The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I poured off some of the "hooch" from my liquid levain, are my yeasties gone too??

  • Pin It
BusterBaker's picture
BusterBaker

I poured off some of the "hooch" from my liquid levain, are my yeasties gone too??

I've been following Leader's directions for starting my own liquid levain (local breads, p76).   I used it to raise some dough on day 4 of the levain.   Even though it was early in the process, it rose my dough well in the 8 hours I allowed it to ferment.   I fed it on schedule after baking my loaves.   The next day (#5), I checked on the levain and it smelled quite pungeant from the alcohol based hooch.


 


I know that allowing too much alcohol to develop can ruin the starter.   Since day 2,  I could see the hooch separating out from the rest of the levain in between the elastic gluten stuff on top and the thinner "pancake batter" stuff on the bottom.    Worried about the damaging effects of too much alcohol, I poured off 3/4 of the hooch liquid.  


Did I also get rid of most of my yeast culture too?  I'm hoping the yeast doesn't live in this layer of the levain and I can just keep on feeding it as instructed.


Thank You.


Dale

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It is also a sign that your starter has used up the food and is very hungry. I hope you are discarding and reducing your starter before feeding it. Just pouring off hooch is not enough. The yeasts tend to sink toward the bottom.

It sounds like you should reduce your starter to about 40g and add 40g water and maybe 60g flour for the next 12 hour feeding. What do your instructions advise?

BusterBaker's picture
BusterBaker

His directions say that when an active levain has been established,  its time to refresh it.    After refreshing it, he says to use it right away or refrigerate it for up to one week when it will need to be refreshed again to keep it potent enough to raise dough.


He mentions hooch as a natural byproduct of fermentation and says to just stir it back into the levain.  I'm guessing he advises this only when the hooch hasn't reached a dangerous level.


Refreshment calls for taking 1/4 cup of my active culture and feeding it with 3/4cup of water & 3/4 cup of flour.   He says the rest of the culture should be discarded.   I will reduce/discard my levain today as I think it has reached the level of activity needed to raise dough succussfully.


He mentions a well maintained levain will add "flavorful acids" that enchance the flavor of breads made with it.  If I keep getting rid of the hooch, am I sacrificing flavor from the acids as well? 


   My question is my first post as a new member here.   I'm very new to bread baking and I appreciate your quick response.  I have about 6 batches of baguettes and 2 attempts at a boules made from a sourdough starter.  I'm having fun!


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I have fun baking bread too. Yes well I like the 1/4 cup part only I might reduce the water to 1/2 cup and keep the 3/4 cup flour, If that is too much starter for you, you can reduce it to a lot less. Just stay proportional. I keep only a little, about 1/2 cup of starter in the fridge. Remember to always feed the starter the same weight in flour or more, the water is up to you if you want a liquid starter or a stiff one. A more liquid starter will ferment faster than a thicker one.

A new starter benefits from aging on the counter top for a while and small additions of various flours helps. Sort of rounds out its profile. Lets the various wee beasties jar for their growing positions. It's a complicated subject so I leave it to them, the wee beasties. I never get hooch anymore with my well established starter. Hooch does add flavour (taste it if you dare and dang! you could have drunk the stuff, it's like beer!) and because of the acid in it, well, you can do what you feel like. It is a different kind of flavour to that flavour that's acquired over time but flavour none the less. Anyway, hooch is high acid which protects the starter while it goes dormant.

So I guess I could say if you see a lot of hooch, your starter is trying to go dormant. It is just one of those things in nature. (yeast protecting itself for winter or some such thing until food arrives.) You can feed it regularly and keep it active or starve the yeasts and let it hooch and go dormant. Up to you. I go after flavour in other ways keeping my starter fit for fun.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I spent some time in Michigan, a little more north but still close to the lakes. Still got lake effects and snow? Can't think of a better thing to do when snowed in than bake or dig someone out of a snow bank. Baking fills the house with fine aromas and seems basic. I hope you enjoy it here we talk a lot about bread.

BusterBaker's picture
BusterBaker

Yes, we still have snow on the ground.   We had quite a bit until the near 50 degree temps last week melted most of it away.   The lake effect machine usually targets the Western shoreline of the mitten due to the jet stream.   Most of the snow on the Eastern half comes from storm systems unless we get a Nor'easter blowing.  I'm one of those crazy people that enjoys winter.