Learn how to make a sourdough starter from scratch with einkorn! Includes quick tips for maintenance and feeding, plus recipes for using leftover discard!
One of my goals for this year was to learn how to make einkorn sourdough.
In order to do that though, you have to first learn how to make an einkorn sourdough starter.
Considering you start with just einkorn flour and water, it can’t be too hard, right?
Right! In fact, making an einkorn sourdough starter is probably one of the easiest ferments you’ll ever make.
Well, I say that about milk kefir, and I’ve said that about homemade yogurt before, too…
But this time I mean it.
It’s literally flour and water and air– and that’s IT!
Why use einkorn flour for a sourdough starter?
But first, a brief history lesson and re-cap of why we’re currently using einkorn.
When we first switched over to real food, from a standard American diet (SAD) consisting mostly of boxed foods (read my full story here), I learned how to make bread. I primarily used bleached all-purpose flour.
When we finally figured out how to make real food work for our budget (thanks to the principles and system I now teach in Grocery Budget Bootcamp), I took a baby step and switched to store-bought whole wheat flour.
A little while after that, I invested in a grain mill and started grinding my own wheat at home. I learned how hard red wheat is great for bread and how soft white wheat is great for cookies and how hard white wheat was great for people who liked wheat bread that didn’t taste so “wheat-y.” (Read more about the different types of wheat here).
Fast forward a few years and my family and I did the Whole30. During reintroduction, we found that my daughter and husband are both sensitive to gluten.
I had done research on einkorn in the past and learned how some people who are sensitive to gluten can tolerate einkorn, so we took a couple months and used store-bought einkorn flour exclusively to see if anyone had any reactions.
No one did! So that’s why we use einkorn now.
Psst! If you’re interested in doing the Whole30 on a budget, here’s how our numbers panned out. You can also download our Whole30 meal plan for free here!
How to Make Einkorn Sourdough Starter
I know the idea of making a sourdough starter is intimidating, but I promise you it is REALLY easy. Watch – let me show you how to make an einkorn sourdough starter.
How to Make Einkorn Sourdough Starter: Supplies
You only need four things to make einkorn sourdough starter: a jar, a spoon, water and flour.
I used a pint-sized mason jar like this one for my sourdough starter, which made it easy to keep track of when to pour out the discard (when the jar was too full to stir!). You can use any jar you have though, so long as it holds at least 16 ounces.
I broke two mason jars using a metal spoon, completely losing my entire starter the first time and almost half of it the second time.
I don’t know if my jars were old or if I stirred too vigorously, but because of this, I now only use a plastic spoon or silicone spatula. You can use a metal spoon, but “stir well” at your own risk!
You want your water to be filtered if at all possible, simply because city water is treated with chlorine and fluoride and we don’t want that stuff in our foods.
We invested in this under-the-sink reverse osmosis filter system last year and we LOVE it. My husband is a plumber’s son and self-declared water snob and even he thinks our water is delicious!
You have a few choices when it comes to flour. Obviously we want einkorn flour, but you can use store-bought all-purpose, store-bought whole wheat, or freshly ground whole wheat (I recommend any of these).
I started with freshly ground whole wheat.
Note: I’ve searched local stores and the internet for the best prices on einkorn berries and Jovial Foods has the best price AS LONG AS you use the coupon DWCRUMBS. This will save you 10% off all items in the store with exclusions on special promotional items such as cookbooks and new harvest oil. Also, there’s free shipping over $99. Visit their site HERE.
The best price I’ve found for einkorn all-purpose flour is this seller on Amazon.
How to Make Einkorn Sourdough Starter: Method
Day 1, Morning: In a pint-sized mason jar, combine ¼ cup water and ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp flour. Stir well, scrape down the sides and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
This combination of water + flour is called a feeding.
Day 1, Evening: Roughly 12 hours later, add another ¼ cup water and ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp flour. Stir well and cover with the same piece of plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature.
Day 2, Morning & Evening: Repeat the same as Day 1.
You may or may not see bubbles at the end of Day 2. If you don’t, it doesn’t mean your starter isn’t working. Just keep going.
