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Sourdough starter lifeless

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crustic's picture
crustic

Sourdough starter lifeless

OK.  So I am only about two weeks into breadmaking and am working on my first sourdough starters.  I actually started two which in hindsite was not a good idea as they weren't on the same schedule and (in addition  to 4 kids and a dog) this was too confusing.  Anyway, one starter I was working on suggested to let the starter rest for 24 hours each time (regardless of what was going on) and this recipe (started with all rye flour) completely took off after the first feeding.  It probably tripled in size (overflowed) my 4 cup measuring cup which I was using for the starter and was very stringy and elast, which is exactly what I would have expected based on what I read.  In any case I was very optimistic and though I was off to the races.  Wrong.  Somehow after the second feeding it stayed completely flat and showed very little activity.  I have since divided and fed it twice with still very little activity although there were some bubles still in there although very little elasticity to the starter.

 

I am mostly looking for either encouragement that there is still hope for this starter (it still smells good (I think but don't really know)) or someone to tell me to scrap it and start over.  The only thing I can think of that may have caused problems was that I did wash the container between second and third feedings because it had overflowed.  I don't recall using soap but either way used a sponge which could have had soap in it.  I'm still surprised that could have had such a drastic effect on such an active starter but this is my first time.

Thoughts?

Farmpride's picture
Farmpride

did you use any yeast in it? sounds like you used some instant yeast? anything else?

albert

crustic's picture
crustic

No yeast. Just flour and water.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

We want to check out a starter starting method.  

Click below and we plan to start tomorrow.   Pretty straight foward and uses little flour.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/31770/light-end-tunnel-would-be-really-useful-right-now

Mini

With your initial problem of too much bacteria action, may I suggest you use unsweetened orange or pineapple juice instead of water to mix with the flour.  Otherwise this scenario will repeat itself.  

margieluvschaz's picture
margieluvschaz

if my starter starts looking dull I dump all but a 1/4 cup and feed it with 1/8 cup unbleached flour plus 1Tbl  and 1Tbl medium rye flour, plus 1/4 c filtered water.  It perks it right up for me.  Good luck!

Margie

crustic's picture
crustic

Thanks Margie.  I actually did feed it 1/2 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup rye to try and jump start it.  There were a few bubbles so I fed it again 1/2 and 1.2 and there seems to be more bubbles today.  It didn't bounce right back but showing signs of hope.  In the meantime i started another with the same recipe as before last night and it is already showing good signs of life.  I may just go get a bottle of Spring water just to be safe with this batch.  I'll let you know what happens.

Crustic

ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

A better, more efficient way would be to use 100% whole-grain rye kept in batter form at constant, elevated temperatures for the first twenty-four hours.  With each successive feeding, the temperature can be lowered, as well as the hydration, amount of rye, and inoculation.  Using the right ratios and temperatures, you'll achieve a perfectly healthy and active starter faster, and one that is more representative of the known, stable "desirable" sourdough microflora you are trying to achieve.  First stage, keep the culture at 35 - 40 degrees Celsius (37 is preferable) for the first 24h.  Every feeding in the beginning should be kept at 1:1:1.  The second refreshment can be done in whole wheat, and it must be held between 30 - 35 degrees for 12h.  The third feeding should be held at 27-28 degrees for another 12h, and, from this point on out, you can begin to use whatever wheat flour you want (knowing that wholer grains produce better results, always).  The fourth refreshment is the same as the third.  At the end of forty-eight hours, you will have a fully active, ready starter that can be used to build a leaven.  This method has been shown to work everywhere in the world, every time, if done correctly.

DDT for 1st feeding:  40 degrees Celsius.

DDT for 2nd feeding:  35 degrees Celsius.

DDT for 3rd feeding:  30 degrees Celsius.

DDT for 4th feeding:  28 degrees Celsius.

DDT for every stage after the fourth:  28 degrees Celsius.

After the fourth feeding, you can also change the nature of your starter (i.e., you can begin to decrease or increase hydration, inoculation %, etc.) to fit your tastes and needs.

