Is there a reason to have two starters

I am relatively new to baking sourdough, 2-3 months. I currently bake the Breadtopia Swedish Sourdough Rye and several different white breads. Does It really matter if I use white starter to make Rye bread or Rye starter to make white bread? Will I be able to tell the difference? What do most experienced bakers use? The rye starter seems much more robust that the white and if I had to choose one that would be it.

@jcheroki Hi! I consider myself to be a novice sourdough baker and am certainly NO teacher or expert. I have only one sourdough starter that I use for all my breads, no matter the combination of flour or type of sourdough bread I’m making. That starter is made from organic white all-purpose flour and pure spring water, whose name is Cyril. I’ve had him as my faithful happy starter since February 2018 and started baking with him in April 2018.

Lots of bakers and quite a few members on this forum do use and are partial to using and maintaining sourdough starter made from rye flour. Early last year I actually decided to take some of my faithful Cyril and turn him into a rye starter by feeding him fresh milled rye though I kept my original Cyril in a separate jar so I’d always have him. Both starters were kept in covered (though with breathable covers) glass jars in my refrigerator unless being fed. Then they sat on my kitchen counter for between 5-7 hours before being put back into the refrigerator. Reasons I developed a second starter were I wanted to see if 1) I could grow a rye and maintain a rye starter from my original starter; 2) to see if there was any appreciable difference in my bakes using the rye starter; and 3) to see if I actually felt the need to maintain two separate starters.

  1. Yes, I could grow a rye starter out of my original Cyril! In fact, that starter developed very quickly and flourished nicely. I named him Sir Riehold. He was easy to maintain and keep happy by feeding him freshly milled rye flour and pure spring water. I did notice he would get a hard-type crust on top of him but all I had to do was scrape that off before stirring him down for use and he was good to go. He was stored in a covered jar in my refrigerator and seemed quite content.

  2. I experimented making the same recipe but one loaf being made with Cyril and one loaf made with Sir Riehold. In my personal experience I found no appreciable difference. Sir Riehold may have been a bit more vigorous and given me a bit more oven spring but I honestly didn’t think the difference was a big one. That leads me to point 3) for me, personally, I didn’t feel that feeding and maintaining two starters was the best choice. We’re empty nesters. I only have to bake a few times a month, about every 10 days or so, to keep sourdough bread sliced and stored in our freezer for our daily use. Sometimes I may bake a bit more, but all I do is feed Cyril more often if I need to. As it is, I keep a larger amount of him around so I have to make batches of sourdough pancakes to use up my “discard” before feeding him. To me, simply throwing away Cyril would be a sacrilege. He does make some tasty pancakes, LOL!

If I had no starter, needed to get or develop one, and hadn’t been gifted a starter (Cyril is a gift from a good friend) I may have originally developed a rye starter. When I baked with it, it did really well. I honestly just don’t need two starters. Who knows, at a later date I may take bit of Cyril and try growing a new Sir Riehold again. For now, I just use my faithful Cyril in all my bakes. He’s my happy starter and I love him.

Welcome to the forum and may all your bakes be blessed!

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If you are really strict about your rye bread being absolutely 100% rye, then yes you might want to use a rye starter to raise that bread. If you aren’t so picky as I am not, then I just keep one starter. With a few feedings of any type of starter you will make an offshoot of any starter into essentially 100% of the new flour’s starter. So if you have a 100% white flour starter and you feed it 1:2:2, after one feeding of rye you’ll have 66.6% rye starter, one more feeding 1:2:2 brings the rye up to 89%, another feeding of rye 1:2:2 brings the rye up to 96.4%, another feeding of rye 1:2:2 brings the rye up to 98.8% and finally a fifth feeding of rye 1:2:2 brings your offshoot starter up to 99.6% rye.

So long answer to say I just keep one starter because you can quickly in a matter of a couple of days convert any starter to a new offshoot starter.


@Bentio Yes, absolutely! IF I were strict about wanting a 100% rye bread then I would definitely use a rye starter. For those bakers who only use whole grains and no white bread flour, I completely understand their desire to maintain only a whole grain starter. I commend and admire them for that.

