The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

overzealous starter

tthenazz's picture

overzealous starter

Alright, so i'm working on my second starter. The first one turned out wonderful (after many days of hard work), but it ended up being baked, because someone turned on the oven while it was in there (that's the warmest place in my house, and the best place to put it--when the oven is turned off,) so it was ruined. I started a new one day before yesterday, and it's acting pretty strange. On just the second day, it was bubbling already. I mean REALLY bubbly, like, it looked like a sponge. Now today, it's still very bubbly, as if there's already a healthy family of yeast in there. It is also very pungent. I wouldn't say it's a bad smell, but...i don't really know. Maybe it's a sour smell, but i can't say for sure if that's wishful thinking or not. Cheesy, maybe? Not really. I got my recipe online, and it worked perfectly the first time: 1/2 c water, 1/2 c flour daily, in a glass bowl with paper towel cover (held with a rubber band). WHAT IS GOING ON??? Do you think i should throw it out?

janij's picture

Keep feeding it!  Sometimes a starter may start bubbling right away them quit a few days later.  This is because of leuconostoc bacteria that shows up and looks like yeast activity at first.  In PR Whole Grain Breads he sites Debra Wink's work at the KA Baking Circle work on way to avoid this problem.  You use pineapple juice in the starter on one and two and the acid in the juice will hold back the leuconostoc activity.  Give it a little more time.  Even if you don't use the pineapple juice, the yeast should overcome in time.  Plan to feed at least 7-10 days before being able to use.

seki's picture

This happened to me when I made my first starter using a similar method (100% hydration, just flour and water). It is a bacteria that is creating the gas and the smell, not yeasty-beasties just yet. When the pH of the starter gets low enough, those bacteria will die off and the yeast will take over.


I mistook this activity for yeast, as well, and eventually tried to make bread with it. It was humorous, but never made it as far as the oven, and certainly not our mouths. (My wife and I belovingly called it the "baby-barf" loaf.)


I started my starter over using the "Pineapple Juice Solution" posted here by Debra Wink, and it worked beatifully. It skipped the "Leucs" and went straight to happy yeast town in a few days.


EDIT: Starting over wasn't necessary, but the previous starter got chucked with the BB loaf.

tthenazz's picture

awesome advice, thanks!  i'll keep feeding it :)

SourdoughBaker's picture

I've had the experience of purchasing what I thought was plain flour, but actually getting self raising flour in a plain flour bag. This certainly had me flummoxed for a little while. I thought my starter was pretty amazing. I had it in a tub, with a muslin cover and a rubber band holding it on. The starter actually exploded, like a fire hose, and went all over the kitchen. It must have risen quickly to the muslin, blocked the air and created a pressure cell. I just remember the hours it took to clean it all up!

There's more on feeding liquid starter here if you're interested:

There are also some other starter methods there as well which may be of interest.

Cheers, and good luck with it!