 

mariana's picture
mariana

I used this method for creating liquid starter in 48 hrs once and can testify that it works perfectly well. I used Eric Kayser's formula for his Fermentolevain, as quoted in Les Nouvelles de la Boulangerie Patisserie, N49, Mars, 1996

http://www.cannelle.com/BILIOTHEQUE/revuetec/PDF/SUPSTn49.pdf

However, Raymond Calvel's method for creating his stiff starter in 48 hrs also works just as well. In his method temperature is controlled at 25C throughout all stages of starter development. In Calvel's recipe it is the fast accumulation of acidity, I assume, in stiff dough, that allows to bypass the leuconostoc stage.

 

One method requires strict control of temperature, at home you should find  places where you can keep your starter at requested temperatures. Higer temps are achieved by using electric heating pad, others inside programmable bread maker or in different places throughout the house. It is nice and easy otherwise, because refreshments are every 12-24 hrs. Another method requires refreshments around the clock, but at the steady room temperature.

crustic's picture
crustic

OK.  So I couldn't revive my first attempt so I dumped it and started over.  I used the same formula (start with rye flour and then feed every 24 hours with whole wheat bread flour).  I am now on the third day of the second attempt with very similar results.  The starter developed nice bubles after the first day.  It then took off and doubled in size in first twelve hours after feeding.  This is where things differed a little from the first time.  After letting it sit for the full 24 hours the mix settled back down to previous size but still had bubbles.  I fed again last night and no rise after 12 hours when I looked this morning but still some bubbles.  In my first time around the starter had doubled and then overflowed my container 24 hours after the first feeding.  The mix was very stringy and elastic.  It was after that second feeding that it seemed to die off last time.  This time it seems to have lost something in the middle of the rest after the first feeding.

Any thoughts would be appreciated but at a minimum if I can't get this one back to life I am going to start again using only spring water next time.  I have been using unflitered tap.  It's frustrating because it seems to get off to such a good start.  I am using King Arthur unbleached bread flour for the feedings.

Crustic

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Since you are using water as the liquid, you starter is going through a series of different microflora regimes. A type of bacteria called Leuconostoc is one of the early players and is very active--lots of bubbles produced. It often produces unpleasant odors, too. Eventually, the pH of the starter drops to a level that Leuconostoc can't thrive in and different types of bacteria flourish. Thing is, they are not visibly active, so many sourdough newbies figure that the starter has died and pitch it.

That's about where you are now. Keep following your chosen program for feeding the starter. Its pH will continue to drop until the Lactobacilli and yeast that you want find conditions to their liking. Then they will take off.

Stick with it. You'll get there.

Paul

crustic's picture
crustic

Thanks Paul!  I will stick to the plan.

ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

Since you are using water as the liquid, you starter is going through a series of different microflora regimes. A type of bacteria called Leuconostoc is one of the early players and is very active--lots of bubbles produced. It often produces unpleasant odors, too.

 

What kind of "unpleasant odours" do you mean?  What volatile and/or soluble aromatic compounds do these lactobacilli create in  cereal-based substrates during lactic-acid fermentation?  Why aren't they desirable?  Is this entirely species- or strain-specific?  If strain-specific, have any strains evolved metabolic responses to those pathways found in cereal substrates?  And, if so, does this metabolism match traditional outcomes (metabolites, proteolytic release of key amino acids for typical "bread" flavour) of other, lactic-acid-based fermentation?  What is their impact on the population dynamics of a "desirable" sourdough culture, both in the short-term and in the long-run as it might impact the stability of a "desirable" culture, if it does at all?  And what pHs can these lactobacilli thrive in?

Do some research.  You might be surprised.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Baby puke, smelly socks, sewer gas; the descriptions are as varied as the starters and the people describing them.  And we're talking leuconostoc, not lactobacilli, during the first day or three.  Which means that the rest of the questions posed don't apply.

As to research, just do a search here on words like smelly, stinky, foul, or the like.  You'll have more than enough anecdotal evidence to satisfy any curiosity.

Paul

ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

i tend to make stupid assumptions, like that leuconostoc is an obligatively heterofermentative lactobacilli, and that they can live past "day three." my bad.

again, do your research. you might be surprised.

crustic's picture
crustic

Third time is a charm!  Oddly this one took off just like in the book.  Thanks all.  Now to make bread!