The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help, my starter is DRUNK!

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Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Help, my starter is DRUNK!

My fault, I know.  This started off as Apple YW, now a 100% hydration flour starter that I've neglected a bit and it's been in the fridge.  The weather here is finally warm (hot, actually) so I decided to bring it out, feed it up, and convert it to whole wheat while I was at it. 

I underestimated just how very warm it was in my kitchen yesterday.  I left the starter bubbling away after it's morning feeding and when I finally got my attention back to it about 12 hours later it was giving off alcohol fumes like I've never known before.  It had more than doubled with a busy layer of bubbles on top. 

This was no mere little sip of wine alcohol.  This was dead drunk in the drunk tank alcohol--you could smell it a few feet away!  My starter is a lush!  I'll have to change it's name from Audrey ("feed me") to Otto (remember the drunk on the Andy Griffith Show?  Naw, you're probably too young!). 

The alcohol was not floating on top as I've seen with most hungry starters, so I couldn't pour it off.  The only thing I could do was mix it in, discard, feed it up, and put the poor thing in the hoosegow (the fridge) to sleep it off. 

My question is whether this starter is ruined for all time, or is it worth keeping?  I'm OK with taking just a little out and repropogating that, if that's what's necessary.  I'll just have to wait for the weather to cool off a little first!   ;o)

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

Whole wheat and rye starters are total drunks.

Leave them alone somewhere warm and comfy, and you'd better hide the matches.

I wouldn't put it in the fridge right after discard and feed, however. I'd let it sober up at room temperature and, after maybe a feeding or two, put in the icebox (the fridge).

SteveB's picture
SteveB

I'll have to change it's name from Audrey ("feed me") to Otto (remember the drunk on the Andy Griffith Show?  Naw, you're probably too young!). 

I'm not too young to remember that the name of the drunk on the Andy Griffith Show was Otis, not Otto!  :>)

 

SteveB

www.breadcetera.com

 

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

By gosh, you're right! He was one of my favorite characters on that show. I bet he'd love my hooch ;o)

And yes, we had to hide the matches!

bad baby bakes's picture
bad baby bakes

One in the oven! I have three starters going. They seem to be bubbling along just fine. I do ok with the bread making until the baking stage. Have baked 4 bricks--all in the trash! Otts . . . Andy . . .  Opie! Please give me a good recipe!

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

If you continue to get bricks, you likely have a bad starter.

Some starters take a while to leaven loaves (my white starter takes about 2-2.5x commerical leavening), but if you find yourself waiting more than half a day, your starter has either lost its mojo (or never had any).

A sick starter (one colonized by bad microorganisms) can still look like it has mojo, but if it doesn't leaven bread in a reasonable time, it's probably time to chuck it.

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

Why do you have three starters going?

I only ask because I did the same for years, until Mini Oven told me to keep only a white starter and (whenever I needed other starters), build them from the white starter.

I now keep one Ball jar in the fridge with about a cup of white starter, where before I had three 4 qt. containers of white, wheat, and rye.

I felt like I was running a Bread Starter Nursery when what I was really running was an Establishment for the Persistent Waste of Good Flour, Est. 2003.

varda's picture
varda

I almost fell over when I opened my container of raisin yeast water the other day.   Strong as whiskey as far as I could tell.    Maybe we should put these starters on a twelve step program.   -Varda

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

bad baby bakes's picture
bad baby bakes

No my starters haven't turned THAT corner yet. I have three going because I was hedging my bets. I put the first starter together from something I saw on Rhulman's blog using flour, water, and an organic cabbage leaf. It worked but didn't have a lot of oomph. I began looking around this site and saw the Sourdough Lady's starter and tried her approach using organic whole wheat flour and orange juice and then I also tried a whole wheat/rye/orange juice mix (with one organic blueberry thrown in for a day for good measure). To the first whimpy starter I added a 1/4 tsp of vinegar for a few feedings and got that one going again. Hence, three starters. I am enjoying the science experiment aspect of this endeavor but don't know if I really understand the science, as in: do different starters using different flours impart different qualities and flavor to the final loaf? The "one in the oven" from last night turned out better, at least edible. Nice flavor but still VERY dense. Question: My starters bubble but they don't double. Could I be adding too much water?

