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image of levain in a pot



Making Levain at home, like making Sourdough, means starting a fermentation process, capturing yeasts and bacteria from the air, and letting them ferment! This may sound very abstract and complicated, but nature can make things much more straightforward than expected!

Levain’s recipe is straightforward, but you have to pay attention to 3 factors if you want to succeed:

The fermentation temperature is crucial because it affects the yeasts’ reproduction. It should always be between 27°C (80°F) and 30°C (86°F). To attain this temperature outside the summery season, I recommend letting the levain ferment in the oven and placing a bowl of hot water in it. This trick will help you maintain a lukewarm temperature.

The Flour for feeding your Levain has to be rich in proteins, like bread flour, with a W of around 320 (in Europe). I also recommend using wholewheat flour to start the initial fermentation and good-quality bread flour for all the following steps to control the acidity better.

Time is always a precious ingredient. In preparing starters, such as levain or Sourdough, following the time the yeast will need is essential. Therefore, don’t worry if your starter does not fully respect the recipe’s timing. It is very important to understand this aspect because the starter conveys the particular bacteria, the Flour you are using, and your room temperature.


The preparation I am describing is an adaptation of the American method, typical of the San Francisco area. After trying several different methods to prepare the levain, I am persuaded this is easier to apply at home. Moreover, It allows you to have your starter ready in 7 – 10 days.

This method involves creating a fermented dough, feeding it twice a day for 7 to 10 days, and letting it ferment for 8 to 16 hours at 27°C (80°F)—30°C (86°F).

Moreover, we will use a greater quantity of Flour than the starter, allowing you to better control the acidity.

Like the Sourdough recipe, I prefer not to use any starter such as honey, fruit pulp, or yogurt. Indeed, good-quality flour contains all the elements needed to start the fermentation process naturally.

In the following steps, I have included a baseline time to let you better choose the timing that suits your needs.


10:00 am

Take a bowl and mix:

  • 100gr Wholemeal Flour
  • 100gr of Still Water at room temperature

Create a rough dough, pour it into a jar, cover it with a kitchen paper sheet, and secure it with a rubber band. Ferment for 24 hours at 27°C (80°F) – 30°C (86°F).



10:00 am

After 24 hours, you will already notice a significant increase in volume, characterized by many air bubbles as evidence that fermentation has started.

preparazione del licoli su biancolievito 1

Remove the top layer from the dough with a spoon, take 200gr of preferment and weigh:

  • 100gr of water at room temperature
  • 100gr of Bread Flour (containing 14% to 16% of proteins)

First, add the water to the dough and whisk to oxygenate it. You will see a lot of air bubbles forming on the surface. I suggest using a simple hand whisk instead of a mixer or immersion blender.

Mix the flour with a spatula when the starter is wholly dissolved in the water. The consistency will be slightly sticky.

Then pour the levain in a well-cleaned pot, cover once again with a sheet of kitchen paper, fixed with an elastic band, and let ferment for 8 hours at 27°C (80°F) – 30°C (86°F)

preparazione del licoli su biancolievito 3



06:00 pm

After 8 hours, remove the top layer with a spoon and take 100gr from the inner part. Now, you can feed the starter with the following proportions:

  • 100gr of Levain
  • 180gr Water
  • 180gr Bread Flour (containing 14% to 16% of proteins)

Proceed as explained above. Once the dough is ready, wash the jar (preferably without using dish soap that could interfere with the yeasts), pour the starter into it, cover it again with a sheet of paper, fix it with an elastic band, and let ferment anew for 16 hours at 27°C (80°F)—30°C (86°F).


