How To Make Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter

whole wheat sourdough starter

Have you ever thought of making whole wheat sourdough starters? Whether it conjures up a crusty, bubbling crock of water/flour starter or a flavorful loaf of bread, sourdough is treasured by many bakers’ kitchens. But where does the path to sourdough bread begin? And how do you start? With that said, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make a whole wheat sourdough starter. The timeline assumes you can find a relatively warm place, about 68-70°F, to grow your starter.

Day 1

Combine 4 ounces(1 cup) of whole wheat flour with 4 ounces (½ cup) of non-chlorinated cool water in a non-reactive container. Whole wheat flour is used since it contains nutrients and sourdough-friendly microorganisms compared to all-purpose flour.

Stir your mixture together and ensure there is no dry flour anywhere. Cover the container loosely and leave the mixture at warm room temperature (about 70°F) for 24 hours. You must find a warmer spot to develop your starter since the colder the environment, the more slowly your starter will grow. 

Day 2

After 24 hours, you may not see activity or a bit of growth or bubbling. The starter appears fairly inert when viewed from up top. A side view lets you see bubbles starting to form under the surface. Discard half the starter (4 ounces), and add to the remainder 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) of all-purpose flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup)  or lukewarm water (if it’s cold) or cool water (if your house is warm). Mix everything, and cover and. let the mixture rest at room temperature for the next 24 hours. 

It’s necessary to discard half of the starter for a couple of reasons; first, keeping the starter volume the same helps balance the pH, and second, keeping the volume down offers the yeast more food to eat each time you feed it. 

Day 3

On the third day, there’s the most likelihood of noticing activities; bubbling— a fresh, fruity aroma, and some evidence of expansion. The darker hue your starter got from its whole wheat beginnings will fade as you continue to feed it with all-purpose flour. It is time you start two feeds, evenly spread as much as your schedule allows. For each feed, weigh 4 ounces of starter( a generous ½ cup) once thoroughly stirred down and discard any remaining starter. Add 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) of all-purpose flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of water to the 4 ounces starter.

Mix your starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for about 12 hours before ripening. After 12 hours of rest, the starter will appear to be bubbling less than initially. It is normal.

Days 4, 5, 6, 7…

Repeat two feeds a day for days 4, 5,6, and more that will take for your starter to become foamy— very active. If you place your starter at a cool temperature,  it may take up to 2 weeks to get going. Once it starts showing a markedly different type of bubbling, though, it’s about ready to use.

While stirring and feeding it, note how high it comes on the bowl or jar. You’ll know it’s ready to use in baking when it doubles in size in about 4 to 6 hours. You’ll also see a lot of bubbles, and the starter should have a tangy aroma – pleasingly acidic, that’s not overpowering. At this point, give it one last feeding when it doubles in size in 4 to 6 hours. Let it rest at room temperature for about 4-8 hours. After that, it should be active, with bubbles breaking the surface.

Remove however much starter you’ll need for your recipe and transfer the remaining 4 ounces of starter to its permanent home, for instance, a crock jar. Feed this 4 ounces of starter with 4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water. Let it bubble and become active for several hours, then cover it and place it in the refrigerator.


If things fail to go according to schedule, don’t worry. And if your starter isn’t ready after a week, be patient and keep feeding it regularly, and it will gain strength. However, the secret to developing a successful whole wheat sourdough starter is using (unbleached) flour. Maintain consistency with your feeding schedule and ripening starter in an adequately warm environment ( 68-70°F).