A good, healthy sourdough starter is key to delicious sourdough bread. But what if you don’t have time to catch a wild starter? Here is how to use milk kefir or kombucha to make a sourdough starter in 24 hours.
Struggles with Sourdough Starter
There are a number of reasons why it can be difficult to catch and maintain a healthy traditional sourdough starter.
Sometimes starters take too long to become active or never become very vigorous. They can grow mold or turn pink (that has happened to me). Or starters can look healthy and bubbly but have a bad flavor.
Here are a few of the main reasons why sourdough starters can be tricky:
- Regional variations in wild yeast: There’s a reason why we think of San Francisco sourdough and not Dallas sourdough… some regions just have better-tasting wild yeasts. However, even if you buy a San Francisco sourdough starter online, it will quickly get taken over by the local varieties of yeast.
- Poor air quality: If you live in a heavily polluted city, or have problems with mold in your home, then you may have trouble maintaining a healthy sourdough starter.
- Filtered air: Using a HEPA filter in your home will greatly reduce the wild yeasts and bacteria that can colonize your starter.
- Type of flour: Certain flours, like buckwheat, naturally have symbiotic yeast. They are great at catching sourdough culture. However, other flours like rye, barley, and rice are more difficult to catch and maintain. It isn’t impossible, as my husband regularly keeps a rye starter, however, his rye starter is never as vigorous as my buckwheat starter.
An Easy Sourdough Starter
If you are struggling to keep a healthy sourdough starter, or if you don’t want to wait for 5-7 days to develop a healthy starter there is an alternative way to kick-start your sourdough.
Start your sourdough starter with a culture that already contains active yeast and bacteria!
There are a number of different fermented beverages that are made with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast):
Each of these beverages can be used to make a quick sourdough starter. They will each bring their own flavor and qualities to the loaf, however, they will create a bubbly, yeasty, and fermented starter.
How to use a kefir or kombucha sourdough starter
There are two ways to use this quick sourdough starter recipe. Either as a quick single-use starter or to kickstart a traditional starter.
It’s perfectly fine to make a quick sourdough starter every time you want to bake with sourdough. This is a perfect option for anyone who regularly brews kefir or kombucha.
Here’s how to use a single-use kefir or kombucha sourdough starter:
- Mix up exactly the required amount of starter required for the recipe.
- Let the mixture ferment for at least 24 hours before use.
- I also recommend adding a small amount (1/4 tsp) of commercial yeast to provide a bit more boost to your bread.
Kickstarting a traditional starter
Our sourdough journey began in the early 2000s when Brad got a copy of the Tassajara bread book. That book recommended making a starter out of whatever you had going sour in the fridge. Personally, I think using a fermented beverage is a much more reliable way to kickstart a traditional starter.
This is especially helpful for anyone who regularly makes kefir or kombucha. Because your indoor air is quite likely teaming with the yeast and bacteria from your existing ferments, those would naturally be the first to culture your sourdough.
Here’s how to use kombucha to make a traditional starter:
- Stir the flour and kombucha (or kefir) mixture twice a day for 2 days (48 hours) to bring air into the culture.
- After 48 hours, feed your starter equal parts flour and water. There’s no need to add more kombucha or kefir.
- Follow the regular feeding and maintenance for a traditional sourdough starter or gluten-free sourdough starter.
Quick Kefir or Kombucha Sourdough Starter
Get a jump on your sourdough bread with kombucha, milk kefir, water kefir, or jun. Using a yeast-based culture will result in a vigorous starter in just 24 hours. Perfect for anyone struggling to make traditional sourdough bread.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1/3 cup 1x
- Category: Bread
- Method: Sourdough
- Cuisine: Simple
- Diet: Vegan
- 2 oz flour (or 1/2 cup depending on the weight of the flour)
- 2 oz fermented beverage (1/4 cup, see section above for options)
- Mix equal parts (by weight) of flour and a fermented beverage in a glass container.
- Loosely cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm spot. Near a heater or above the fridge works well.
- Stir vigorously twice a day until ready to use. This brings air into the ferment and prevents crusting. Let it ferment for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours (3 days).
- The best beverages to use are either milk kefir or an unflavoured kombucha. Don’t include the actual SCOBY or grains. The fermented liquid will have enough yeast and bacteria to kick start the sourdough starter. However, avoid using off-the-shelf grocery store kefir and kombucha. They usually don’t contain active strains of yeasts.
- Most sourdough bread recipes require a 100% hydration ratio for the starter. (Meaning equal portions of water and flour by weight.) This is easiest to do with a digital scale that has a zeroing function. If you have to measure the ingredients by volume then remember that whole grain flour is heavier than white flour.
- This quick sourdough bread method will work for gluten-free recipes as well! Just use a gluten-free bread flour mix and GF bread recipe.
- See the section above for information on how to feed and maintain this type of sourdough starter.
Keywords: quick, easy, kombucha, milk kefir, water kefir, jun, starter, gluten free, 2 ingredient or less, 5 minutes or less