How to Raise a Mother Sourdough Starter

Mother Sourdough StarterI have always enjoyed sourdough. It is one of the easiest and simplest bread recipes. Many find the starter to be rather intimidating and I agree, it can be. I just wanted to share the starter and method that I have been most successful with and how it works.  I obtained the method from the baker Peter Reinhart after I was given one of his books as a gift, and it is a little different because after you establish the starter through a seven day fermentation process, you create a mother starter. I did do a little tweaking on his method and included a few tips and tricks that worked much better for me. While Reinhart’s method is the inspiration, I did make this method my own. If I totally lost you, it’s OK. Sourdough is a process that I feel confident with and I plan to help you through each step. First you will need a few items

A quart glass jar (like this one here)

Good quality organic flour (find a good one here)

Water (I prefer filtered, click here if you need a good water filter)

A non-metal spoon ( like this one here)

Coffee filters (these will do nicely)

Rubber band

A bowl with a lid (like this one)

The Do’s and Don’ts of Creating a Successful Mother Sourdough Starter:


1. Don’t put an airtight lid on it in the first 7 days.

2. Don’t let the starter come into contact with metal.

3. Don’t forget to feed it.


1. Feed and water it regularly.

2. Keep it in a warm location.

3. Enjoy it often 🙂

Now let’s get down to creating this little mother sourdough starter, shall we?

Days One and Two:

  • First you will take your jar and mix 1/8 cup (3 1/2 TBS)  flour with 1/4 water.
  • Stir it well and put a coffee filter over the top and secure it with a rubber band.
  • Let it sit in a warm place for 48 hours. I stir it once or twice a day to help activate it. On day two you may start to see some bubbles forming.

A little note about the flour that you should use to start your mother sourdough starter, I personally have had the best success with organic rye flour. I have also had luck with white and whole wheat, but rye started the best and it’s what I recommend.

Days Two through Seven:

  • Feed your starter with 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water once per day.
  • Stir well every time.
  • The mixture should be thick and bubbly (shows life).

A little note about the flour you use to feed your mother sourdough starter, I alternate feeding my starter. By this I mean that one time I feed it with rye flour and the next organic white flour. This has produced the most activity for me.

On Day Eight:

Now you should have a nice bubbly and active starter. It will smell yeasty. The air in your home will greatly affect the smell of your starter. It’s kind of cool. Mine have smelled like beer or wine or just yeasty bread. Time of the year and weather conditions really affect the ferment. Now you are ready to turn your starter into a mother starter.

Here is how to create your Mother Sourdough Starter:

  • Take the existing starter and put 3/4 cup into a mixing bowl (I use my stand mixer).
  • Add 1 cup water and 2 3/4 cup flour (depending on what I have on hand I may use white or whole wheat, but usually white flour because it produces a much lighter end product).
  • Combine the ingredients and knead for a couple of minutes to activate the gluten.
  • Transfer to a large bowl and cover (you can use a lid or plastic wrap).
  • Let sit on the counter for at least 12 hours. The mother sourdough starter will actually bubble and rise so make sure there is room in the bowl or you will have a mess (yes, I am speaking from experience)
  • After 12 hours de-gas the starter by giving it a good stir and then cover it with a lid and put it into the refrigerator.

This is your mother sourdough starter that you will make all sorts of concoctions from (and yes, I will be helping you with recipes also). It will need to be fed about every four to five days, but honestly I have let mine sit a week and used it with success and not had to “wake it up” like with other starters. See it wasn’t that hard at all, was it? Tell me about how your experience making this starter was, I’d love to hear all about it!

Coming Soon: Next in this series will be How to Use a Mother Sourdough Starter.

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Mother Sourdough Starter 2

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10 thoughts on “How to Raise a Mother Sourdough Starter”

  1. Emily says:

    Just got this going!! I never thought id buy store bought flour anymore, been grinding my own wheat for a year now… but caved and got some organic white flour and rye to get my starter going! 🙂

    Question: once ice got the mother going and i feed it alternating rye and white like you suggest: could I then use my freah ground wheat flour? Or do you still use white or rye to make your bread as well?

    Thanks April! 🙂

    P.S. Im a ROCKer and your bread is amazing!! I just love learning new skills so I thought id give this a try!! 🙂 thank you for sharing your recipes, tips amd tricks!!

    1. NaturallyPersnickety says:

      Love meeting fellow ROCKer! I am so glad you are trying this on your own. I love making sourdough! Honestly I am just about to start with grinding my own flours and such and have no experience in this area just yet. I honestly don’t see why you couldn’t use your own freshly ground flour. If you want to experiment without risking losing your entire mother starter, I would suggest taking the 3/4 out of mother starter and feed it just like the regular directions. I would love to hear your results! I know that a friend of mine suggests the soft wheat berries in place of conventional white flour for texture. ROCK on!

  2. Donna says:

    Can you use Einkorn flour for this?

    1. NaturallyPersnickety says:

      Yes, Donna, you can use Einkorn. While it is on my list of flours to try, I have not used it yet, but have friends who have with good and accurate results. Make sure to maintain a soft dough during the kneading process to ensure that your bread doesn’t come out like a brick would be my biggest recommendation! And I would love to see your results!

  3. angel says:

    I’ve fallowed a previous mother starter recipe with no success. I would like to try yours. Do you discard any amount of the starter when you are building it? It seems as though your starter ends up with a very large volume at the end. Do you think I could cut the volumes in half?

  4. Karen Owens says:

    My starter does not rise after feeding, tried every source I can find on internet and from reading about starters, used rye flour, whole wheat, white, king aurther flour, any suggestions?

    1. NaturallyPersnickety says:

      Sometimes my starter doesn’t rise a lot, especially in the beginning when it is just getting started. The big thing to watch for is lots of bubbles which shows activity in the yeast. Hope this helps some!

    2. NaturallyPersnickety says:

      Sometimes my starter doesn’t rise a lot, especially in the beginning when it is just getting started. The big thing to watch for is lots of bubbles which shows activity in the yeast.

  5. Janet says:

    What quantity do I use to maintain and feed the mother every 4 to 5 days

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