The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Overly acidic sourdough starter

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Overly acidic sourdough starter

My lovely sourdough starter has gotten a sharp acidic smell to it, and isn't leavening very well.  I guess this means the acetic acid has gotten the upperhand?  How do I fix this?

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Dump out most of the starter and then feed it. Keep it in a warmish place until it gets nice and bubbly again, then feed it again.

mij.mac's picture
mij.mac

It needs food. 1:1:1 is okay for a few hours but only that.

mac

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I had been feeding my starter, twice a day at 12 hour intervals.  I'd take 1 c of starter, for example, and feed it a meal and a half at a time (3/4 c e roughly of water and flour).  So instead of getting single meals 3 x a day, it gets 1 1/2 twice, or the equivalent.  I think the reasons why it's gotten more acidic are 1. I've started feeding it cooler (68-70 degree) water, and 2. I've thickened it up a bit.  Comments?

BTW, I'm back to feeding it 3 x a day and warmer water, as of yesterday. 

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

First of all, you are saving way too much starter. Start by dumping out all but a couple of tablespoons, and at most, 1/4 cup. Then feed your starter. At the very least you should feed it two times its volume (more is always better). Most people starve their starters and just barely keep them alive with minimal feedings. Those yeasts are really hungry critters and when they are at room temperature they can consume all the nutrients in the flour very quickly.

The dumping out part is very important. Most people don't like to dump it out as it seems wasteful, but keep in mind that once the nutrients in the flour have been consumed the starter is no longer active. It is, essentially, waste. Our bodies process our waste for us but you have to help your starter out and do it for the starter!

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Hi Sourdo Lady:

The reason why I save so much starter is that I make so much bread!  I have sold bread in a local store for a few months now, and am starting to sell sourdough-based breads.  In addition to what I sell, I'm always experimenting.  When you say feed it two times its volume, do you mean twice the flour or twice the water/flour mix?  Also, how do you tell when your starter needs feeding?  Is it the same as when you consider it ripe?  I see mine as ripe when it is covered with little bubbles--looking like dish detergent bubbles--all over the surface.  If it gets hooch, then it's gone too far, but that's only happened to me once. 

Staff of Life

northernpuff's picture
northernpuff

Hi there.  First time posting, so please, be gentle!

 

What a great place thefreshloaf is.  I have been reading for months but never registered or posted !  SO here goes....

I would be really interested in clarification on the above 'ripeness' issue as I too now have an extremely acidic starter (enough to make me repel when I stuck my nose in the pot!) which may be due to underfeeding, change in feed, or the starter's 'near death experience' 2 weeks ago.  I brought it back to life - amazingly!  And have baked 2 loaves from it, with reasonable results.

 Before I nearly killed it by starving it for nearly a week, I had been baking successfully with this starter for 2 months sometimes getting HUGE rise at final bake, and sometimes not(!).  

Now, given the smell, I am afraid to use it.  I continue to feed daily regardless.  The change in smell may be due to introduction of 100% non-organic strong wholemeal flour as the daily feed a week ago.  I feed 2 UK heaped Tablespoons flour plus 3 tablespoons cold water from the tap to approx 100 UK ml 'remaining' starter every day.  It is stored in a tall narrow-ish plastic container with a loose lid (an old 1 litre yoghurt pot with handle!), out of the fridge at between 68 and 71 degrees.

Derek (as he's known in the house) now seems to have changed in habit too , inasmuch as he peaks in volume approx 12 hours after his feed then dies back to foam then to hooch by about 23 hours after feed.  

My question is, therefore, should I feed again at the point of maximum volume?  I think I need to get Derek down to the gym.  My gut instinct is he's pretty weak at the moment...

More question and few answers!  Any help greatly appreciated fellow sourdoughs 

puffy

grind's picture
grind

Now, given the smell, I am afraid to use it.  I continue to feed daily regardless.  The change in smell may be due to introduction of 100% non-organic strong wholemeal flour as the daily feed a week ago.  I feed 2 UK heaped Tablespoons flour plus 3 tablespoons cold water from the tap to approx 100 UK ml 'remaining' starter every day.  It is stored in a tall narrow-ish plastic container with a loose lid (an old 1 litre yoghurt pot with handle!), out of the fridge at between 68 and 71 degrees.

Your feeding routine is slowly starving your culture.  In other words, you're saving too much starter and feeding it too little flour.  Use only one tablespoon (or less) of stater and then build your salvaged starter from there.  If you have a scale, use 10 grams of your funky culture to make 210 grams of new starter.  You may have repeat this a couple of times before the thing springs back to life.  In any case, try to use that percentage of starter in the future.  It's tough throwing out starter, but it has to be that way if you want the starter to raise bread.  If you can get on a baking schedule, you may be able to work it out so as not to throw away so much.  Another thing you can do is make your storage culture only 100 grams.  This keeps waste down to a minumum.  Even 50 grams is really enough, but that trust can come with time and practice.  I used to maintain a huge culture when I started it.  Not anymore.  Good luck.

 

Bohemian Mama's picture
Bohemian Mama

Hi ya, I have to keep referring to this place as my bible too. my  starter  has been doing well but now producing vinegary loaves, and I have not been dumping enough starter..

I hope thats the problem.. 

When I am busy like this weekend and trying to rush my bread, or not  remembering to feed levi,  I  pop him in the fridge till I can tend him.