I adore rye bread, having grown up eating a Jewish/New York-style rye bread while growing up in the Midwest USA. Because I do use organic grains when I mill them as needed and I do use organic white bread flour (all purchased from Breadtopia) I am not a stickler for using only “whole grain” starter. I obviously am using white bread flour in my breads and anywhere from about 25-50% whole grains added in, depending on the recipe. My husband’s special cinnamon bread that I bake regularly for him is organic white bread flour only as medically he isn’t supposed to eat much whole grain. He loves my variation of Eric’s sourdough rye bread but only indulges occasionally as that one is 50% rye. Funny thing is, I was thinking today of perhaps using about 25% rye instead of whole grain wheat (Turkey Red, Whole White or Kamut) in my basic no-knead sourdough bread that I make regularly, just to see how it comes out. That recipe only has about 25% whole grain in it anyway so it might be a tasty experiment the next time I need to bake a loaf, which I may need to do in a few days, LOL. I guess I need to bake some sourdough pancakes first and Cyril will need a “snack”.


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I’m not a stickler either Leah. My starter is fed whole red fife, I think I ended up using whole grain because many of the recipes I was starting out with were based on a whole grain levain. I’ve heard many people say that whole wheat starters are more finicky and that white flour starters are more robust. I’ve always wondered why that would be the case. I sometimes think that maybe I should make an offshoot of my starter John Dough and make it a white flour starter to compare. But I hate the idea of having two starters, it seems wasteful. Most of the breads that I make are at most 50% whole grain, I do prefer a mostly white flour bread.

Thanks Leah and Benny,
I appreciate the input. I am not really strict about my rye bread being 100% rye. I am currently baking Eric’s sourdough rye and have been baking a Red Fife loaf as well alternating between the two. Per you replies I have eliminated the white starter that was in the fridge. I still have a frozen white starter and a dried white starter for backup. The rye starter is just very robust and responds quickly. I have yet to name it. Perhaps Rueben if I can’t get a bit more creative.

@Bentio John Dough! I LOVE that!!! What a cool name!

I have noticed that when I bake my husband’s bread, which is 100% white bread flour, I usually get a HUGE oven spring and rise in the bake. I laugh every time I take the lid off the clay baker and see how big that loaf is. I’ve been known to say it’s practically exploded in size. That’s how nice and high a “white” loaf turns out for me.

In contrast, when I add whole grain to the dough the oven spring and final rise during the bake is not as pronounced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely decent. But it’s obviously not as high as a “white” loaf. The more whole grain in the dough, the “lower” the final rise during baking. At least that’s been my personal experience. Is it Cyril or simply the heavier nature of whole grains being added to the dough? In my unscientific personal opinion I think the whole grain is heavier and Cyril has to work that much harder. I have no complaints about my sweet Cyril. He’s my faithful happy starter. Like you, I just don’t feel a great need for two starters basically for the same reason.

Like you as well, my breads are at most 50% whole grain. I love the nutrition added by whole grain and I know that eating purely whole grain bread is a better choice. Funny thing was, my husband has never really been a fan of totally whole grain bread, which was why I did a “mixed” loaf most of the time. He grew up in a household that only ate store-bought fluffy white bread. I only just started baking sourdough bread for us merely a couple months before his medical issues became apparent in July 2018. I’ve baked our bread exclusively since April 2018, for which I thank God. Baking our own bread has been a lifesaver and a medical blessing.


As you know, the addition of whole grains does negatively affect both the rise and the crumb causing less oven spring and tighter crumb compared with 100% white flour breads. So what you describe fits with what I’d say most bakers experience with their bakes.

Other than the baguettes I haven’t baked an all white bread in a long long time. My last attempt was a Pan de Mie that wasn’t very successful because I underproofed it. I should make an all white sourdough just to see if I can get a really bit oven spring, I haven’t seen that in ages.

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@jcheroki Rueben is a GREAT name for a rye starter! I think it’s very creative. In fact, it’s rather perfect. After all, you need bread to make a Rueben sandwich, LOL! I haven’t had one in such a long time. I think I’m salivating…


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Please… Everyone! All this talk of Reuben Sandwiches is making me hungry.

My thoughts are… there’s no reason to keep two or more starters. It’s time consuming and not really necessary. I treat my starter as seed only from which i build whichever type of starter I need using only a small amount. A few grams of rye in a bread flour sourdough, or vice versa, is no issue. In fact all it can do is add flavour.

I do however build starters for fun. Bake with them and then eventually they get amalgamated into my one ongoing starter.

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@anon44372566 Seriously, Abe, I’m drooling here! You think mentioning Rueben sandwiches makes one hungry?? Not all that long ago one of our posters actually posted a picture of freshly smoked pastrami! I kid you not! It looked SO scrumptious! I’ll stop now. It’s getting close to the time I have to cook dinner for my husband and myself. Sadly, I have NO corned beef or pastrami in the house. Something with baked chicken or fish will have to do, LOL! :laughing:

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@Leah1 I was watching this the other day…

A fun YouTube channel all things food. Enjoy your dinner. Bedtime for me.