I never feed my own sourdough starter with a kitchen scale; I’ve found it’s just not necessary.

I’ve been eyeballing my feedings for a long time and successfully make delicious sourdough bread. I promise it works!

fed sourdough starter

Let me take you through the whole process, though it’s so simple I’d hardly call it a process.

Why I Don’t Measure My Sourdough Starter Feedings

My grandmother-in-law used to make a Pennsylvania Dutch pie called shoefly pie.

Everyone wanted the recipe, but it turns out she didn’t really use one! She baked based on intuition, how things looked, and the desired consistency.

“Just add a little more flour until it looks like this,” she’d say. It drove my mother-in-law crazy as she followed along, trying to write down the recipe for future generations.

As frustrating as it is for outsiders, ditching the measuring cups and scales is pretty freeing. I can feed my starter much faster, and I like taking the laid-back approach to most things in life.

But mostly, I like the fact that it saves me time. I keep my starter on the counter, so I feed it about once per day, sometimes slightly more.

I’m a very busy working mom of three kids under the age of 6. I’ll take every extra second I can get!

bubbly active sourdough starter

Eyeballing Sourdough Starter Feedings

Feeding your sourdough starter without scales or measuring cups is possible – it’s all about consistency.

When you add your flour and water to a little bit of starter (you don’t need much starter!), you want the final result to resemble a thick pancake batter.

stirring sourdough starter with a spoon

Related: 282 Best Sourdough Starter Names: Ideas & Inspiration

Consistency for Happy Starters

A thick pancake batter consistency is your go-to for normal feedings. This is what you’re looking for to get the best results when baking.

If you have a healthy, active starter that rises well and bakes good bread, keep on coasting with a thick pancake batter situation.

Consistency for Weak Starters

If your starter is acting up, not rising as it should, or you’ve missed a feeding on accident, do a stiff feeding. This is an even thicker consistency that passes the Dairy Queen test.

@thatsourdoughgal

When I miss a feed or my starter doesn’t seem to be rising as much as normal, I do a very stiff feeding. I add just a tiny amount of water – enough to absorb the flour – and within a few hours, it’s vibrant and happy again. #sourdoughstarter #sourdoughtok #sourdoughtips

♬ Feather – 💫sped up songs⭐️

Add just enough water for the flour to absorb. When you tip your jar upside down, the mixture shouldn’t budge.

This isn’t your normal feeding and is meant solely to strengthen your starter back up.

Feeding Sourdough Starter With a Measuring Cup

If you prefer to use a measuring cup but still like a mostly lazy girl approach, I’ve got you covered!

When it’s time to feed, pour out most of the starter from your jar. What’s left should just be the runny bits that cling to the sides and bottom of the jar. You don’t need much!

Add equal parts of bread flour and water to the jar. I recommend 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. You only have to dirty one measuring cup, and you can rinse it and set it out to dry—no dishwasher needed.

Feeding Sourdough Starter With a Scale

If you’re interested in using a scale, you’d weigh equal parts water and flour.

A common ratio is 1 to 5 to 5, so you might do 20 grams of starter, 100 grams of flour, and 100 grams of water.

Types of Flour and Water

I have always fed my sourdough with King Arthur unbleached bread flour and tap water. I live in the country and have well water, for reference.

That said, there are different approaches and suggestions when it comes to the flour and water you use.

Flour Options

Bread Flour: This is the type of flour I’d say most bakers use to feed their starter. It’s the same flour used to make sourdough bread dough, and it’s cost-effective. Make sure it’s unbleached!

@thatsourdoughgal

Save a tonnnn of $ by buying bread flour in bulk from your local restaurant supply. It costs me $13 a month now to bake literally every day #sourdoughtipsandtricks #sourdoughtok

♬ original sound – thatsourdoughgal

Rye Flour: A lot of sourdough bakers feed their starter with rye flour as they say it’s the best flour for keeping the sourdough culture happy. The wild yeast may love to eat it, but rye flour is harder to come by and is about double the price of bread flour.

All Purpose Flour: You can feed your starter with unbleached all purpose flour, but I’ve never actually seen any bakers do it. Since most of us buy bread flour in bulk, feeding our starter with the same flour we make bread is simpler.

Whole Wheat Flour: Feeding your starter with whole wheat flour is another option, but again, it’s more expensive than bread flour. If you plan to feed your starter daily, it’s definitely more cost-effective to do bread flour.

Water Options

I feed my sourdough starter with tap water (I have a well). I’ve never had an issue.

