’t realise I could store the starter in the fridge.
    Have made my starter again but it has a strong chemical smell (sort of like nail varnish?). Should I start again and have you heard of this issue before?
    Cheers, Natalie

    1. Hi Natalie, at least you know for next time!
      The extra warmth and humidity at the moment means the starter will ripen faster than usual. The smell is not unusual but not ideal as the bacteria has taken over. What I would suggest is to scoop 1 tablespoon into a new jar – discard the rest – and feed as normal. You may need to keep the starter in a cooler place, and I am keeping my starter in the fridge between breads at the moment, as 24 hours between feeds is too long. Once the temps drop again I will keep it out of the fridge again for baking every other day.
      I hope that helps, and good luck!

  23. Hi Nicola, First I’d like to say That your “Homegrown Kitchen” is one of the best cook books I’ve come across and I’m a pretty avid collector of cookbooks. I purchased it 2 weeks ago after reading it at my daughter-in-laws insistence. Since then I’ve been making all sorts and feel hugely inspired. What I love most about the book – apart from the recipes of course- is that it’s so informative and educational.
    The reason I’m writing is my GF sourdough starter. I’ve tried 2 lots so far with no success. The mixture smells good and is slightly bubbly but when I do the ‘test’ the starter sinks to the bottom of the cup of water. Any suggestions as to whats going on.
    Many many thanks for your help and all that you do. We all need to eat better and you are an inspiration with this.
    Warmest regards Michele

    1. Hi Michele, thank-you for this lovely feedback , it means a lot that you took the time to write. Word of mouth definitely seems to be spreading my book around NZ – and overseas too!
      The GF starter is a little less dependable than a wheat starter – especially when it comes to the float test. If it is smelling nicely sour and you have bubbles after each feed you will be good to go. However, what I would suggest to give it the starter a boost is to either make a batch of crumpets to use up most of the starter. Scoop what is remaining into a new jar and feed with the 5 days + quantities. Or you can discard all but 1 tbsp of the starter and do the same. The crumpets obviously are less wasteful and more delicious option here! I hope that helps.

      1. Thanks so much Nicola for your reply and yes thats a great help. I have several people waiting to see how the GF sourdough starter goes. It’s very exciting. Very much appreciate your time with this.
        Warmest regards Michele

      2. Michele Cherry says:

        Hi Nicola, Yes your comment was a great help and I’m very excited as I’ve ‘birthed’my first GF sourdough loaf. It’s great and I’m really pleased. The only thing is that it tastes a bit too sour. Is there a reason for this? And also I have a question re coconut yoghurt. My first 2 batches were delish but this latest batch has obviously fermented as its really fizzy. I do confess to forgetting it was in the hot water cupboard having left it there about 30 hours!!!!! Would that be the reason and in view of the goodness of fermented foods, is this ‘fizzy’ yoghurt to be avoided.
        Many many thanks from Michele

        1. Hi Michele, that is wonderful to hear. The sour taste is because the starter would have become too acidic, which happens after around 12 hours of feeding. However, as this summer has been warmer than usual I am finding my starter timing has to be varied. Instead of using the starter 6-12 hours after a feed, I am using it somewhere between 4-8 hours. Once the weather cools this will slow down again. Also the length of time rising the dough will be shorter too. If that doesn’t help then reducing the quantity of starter in the dough is the next step to 150g instead of 200g. Sourdough isn’t as black and white as yeasted bread so it can take a bit of experimenting to make it work for your home and schedule.
          In regards to the coco yogurt, the longer time in the cupboard is the reason for the fizzy taste. This may settle down after a few days in the fridge, depending on how fizzy it is. Carbonation is a natural part of fermenting but not to everyone’s liking so next time make sure you catch it earlier 🙂
          Happy cooking and good luck!

