Looking for a sourdough starter jar? Not just any container will do! There are specific features that make a good starter jar for the home baker.
Now, it's time to level up your sourdough game. Let's talk about your sourdough starter jar.
Just like with any other baking tools and ingredients, there are specific features that make a good starter container.
This sourdough starter jar guide is dedicated to leveling up!
Why Does the Container Matter?
I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: the perfect sourdough jar matters to you a lot more than the starter.
Your happy colony of wild yeast and bacteria will do its thing in nearly any container you stick it into. A canning jar, a plastic deli container, or even just a Ziploc baggie (think Amish Friendship Bread starter) will work just fine.
But those of us who are serious about sourdough want something special for our starter. And I've found that the right container can make all the difference in my sourdough baking.
I'm all about function over form.
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The first thing to consider is capacity. This is personal, as each baker keeps a different volume of starter on hand. Some of you may use the low waste small starter option, some of you may bake A LOT and keep a larger volume of starter on hand.
You'll need to use the size of your starter to guide you in your decision.
A sourdough starter should be expected to, at the very least, triple in volume. That's the guideline I use, as my starter more than doubles after a feeding.
You don't want a container that's going to overflow and make a mess of your countertop or fridge. But you also don't want one so large that it becomes cumbersome to move and store.
I always remove and feed 50g of starter, and I've found that containers with a 16 oz (2 cup) capacity are perfect for that amount of starter.
When picking out your sourdough starter jar, it's important to also consider its transparency and durability.
You'll want to be able to see your starter as it's fermenting, so a clear container is key. As with any fermentation, it's important to be able to visually observe what's going on.
Being able to see the starter allows you to judge how it's growing by the number and size of the bubbles on the side of the jar. Transparency also allows you to see slide marks and hooch forming on a hungry starter. An opaque container would hinder those observations.
You also don't want one that can be easily damaged or isn't dishwasher friendly. I don't know about you but I'm not interested in handwashing yet another item!!
Glass and plastic are both excellent choices for sourdough starter containers. They're clear, durable, and dishwasher friendly. So while ceramic sourdough crocks are absolutely gorgeous, I don't find them to be as functional as glass or plastic.
Since we're getting down into the nitty gritty of starter containers, let's talk shape.
You want to choose a straight-sided jar without shoulders. A jar with shoulders or indents will make it more difficult to work with. Nobody wants that!
You also want to make sure that the mouth of the jar is wide enough to easily get a spoon or spatula into. Avoid square-ish shapes - always choose a round starter container whenever possible.
If your jar is too narrow-mouthed, squared off, or has shoulders, you'll have a hard time removing your starter, cleaning the jar, and feeding it.
In my experience, clear deli containers or wide-mouth jars have the optimal shape.
Lid Or Cover
It is important to have a starter jar with a lid or cover of some kind.
You want to make sure your starter is well covered so that dust, lint, and other particles don't fall into it. A lid or cover will also help to keep fruit flies away from your fermenting starter.
BUT! The lid cannot be airtight. You want to make sure that there's room for air to circulate, as your starter creates CO2 as a byproduct of fermentation. A sealed environment can cause an explosion - not even kidding.
Most deli containers come with a snap-on lid that's not airtight. If you're using a mason jar, you can either screw the ring on loosely, use a cloth or coffee filter and rubber band or the jar rings to secure, or grab a plastic mason jar lid.
Glass Vs Plastic
This is a personal choice, but I always prefer glass to plastic. And, no, not only because I'm a complete mason jar fanatic!
Glass is easily recyclable, and jars can be used for decades, over and over and over. Once you're done with the jar for your sourdough it can be used to make pickles, preserve fruits, store dehydrated goods, and more
Another benefit to glass is that it's non-porous, so it doesn't hold onto smells or bacteria the way plastic can. We definitely don't want our starters to pick up any funky smells or contaminants from their container.
Glass can be sterilized easily and cleaned easily. I find that a quick soak in some warm, soapy water does the trick for tricky dried-on starter gunk, but the average starter jar can be tossed right into the dishwasher and come out sparkling clean!
The downside to glass is that it can be broken by a clumsy hand or child. Once the glass jar shatters, your starter is as good as gone. It can not be salvaged due to unseen glass shards. If you're using a glass sourdough starter jar, it might make sense to have a contingency plan and preserve some sourdough starter long-term.
Plastic is less likely to shatter than glass, so it's a safer option if you have kids or are accident-prone. It's also often cheaper, so it's a good budget-friendly choice, plus, pretty much everyone is guaranteed to have a plastic container kicking about!
The downside to plastic is that it can be harder to clean due to its ability to be scratched. The scratches can harbor bacteria and smells which can affect your starter negatively.
If you do choose a plastic container for your sourdough starter, make sure it's made of food-grade plastic, BPA-free, and reusable. I personally use reusable deli style containers to store all of my discards in the fridge! (Much to my husband's chagrin)
Choose a clear, straight-sided jar without shoulders for easy cleaning and feeding. Ideally, a wide mouth glass canning jar with a 16 - 32 oz capacity, but a food-safe plastic deli or food storage container will work too. Look for something with a lid that can be placed on without securing the container airtight.
It sounds silly, but an easier-to-use container will make sourdough bread baking more enjoyable!