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

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 ~ scant 2 tablespoons (about 5 teaspoons)

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 ~ 3 scant tablespoons (I use coarse salt; 50 grams of fine salt will occupy a smaller volume)
  • 50 grams water to add to salt = 50 ml water (scant 1/4 cup)

(Click here for detailed sourdough bread directions.)

8 Comment

  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 🙂

  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

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