          1. Michele Cherry says:

            Thank you thank you thank you. SOOO appreciate your help
            Warmest from Michele

  24. Hello Nicole!

    Just starting out in the sourdough world & am attempting a gf starter. Going off the gluten starter of 30g flour & 30g water as posted above, my mix of brown rice flour & water is crazy thick. Many years ago I had a starter of sorghum which was quite loose & batter like…I realise the start of the starter won’t be like this but it is very stiff. Should I be putting more water in for a thinner consistancy or is that not important starting off? Thanks heaps for your time 🙂

    1. Hi Nalita, the gluten-free starter does start out quite thick as the flour takes longer to absorb the water compared to wheat flour, but it will settle down after a few feeds.
      I hope that helps 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for your reply Nicole, you must be very busy!! I preservered with the starter & tried a loaf in my mum in laws bread maker – but was horrified to hear a lot of whirring which meant it was mixing all the lovely bubbles out after I had let it rise. Not a bake only option to be had 🙁 I let it go on as it was a bit late & the result was very doughy. Next one I tried in a loaf tin in the oven but again a little doughy, as if it wasn’t cooked enough. It had over risen a little as we got home later than anticipated, which is why it was crumbly around the edges but didn’t sound hollow when I tried it after 70mins. Next one – do I keep baking after the 60-70 to get the right sound or does it sound like something else is awry?? Thanks again, Nalita

  25. Kirsten McCaffrey says:

    Hi Nicola,

    We’ve started making a sourdough starter in Auckland, however ours has a rather strong acetone scent that doesn’t seem right? We’re on Day 7 of the starter as it wasn’t ready after Day 5.

    What does the acetone smell indicate and how do we fix it?

    1. Hi Kristen, the strong flavour is the bacteria overpowering the yeasts. But it does mean your starter is active – or getting there. The best idea at this stage is to discard all but 1-2 tablespoons of the starter, scoop this into a new jar and feed with 40g flour and 40g water every 24 hours. All going well the starter will bounce to life within 2 days. You can find more info on maintaining a starter and trouble shooting in my Homegrown Kitchen cookbook.

  26. After 48 hours, my starter (begun with organic spelt flour, fed twice) is thick, bubbly, and with a hard crusty top. It smells strongly, like alcohol.
    I’m feeling like this isn’t right? I read above about reserving one tablespoon/discarding remainder/keep feeding.
    Is this what I should do or discard the whole lot and start again? I placed my starter in the hot water cupboard. Is this too hot for it?
    Love your thoughts!

    1. Hi Katie, you could persevere with another feed and keep it out of the hot water cupboard (this can be too warm – ideally no higher than 24°C). The strong alcohol smell is the high yeast activity which can happen when the temp is too warm. If it doesn’t settle down after the next feed then, as above, scoop 1 tablespoon into a new jar and begin feeding with the flour and water quantities. The fact that it is bubbling after day 2 is a good sign of yeast activity, and I suspect kept at a cooler temp it will be ready to use in a few days. Good luck!
      p.s. spelt flour is high in natural yeast and can be very active, if you want to slow it down a little mix with half white and half wholemeal spelt.

  27. Catherinje Rowsell says:

    Hello Nicola
    I have been making Sour Dough Bread for a year with moderate to good success. I have been following the recipes from your Home Grown Kitchen Book which I love.

    My problem is that I have been using an Organic wholemeal flour from Turkey and the last bag I bought is not working. I’m trying to find a good NZ wholemeal what flour . I have all of the recommendations you have in the back of your book but am finding it difficult to find a supplier. Please advise me on where to source some.

    Ive looked at the photos you have for starting a new Starter and mine does not look like that. !!!!

    Look forward to some suggestions.
    Catherine Rowsell

    1. Hi Catherine, I order fresh ground flour direct from either Terrace Farms, Milmore Downs or Bio Grains – you can find links and details here. It is worth ordering a bulk amount (maybe sharing with others) to make it worth the freight. Many organic stores also stock their flours but it isn’t often labelled so you may need to ask. Where are you based as I may know of somewhere locally?
      A starter needs to be healthy to get a good rise so if it isn’t rising well here are my suggestions.
      1. Use a mixture of half organic rye flour and half organic white flour to feed and maintain your starter. I make a large jar of pre-mixed flour to last a month or so.
      2. Keep your starter minimal. I keep mine in a 500ml jar (to allow room for rising) and never have more than 250g starter at a time – ready to use 150g for a bread recipe.
      3. If you do have too much starter then use it up to make a batch of crumpets (recipe in my cookbook) and scoop 2 tablespoons into a new jar and feed with 40g flour (using the starter feeding mix above) and 40g water. This will give your starter a healthy boost.
      Good luck!

