The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

smelly sourdough

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kedicik's picture
kedicik

smelly sourdough

hello all,

i am quite new to baking (not more than 2 months), and trying to follow and learn things from here and other sites. 2 weeks ago i decided to start my own sourdough (i am thinking that i might be a bit too unexperienced for that but i went for it anyway). with feedings and waiting patiently strangely enough it turned out well. when the temperature of the environment is at rooom temperature (i like it a bit lower tbh) it doubled itself overnight and so on and even poured out of its conatiner.

a couple of days ago it started to smell a bit strange. a sour smell maybe with a bit touch of alcohol (i dont think it is a pleasent smell). i discarded most of it, washed clear its container and fed the remaining sourdough and went on, but the smell is still there. so do you think this kind of smell normal, is it good to bake (i am not sure it would be nice if the smell stays with the baked product) ? any suggestions is much appreciated.

happy baking,

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

rotten?  chemical?  really really sour?   composty?  nail polish removerish?  :)

what is your feeding schedule?   (hope you have one)  and at what temperature is it kept?  

the more you can tell us the easier it is to help.

kedicik's picture
kedicik

about the smell it is really really really sour. and a bit alcoholish.

my feeding schedule is once every 12 hours a day. but after the cleaning, seeing the smell is still there i stopped feeding (which means i didnt feed yesterday which is sunday and this morning which is monday morning).

temperature is somewhere around 71 - 75 F (22-24 C) .

it has that bubbly surface, and has bubbles in it which can be seen from the sides of the jar. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

temp is ok, sounds like the yeasts are still active, 

how much flour and water are you giving to how much starter?  got to peg you down on the specifics!  :)  stopping the feeding when smelling sour will soon kick the yeasts into dormancy.  it can be that if you are still feeding a beginning routine from the first week.  perhaps the feeding amount needs to be increased.  

It is very hard to advise when I don't know any amounts or if you are winging it (spoonfuls, 1/4 c, 20g, or shot glasses full.)  i can only guess...   when the starter peaks now, keep a little and blend with some water and add flour until the next time it peaks.    time it and keep notes.

kedicik's picture
kedicik

sorry for making you ditch for more information :).. i am just not sure what would be relevant or irrelevant..
anyway as i said i am feeding twice a day every 12 hours. i feed half cup of flour (unbleached all purpose flour), and 1/4 cup of water (not tap water, since it isnt clean enough). after feeding i mix the added flour and water gently with the starter. i think it rises to its peak when i am not home or sometime during midnight. the surface was always bubbly after the first couple of days, but the rest of it started to become bubly only for the last 3-4 days. i am keeping it in a 2 lt of glass jar, and using a metal spoon or a plastic spatula to mix when i feed it. it is covered with a dishcloth, and once it raised so much that it went out of container. i used only all purpose flour and water since the beginning. i am keeping it on the kitchen counter, not exposed to direct sunlight and not having major temperature changes.

how is a sourdough starter supposed to smell ? i have an idea how it is supposed to look like but not sure about the smell.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I need to know (correction: you need to know) how much starter you have in the jar before you feed it.  Your food amount is approximately 60g to 70g and the water is about 60g so the starter is a 100% hydration starter (weights of water and flour about equal)  That means that the starter in your jar before being fed (for a typical 12 hour period) should be about 60g to 70g or less (if you stir down the starter it should be about 1/4 cup.)  Preferably closer to half that amount (because your starter is peaking rather early into the 12 hours -- hungry thing)  or 30g for a 1:2:2 feeding ratio (starter:water:flour.)   If there is more starter in the jar, then you have to use or discard some starter before feeding otherwise the yeasts are not getting enough food and their numbers will slowly decline.   Cold temps slow down the fermentation, warmth speeds it up, hot kills everything.

Smell...  Good question.  This can vary from cheesy to nutty to fruity to stinky socks or watered down vinegar or beer.  The smell changes while it ferments.  After feeding, it should smell like just wet flour.  Within a few hours it changes to a light cheese smell and can start to take on nut or ripe fruit smells.  Good to take down notes as the starter progresses through a time line of fermentation starting with a fresh feeding.  Include the smells, temperature, season, consistency, size of bubbles on the surface and side of jar, when it peaks, how much and when it has risen since adding fresh water & flour, when it levels out, and then starts to fall or shrink back.   Mark the jar to make it easier.  All this information helps you help your starter.   You learn from looks and smell how you starter is progressing at any given time and know how to respond to it.  This is far more important than watching the clock (although you will do it) and you can respond to temperature changes and seasonal variations and changes in food (like a new bag of flour or a different grain or type of flour.)  Recognizing when the starter is hungry is your job.  Don't over feed too often but don't underfeed either.  If you're not sure where you starter is along the time line, wait an hour or so until you recognize its condition.  Then proceed accordingly.   If you find your starter getting stiffer or drying out between feeds, consider inverting a bowl over the top of the jar.

Once your starter is used to a routine and responding predictably, then you can give it more flour & water if you know you'll miss a feeding.  Or you can reduce the size (and reduce waste) when you won't be baking for a few days.  You can drop down to just a tablespoon and feed that knowing you can at anytime increase the amount over a few feeds for making a loaf.

Basics is knowing your starter.   Let it teach you.  

AC56's picture
AC56

Here's how I started two years ago and have had continued success ever since.  Go to the King Arthur Flour Co. site, buy their sourdough starter.  It will come with instructions on how to feed and maintain your starter.

As soon as your starter is working well, make their Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread.  It's become so popular with my family and friends that I could be making it non-stop.  With practice you'll notice a regular improvement in your bread's quality and increased confidence in your bread making abilities.  I now make bread every Monday, feeding the starter about two days before.  Practice makes perfect.

kedicik's picture
kedicik

thanks for information. having read what has been written so far, and doing some more research i realised that i have really skipped some very crucial things, like the ratio, and the amount of feedings timings etc. i think i ll re-start next week this time with more precise measurements, and noting and all... will keep you updated and i am pretty sure i ll be back with  more questions :)