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

My white starter has the consistency of thick pancake batter, and it easily doubles. Rye and wheat starters even more so, with rye being like the BLOB if you don't watch it carefully. Rye starter in too small a container will take over your kitchen. ;D

I keep my white starter in an airtight 1-quart jar and it easily doubles on feeding. The internal pressure helps that along, as it builds up so much pressure that I have to release some or it will go BOOM. 

If I were to put it in a big bowl covered with plastic wrap, I doubt I'd see it double, but I'd certainly see the plastic wrap *dome* from the gases being expelled.

If your starter isn't expelling much gas, it likely won't leaven bread very well, resulting in dense loaves. 

bad baby bakes's picture
bad baby bakes

Any suggestions on getting things growing a little better?

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

Keep your old starter going, but start a concurrent batch to see if it becomes happier than the old chap:

  • 22 June 2011. ___ Remove about 1 tablespoon starter and add it to a clean jar (or other covered container) with about 100 g flour, 65 g water @ room temp. Hot water and soap should do, but I usually fill with water and nuke the jar for 15 minutes in the microwave. ___ Don't forget to cool the jar afterwards, though, or you'll kill your yeasties straight off. 
  • 23 June 2011. ___ Feed with 50 g flour, 35 g water; cover tightly and leave in warm place.
  • 24 June 2011. ___ Feed with 50 g flour, 35 g water; cover tightly and leave in warm place.
  • 25 June 2011. ___ Feed with 50 g flour, 35 g water; cover tightly and leave in warm place.
  • 26 June 2011. ___ Feed with 50 g flour, 35 g water; cover tightly and leave in warm place.
  • 27 June 2011. ___ Feed with 50 g flour, 35 g water; cover tightly and leave in warm place. (If it's getting to be too much, you can discard a bit).
  • 28 June 2011. ___ Feed with 50 g flour, 35 g water three times today @ ___ 8am, ___ 3pm, ___ 8pm; cover tightly and leave in warm place.
  • 29 June 2011. ___ Feed with 50 g flour, 35 g water three times today @ ___ 8am, ___ 3pm, ___ 8pm; cover tightly and leave in warm place.
  • 30 June 2011. ___ Feed with 50 g flour, 35 g water three times today @ ___ 8am, ___ 3pm, ___ 8pm; cover tightly and leave in warm place.
  • 1 July 2011. ___ Make bread.
bad baby bakes's picture
bad baby bakes

Hey success, I began your program last night and by this morning I could visibly tell the starter had more than doubled! Here's hoping! Thanks for the help! You could be a yeast aerobic trainer!

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

Great news!

Once you're familiar with your starter's behavior, you'll know when it's happy or not. Starters go bad, even ones that've been reliable for a long time. They *get sick* and need renewal.

I forget the name of the baker-turned ski instructor-turned baker (Ribaud?) who'd rebuild his starters on seasonal change, dismissing all of that "my starter it 2000 years old!" silliness.

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

June 22 should read:

  • 22 June 2011. ___ Clean and sterilize a jar (or other covered container). Hot water and soap should do, but I usually fill the jar with water and nuke it in the microwave for about 15 minutes. Cool the jar to room temperature before adding the following, or you'll kill your yeasties straight off: 1 tablespoon old starter, 100 g flour, 65 g water @ room temperature; stir until mixed; cover tightly and leave in warm place overnight.

The way I wrote it above, you'd think jar sterilzation comes after you add old starter, flour, water. That would be silly, wouldn't it? 

 

CSBaker's picture
CSBaker

So, I'm just about to take the plunge and mix up my very first starter. But, it's pretty hot here, and almost everywhere I read that the temp should be in the upper 60s to low 70s.  I fear that my house has been getting somewhat hotter than that during the day (probably low 80s).  Should I put the starter in the fridge and just be patient, or leave it on the counter and watch it bubble the first day, or secret option number 3: Wait until December.