  28. Hi Nicola I’ve just been making your GF sourdough starter from your book but I’m not having much success. some of it looks rusty looking up the sides of the jar – is this ok?? I’m using your GF mix as prescribed in the book (brown rice, buckwheat and tapioca). It’s day 4 now and it’s not looking very active – is this because I’m trying in winter? I’m really struggling to keep it warm!! a couple of years ago I did a GF starter that required 8-hour feedings. Do I need to feed it more regularly if I can’t get it started?? Would love to hear your advice.

    1. Hi Rachel
      Thanks for checking about this. It shouldn’t have a rusty colour so you will need to start again. Making a starter, particularly gluten-free, in winter is a bit trickier than the warmer months of the year. Using warm water when you feed it and then keeping in a warm place is important. You could put it in the oven with the light on, or make a ‘heat box’ by putting it into a chiller bag with a warm hottie. Feeding every 12 hours will also help during winter. Once you get to the 5th feed I recommend refreshing the whole starter by scooping 1-2 tablespoons into a new jar (the remaining starter can be used to make crumpets or added to a pancake batter) and feed with the Day 5 onwards quantities 60g flour and 60g water.
      Good luck!

      1. Ok thanks heaps for the tips! I’ll give it another go (I like the heat box idea!).

      2. Hi Nicola I’ve only just had a chance to try again (after being in the tropics where this would have been easy!!) but it started turning pink when feeding every 12 hours and in a chilly bin with a hottie. Do you think I just wait until Summer when it’s easier?? I’m at a loss as it what to do…

        1. Hi Rachel
          Thanks for your feedback. Hmm, winter can be tricky to make a starter to keep the temp consistent but keeping in a warmed chilly bin should sort this. Maybe it is too warm? You want to aim for an ambient temp of 18-22°C. I definitely find refreshing the starter around day 4 or 5 can really get the yeast activity going when the temps are inconsistent. To do this you will need to discard all but 1-2 tablespoons starter and scoop this into a new clean jar. Then feed every 12 hours and it should jump to life. Also using a flour mix of half organic white and half wholemeal flour to feed the starter can make a huge difference as the wholemeal flour contains good amounts of wild yeasts. I hope this helps.
          P.S. Probably the easiest way to get started in sourdough is to see if someone locally has an active starter you can get some from. You only need about 30-40 grams then start feeding reguarly and you will be away.

        2. Hi again Rachel, I notice you are making this gluten-free so please ignore the tip about the white/wholemeal flour combo in my last comment. You could try just using brown ric flour as this is the highest in wild yeast and the tapioca could be making the mix heavy until it gets going properly. I think this could make quite a difference now reading through your comments again.
          Good luck 🙂

  29. Hi Nicola,
    I make my own sourdough bread, and love your blog! I am a new follower.
    I was just wondering where you purchased the little linen cover for your starter?
    or did you make it?
    Kind regards – Linda

    1. Hi Linda, thank you, lovely to have you here. I made the linen cover myself. It is easy to make if you have a sewing machine, it’s just linen and elastic.
      All the best, Nicola

  30. Hi Nicola,
    I’ve heard that some bakeries have starters that are really old. Is that the part where you talk about the new starter in a new jar? Do you know how would I go about looking after my starter for ages? I just mixed mine up from your instructions and popped it in a sunny spot. Thanks for reposting this to your Instagram, such a great way to spend the lockdown. 🙂

    1. Hi Olivia. I am not quite sure what you mean about ‘new starter in the new jar’? Are you referring to day 5 or so when there is plenty of bubbles I transfer 1-2 tablespoons of the new starter into a new jar – and use the remaining starter in pancakes or similar?
      Some starters can be very old, in the sense that they were first created many years again, but interestingly the contents of the starter is only ever about 1-2 weeks old (if used daily) as the new flour and water will refresh the starter over this time. Hence why it only takes 5-6 days to make a new starter ready to bake bread. It doesn’t age as such, and its composition can change over times or if it is moved to a new home. It will develop the microbiology of its new surroundings. Interesting!

