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Symbiota Sourdough Starter Recipe

by Amber Fairweather |

Sourdough bread is more than just a delicious and healthy alternative to normal bread, it's a tribute to the age-old art of bread-making which makes one feel empowered and connected to the process and the outcome of sourdough bread baking. While you can purchase sourdough bread at your local bakery for quite a bit more than baking it yourself, there is something truly special about baking your own sourdough at home and having freshly baked bread. The secret to that tangy, chewy, and flavorful loaf lies in your sourdough starter—a mixture of flour, water, wild yeast, and time. 

If you are looking at getting started with your sourdough baking journey sooner rather than later, we recommend your purchase a starter instead of trying to start one yourself.

The benefits of using the Symbiota sourdough starter is that our sourdough starters are fed organic flour, we feed our sourdough starters regularly and they are well over 15 years old. Older and mature starters tend to yield better flavored sourdough breads and more reliable sourdough baking results. Additionally to this, when you purchase a Symbiota starter, it is ready to bake within a few days because it has been nurtured regularly up to the point of dispatch. You also don’t need to waste kilograms of flour starting on your own and getting it to a point of being active enough to bake with (usually 1+ weeks of daily sourdough starter feeding in order for it to be ready for baking). 

However, if you are up for a challenge, we have included a sourdough starter recipe and instructions for making your own sourdough starter. 

With wild yeast being the key ingredient while preparing your sourdough starter, all you need is high grade bread flour and water, though it might take practice to figure out when your starter is ready for use.


To make a Sourdough Starter using 1L Symbiota glass jar


  • Flour (wheat, rye or all-purpose)
  • Filtered water



  1. Use a clean Symbiota glass jar, combine 1 cup of flour of your choice with ½ cup of filtered water. Stir thoroughly with a non-metal spoon until fully combined. The texture should be smooth with no dry flour left behind.

  2. Place a breathable elasticated cotton top over the jar and leave at room temperature (out of direct sunlight) to ferment for 24 hours.

  3. After 24 hours you may notice some yeast growth and bubbling. If not, don’t worry, it may take a bit longer for the fermentation process to begin. Discard half of the starter and feed your starter with 1 cup of flour and ½ cup of water. Stir thoroughly until there is no dry flour left in the jar. Place the cotton top back on and leave to ferment for another 24 hours.

  4. On the third day, bubbles should be forming on the surface of your starter which should also have increased in size. Discard half of the mixture, feed 1 cup of flour and ½ cup of water and repeat the steps from the previous day.

  5. On the fourth day, your starter should be a lot larger than before with more bubbles appearing. It should also start smelling a little sour and yeast-like. Repeat the process of discarding, feeding and fermenting for 24 hours.

  6. Repeat all steps one more time, until on day 6 you notice a visible increase in size and a clear smell of sour and yeast. If neither occurs, keep repeating the process for up to 10 days. Depending on your environment it may take longer for your sourdough starter to ripen.

  7. Used starters can be stored at room temperature for several days, but you will need to feed it every other day. Alternatively, to keep your starter active, store it in the fridge, but remove it once a week and feed it at room temperature, then let it sit for at least 12 hours before returning it to the fridge.

  8. Always feed your starter after you have either discarded or removed part of it for baking.


In order to bake with your starter, it needs to be bubbling and doubling in size after feeding it, within 4-6 hours usually. You can measure this by placing a mark on the jar, or placing an elastic band around the starting level of the sourdough. Note, after peaking, your sourdough will drop back down again- try not to miss the starter peaking. If your starter is not mature enough, your sourdough bread will be dense and will lack the “sour” flavor that sourdough bread so famously has. 


Tips for Baking Sourdough Bread:

We recommended starting off and trying out recipes geared towards beginner sourdough bakers. The sourdough journey can be exciting with many many aspects to master, so start off with the basics, learn the process and the art and then begin extending yourself. However, in a nutshell, this is the basic procedure of making sourdough bread.



Before making your sourdough bread, make sure your starter has been fed twice, 12 hours apart, and is at its peak activity (ideally doubled in size since feeding), which usually happens around 4-6 hours after feeding, depending on your room temperature. The warmer your room temperature is, the quicker your sourdough starter will peak and drop down again.


Mix Your Dough:

Combine your starter with bread flour and non-chlorinated water to create your dough. Usually, recipes call for equal weights of starter, flour and water (a ratio of 1:1:1). Once your dough is combined, you leave it to bulk ferment.


Kneading and Folding:

Sourdough requires you to knead your dough and perform a series of folds over 12-24 hours to develop flavor and the glutenous structure.


Cold retard:

Once you have bulk fermented your sourdough dough, some recipes will suggest that you then place it in the fridge for 8-12 hours. This will develop the sour flavor further.



Shape your dough and let it proof in a cloth-lined bowl or a paper bag for about 2-4 hours. Then, bake your bread in a preheated very hot oven for approximately 45-60 minutes. Many people bake their sourdough loaves in dutch ovens, however you can still achieve good results by using an oven safe pan / casserole dish with a lid on or placing a tray of ice cubes at the bottom of the oven to create steam in the hot oven.


The Cut Side:

For that perfect crust, score the top of your bread with a sharp blade or a serrated knife just before baking. This will give your sourdough loaf the typical beautiful look that sourdough bread has.


Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor:

We know how exciting it can be to taste your first sourdough loaf and to cut it open to see the sourdough crumb inside, however, wait for the loaf to cool fully before cutting the loaf open. If you cut the loaf too early, it could result in it being gummy and more dense. We assure you, it is worth the wait! 