Day 3, Morning: Stir well first, then pour about half of the sourdough starter into another glass jar and place that jar in the fridge. This starter that you’ve poured off is called discard. Add another ¼ cup water and ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp flour.
When you’re creating a sourdough starter, it’s important that the beneficial bacteria multiply appropriately. By “discarding” some of the starter, you’re adequately feeding the beneficial bacteria. If you didn’t discard some of the starter, you would need to feed it MORE water and flour, which is essentially a waste of money this early in the process.
You can keep sourdough discard in the fridge for a few days and use it in lieu of liquid and flour in your favorite recipes. Some of my own tried-and-true sourdough discard recipes are sourdough biscuits and sourdough pancakes.
Day 3, Evening: Repeat the same as Day 1 Evening.
Day 4, Morning & Evening: Repeat the same as Day 1.
At this point, you may or may not see your sourdough starter dome an hour or two after you feed it. Einkorn sourdough starter doesn’t dome like a modern wheat or rye sourdough starter does, so don’t worry if your starter doesn’t LOOK much different.
Day 5, Morning: Repeat the same as Day 3, pouring about half of your starter into the jar of discard that you have in the fridge. Feed with ¼ cup of water + ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp flour.
Day 5, Evening: Repeat the same as Day 1 Evening.
Day 6, Morning & Evening: Repeat the same as Day 1.
The beneficial bacteria in sourdough thrives in warm environments. If you’re making a starter in the summer, or your home is on the warm side, you might see a yellow-ish liquid in your starter. This is called “hooch” and it’s the by-product when the good bacteria have eaten what you’ve fed them before their next feeding. This is totally normal!
When you’re first making a starter, I recommend stirring the hooch back into your starter before the next feeding. If you see hooch for two consecutive feedings, go ahead and discard half (like you did on Day 3 Morning and Day 5 Morning) and then feed.
Day 7, Morning & Evening: Repeat the same as Day 1.
Day 8: You’re done! You’ve successfully made an einkorn sourdough starter. See – wasn’t that easy?
I had a lot of questions when I was making my einkorn sourdough starter, but thankfully I was following Wardee from Traditional Cooking School. She walked me through the entire process, step-by-step, and turned what originally felt like a kitchen experiment into something that now feels second nature!
You can read more about the ins and outs of sourdough in Wardee’s book: Sourdough A to Z – It is based on one simple idea: Imagine if five expert, traditional cooks invited you over for tea and blessed you with all of their secrets for creating healthy, delicious breads.
What an incredible resource I’ve come to love over the years!
Here are some of the questions I had, and the answers I found as I made my einkorn sourdough starter.
What should a sourdough starter smell like?
At first, the sourdough starter will smell like flour and water. It will evolve, though, into a sweet yeasty smell, to a strong yeasty smell, to a strong fermented smell that might make you think you did something wrong, and then back to a strong yet pleasant sourdough smell.
After 7 days, your sourdough starter should consistently have a pleasant smell. If it ever smells like vinegar, that’s acetic acid. It’s what the beneficial bacteria give off as they eat the natural enzymes in the flour. It’s normal, but it’s also a sign that you aren’t feeding the starter enough. I would suggest pouring off half of the starter into a discard jar, and then continue with regular feedings.
This happened to me when we went camping during a school break. I put my starter in the fridge and came home to what I thought was a ruined sourdough starter. After a few days of regular feedings and discarding the extra starter into my second jar, the pleasant smell returned.
If your sourdough ever smells BAD, like something crawled in your jar and died, you should probably start over.
Otherwise, keep pushing through. Strong and yeasty and fermented smells are normal.
When is a sourdough starter mature?
After one week, your sourdough starter is ACTIVE. That means you have beneficial bacteria that are doing their job and breaking down the enzymes in the flour. You can take your sourdough starter and use it to make things that don’t require yeast to rise, like biscuits or pancakes or waffles or banana bread.
Your sourdough starter is mature when it’s been alive for about 4 weeks. That is when the starter is strong enough to take the place of yeast in bread and other baked goods.
It’s like teaching a baby how to walk. They need to learn how to use those muscles first, and then the muscles will get strong enough to support the weight of the body.
