The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Too Sour Sourdough

195 Pilot's picture
195 Pilot

Too Sour Sourdough

Greeting all,
I have been lurking on here for a while and now I need your expert advise.
I began a starter in Feb. of this year. We live in rural South Dakota 50 miles down a dirt road to the nearest little town so the homemade bread was a great relief on the fuel bill plus the fact my wife and I really love the homemade breads.
I babied and cared for this starter like it was one of my kin. Early on this starter performed great, then I could not get much of a rise and we worked through all that.
Now here's my problem; Ever since the weather has warmed up my starter (I call her Smelly Nelly) has become more sour and more sour.
We are a the piont where Smelly Nelly smells like Sour Mash Whiskey.
I know that smell from my younger days.
My wife and I don't like the flavor the starter has taken on. In my studyiing of sour dough I understand that each region, flavors differ, but we do not like this flavor is there anything I can do to calm down the sour mash whiskey taste.
By the way this is kind of funny as I come from a long line of Moonshiners and my grandfather would have given up alot of corn squeezings to get this sour mash.

thanks for the help,

tgrayson's picture

Silly question, but you are keeping this starter in the fridge?

(PS:  You own a Cessna 195?)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Pray tell, how do you feed it now?  (exactly)


Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

If you follow the proofing box theory, the bacteria half of the livestock favor warmer temps..80 degrees plus.....and a starter or dough kept at those temps become more sour as the bacteria step up. They are the ones responsible for the acids and the sour flavor.

It could be your experience confirms this as one way to get a more sour loaf?

seki's picture


Without any other specifics of your feeding habits, I would guess that you need to increase the starter's food supply. Warmer temps mean faster fermentation in general. If you haven't started feeding your starter more food (or more frequently) to compensate for the warmer temp, then the yeast are doing their work quickly, and the lactobacillus are getting more of a chance to start working. This has a compound effect over time, and it will continue to get more sour, and probably weaker as well.


Yogibaker's picture

Hi Jack

I've been looking for more sour and then found it, and found that I really don't like it.

In my search for the sour flavour, I extended the fermentation period and found that the longer I left it to ferment (using a sponge/poolish) before adding the rest of the flour, this gave a really strong flavour.  On the basis that I didn't like it, I'm now reverting to my previous method, no poolish, and keeping the fermentation length relavtively brief.  My kitchen is around 20 degrees C, and my starter is 100% hydration, but I've foudn that the level of sour flavour is more related to fermentation than to anything I've done with the starter.

Nowadays, I mix all ingredients except salt, leave to autolyse for 30 mins, add the salt and stretch and fold, leave for 1.5 hours, stretch and fold, leave for another 1.5 hours, then shape, leave to rest for 15 mins, then put into banneton for 2 hours before baking.  This gives me a mild flavour, which I prefer.  I'm working with white flour, occasionally 13% rye or wholemeal, depending on what's available, and the sour flavour has reduced.

You could also check this thread which has loads on the science and comments from others, much more experienced than me.

I'm a relative newby to bread making, and just passing on my experience from seeking the perfect flavour.

Hope this helps,


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

" On the basis that I didn't like it, I'm now reverting to my previous method, no poolish, and keeping the fermentation length relavtively brief. "

I'm confused.  Poolish is with instant yeast to pull more flavor from the flour.  Are you combining poolish with sourdough?

Jerry R.'s picture
Jerry R.

I keep my starter like pancake batter.  I always taste it before feeding.  I find that if I forget to feed my charges, the starter will become overly sour.   To bring it back down, I add 1/8 - 1/4 tsp. baking soda (depending on starter volume) to neutralize the acidity.  Mix well,  wait 10 - 15 minutes, and taste again.  It should be back closer to normal.