  31. Hi Nicola,
    Im on day 3 and my starter seems to be bubbling up quite quickly, its taking up about 3/4 of the jar (400ml jar). I’m worried it will overflow at my next feed tonight. Shall I tip it into a bigger jar? 🙂

    1. Hi Clare, definitely move it to a bigger jar if needed. I keep my ongoing starter in a 500ml jar. If it is rising well by day 3 you can go ahead and refresh it – find directions near the bottom of this page.
      Good luck. Nicola

  32. Hi, I don’t have any organic Wholemeal flour at the moment. Like everyone at the moment, just trying to use what we already have to avoid the shops. Would using some of our scotch oats help the starter if I blitzed them up? Thanks for any help

    1. Hi Louise, I completely understand and doing my best to help out in this unprecedented situation 🙂 I haven’t tried using oat flour so can’t be 100% sure this would work. You could try 1/3 oat flour to 2/3 white flour as oats are quite mucilaginous and could interfere with the consistency. Otherwise, stick with white flour and refresh after 3 days to give it a boost. Using the leftover starter in pancakes or crepes. I hope that helps.

  33. Hi Nicola, I’ve ordered your fantastic looking cookbook and I’m looking forward to receiving it once our restrictions lift. In the meantime I’m keen to have a try at a sourdough starter but don’t have any wholemeal flour at the moment – would wholemeal spelt flour work instead or best to just use white flour? Also, I have a family member with a very restricted diet due to wide ranging food allergies (some anaphalaxyis level others less deadly but not that tolerable hence the limited diet). They can have brown rice flour though and oat flour so I wondered if you think it would be possible to make a loaf with only these flours? Thanks so much for your help.

    1. Hi Sonja, thank you I hope to be able to send books again soon.
      You can use half wholemeal spelt and half white for the starter. This is a good combo as the wholemeal will supply the yeast and white flour helps with bacteria development.
      I haven’t made bread with this specific flour combo but I can’t see why not. I would say following the Gluten-free bread recipe GLUTEN-FREE NO-KNEAD SOURDOUGH BREAD + A Video as a base would be your best bet. Subbing the buckwheat flour and tapioca for oat flour and more rice. I am not sure of the exact ratio, start with 50/50 and see how that goes.
      Happy baking

      1. Hi Nicola, Thanks so much for your reply. I’m on my second attempt of making a sourdough starter and seem to be getting the same problem again…I’m using the white flour spelt combo, I get to day 3 when it’s looking and smelling good and I can see quite a lot of bubbling but it is increasing in size but not doubling. So I do another feed on day 4 while it’s bubbling it isn’t increasing in size, it’s looking thinner and there’s a watery layer starting to separate out on top. With my first one I tried the refresh technique but that didn’t seem to rescue it. So I’m at the same point again and wondering what to do…any suggestions? Thanks so much for your time!

        1. Hi Sonya, I would suggest refreshing again, but it is up to you if you don’t think it made much difference. This will give the starter a boost as you only take 1 tbsp and feed it in a new jar. (The rest can be used in pancakes). It sounds like the yeasts need more food and that is what refreshing will do. The separation might be due to the spelt flour as it is a ‘softer’ flour and tends to make the starter runnier. Hope that helps 🙂

          1. Sonya Wimmers says:

            Thanks so much Nicola – just wanted to let you know that I persevered and while I didn’t see the starter double in size, it was bubbly and smelt great. So I decided to give your no knead recipe a go and it turned out great! Looking forward to trying more of your delicious recipes when my book arrives (not trying to rush you here). Thanks again for your help and all the wonderful info on your website.