The same goes for the beneficial bacteria. They’ll be young and will mature with time. There’s nothing you can do to speed up this process, so just enjoy the learning curve of how to bake with sourdough discard and look forward to homemade sourdough bread in about a month.
Typical Feeding Schedule for Einkorn Sourdough
During the first four weeks, you really want to be as consistent as possible with feeding your sourdough starter.
The feedings should be roughly 12 hours apart, so that can be 7am and 7pm, or 10am and 10pm, or noon and midnight – whatever works best for you.
I take the kids to school at 7:45 and they go to bed just after 8pm. For me, I’d feed the starter right before we left for school, and then as the kids started their bedtime routine.
Once your einkorn sourdough starter is mature (i.e. four weeks of consistent feedings), you can be a little lazier with your feedings.
I still like to feed mine twice a day, but I’ve reduced the amount I feed to just 2 Tbsp of water and 3 Tbsp of flour.
If my jar is getting full and I’m not making bread anytime soon, and I start to see a line of acetic acid, I make sure to stir well and pour half into my discard jar in the fridge. Then I’ll feed it like normal again.
Here’s how to make a traditional sourdough starter and a simple loaf of sourdough bread.
Although the same issue of an active starter versus a mature starter comes into play there as well.If you want to learn more about sourdough – einkorn or not – I encourage you to check out Traditional Cooking School.
Wardee has everything you need in one handy spot, and she’s really covered all the bases!!
I’m a tad confused between the original post and questions answered. I’m on day 8….. do I continue the 12 hour feedings or can I drop down to once a day until day 30? And at this point, am I reducing the amount to feed (2 tbsp water & 3 tbsp flour) also? I can’t follow what’s ok and what isn’t from day 8 through day 30 😩
SJ - Team Crumbs
Hi Michelle, After Day 8, you can pull back to just feeding every 1-3 days. 🙂
Can the discard be given to someone for them to continue the process and make their own starter?
SJ - Team Crumbs
Hi Michelle, That is not typically done because because of where it’s at in the fermentation process. A starter has a different composition than a discard. It may not ferment right and the taste will probably be off.
Hi – just starting out with this, and I really appreciate your super-easy instructions! Is there some reason I need to use plastic wrap in particular, and can’t just use the regular kid that goes on the mason jar? I’m on day 3 and have been doing as instructed, but I’ve just been wondering about that part. Thanks!
SJ - Team Crumbs
Some people use a stock pot lid if they don’t like plastic touching their food. It keeps it from drying out!
I know you mentioned about you could use fresh ground einkorn berries, would anything in the recipe change?
SJ - Team Crumbs
We recommend trying a recipe like this one instead https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/whole-wheat-einkorn-sourdough-bread/. It’s perfect for freshly ground einkorn berries.
So I am new to this and I’m using einkorn flour. I followed your directions carefully and all is going well, I always see bubbles on the top awhile after feeding. I’m on day eight. My question is, even if I’m still feeding twice a day, do I continue 1/4 cup + 2 T flour and 1/4 cup water? Or can I reduce the amount of flour and water to a few tablespoons each before the 4 weeks is up?
I did float test today with the starter and it sank so I guess its not ready to use for bread yet? It’s gone so well so just want to make sure I’m feeding correct amount at this point! TIA, your instructions have been so helpful!!
SJ - Team Crumbs
You can can reduce to 1x/day after 7 days, can reduce by half. Use the discard in biscuits, pancakes or crackers. We’ve never used the float test – just wait for 4 weeks when you KNOW it’s mature.
Best of luck!
Jovial discount code didn’t work – has it expired? thanks!
I have enjoyed reading about how you make Einkorn sour dough starter. My daughter-in-law and I bought the flour and are trying to get a starter going but your recipe is quite different. We followed the book that we bought with the flour and are using 30g of water with 60g of flour. It is very sticky but stiff. At day 5 we started doing it twice a day and are now on day 13 but not getting much “bubbling” action. It does smell sour. At this time we are using only 10g of starter when adding the new ingredients. We have saved the rest of the starter in a container on the counter but haven’t used it in any other way wet. Please advise what we need to do at this point to get to the usable starter.
