A jar of sourdough starter with the Proofer in the background

Sourdough Starter 101

Sourdough starter is the cornerstone of every sourdough bread, and understanding it is crucial for successful baking. Whether you're stepping into the world of sourdough baking for the first time or seeking to elevate your existing skills, a deep understanding of your sourdough starter is crucial. Have you ever wondered how often you should feed your starter to keep it at its best? Or perhaps you've encountered the term "seed ratio" and are curious about its impact on your starter's health and activity. We'll address these questions and more, unraveling the science and art behind maintaining a healthy and active sourdough starter.

Ready to demystify the art of the sourdough starter? Continue reading to unlock the answers to your starter questions.

A sourdough starter is a fermented mixture of flour and water that is responsible for the leavening and flavor profile of sourdough bread.

Although it begins as a simple mixture of flour and water, with time, transforms into a thriving community of microbes. Wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria exist in the environment all around us: in flour, the air, and even on our hands. Over time, they take up residence in the mixture of flour and water and feed on the starch in flour. Through the fermentation process, they produce three main by-products: carbon dioxide, acids, and alcohol. Carbon dioxide causes sourdough bread to rise, while acid gives sourdough its distinctive flavor and prevents harmful bacteria from growing. Alcohol contributes to the flavor and aroma. Because a sourdough starter is a living culture, it must be fed frequently with a fresh food source (flour and water) to keep it alive and healthy.

Yeast and Lactic Acid Bacteria diagram