          2. Great to hear Sonya, sourdough is something you need to persevere with and the rewards are great.
            I have your book all ready to go on Tuesday once we move to Level 3 🙂
            Happy baking!

  34. Gavin Duffy says:

    Hi Nicola. I’m up to day 4 on my starter and it is bubbling away nicely.

    I want to use the “ bake only” feature on my Panasonic bread maker but how long should I bake it for?

    Thanks so much for your wonderful recipes.


    1. Hi Gavin, the ‘bake only’ cooking time will vary for different models. The one I use automatically runs for 60 minutes and I don’t have an option to set the time. But you may find it only needs 50 minutes as for the oven timing. You will need to work out what works best for your model. Maybe check the manual for a similar weight bread (850-900g) and the timing suggested.
      Happy baking 🙂

  35. Hello Nicola,

    Rising Help needed!
    I am on day 5/6 of the starter. Great smells and bubbling happening, with a little rise after a feed. And then the rise seems to go back down to the rubber band. It is not staying up….Is it ready to use? Or what do you suggest I do next? Look forward to hearing your advice 🙂

    1. Sounds like it needs to be ‘refreshed’ as described in the recipe. Give that a go and it will give your starter a boost as the yeast numbers are still building. After that if you are getting a good rise in the jar it is ready to use for bread making – keeping in mind the first few breads won’t rise to their full capacity as the starter needs to be used a number of times to get to its full strength.
      All the best, Nicola

  36. Hi,
    I made my started using only wholemeal rye flour. Does it make a difference or can I proceed exactly like you do even though the flour is different? Thanks

    1. Hi Cara, you can carry on with all wholemeal if you like. I find half white and half wholemeal are a good balance for the yeast and bacteria. You can change to that combo too.
      All the best

  37. HI Nicola, I’ve got a question about using the ‘discards’. When I take out some starter in order to feed it, I’ve been adding the excess (prior to feeding) to previous ‘discards’ and keeping in fridge as I’m not always in position to use it immediately in order recipes. In order to use it in other recipes, can I use the discards as they are or do they need to be fed first? Should they be brought back to room temp first before using?

    So far I’ve made one loaf of bread successfully (newbie sourdough baker) so mastering how & when to use the excess is something I’m still trying to fathom so would appreciate your guidance


    1. Hi Sue, thanks for checking. The method I use for looking after my starter doesn’t leave any discard between uses so I can only give you some ideas here. You won’t be able to use this discard kept in the fridge for baking bread as it won’t have any yeast strength, but it can be used in pancakes and similar wet batter recipes. It is fine to use straight from the fridge but if it has been stored for some time it may be very sour from the lactic bacteria and will need to be mixed with flour to reduce the strong flavour. I have several recipes linked on this page for recipes to use up excess starter under the ‘Maintenence’ heading:
      Happy baking

  38. Hi Nicola!

    I started following you after doing a CEC course with Marija Vidovich!

    Question – why do you prefer to keep your starter in the fridge (once it’s established) as opposed to leaving on the bench in between feeds?

    Also, levain – is this the term that might be used interchangeably to describe the end-product after refreshing your starter as you mention in this article?

    Thank you! The absolute (?!) of getting my head around the starter situ. 😂


    1. Hi Abby
      You can certainly leave your starter on the bench, however, to keep the yeasts strong and not to let the starter get too acidic you will need to feed it every 6-12 hours and refresh it after 2 feeds. This results in a lot of discard to be used up or you need to bake bread every day – which some people do but most home bakers usually bake 1-2 times a week. Therefore I keep my starter in the fridge in between feeds and use a specific feeding schedule that I go into detail at my workshops and you can also find details in my Homegrown Kitchen cookbook.
      Levain is often the term used by commercial bakers, particularly from Europe. It can refer to the starter in preparation for making bread, or a pre-ferment.
      Happy baking 🙂

  39. Hi Nicola,
    No need to discard any of your starter daily, is that right? Thank you xo

    1. That is correct. With the method used here it is a small amount of flour and water so you don’t need to discard between feeds. The most important thing is to keep the starter warm while it is developing so the correct ratio of yeast and bacteria is established.

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