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Wet paint smell?

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sam's picture
sam

Wet paint smell?

Hello,


I followed Hamelman's schedule for raising a sourdough.  125% hydration, started with Rye+honey, transitioned to AP flour (KAF), been feeding twice daily (except for the first day).  I keep about 300 grams of it in a sealed plastic container -- a typical dough-riser container with a sealed lid.  The culture is nice and active, ripens in about 5-6 hours after feeding, and is able to raise bread and impart a pretty bold sour flavor.   In the container, there is about 6-7 inches of air  from the top of the culture to the lid.  It usually smells vinegary / alcoholic, but no "hooch" has formed on it.


Yesterday, though, I skipped a feeding, so it sat for almost 24 hours.  When I opened the container, it smelled almost exactly like wet paint, or maybe nail polish remover.  I did a bit of googling around, saw another person with the same issue, he threw his starter out, for fear of poisoining, but someone else said it was OK.


If I open the container, fan it out, the "wet paint" smell goes away mostly, and it is back to the regular light vinegary smell.  But it seems if the container lid is kept shut for an extended period of time, the "fumes" (whatever it is) build up inside of the container.


Is this bad?  I am currently making a leaven from it this afternoon, it seems fine, but now I'm not sure if I should continue with it or not.


Should I be allowing more air to enter/escape the container?  It is usually sealed completely.  I can punch a couple of air-holes in the plastic lid top.  I've read different people used sealed, some leave the lids ajar.


Thanks in advance for any advice.


 


-- Editing to add:  This is a new culture almost 3 weeks old, it's only ever been in a sealed container (but there's been air in it), except for when I take the lid off for feedings (at 12 hour schedules).  I've only ever used Distilled water or bottled Drinking water (Arrowhead), never tap water, and I use a clean spoon and wash my hands religiously whenever feeding it ... (even though I don't touch it, I still make sure to wash up first).


 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Typical smell for an unfed, neglected, hungry, or whatever else one wants to call it, starter. The smell will go away when feedings resume.


The container, generally, should not be sealed air tight. It should be vented, as gases are generated as the starter metabolizes. Any venting, just the smallest amount, will do. You just do not want it to be air tight, typically.

sam's picture
sam

 


OK, thanks.  I've been feeding it at 12 hour cycles, at room temp.  Have not retarded it in a cooler.   It grows to about 2.5 times in 5-6 hours, then falls about 1/3 and stays there until stir + feed it again.  I'm pretty new at this, and have a day job, so I can't be around to keep feeding it every 6 hours.  :)   I will cut some holes into the plastic lid to give it some ventilation.   The "wet paint" smell is mostly upon initially popping open the lid after it's been sealed shut for a lengthy period.


I made bread from it 2 days ago, and didn't get sick or die from it.   Yay.  :)

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

As mentioned, it's due to a starvation diet. The yeasts' halitosis will clear up with increased feeding.


cheers,


gary

sam's picture
sam

 


One other question -- have I permanently damaged this starter by keeping it sealed and allowing those gases to concentrate?  As I said I'll cut some holes in the lid and keep on my normal 12-hour feeding schedule.  The ventilation will no doubt prevent the gas buildup in the container but I'm wondering if having it sealed already has done anything to it -- not necessarily unhealthy-for-consumption stuff, but negative flavor / etc.  


Well, I have another levain building from it now, so we'll see.  The last bread tasted pretty good.


 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

No permanent damage done whatsoever. As long as you feed it adequately and it grows, has no off odors, continues to raise your breads, generally, that means it's healthy.

sam's picture
sam

Thanks.  Well, if the wet-paint smell was a byproduct of the yeast feeding off itself due to a lack-of-feeding, then aside from a burst of "wet paint smell" upon opening the sealed lid -- is there any reason why it shouldn't be kept sealed?   You used a bold emphasis above about not keeping it sealed.  Is there a particular reason?

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

I imagine you could continue to live if the air you breathe was continually shut off, only to be replinished at the last moment(who knows when that last moment would be). It just probably would not be the healthiest of lifestyles.


Seriously though, maybe the air in the container is enough for survival for a certain period. Who knows? Supposed you don't get around to venting and feeding for an extended time? Yes, the starter will probably survive, but will it be ready to raise a loaf of bread right away? Probably not.


Again, generally, the container should be vented for an active starter.


Good luck.

sam's picture
sam

 


Heh -- makes sense.  :-)  


I guess I was more concerned with keeping any potential nasty stuff out, but it should be able to defend itself.


Thanks again.


 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Just the tiniest amount of venting will do. Think of the tiniest pinhole in a bottle or can of soda or beer. That's all you need, just enough for gases to escape.


