When Is My Sourdough Starter Ready To Use?

You’re either looking to get started in the beautiful, versatile world of sourdough, or you’ve already started the process but have some questions about when you can start baking delicious breads and more!

This post is to help guide you to a better understanding of when your starter is ready to use for baking! I’ve compiled a list of questions I had while I was getting started, in order to help you with your journey!

Active, bubbly sourdough starter. Ready to be used in baking! | Gathered In The Kitchen

How long does it take to create a sourdough starter?

Typically, when creating a new starter, it takes between 7-14 days to see consistent, active signs of fermentation. It is important for the starter to be strong enough (bubbly and active) to use for leavening when baking (the rise/lift of bread).

Sometimes a sourdough starter may consistently show active signs after day 5, and some may take longer than 14 days. A lot is dependent upon the room temperature, the water used and type of flour used.

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I strongly suggest using lukewarm, filtered water, free of chlorine, when mixing in your water with the flour. I also prefer to use unbleached, all-purpose flour. In the colder months, I store my starter in a glass mason jar in my oven with only the oven light turned on. This creates a very low, but warm temperature to start the fermentation process.

Reference my post for: How To Make A Sourdough Starter from Scratch

What are the signs that a sourdough starter is ready to use?

After a sourdough starter has been being fed for 7-14 days, a sourdough starter is ready to use for baking when it displays the following signs:

  • The starter has doubled in size within 4-8 hours of feeding it
  • It passes the float test. This is when you fill a small bowl with water and then spoon roughly one (1) tablespoon of active sourdough into the water. If the starter floats, it is ready to be baked with!

Check out this post for How To Make A Sourdough Starter from Scratch to reference what an active sourdough starter looks like.

How to tell when your sourdough starter is ready to be baked with | Gathered In The Kitchen

How do I know if my sourdough starter is strong enough for baking?

A new starter will be ready and strong enough for bread baking within 7 to 14 days. Feed your starter with equal parts flour and water, stir and place a rubber band around the glass jar where the mixture fills to. Set in a warm place and let the magic happen.

Within 4-8 hours the starter should double in size, meaning that the mixture has surpassed the rubber band on the jar by roughly the same amount that you started with. Equal sides of starter on either side of the rubber band. Once it does double, it is ready to use for baking.

Active, bubbly sourdough starter. Ready for baking with! | Gathered In The Kitchen

Can I use my sourdough starter before it is ready?

It is not recommended to use your starter before it is ready. In fact, you really should wait until day 7 to keep your “discard” for discard recipes. However, if you use a premature starter, it won’t hurt anything, it just will not produce the results you are looking for as far as rising/lifting a bread.

Check out this post: How To Store & Keep Sourdough Starter Discard

Healthy Sourdough Discard | Gathered In The Kitchen

What should I do if my sourdough starter has a lot of initial activity, but that activity has died down a lot?

If your sourdough starter has a lot of initial activity after the 7-14 days it typically takes to form a fully mature starter, but then has died down, there are a few things you can do to make it active again.

  • Discard, feed and water it two (2) times per day. Do this in an A.M. and P.M. schedule, roughly 12 hours apart.
  • Store in a warmer environment. If your starter is not getting as bubbly, it could either it’s hungry or it’s cold. When it’s cold, it slows the fermentation process. So place the glass jar in a warm spot or even in your oven with only the oven light turned on. This will create a nice warm space for it to ferment
  • Use lukewarm water. If you’re using cold filtered water, it is also slowing the fermentation process. Switch to using lukewarm, not hot, water.
How to make a sourdough starter | Gathered In Kitchen

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