Whether you're just exploring sourdough baking or have been maintaining a sourdough starter for years, this FAQ covers the basics of working with our sourdough starter cultures.
If you've recently received a sourdough starter culture and ready to activate and feed your sourdough starter, check our Sourdough Starter Activation and Feeding FAQ for more information.
Still haven't found what you're looking for? Be sure to browse our collection of expert advice on making sourdough at home or reach out to us with questions. We're always happy to help!
Q. What is sourdough?
A. Sourdough is an ancient method of capturing wild yeast to leaven baked goods, used for centuries before commercial yeast was available. A sourdough culture is originally created by mixing flour and water and allowing the mixture to sit on a counter for a period of time to capture wild yeast.
Q. Why use sourdough instead of commercial yeast?
A. Sourdough is much more versatile than commercial yeast. There are nutritional benefits, money-savings, and a range of flavors achieved when sourdough is used. Read more about the benefits of sourdough in our article Introduction to Sourdough.
Q. Where did your sourdough cultures come from?
A. Our sourdough cultures originated all over the world and carry the unique yeasts from their respective geographic regions. For a list of our sourdough starters and their origins, browse our comparison chart of sourdough starters.
Q. What ingredients do your sourdough cultures contain?
A. Our sourdough cultures contain water, flour, and wild yeast. We use only organic flour and filtered water to perpetuate our sourdough cultures.
Q. How long will the sourdough starter culture last if unopened?
A. Packets of sourdough starter culture are stable at room temperature. For long term storage, place packets in the refrigerator or freezer.
Q. Are your sourdough cultures dairy-free? Vegan?
A. Our sourdough cultures contain no animal byproducts. They are manufactured in a facility that produces products containing gluten and dairy.
Q. Do you carry a gluten-free sourdough starter?
A. We offer a Gluten-Free Brown Rice Sourdough Starter. All of our gluten-free sourdough recipes can be found on our Sourdough Recipes page, in the right-hand column of each category.
Q. Are sourdough cultures reusable?
A. Yes, our sourdough cultures are traditional starter cultures and are meant to be re-used indefinitely.
Q. I found instructions online for making a sourdough starter from scratch. What are the advantages of purchasing an established sourdough culture?
A. Although it is possible to create a sourdough culture from scratch, using an established sourdough culture has several advantages. Read more on the benefits of using an established starter, as well as instructions for growing your own starter from scratch, in our article, How to Obtain a Sourdough Starter.
Q. What are the primary differences between sourdough starters?
A. The primary differences between the sourdough cultures are the type of flour each is grown with and the different wild yeasts from their respective geographic regions. Several cultures do have some unique properties.
Browse our comparison chart of the different sourdough starters to learn more.
Q. Which sourdough culture should I choose if I want to make whole wheat bread?
A. Our Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter is cultured with whole wheat flour and makes delicious whole grain bread. However, any sourdough starter can be used to make whole wheat bread. As long as the starter is fed with the appropriate flour, whole wheat flour can be used as the ingredient in the recipe.
Q. Which sourdough culture should I choose if I want to use kamut, einkorn, emmer, or other ancient wheat varieties?
A. Our Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter is the best choice when using any of these whole grain flours. For a discussion of these ancient grains, read our article A Comparison of Heirloom Wheat Varieties for Sourdough Baking.
Q. Which sourdough culture should I choose to make rye bread?
A. We carry a delicious, fast-proofing rye starter, our Rye Sourdough Starter. Keep in mind that making bread using 100% rye flour is much different from making wheat bread. Consult our article on Using Rye Flour in Sourdough for helpful kneading, proofing, and baking tips.
Q. Which sourdough culture is best for making sandwich bread?
A. Any of our sourdough cultures work well for making sandwich bread. Our San Francisco Sourdough Starter is a favorite with many customers.
Q. Are your sourdough cultures very sour?
A. Actually no; most are only very slightly sour. The sourness of bread and other baked goods can be manipulated, however, to suit your taste preference. Learn how to make more (or less) sour sourdough bread with our list of tips.
Q. How many sourdough cultures do I need?
A. You only need one sourdough culture. It is tempting to purchase and use multiple sourdough starters but unless you have a very specific reason for doing so, we strongly recommend sticking to just one, for simplicity. It is easy to convert a sourdough starter to work with different flour types, if desired.
Q. The descriptions for the sourdough starters refer to things like making French bread, pizza, etc. Do I need a separate sourdough culture for each of these things?
A. Ultimately sourdough is simply a leavening agent (like commercial yeast) so it is incredibly versatile. A single sourdough culture can be used to make a variety of baked goods (bread, pizza dough, biscuits, cookies, etc.).
Q. How do I activate my dehydrated sourdough starter?
A. Instructions for activating the starter are included and can be found on our website, along with a helpful how-to video on activating a sourdough starter.
Q. What is involved with caring for a sourdough culture?
A. Sourdough cultures should be fed with flour and filtered water either daily or once a week, depending on the frequency of use. Learn more about feeding your sourdough starter and watch our helpful how-to video.
Q. If I’m making other cultured foods (yogurt, milk kefir, kombucha, etc.), how far away should I keep the sourdough culture?
A. We suggest a distance of at least 4 feet between cultures, to avoid cross-contamination. When stored in the refrigerator with tight-fitting lids, there is no need to keep distance between them.
Have more questions about working with a sourdough starter? Contact us today, we're happy to help!