10:00 am and 6:00 pm

During these days, you will feed  the Levain twice a day (ideally keeping the same time) and let the starter ferment at 27°C (80°F) – 30°C (86°F)

For all the refreshments, the proportions to use will be:

  • 100gr of Levain
  • 180gr Water
  • 180gr Bread Flour (containing 14% to 16% of proteins)

Here’s what you’ll notice over the next few days:

Because of the increasing acidity, the starter will have a liquid consistency during the first few days. Going forward, the consistency will change and turn more viscous.
Moreover, many bubbles will appear day after day. The smell will also change from being like “wet flour” during the first 2-3 days to becoming sour with a lovely acidic note (around the 4th – 5th day).
Because of its acidity, the increase in volume will be “irregular” in the beginning. You will observe that after 8 or 16 hours, the starter will have doubled its volume and started to decrease.


The most unmistakable sign to test if the levain is riped will be the time it takes to double its volume: If it doubles in 2 to 3 hours at 27°C (80°F) – 30°C (86°F), then it will be ready to be used and stored!

Moreover, it has to smell a bit sour with pleasant acidic notes.

preparazione del licoli su biancolievito 4



Once the Levain is finally ready, you can feed it one last time before storing it. For this final refreshment, we will use:

  • 100gr of Levain
  • 100gr of Water
  • 100gr of Bread Flour (containing 14% to 16% of proteins)

Once refreshed (as explained above), pour it into a clean pot and store it in the fridge at +4°C (39°F) for 1 to 5 days.

After at least 24 hours, you can use the Levain to prepare your recipe, but always remember to keep a small quantity for future use.


Suppose you have your Sourdough and want to change it into a Levain (because it is more practical and easier to manage). In that case, you must increase the water quantity every time you feed it.

Suppose you maintain your Sourodugh using the method in water. In that case, your starter will have 30% hydration: for every kg of Flour used in the refreshment, you will usually add 300gr of water.

To obtain a levain, increase the amount of water by 10% on each refreshment until you reach 100% (equal weight of water to Flour).

Below is a table that can help you plan your work

DAYS% of WATERgr of WATER for 1 Kg of FLOUR
Day 140%400 gr
Day 250%500 gr
Day 360%600 gr
Day 470%700 gr
Day 580%800 gr
Day 690%900 gr
Day 7100%1 kg

The Levain on Biancolievito


How long does it take to prepare Levain?

The time needed to make the Levain depends a lot on the yeasts themselves and other factors like the Flour used and the temperature at which you let it ferment. For this reason, there is no fixed time.

With the method I describe on Biancolievito, you can obtain a good levain in about 8 – 10 days.

To facilitate your starter’s production, I recommend you be constant in refreshments timing, in the Flour used, and in the leavening temperature!

Can I use the exceeding parts of Levain that I don't feed?

Until the 2nd – 3rd day, the levain will be very acidic, so I recommend not using it.

However, after the first few days, you can use the surplus of unrefreshed levain to flavor doughs, such as bread, pizza, or Italian Piadina.

In this case, you will need about 100gr for each kg of Flour.

Can I make Levain with Sourdough?

Yes, if you have the Sourdough, you can easily convert it into Levain. Simply increase the percentage of water on the weight of Flour by 10% each time you feed it until you reach 100%.

What do I do once the Licoli is ready?

Once the preparation of Levain is over, you need to do a final refreshment and place it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

After this time, you can use it for your recipe or keep it in the fridge for up to 7 days before feeding it again!

Which Flour should I use to make Levain?

I recommend using high-quality Whole Wheat Flour or Semi-Wholemeal Flour to start the fermentation process.

These flours will promote fermentation due to the high content of fibers and enzymes.

However, for all next refreshments, I recommend using Bread Flour, with a W between 320 and 360 (if you are in Europe), to keep the acidity of the Levain under control.


93 comments about “Ricetta licoli facile e sicura”

    1. Ciao Nicolò,
      si puoi invertire il procedimento Lievito Madre – Licoli. In pratica diminuisci l’idratazione ad ogni rinfresco!

      A presto!

  1. Se parto per 2 sett come devo fare il rinfresco del mio licoli?In genere ne tengo in frigo in un barattolo una quantità di 300 gr grazieeeeeee

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