Scientists Want To Know About Your Sourdough Starter

Scientists Want To Know About Your Sourdough Starter
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If you’ve ever tried making a sourdough starter, you know it’s a bit of an experiment. You’re literally capturing wild yeasts, feeding them, and hoping that they create a microbial community that will end up smelling and tasting delicious. Maybe you’ll be successful, maybe you won’t.

Actual scientists are interested in your sourdough starter, too. The microbial community that you grow depends on the wild yeasts in your area, the type of flour, and more. A project out of Rob Dunn’s lab at North Carolina State University is collecting sourdough starter data from home bakers, and you can join in.

The instructions are here. Start with the flour of your choice and dechlorinated water (just leave some water sitting out overnight) and feed it for 14 days. Then, you’ll test its rising time and height, describe its aroma, and take photos.

Best of all: your data is useful to science even if it’s from a “failed” starter, or one that you don’t like the smell of. This experiment might help to shed light on why starters fail.

If you want to go above and beyond, you can make two starters and leave one outdoors and one indoors, or you can test different types of flour. And if you’d like to do this experiment with kids, there’s a teacher’s guide to help you guide them through this as a science lesson.

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