The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sourdough starter alcohol

gnowetan's picture

sourdough starter alcohol


I recently went on vacation for a month and left my sourdough starter in the fridge.  When I came back, there was about 1/4 inch of alcohol on the top, which is normal after a long period without feeding.  However, the alcohol had turned a dark color, almost grey.  I smelled the alcohol and the starter, and everything seemed to be in order, so I just fed it again.

What does the darker alcohol mean?  Is it anything to worry about?


Ford's picture

Yep, that is called hooch.  Some people will tell you to decant it off and use the more solid rest of the starter.  However, I have found that it does no harm to just stir the entire contents of the starter, refresh it until it is strong, and make some bread.  Most of the alcohol evaporates during baking, but some contributes to the flavor and complexity of the flavor through reaction with other byproductws of the little beasties in the starter.

By the way, the color is usual in my starters and, I suspect it is in others.



jj1109's picture

if I leave my starter in the fridge for too long without attention, it gets that lovely grey colour... that's about when my wife starts to say things like "if that's still there tomorrow I'm throwing it in the compost". She just doesn't understand these things!

As Ford said, I haven't had any problems either with just mixing it all in, refreshing it two or three times and it's lovely again.

drhowarddrfine's picture

I thought I read in Reinhardt's book that if it gets too dark it has gone bad and needs to be thrown out. Or am I mis-remembering?

liseling's picture

My hooch is always a pretty dark brown color even if I only leave it for a couple weeks in the fridge. It's always worked out fine for me to just stir it in. My starter doesnt seem to mind as long as I feed it!