Sourdough Measurements by the Cup (or Why I Use a Kitchen Scale…)

Updated 08/05/20

WARNING: Use these measurements at your own risk!

When I feed my sourdough starter or bake sourdough bread, I measure out the ingredients on my kitchen scale. I set my bowl or measuring cup on the scale, zero it out and then simply dump out the flour until I hit x grams. And so in my sourdough starter posts (here and here) and my sourdough bread post (here), you’ll find the measurements written in grams not cups.

sourdough ingredients

Several people have told me that before they invest in a scale, they would like to try making the bread using the measuring cups they already own. On the one hand, I’m so happy people don’t want to buy more stuff. On the other, the perfectionist baker in me wants you to use a scale… For dry ingredients, measurements by volume render less accurate results than measurements by weight. Also, if you’re like me, you may lose track of how many cups you’ve added to the bowl (“Was that cup four or cup five?”). And measuring out all those cups just requires more work.

Not convinced? Check out these pictures!

white flour before
100 grams white flour
white flour after
100 grams white flour

Both pictures show the same 100 grams of flour. I banged the measuring cup on the counter a few times to settle the flour before I took the second picture. What a difference!

So, while I do not condone this behavior (using measuring cups), I think that telling people to never measure flour by volume is like telling teens to never have sex. They’re going to do it anyway so they may as well have the correct information. Maybe not the best analogy since bread literally is a bun in the oven…

Anyway, here are the conversions. (Use a scale…)

The Starter

  • 50 grams whole wheat = 1/3 cup
  • 50 grams white = 1/3 cup
  • 100 grams water = 100 ml water (1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon)

I don’t always measure out the flour half and half. And I don’t always use whole wheat. I often use rye instead. Don’t get too caught up with the 50:50 ratio here. (Click here for detailed sourdough starter directions.)

The Leaven

  • 100 grams whole wheat = scant 3/4 cup
  • 100 grams white = scant 3/4 cup
  • 200 grams water = 200 ml water (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 35 grams starter = 2 tablespoons

The Dough

  • 600 grams whole wheat = 4 1/2 cups
  • 200 grams spelt = scant 1 1/2 cups
  • 200 grams white = scant 1 1/2 cups
  • 750 grams water = 3 1/8 cup
  • 25 grams salt = 1 1/2 scant tablespoons (I use coarse salt; you may want less fine salt if you use that)
  • 50 grams water to add to salt = 50 ml water (scant 1/4 cup)

(Click here for detailed sourdough bread directions.)

23 Replies to “Sourdough Measurements by the Cup (or Why I Use a Kitchen Scale…)”

  1. Hahah, you’re a legend. Thank you very much for doing this, against all of your scale-owning wishes!
    I will make in cups, and then once I am thoroughly addicted to home-made sourdough, I will purchase said scales!

    1. You’re welcome and thank you! So many people had asked, I thought I better figure it out (approximately) and post the info. Good luck with your sourdough. It is addictive and so satisfying to make.

  2. I am more of a cook than a baker but the one thing I know about baking: measurements count! Thx for sharing this evidence!!!

    1. They sure do Lori! When I make soup or dal or pesto…or just about anything, I just add this and that to it and taste as I go. You can’t do that with baking. It’s not very forgiving. Plus you can’t really reach in and pull off a hunk of bread in the middle of baking it and try to fix it 😉

      1. Yes, do *not* attempt that!!!

  3. Humidity levels can affect the volume of flour, so to get the same results repeatedly, it is advised to weigh them. I learned this from a bakery owning friend.

    1. Thanks for the info Becky. That makes a lot of sense 🙂

    2. Wouldn’t humidity levels also affect the weight of the flour?

  4. Shirley McClure says: Reply

    I’d like to make the “Kladdkaka – Swedish Gooey Choc. Cake. Please give me the ingredients in cups instead of grams.
    200 grams dark chocolate = cup
    200 grams unsalted butter, cubed = cup
    200 grams baker’s sugar = cup
    250 grams all-purpose flour = cup

  5. …which is why I’ve always said I can’t bake. People were always surprised when I said that, because they think I can cook well. It just means I love to improvise and not measure. Funny thing is, when I cook I seem to be the opposite of my character out of kitchen (It’s been said I don’t like to improvise and am not very flexible haha).

