Switching Sourdough Starter to a New Type of Flour

Q. I purchased a sourdough bread starter that is accustomed to white flour but I’d like to use whole wheat flour. How do I switch the sourdough bread starter over to whole wheat flour?

A. All of our sourdough bread starters can be converted to be used with a wide variety of flours. We recommend that you initially activate the starter and establish the starter with whatever type of flour it is accustomed to (generally white, wheat or rye flour). Once the sourdough starter is clearly healthy (bubbling happily) and has gone through at least a week of regular feedings, split the sourdough starter in two and put half in a safe place in the refrigerator. Start feeding the second half with the new flour. Within a few days/feedings, the sourdough starter will be fully converted. This method of splitting the sourdough starter allows you to convert the sourdough bread starter over to a new flour type but also gives you a back up in the refrigerator as there can be a learning curve when working with new flour types.

Please note, the best flours for feeding sourdough are white flour, whole wheat, spelt and rye.  Brown rice flour can be used but starters fed with brown rice starter tend to be less robust and require more regular feedings (minimum 2-3 times a week).

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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How to Make Whey for Soaking and Fermenting

Making whey is easy! To start, you will need yogurt, cultured buttermilk, milk kefir or raw milk. If using just raw milk (not cultured first) then you will need to allow the milk to sit at room temperature for several days until it separates (don’t try this with pasteurized milk!).

To make whey, place a colander in a bowl on the counter. Lay a piece of multi-layered cheesecloth, a tight weave dish towel or a pillowcase in the colander. Pour the yogurt, buttermilk, milk kefir or raw milk into the cloth, gather up the edges of the cloth and tie it so the cloth hangs from an upper kitchen cabinet and drips into the bowl (you can remove the colander if desired). Allow the whey to drip until no more whey escapes the cloth or the desired consistency of the yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, etc. has been reached. This process can take 2-24 hours. Once the process is complete, place the whey in a jar and the resulting soft cheese in the cloth in a container. Store both in the refrigerator using air tight lids.

Whey is used in many Traditional Food recipes including fermenting vegetables, soaking grains, etc. Excess whey can also be used in place of water in most recipes or added to a smoothie, etc. Whey can generally be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months (and will smell spoiled once it’s past its prime).

This process also yields a soft cheese from the yogurt, kefir, buttermilk or raw milk. Depending on your taste preferences and the final consistency, this resulting soft cheese can often be used to replace yogurt or cream cheese in recipes or can be mixed with fruit, vegetables, herbs, etc. to make a spread or dip for crackers, fruit, vegetables and more. The soft cheese will generally keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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How Much Sugar Does Water Kefir Contain?

Q. I would love to make water kefir but I’m nervous about using sugar.  How much sugar is left when the water kefir has finished culturing?
A. Water kefir grains are accustomed to being cultured in sugar water although juice or coconut water can also be used.  Keep the following things in mind when making water kefir with sugar water:
Water kefir grains tend to do best with a ratio of 1/2 cup sugar to 2 quarts water (6% sugar solution). We strongly recommend not changing this ratio.  If too little sugar is used, the kefir grains will not work as effectively (and will eventually become damaged and even die) and you may actually end up with more sugar in the finished batch than you would if you had used this ratio (due to inefficient consumption of the sugar by the water kefir grains).
A couple more tips for water kefir sugar:
  • We recommend using organic sugars whenever possible as many non-organic sugars are processed with chemicals that are hard on the water kefir grains.
  • White sugar makes the most mild tasting kefir (we recommend Organic Evaporated Cane Crystals); whole sugars containing molasses such as Rapadura and Succanat will make a stronger tasting kefir.
  • Finished water kefir will taste fairly sweet (but nowhere near as sweet as the sugar water you started with).  This is not an indication that the kefir grains malfunctioned but rather a byproduct of the small amount of fructose that remains.
  • If you want to encourage your water kefir grains to multiply, use either a whole sugar (e.g. Rapadura or Succanat) or add 1 t. of molasses to 1/2 c. white sugar.  The minerals in the molasses promote growth of the kefir grains.  Click here for more information on encouraging kefir grains to multiply.
Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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Advantages of Counter-top Variety Yogurt Starter Culture

Using a yogurt starter that cultures at room temperature (a.k.a mesophilic starter culture) makes homemade yogurt easy.  Simply add the yogurt starter culture to milk, stir, cover with a towel and leave the homemade yogurt mixture on the counter for 12-18 hours followed by 6 hours in the refrigerator to halt the culturing process.  Room temperature yogurt starter does not require you to heat the milk, wait for it to cool before adding the yogurt starter or keep the mixture at a certain temperature for a period of time.  Room temperature yogurt starter culture also doesn’t require a yogurt maker which means more room in your kitchen! Viili, Filmjolk, Matsoni and Piima yogurt starters all function in this manner.

Heirloom variety starters such as our Viili, Filmjolk, Matsoni and Piima cultures have the added advantage that a small amount of each batch can be used to make the next batch.  With proper care, the process can be repeated indefinitely.  No more buying yogurt starter every few weeks!

Do you want to make raw milk yogurt?  Room temperature (counter-top) yogurt starter is also the best possible way to make raw yogurt.  Imagine not having to heat your milk to make raw milk yogurt.  Raw yogurt contains all the benefits of raw milk while also having the probiotic bacteria characteristic of yogurt.  What could be better?  Making raw milk yogurt is easy with a room temperature starter.  You will need to heat a small amount of milk (1/2 – 1c.) to use as a yogurt starter (this keeps the bacteria in your raw milk from weakening the yogurt starter over time) but ultimately 15/16 of your finished yogurt will be truly raw yogurt.  This method is far superior to yogurt making methods which require you to heat all your raw milk and/or keep your raw milk warm in an effort to make raw milk yogurt.  It doesn’t get more raw then when using this yogurt making method.

Want to learn more about making yogurt?  Click here for Yogurt Making Expert Advice Articles, How-to Videos and Recipes.

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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