I, like I imagine many, just keep my starters in a jar with a screw on lid. I screw the lid down, I just don't screw it down where it will be air tight.

sam's picture
sam

Thanks again.


I made a couple vents, works well.   Also, I am stoked -- since my starter ripens in 6 hours and I'm not here to feed it that often -- playing around with temperatures, I think I nailed it.  My wine chiller lets me dial-in the temperature, it goes from 40-65 (F).  After some trials, it now appears I can get my starter to be ripened every 12 hours at 57F.  


Well, the chiller actually fluctuates +/- 2 degrees F.   So 55-59F, but mostly 57F.  That seems to be working for a 12-hour feeding schedule.   Cool stuff!   Fermentation!


:-)


I've also observed, anectodally, that ripening times appear to be also dependent on hydration level, not just temp.  For me, it seems that lower hydration mixes ripen faster than higher hydrations, but I do not have that many data points yet.


Also, I haven't been using chilled water at 57F when doing the feedings -- the distilled water is room temp, then I put into the chiller.  So there is an inherent cool-down time involved.   So many variables...   but so far, 57F seems to be the magic number, for now anyway.   :-)


 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Feeding for maintenance vs feeding for building dough/manipulating character


Good to hear your starter is coming along.


What I am picking up(from what you seem to be expressing), is that you believe the starter is ready to be fed again at or near the moments of peak ripeness. This may be the case when one is feeding the starter in preparation for building a dough immediately. It may also be a strategy for trying to manipulate certain characteristics of the starter(sournress, sweetness,etc).


However from what I have gathered, for just the routine maintenance of the starter, from one feeding period to the next, feeding at or near the moment of ripeness is not typical.  For, say, a 12 hour feeding cycle, what I have learned and have been observing/practicing, the starter will have a period during the cycle, where it peaks somewheres about midway, and maybe maintains this peak for an hour or so. Then it will recede back down to some base level(maybe the starting point or somewheres about), for the latter period of the cycle. Then it is fed again around hour twelve. This is how one basically "trains" the starter, through the amounts fed and the temperatures maintained, to adapt to a given feeding/maintenance cycle.


Seems, you have basically trained your starter in adapting to more of a 24 hour feeding cycle, if what I am undertanding that you seem to have it peaking at about 12 hours. But maybe I am reading into this, something other than what you are really saying.


Yours seems to be coming along though, so good luck, as I by no means want to come across as trying to sound like an expert in this endeavor. Speaking more or less from the perspective of a beginner and getting a new starter established(as opposed to the more advanced aspects of managing a starter's character).


Only approaching year 1 anniversary/birthday for my starter in about three months. And have really only started baking recipes using sourdough starter only(no commercial yeast added) the past 3 months. I will say that my starter raises my few chosen formulas very well. As well, or better(given the time), than the commercial yeast variations. The starter however, has no sourness whatsover, but I guess I have essentially trained it into being that way, as not to be turned off to sourdough, by producing something too sour. I will eventually probably get into managing sourness by manipulating the feeding/building schedule and amounts, seeding/adding rye and other whole grain starters, etc.


Again, good luck.

sam's picture
sam

Maybe this sounds lazy and not as fun as manually doing it, but it might be cool to invent an automatic sourdough culture machine -- something inexpensive and easy.   Like, it would have ingredient chambers to dump a 5lb bag of flour, a gallon of water, a temperature-controlled container for the starter itself, a container for discards, and a control panel to program it.  It could automatically discard, feed, and mix the culture on any custom schedule you want, at whatever hydration you want, and keep it at the temperature you desire.  Maybe have it ship with preset / commonly-used schedules for newbies.  Maybe this is too lazy, but in some circles, laziness is a virtue!   :-)


 

sam's picture
sam

 


Thanks Gary.  I posted my last question before I saw your reply.  I'll vent it more and not worry too much.  I won't be able to feed it more often than every 12 hours or so, and it ripens in 5-6 hours.   


Would it be better to keep it cold during the 12 hour period of time between feedings?  I have been keeping it at room temp -- 70-72F.


 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Well, you could feed it more, or use less of the existing mother, or refrigerate.


My pattern is to keep 50g, then add 50g flour and 50g water, allow it an hour or so on the counter, then move to the refrigerator.


Other options include using only 5 or 10g mother and feed with 50g each of water and flour, or keeping 50g and feeding with 250g each of flour and water.


My mother is 50/50, or 100% hydration. Other folks keep 60% hydration mother, e.g. 50g flour and 30g water, or a really wet mother at 140% hydration, e.g. 50g flour and 70g water.


I only bake once a week or so, so by refrigerating I feed once a week, say on Friday, in two parts, one for my mother, and the other as my starter, embellish that evening for mixing and baking Saturday morning.


cheers,


gary