How to Activate Dried Sourdough Starter

Have dehydrated sourdough starter that needs to be reawakened? Let me show you how to activate dried sourdough starter in 5 simple steps.

Activating a dried sourdough starter is a simple process. Begin by hydrating the dehydrated starter with lukewarm water until it has a thick, pancake-batter consistency. Allow it to rest for 24 hours, giving the dormant microorganisms time to wake up. Then follow with a series of regular feedings of equal parts flour and water. Soon, you’ll notice bubbles, rise, and that pleasant sourdough tangy smell! Follow my step-by step guide to activating a dried sourdough starter below and be sure to grab my free printable.

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough starter can be used in many recipes from savory to sweet. I use my own starter several times a week and have shared some of my favorite recipes here on the blog which I’ll link below. Once a starter is established it must be cared for by the process of feeding and discarding. While this is a simple process, the maintenance of a starter is imperative for keeping it alive and therefore useful in baking loaves of bread among other things. 

Understanding Dried Sourdough Starter

Once you’ve established a sourdough starter and you’ve been caring for it for 5-6 months, you might want to consider preserving some by dehydrating a small amount. If your starter is less than 5 months old, it’s likely not mature enough to revive after dehydrating. 

Having a dehydrated sourdough starter is a good backup plan just in case your original starter (or mother starter) gets ruined or goes bad. This can happen if you don’t properly care for your starter by neglecting regular feedings, exposing it to extreme heat, or improper storage that can lead to molding. By having a dehydrated starter, you can ensure that even if something happens to your mother starter, you will be able to revive a small amount of dry starter and be back to making and baking in no time. 

If you’ve found yourself reading this post but have yet to establish your own sourdough starter, let me encourage you to grab my free Guide to Establishing a Sourdough Starter. This is a simple infographic with step-by-step daily instructions guiding you through the process of making a sourdough starter with just flour and water! 

Preparing for Activation

When you’re ready to activate your rehydrated starter, the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you have the right flour and supplies. Don’t get overwhelmed. It’s really quite simple. 

Choosing the Right Flour

Flour is very important in any sourdough process. You could say it’s the backbone of sourdough. Its primary function is to provide a food source for wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria present in the sourdough starter. Your flour must have enough protein for the formation of gluten. Higher protein content leads to stronger gluten development and makes for a chewier loaf, more desired crumb, and rise of the loaf. I recommend King Arthur Organic Unbleached All-Purpose flour OR if you have a Costco close by, you can get their brand of organic all-purpose. It’s made my Central Milling Company and is an equal alternative. 

Supplies Needed

Dried Sourdough Starter Flakes: You’ll need about 1 heaping tablespoon of dried sourdough flakes. 

Filtered Water: Ideally, you’ll want to use water that is non-chlorinated. Grab a bottle of water or use water from a filtration system. I get mine from my fridge door. 

Flour: As I said before, flour is important so don’t skimp on good quality flour for your sourdough.

Clean Jar: Any clean glass jar will do just make sure it has a wide enough mouth to stir. I prefer the Weck brand jars because they are pretty and work well for sourdough. 

How to Activate Dried Starter Step-by-Step

To simplify things, I’ve created a downloadable and printable guide to the 5 easy steps of activating a dried starter. My free download is easy to follow and can be resized if you want to gift dried starter to friends. 

Hydrating the Starter

Step 1: The first step in hydrating a dried starter is to measure 5 grams of dry sourdough starter into a clean jar. I love the Weck brand jars but any wide-mouth jar will work. Next, cover your sourdough flakes with 10 grams of lukewarm water.

Step 2: Stir and break up the dried starter chips. Cover loosely with a lid or use plastic wrap and a rubber band. Your starter does not need to be kept in an airtight container so there’s no need to tighten down a lid. Once it’s covered, let it sit on the counter for 24 hours. 

Step 3: The next day, you probably won’t notice much of a difference. Don’t worry, it will take a few days before your starter rises and becomes active. Go ahead and feed your starter 10 grams of water and 10 grams of all-purpose unbleached flour. Stir vigorously and cover. 

