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.
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.
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!
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.