Sourdough baking is an art which takes practice. Becoming a skilled sourdough baker is a journey that starts with creating and maintaining a strong and active sourdough starter. With the right care and attention, your starter will become a reliable part in baking the perfect sourdough bread. Remember, patience is key in this process. There are so many resources to learn more and improve your skill set. At the end of the day, no matter how imperfect your loaf is, this is for sure- they still taste darn good; especially when toasted! The reward of a delicious, homemade sourdough bread is well worth the wait. So, get your flour, water, and starter ready, and embark on your sourdough adventure today!



FAQs About Making Sourdough Bread

What is a sourdough starter? 

A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that becomes inhabited by wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria from the natural environment that surrounds it.  These microorganisms take a hold and proliferate in the mixture, forming a sourdough starter. Sourdough starter is used as the leavening agent in sourdough bread baking. 


What is the best flour for sourdough starter

Different types of flours can be used for making sourdough starters. It is always best to use a high grade organic bread flour that has a high protein content. Our “What is the best flour for making sourdough bread” blog explains why we feel organic flour is the best, no matter which flour you choose. Generally, your choice of flour will depend on the recipe you are following, but can include: rye, spelt, high grade bread flour, all purpose flour and whole wheat flour. 


How long does it take to make a sourdough starter?

The quickest, easiest and most convenient way to get a starter going is to purchase an already strong, reliable and mature sourdough starter. However, you can make your own. This process can take anywhere from 5-14 days to start bubbling and becoming active, to up to several weeks to become strong enough to yield a beautiful sourdough bread.


What temperature should I ferment my sourdough starter at?

The ideal room temperature to maintain your sourdough starter at is 21-24℃ for it to ferment efficiently. The warmer it is within this range the faster it will ferment and peak. 


How do I know what my sourdough starter should look like?

Sourdough starter looks bubbly and smells sour. When it is active and is fed, it will usually double in size in 4-6 hours and then drop back down again. If you mix it with a spoon, it will be stretchy and light and fluffy once it has peaked. 


When is my sourdough starter ready to use?

Your sourdough is ready to use when it doubles in size after feeding it. If your starter is bubbly and you feed it a ratio of equal parts starter, flour and water, it is ready when it doubles in size over 2-6 hours at temperatures of 21-24℃


What is the secret to a good sourdough starter?

To keep your starter active, reliable and happy you want to make sure you feed it organic flours regularly, and allow it to ferment at temperatures between 21-24℃. This will encourage a happy and healthy sourdough starter. Do not leave your starter for more than a week in the fridge without feeding. When you feed your starter, make sure you leave it at room temperature for 4 hours before storing it back in the fridge. Only store your sourdough starter in the fridge when you are not baking with it, for up to a week. 


Why do you discard half of the sourdough starter?

Although it seems counterintuitive and wasteful discarding a portion of the sourdough, it is necessary for a healthy sourdough. One can still use the discard to bake many alternatives to sourdough bread, such as scones, crumpets, crackers, pancakes and biscuits. 

By discarding part of the sourdough, it is easier to maintain the correct feeding rations without the sourdough starter becoming a massive amount. It allows for fresh flour to be added to the starter, providing the microorganisms with food and allowing them to remain robust and healthy. 

Discarding and keeping good ratios between starter, flour and water also allows for the starter to maintain a good ph level which contributes to strong gluten structures. 


What happens if you forget to discard the starter before feeding?

If you do not discard the starter before feeding, it is not the end of the world. Ideally, you want to feed your starter equal amounts of flour and water to your starter, so you might need to add a bit more flour and water to achieve this. For example: if you have 100g of starter, you need to add 100g flour and 100g water. Next time, remember remember to discard enough starter to maintain these ratios for the best and healthiest sourdough starter. 


How to store your sourdough starter

It is best to store your starter in a glass jar. If you are not baking with it, and do not want to be feeding it daily, you can store it in the fridge with a lid in case it gets knocked over and to stop smells getting into it. When you are baking sourdough bread and feeding your starter regularly, it is best to store it at room temperature with a breathable elasticated cotton top on. This allows for appropriate airflow and fermentation of your starter. 


How many days does it take to start a sourdough starter?

Generally, you can start a starter in 7-10 days. But you need to strengthen it for at least 3 weeks before you can feed it. Therefore, it is often more cost effective to actually buy and already mature and established starter.


Why is sourdough starter so difficult?

Sourdough starters can be tricky as you are trying to establish a starter from wild yeasts. Some people have success, while others find it a challenge. Here at Symbiota we have done all the hard work for you. You at least know that our starters will work predictably.


Can you eat sourdough starter?

We couldn't imagine sourdough starter to be that delicious, but you can certainly make many different things with sourdough discard.


Is making sourdough cheaper than buying bread?

Generally, baking and making your own foods is cheaper than buying them. We find that buying your starter is often cheaper and less frustrating than trying to make one on your own. Once you have your starter, baking sourdough bread is much cheaper than buying sourdough loaves.


Can you ask a bakery for sourdough starter?

You could try asking a bakery for sourdough starters, otherwise they can be purchased via our starter cultures page. 


Should I put sugar in my sourdough starter?

It is best to only feed your sourdough starter organic flour and a good quality water. 


What flour is best for sourdough starter?

Organic flours are always best and tend to yield the bubbliest and happiest sourdough starters. Read our blog to learn more about what flour is best for sourdough starter.

Can you stir sourdough starter with a metal spoon?

When working with live cultures, it is always best to use a food-grade stainless steel utensil. 

Can I buy a sourdough starter? 

Yes you can buy from Symbiota. We offer a sourdough starter where you receive 4-6 heaped TBS of Live sourdough starter or the equivalent in dried, sourdough bread recipe and instructions. Alternatively, check out our Starter Sourdough Kit with everything you need to get started.