The Fresh Loaf

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Can I save a starter that has begun to smell odd?

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mpkrr's picture
mpkrr

Can I save a starter that has begun to smell odd?

I have had a starter that i have been happily maintaining for the last six months or so that I keep fed with half whole wheat and half rye flour and at 100% hydration.  I left it a little longer than usual between feedings this last time and I feel like it has developed an odd smell; musty or bitter.  Any idea what may have happened?  Can I restore my starter to former glory?  It's also expanding faster than usual which makes me suspect that it has been taken over by something unsavoury, so to speak.


Matt 

arzajac's picture
arzajac

How often do you usually feed it and do you keep it in the fridge or at room temperature?


 

mpkrr's picture
mpkrr

I feed it at least every two weeks, but every week in general.  I let it rise 6 to 8 hours after feeding, until doubled, and then put it in the fridge until I am ready to use it.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Do you discard any starter when you feed it?Or bake with it often?


Something to try would be to take just a few tablespoons of starter and put it into another,clean jar. Feed it  a small amount, equal weight, flour/water and let it sit out. I use 25 g each-it's about a tablespoon flour and 2 teaspoons water. Feed it twice a day for several days. Make sure your flour isn't old-esp if it is WW.Old (even if you just bought it-it may have been sitting for a while on the store shelf) can taste bitter. See if it seems any better.


Once it starts rising double, either bake with it or refrigerate it.If you bake with it, feed the remainder immediately and either repeat the twice daily feeding to build volume for the next bake or refrig immediately.


Another idea is to feed it and then immediately put it back in the refrigerator-don't let it sit out at room temp at all.


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You can expect starter that is uderfed to start to smell like acetone or paint thinner. That is also called "Hooch". This is normal for the condition. You can save it but I would suggest you start feeding your starter on a weekly basis after you nurse it back to health. First, feed a small portion of say 50 grams (about 1 heaping T) with 75 grams of water and a similar amount of flour. Stir it up well and cover and leave it at room temp overnight. Next day repeat the feeding, discard all but 50 grams and feed 75g water and flour. Cover and leave it on the counter. If you want to go back to storing the starter i the cold dark fridge, Mix it up using 75g water and 125g flour. Mix well and immeadiatly put it in the cooler. No need to wait for the bacteria to start to grow, right in the chiller. It will be happier on the counter if you can manage the feeding schedule. This stuff is pretty hard to kill actually. I have never had one that I couldn't get back, even fron long periods of abuse.


Eric

mpkrr's picture
mpkrr

Yes, the starter is actually doubling considerably faster than usual - in about 5 or 6 hours!  So the problem isn't sluggishness.  And, instead of the usual final three hour rise that I give before baking, the last loaf I tried probably tripled in two hours which was obviously not great.  Why, can I ask, is it better to add additional flour, Eric, if I want to put the starter in the fridge?

Thanks again, this is immensely helpful.

 

Matt

mpkrr's picture
mpkrr

Thanks for the tips!  The starter doesn't smell boozy, but rather musty or bitter, is this the same thing do you think?


 


<att

cdnDough's picture
cdnDough

Does your starter still double in 8hrs?  Is it possible that by musty and bitter you mean acidic?  There are plenty of threads describing how to restore a starter.  I've had good luck with the approach in this thread (look for SourdoLady's contributions).