Step 4: 24 hours later, take 20 grams of your starter from the jar and add it to a clean jar. This time, add 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour. Stir and use a rubber band or dry-erase marker to mark the top of your starter. This will make it easy to see if your starter is getting close to peak activity. A mature starter will double when it’s ready to use. 

Step 5: The next day, you should see growth. Your starter may not double but you should notice some activity. Continue to feed your starter the 50/50 mix of flour and water daily until it doubles and passes the float test. 

The whole process will require a little patience and may take up to a week. Don’t be surprised or discouraged. Just keep up daily feedings and rest your starter in a moderately warm spot.

Signs of A Successfully Activated Starter

After a few days, you will notice tiny bubbles in your starter as well as an increase in size 6-8 hours after each feeding. But before you begin baking, you want to look for additional signs of readiness. 

The float test can be done by taking a small amount of the starter at its peak and placing it in a jar of water. If the active sourdough starter floats, it’s ready to use in baking sourdough bread. Congrats! You’ve successfully activated a hydrated starter.

My advice at this point would be to bulk up your starter by discarding half of what’s in your jar and feeding what’s left with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water. From here on out you will want to leave at least 2 tablespoons of starter in your jar each time you bake so that your starter can live on.

Feeding and Nurturing the Starter

In order to continue baking bread and other sourdough recipes, your starter will need ongoing care. For best results, I recommend regular feedings. I feed my starter weekly even if I haven’t used it in baking. For long term storage, keep your starter in the refrigerator in between feedings. If you are using your starter daily or several times a week, you can keep it on the counter but you will need to feed it daily to ensure it doesn’t go bad or mold. 

Troubleshooting Activation Issues

If you find your revived starter isn’t bubbling and thriving as expected, consider revisiting the hydration process. This time instead of feeding your starter every 24 hours, try feeding it a 50/50 flour and water mix every 12 hours. Set a timer as a reminder. There are a few factors that can hinder your starter from reaching peak activation. 

  • Be sure you’re using room temperature water or even slightly warm water. Tap water sometimes contains chlorine, so be sure your water is filtered.
  • Check your flour-to-water ratio. You want your starter to be a thick pancake batter consistency.  
  • Be certain you are using quality flour like King Arthur Brand. You could also add just a little whole wheat flour to your mix. 

Sometimes, starters might need a bit more tender loving care to fully come back to life. Patience is key-observe its activity, adjusting feedings as necessary, and, before you know it, you’ll have a vibrant, active sourdough starter ready to provide countless loaves of bread and treats. 

Incorporating Active Starter into Recipes

We’ve come to my favorite part, the recipes! Honestly, there are so many sourdough recipes out there it will make your head spin. My advice is to start with this country loaf. This bread can be mixed and baked on the same day. It’s my go-to sourdough boule recipe and everyone I know who’s used it has had success! 

You’ll also want a simple and easy sourdough sandwich loaf! This recipe is also mixed and baked the same day and you’ll appreciate that it’s not full of unnecessary ingredients like many store-bought loaves. 

Once you’ve made a few loaves and you’re ready to try something else, let me recommend the following recipes for your sweet tooth…

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
Sourdough Gingerbread Men

Follow the simple steps of reawaking dehydrated starter and once it shows signs of life- bubbles, rise, and a pleasant aroma-it’s ready to go! Embrace the joy of baking with your freshly activated starter. Let its unique flavors infuse your recipes and creations. As a bonus, I want to encourage you to…

​Giving the Gift of Sourdough

Imagine gifting a jar of dehydrated sourdough starter! A beautiful gift that literally keeps on giving. 

If you would like to give the gift of dried sourdough starter to friends, family, and neighbors. Let me encourage you to download my FREE printable tag that can be attached or given along with a jar of dehydrated starter. Simply click here and add your name and email address. The download will be sent directly to your inbox! 

Add at least 5 grams of dehydrated starter to a cute jar with an airtight lid. Then embellish with a ribbon and my free tag with instructions for activation. 

Happy baking!

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2 Comments

  1. Hey! I made it to day 9. So do I wait the 24 hrs before I do the feed test? If the test fails how do I keep at it? Do I feed once a day or twice? When should I start seeing some growth, it has been dormant from day 2. I was using all purpose flour and water. I added whole wheat on day 8.