That said, many sourdough experts advise using filtered water. You can buy it from the store or boil your own water on the stove and cool it before using it.

The chlorine found in some tap waters can kill the yeast in your starter, so just be mindful of that!

Besides the type of water, you’ll want to ensure you’re using lukewarm water. Cold water will really slow things down, and hot water could kill the microbes in the starter.

The Drawback of Feeding Starter Without a Scale

The only drawback of feeding your sourdough starter without a scale is the lack of precision. You don’t need precision to make incredible bread every time, but it can be useful.

Different feeding ratios, which are achieved by weighing the starter, flour, and water, can provide different results.

For example, I recently did an experiment where I tried a 1-100-100 feeding ratio with just one gram of starter. It took 22 hours for the starter to peak as opposed to the typical 4-6.

That’s obviously an extreme example, but different ratios create different windows of opportunity for baking your bread.

This image explains a few common feeding ratios:

I think that’s useful information to have in your back pocket.

If you go to bed at 10 pm and want to start making bread at 8 am, you might choose a feeding ratio that’s most likely to peak at the 12-hour mark.

But for the most part, starter is very flexible and forgiving, and a thick pancake batter consistency will serve you well in nearly every situation.

Feeding Sourdough Starter Sans Scale FAQs

Can you feed sourdough starter without a scale?

You can absolutely feed your sourdough starter without a digital scale. Pour out most of your starter until there are just the runny bits left on the sides and bottom of the jar (you don’t need much). Then, add 5-6 heaping spoonfuls of bread flour (essentially 4-6 tablespoons of flour) and just enough warm water to achieve a thick, pancake batter consistency.

Can I feed my sourdough starter without taking any out?

You can feed your sourdough starter without taking any out, but you’ll have to keep adding more and more flour and water to maintain it. Unless you want an eventual mountain of sourdough starter, it’s more manageable to discard most of what’s in your jar before feeding it again.

How do I know how much to feed my sourdough starter?

If you have a particular recipe in mind, you can take a look at how much active sourdough starter it calls for, but I don’t plan ahead enough for that. As a home baker, I find that feeding my starter so that it fills up about 1/4 of my jar is enough to start basically any recipe, including a double batch of sourdough bread.

me with sourdough starter
I usually feed my sourdough starter with enough flour and water to fill up about 1/4 of the jar. I never measure anything, but this small amount has always been enough to make any sourdough recipe I choose.

How often should I clean my sourdough starter jar?

I recommend cleaning your sourdough starter jar about once per week. That said, many bakers clean theirs daily, but I know some who rarely clean it. It’s mostly personal preference.

That said, you definitely want to swap your jar for a clean container when the sides or rim gets crusty and the lid won’t sit comfortably. Plus, a clean jar looks much better on the counter!

How do I know if my starter is rising properly?

The easiest way to tell if your sourdough starter is rising properly (the tell-tale sign of a healthy starter!) is to mark it when you feed it. If you’re using a mason jar, use a rubber band, elastic band, or a piece of tape to mark the spot. If you’re using a Weck tulip jar, use the gasket that comes with it.

When the starter has visually doubled in size, it should be ready to bake with. You can do the float test to confirm by dropping a teaspoon’s amount of starter in a glass of water and seeing if it floats.

How much flour do I need to feed my starter?

In my lackadaisical way of doing things, I’d say you need 5-6 heaping spoonfuls of flour to feed your starter (I use a wide soup spoon if we’re being particular). If you use a measuring cup, I’d recommend 1/2 cup, and if you’re using a scale, go for 100g.

How often should I feed my starter?

If you plan to bake every day or every other day, I’d suggest keeping your starter on the counter and doing daily feedings. If you’re more of a once-a-week baker, keep your starter in the fridge and pull it out the night before you want to bake.

How do I make my starter rise faster?

If you want your starter to rise as fast as possible, retain a larger amount of starter in the jar when you’re ready to feed it. If you were to weigh the feeding, you might do 100g starter, 100g flour, and 100g water instead of the 20g starter, 100g flour, and 100g water I typically recommend. Also, put the jar in a warm location!

Conclusion

If you’re brand new to sourdough, it’s probably a good idea to get out your scale and weigh the first few feedings. It’ll remove that nagging feeling of, “Am I doing this right?”

But after a few practice rounds of 20g starter, 100g flour, and 100g water, ditch that scale and just eyeball it. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.

Related: The Oldest Sourdough Starters (And Why It Doesn’t Really Matter)

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