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Anne, continue feeding it as normal. I apologize for the late response. (If this does not work you may need to start over)
Hello! I’m new to This flour and bought fresh ground delivered the next day. I started my starter with the flour and filtered water in a ceramic bowl. After one day, it had dark red on the top. Thinking this could be the flour, I fed again and today (day 2) it’s bubbly, liquidy but still has this dark red swirly patches. Is this from the flour? Or a “bad” bacteria? Do I throw away or try to let the yeast take over?
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Jodi, that is a sign of a bad starter and should be thrown out. However, I am unsure why it would be red after just one day. Which brand did you use?
Good morning, Tiffany. I began an einkorn sourdough starter 3-4 days ago …using the recipe in “Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat”. I performed the original step of combining the einkorn flour and 100 degree water, covered it, and placed it in my dark cabinet. It was supposed to be fed after 48 hours, but I got busy and “out of sight, out of mind”, I forgot to feed it when I was supposed to. I came to the Internet to see if it was still usable or if I needed to discard it and start over; I found your site. It looks like your recipe for feeding is different. Should I just start over? Thank you for your assistance.
Kyare - Team Crumbs
I personally would start over for the best results.
Hi, I received a sourdough starter from a friend and I began feeding it with Einkorn flour, but I keep only feeding it every few days on the counter and it forms a hard crust on top. As of now, I managed to scrape out 20g of the starter/Einkorn mixture and I fed it with 20g of more flour and 20g of water. Do I need to be feeding this twice a day for a week if I started this starter with an actual starter? I’m trying to figure out when I can actually bake bread with it but my starter isn’t multiplying yet. I seem to keep losing some from this crust on top.
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Bianca, one option is to start over, another is to start feeding it twice a day for a week to see what happens. The reason sourdough takes a couple tries normally is because there is some trial and error.
Hi, would you be able to provide the weight in grams for the 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp flour? My starter’s consistency seems to be different after every feeding. Thanks!
Hi Vic! I don’t have the grams available, but the starter will change in consistency as it matures, and even throughout the day based on where the bacteria are in their feeding process. For example, when I first feed, it’s on the thicker side. But by the end of the day, it’s much thinner!
Just a note to say thanks for this. I tried a starter a few times using the Jovial Foods recipe but it never turned out. This one was great and I’ve made a boule and sandwich loaf thus far which my boys love.
I was using the Jovial farms recipe book starter (less water, a dense ball thing) and my friend came over and helped me convert it to a wetter one that is like traditional sour dough. I feel it is easier to feed, discard and then use and not waste the discard – I was also getting this grey top I would have to continually peel off. I’m glad to find some Einkorn recipes that use my improved starter! Thank you!
SJ - Team Crumbs
Thanks for sharing Stephanie!
Thanks for the article! I’m only on day 2 and I my math is confusing me…lol. If I put 2 oz. of water and 2.5 oz of flour into a 1 pint jar, two time a day without discarding anything, I’ll have overflow. In other words, by the end of day 2, I’m trying to cram in approximately 18 oz. of paste into the jar. Maybe I should have started with a bigger jar?
LOL – the next time you feed, pour the starter into a bigger jar. You can change jars at any time!
Thanks for this recipe and all the info on your site. I have a month old starter that I just let go out of the fridge for 8 days. I fed it but it did not bubble like usual in 24 hours. Becasue I left it go a little to long is it bad or can I just wait longer for it to bubble. It smells formented but not bad.
It’s not bad Beth, but feed it regularly for a couple days and it should bubble like normal again!
If I run out of einkorn flour can I use spelt or another flour?
You can, but then you don’t have a true einkorn starter and it *might* effect the baking when you’re ready for bread. If you’re sticking to pancakes or biscuits though, you’re good!
I began my starter with 120 g of flour and water as suggested on another site. Trying to trouble shoot, I came across your post and wish I had seen it first. I am using einkhorn flour. I am on day 11 and it has bubbles but is not doubling. This is a lot of flour daily and I would like to cut down to the 1/4 c. How do I do that? Should I throw this out and begin again? I also did not know to feed twice a day at first.