    I’ve been home alone for about 2,5 months now and in that period started experimenting with more Zero waste living, my sourdough starter Dominique and consuming and living more healthy clean. When my partner came back I’d had some experience with Dominique and her offspring. (Timing was no coincidence). Interestingly enough I just heard I became a better baker since nursing Dominique. Wow! That meant a lot from someone that knows their baking. I think because I’m actually caring for Dominique I somehow understand the whole baking process better. Does this sound weird?

    Anyway. Thanks so much for the cup-thing. Rewritten, hanging on my fridge now.

  6. I had a good laugh at the analogy. 🙂 i bought a weighing scale for the same reason of being forgetful, now that i have the weighing scale, measuring is soo easy.

    1. Hi Julai,
      I’m glad my analogy made you laugh 🙂 It is SO quick and easy with a scale. I recently made pizza at my mom’s (no scale) and I miscounted. I ended up making much more pizza than I had intended. There are worse things 😉 But it is much easier with a scale.
      Enjoy you bread,
      Anne Marie

  7. Marijke Honig says: Reply

    Fantastic recipes and explanations, thank you! Can I simply half the recipe to make one loaf? There are only two of us who eat bread in the household…. ‘Banting’ is very popular in South africa. We’re on day 4 of a 3 week lockdown, so plenty of time for sourdough baking….

    1. Hi Marijke,
      Absolutely, you can make just one loaf. Just cut the recipe in half.
      Enjoy!
      Anne Marie

  8. Hi! I’m hoping to try my first bake tomorrow. I only want to make one loaf though it case it doesn’t work out, I don’t want to waste ingredients! Could I just half these amounts for one loaf? Or should I still make that same amount of levian but half the amounts of flour? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Katie,
      Sure, you can cut this in half, including the leaven. It works well and the smaller amount of dough is easier to work with.
      Enjoy!
      Anne Marie

  9. Erik VanDenburgh says: Reply

    Hello,

    I’ve never made sourdough bread but I’m excited to try it out. My starter is ready and I have a question about steps 12 and 14. Maybe its because I’m a dude! lol Do you have any youtube videos that you could reference showing how to do this? If not would you be willing to try to rephrase it for me? Please! Thanks for putting this all together.

  10. I actually replace my kitchen scale so I came here for advice! Lol. I live in Europe so we don’t do anything bigger than a tablespoon by volume. I want to ask what kind of scale you have there, and is there a why, or was it a thrifted article? Tia 🙂

  11. Sorry I meant to type I actually *must* replace my kitchen scale 🙂

  12. Adrienne Aardema Workman says: Reply

    Thanks for the measurements! I think that your salt measurement is off though – it looks like you did twice as much.

    1. :O Thank you Adrienne. I will double check! I made this the other day without the scale and did think the bread tasted saltier than usual. I will go weigh some salt now.
      ~ Anne Marie

  13. Sorry but I’m one of those that goes by cups and feel. I understand the snobbery of those of you who judge me for this but, on a fixed income, a scale becomes a luxury AND, with limited space, a scale is just one more thing. I’ve just begun baking with sourdough starter with the quarantine and have been very happy with my results. It might not be deemed perfect by this group but we’ve been very happy with the MANY things I’ve made. I guess I’ll keep looking for help.

    1. Hi LT,
      I was stranded at my mom’s in Canada due to Covid and didn’t have hardly any tools to speak of up there. The bread may not have looked “perfect” but it tasted perfect. You don’t need a bunch of expensive, special tools to make it. (I wrote a post about that here if you’re interested: https://zerowastechef.com/2020/03/29/sourdough-bread-without-expensive-tools/
      Enjoy your bread!
      ~ Anne Marie

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