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Is it better to make or buy a sourdough starter?

by Amber Fairweather |

Is it better to make or buy a sourdough starter? 

Making your own sourdough starter, or cutting to the point and buying one depends on your patience, time and sometimes skills. Some people battle for months trying to get one going, wasting huge amounts of flour while others crack it and get a sourdough starter going within a few days to a couple weeks. Unfortunately, not all of us have the time or patience to do this and for others, convenience just wins the day. 

Is it cheaper to make your own sourdough starter?

This depends on how quickly you can get one going and active or mature enough to bake with. Generally speaking, older sourdough starters can be more mature, more resilient or reliable and have a more complex flavour to them. When taking this all into consideration, it is worth thinking about the time and amount of good quality flour you are going to invest in getting one fully established and mature enough for baking sourdough bread and having reliable results. 

Benefits of making a sourdough starter

The main benefit is the feeling of achievement! Additionally to this, if you can get it going fast enough it can be cheaper making it your own than buying one. 

Drawbacks of making sourdough starter 

The main drawbacks of making a starter is the unknown as to whether or not you will get it going. This can result in requiring a huge amount of patience, perseverance, good quality fresh flour and water. Some people are just not keen to try to make something work and would rather just get a starter that will set them up for success. 

Benefits of buying a sourdough starter from Symbiota

The Symbiota sourdough starter is well established, been fed continuously and is mature, providing you with reliable outcomes and a complex sourdough flavour. Generally, you can start baking with your starter within a few days of receiving it. 

Drawbacks of buying sourdough starter 

The only drawback would be the initial cost, but this is a one time purchase and providing you care for your starter it will outlive you. 

Should you buy a sourdough starter or make one?

I guess this depends on the type of person you are. Personally, right now I am at a stage in my life where I would rather spend a little more, be guaranteed the outcome I want and know I can start making sourdough bread straight away while starting off 10 steps ahead than if I were to have made my own. I also like sourdough with complex flavours and this is only achieved with a mature sourdough starter. So my thoughts are, why waste that time, patience, flour and water for several weeks or months getting a starter started and continuously feeding it so it can mature and develop a depth of flavour, when I could purchase a sourdough starter or sourdough kit that is ready to go and ticks all these boxes immediately. 

Do you need specialised equipment to make a sourdough starter?

The short answer is no. But you will require patience, good quality preferably organic flour and good quality water, filtered water or bottled water if you do not have good water. 

If you have made up your mind that you are going to make your own sourdough starter, we have a more in-depth sourdough starter recipe in our blogs. 

Sourdough starter can be made by mixing a good quality organic flour and water. If you have poor quality water, try filtered water or start with using a good bottled water to get started. This will eliminate the variable of whether or not your water is letting you down, but of course this adds to costs. 

The theory is that the bacteria and yeasts from the ingredients and the wild yeasts in the environment air take hold in the flour/water mixture and ferment it, resulting in a sourdough starter. 

To keep the sourdough starter strengthening, it is ideal to follow a feeding schedule of every 12 hours or 24 hours in the beginning. It is best to leave the starter at room temperature for the fermentation process to get going, ideally between 22 and 26 degrees celsius. If it is too cold, the starter won't be able to get going. 

You will know your starter has started working once you can consistently see bubbles within a few hours of feeding the starter. Ideally, you want your starter to rise and fall in the jar after each feeding. You can measure this by feeding your starter, placing a rubber band around your jar at the height of the starter and observing whether it rises above this. Once it is rising, bubbly and doubling in size it is ready to bake with, making a yummy sourdough recipe

Where can you buy a starter from?

Symbiota nurtures all its own cultures under verified food licenses. You know that your starter will arrive well fed, resilient and ready to use within a few days. 

Is sourdough starter the same as sourdough culture?

A sourdough starter is a culture that contains wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. Often the word starter and culture in the sourdough world are used interchangeably. However, with other cultures, the term “starter” can refer to a one time use, this is not the case with the Symbiota sourdough starter cultures. 

Why use sourdough instead of commercial yeast?

Sourdough starter is good for recipes that require a double rise. It also allows for longer periods of proofing which commercial yeasts do not handle very well. This contributes to the complex and sour taste of sourdough. 

Are your sourdough cultures dairy-free? 

The Symbiota organic sourdough starter is dairy free. However, it is worth noting that some other suppliers may add certain ingredients to their starters and it is always worth checking this. 

Are your sourdough cultures vegan? 

The Symbiota organic sourdough starter is vegan, but once again some suppliers add ingredients to their starters and it is always worth checking this. 

Are sourdough cultures reusable?

Yes, once you receive your culture and look after it appropriately, it will last forever. 

Can you make a gluten free sourdough?

Yes, absolutely. Symbiota offers an organic gluten free sourdough starter and organic gluten free sourdough kit for people who still want to enjoy sourdough but cannot consume gluten.