Hi there! Einkorn won’t double like modern wheat will, so as long as it’s bubbling and smelling good, you’re on the right track. I don’t know the cup/Tbsp equivalent to 120g, but you can certainly reduce feeding to 1/4 cup day since you’re past the first week. Just feed either in the morning, or at night – whichever is convenient for you. You can just reduce the feeding the next time you feed; there’s no need to ease into it. Don’t throw it out, and you can make biscuits or pancakes with the discard until your starter is mature! Search “discard” on my site and both recipes will pull up. 🙂
I feel like I am doing something wrong. I didn’t have a pint jar so I used a quart mason jar. It hasn’t overflown the quart jar but rereading the instructions and following the pour off schedule I would overflown a pint jar. What am I missing?
SJ - Team Crumbs
Hi Shannon, You may need to discard more since there is more air interacting with it. Best of luck!
Hi! I’ve been searching the internet and i haven’t found an answer to this question. Whenever i go to feed my starter (i got an einkorn starter online and have been feeding once a day per their directions but now I’m thinking i should switch the 2x a day. It’s been a little over a week) it has a thin skin on the top. Is this normal? Why is this happening and should i throw it away (what I’ve been doing) or attempt to stir it back in?
Hi Hope! That’s not abnormal, and it’s the reaction from the starter interacting with the air. I get its sometimes too and stir it back in. 🙂
I am now on my 10th day and noticed yesterday that it seemed to smell a bit like paint thinner or nail polish remover. Asked my son to smell it today and he said that it smells like chemicals. What do you think? Maybe I left the jar too close to my stove?
Jennifer L Gustavus
Question on the plastic wrap covering the jar – do you leave it covered all the time? Wouldn’t the plastic covering prevent the yeast from the air getting in? Grinding my einkorn berries now and starting my starter today – really looking forward to switching over to the einkorn.
Hi Jennifer! Yes, all the time and no, it doesn’t prevent air from getting in! It does however, prevent fruit flies and dirt and dust. 🙂
My starter is 1 cup water 1 cup eikorn. I’m on the end of day two. It is very liquidy almost like a drink is this normal?
SJ - Team Crumbs
Hi Lilyana, I’m wondering if you missed the 2 Tbsp of flour with each 1/4 cup of einkorn flour and water. See what I copied from above and bolded: “Day 1, Morning: In a pint-sized mason jar, combine ¼ cup water and ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp flour. Stir well, scrape down the sides and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
This combination of water + flour is called a feeding.
Day 1, Evening: Roughly 12 hours later, add another ¼ cup water and ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp flour. Stir well and cover with the same piece of plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature.” Hope that solves it for you!
Thank you for your instructions but now I am confused about what to do next. I am finally at day 8 and mistakenly thought I would be able to start making a loaf of bread. Do I have to keep up this same process for the next 3 weeks before I can proceed with the bread? My jar is full today – do I keep pouring half into the discard?
Hi Jan! You can reduce the feeding to once a day, and still discard every 2-3 days, but use it in recipes instead of throwing it away! Search the site for biscuits and pancakes using discard – both are delicous!
Thanks for this info! But, my bad, I think, I started this Saturday morning, let it sit til Monday, and fed only Monday morning and was going to now, but just realized I should have been feeding twice a day, uggh. I am used to doing a regular dough starter. Can I fix it or should I start over, hate to waste any more flour at this point, thanks!
Just keep going, Theresa – you’ll be fine!
Should I stir the discard each time?
Complete newbie here so forgive me if this is a silly question, but it took me a while to find (any) flour and I ended up with einkorn…is the feeding every 12 hours because it’s einkorn as opposed to regular flour? The original recipe I was looking at before I went shopping had me feeding it just once a day. In short: do I have to wait until tomorrow morning to start the process, so I can feed it every 12 hours consistently? It’s nearly 4pm and I certainly don’t want to get up in the wee hours to feed it; alternatively, can it go more like 17 hours the first time (say from now until tomorrow morning), and then I get it on a regular 12-hour schedule? Oof, sorry 😀
Hi Amanda! The 12 hour feeding at first is for all flours. Once you’re past the fist 7 days, you can cut back to once a day. And yes, you can fudge the 12 hours a bit until you’re on a good schedule! Don’t forget to use the discard in a helpful recipe, instead of throwing it away! If you search my site for ‘discard,’ you’ll find a great pancake recipe!