How to Reactivate a Dry (Dehydrated) Sourdough Starter
Follow this step-by-step guide to reactivate a dry sourdough starter. The process takes about a week, but is very easy to do! By the end, a small amount of dry sourdough will transform into a voluminous, bubbly, active culture - ready to bake with. But not just once! With a little love and weekly care, one sourdough starter will provide you with years and years of delicious, nutritious, and rewarding sourdough baking at home.
Pint-size glass mason jar and lid or similar (for initial activation)
Larger glass container, such as a 1 to 2 liter glass flip-top container (for ongoing starter storage)
- 1/2 Tbsp dried sourdough starter culture
- white bread flour or all-purpose flour (amount varies with each step)
- filtered lukewarm water (non-chlorinated, avoid using cold water)
In a clean pint-size mason jar (or similar) combine 1/2 Tbsp of dried sourdough starter powder or flakes (one H&C package) with 1.5 Tbsp of filtered lukewarm water. Allow the dry sourdough starter and water to sit for several minutes to soften and combine. Use a fork or spoon to stir it on occasion.
Add 1 Tbsp of flour. Mix thoroughly. (See consistency notes below)
Cover the jar with a lid, beeswax wrap, plate, or other cover to prevent it from drying out. Set the container in a moderately warm location (70 to 75F is ideal). Come back in about 24 hours.
Into the same jar as yesterday, add 1 Tbsp of flour and 2 teaspoons of water to the starter. Mix well.
Cover the jar or container again, and allow it to sit for another 24 hours.
This time, add 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup water to the starter. Mix well.
Cover the container and set aside once again. Consider marking the level of the starter after feeding. It should rise quite a bit by this time!
Transfer your starter from the mason jar into a clean mixing bowl.
Add 1 scant cup of fresh flour (just a hair shy of a cup!) and 1/2 cup of water. Mix thoroughly.
Transfer the starter into a new larger container of choice (such as a 1 to 2 liter glass flip-top jar). This will be the starters "forever home". Set it aside at room temperature once again.
If your starter is now actively bubbling, rising and falling - congratulations! You have successfully reactivated the dry sourdough starter. When a starter rises to double its size and then stays elevated, that is considered “peak activity” and is ready to bake with. It will deflate after a few hours and need to be fed or refrigerated.
Ongoing Starter Maintenance
To learn how to feed and store you now-active sourdough starter, please refer to our sourdough starter maintenance article (linked in the notes below). If you aren't sure what to do next, put your active starter in the fridge while you do your homework!
Ongoing Sourdough Starter Care: For ongoing starter maintenance (feeding instructions and storage options), see this article.
Starter Consistency: This recipe was developed using the Homestead and Chill dry sourdough starter culture. Using different brand sourdough starters may result in varying consistencies. Every individual home environment (e.g. different elevations and humidity) could also lead to some variations. The goal throughout this process is to maintain a thick gooey starter. It should settle smoothly into the bottom of the container (meaning, not clump into a firm ball of dough like cookie batter) but it shouldn’t be easy to pour or runny like pancake batter. The sourdough starter should be somewhere in between. Eventually, an active sourdough starter will be spongy like marshmallow fluff. If at any time throughout this process you feel that your starter has become too stiff or too thin, feel free to add a sprinkle more flour or splash of water until the desired consistency is reached. Do so in small quantities, such as a teaspoon at a time (especially in the first few days).
Troubleshooting: A couple of issues may cause a sourdough starter to not rise well. For one, it could be too cold in your home - though there should be at least some activity, even in the coolest conditions. Try moving your starter to a warmer location, or creating a warmer environment for it (such as with holiday lights, a heat mat, or inside the oven with the light on but the oven off). A more common issue is the starter consistency. When a starter is too wet or runny, the fermentation bubbles may rise right through and out of the mixture, rather than being trapped inside and causing the starter to grow and rise. If at any time your starter doesn’t rise and also seems easy to pour (like thin pancake batter), is it probably too wet. Stir in more flour to stiffen it up, adding just a few tablespoons at a time until it becomes more thick and gooey.