The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Barm starter

Chef jp's picture
Chef jp

Barm starter

Hello, im making a barm starter with reinharts recipe, but i have big big concern. I started making the barm 2 days ago, I even made malt diastatic from scratch. Today i checked the barm and I so some maggots in it, its been covered with plastic wrap all the time. Is this normal? Or should I start over?

breadforfun's picture

You should certainly not have any maggots in your starter, and I would definitely toss it.  There aren't many ingredients to the starter, so I would suspect your flour.  I'm not sure how to make diastatic malt from scratch, but malted barley is usually baked at a fairly low temperature that may not kill any fly larvae.  I think you can leave out the malt, use some fresh organic flour (malted if you like) and try again.  If you're not sure about water source, then use bottled water.  Reinhart's formula with pineapple juice is pretty reliable.



LindyD's picture

Well, that couldn't have been a pretty picture. Your flour is contaminated if you have maggots in your sourdough.

Toss the flour and replace it. Toss the stuff housing the maggots.

Don't know what you plan for the diastatic malt, but you don't need it to create a sourdough culture.

Here's a link to Debra Wink's instructions (which Peter Reinhart uses in his book) for creating a sourdough. The amounts, etc. are listed in the bottom one-third of her posting. Follow them and you'll be good to go.

Best wishes for better results!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

No need to pitch the flour unless it is rancid.  Which I doubt is the case.   

You will need a large fine sifter.

And reduce the amounts of flour and water so you won't be wasting too much flour. 

Chef jp's picture
Chef jp

Hello, thanks everyone. I trashed the last batch and started over. I bought organic flour, the firts 2 day seemed fine. right now Im in day 4 and it dosent look like its fermenting, it does smell sour,  but is very runny and it only has tiny bubbles on the surface. any thoughts?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

You're almost there (see phase 3 below). Feed very sparingly until it starts expanding, and then you can increase the refreshments.

The First Phase:
For the first day or so, nothing really happens that is detectable to the human senses. It doesn't taste any tangier or develop bubbles. It remains looking much the same as when it was mixed, except a little lighter in color if an acid was used, and a little darker if not. While nothing appears to be happening, the first wave of bacteria (determined by pH and the microflora in the flour) are waking up, sensing their new environment and preparing to grow. This phase usually lasts about one day, sometimes two.

The Second Phase:
The starter will begin producing its own acid and develop a tangy taste (although it might be difficult to distinguish from pineapple juice). Lactic acid bacteria are actively growing at this point. When using only water, this phase represents two waves of microbes---first Leuconostoc and associates, followed by homofermentative lactobacilli and possibly other lactic acid bacteria. By controlling the pH, you can by-pass the leuconostocs and other "highly undesirable organisms that stink terribly," and skip to the second wave. It will get bubbly and expand only if the pH is not low enough to prevent growth of gassy bacteria, otherwise there won't be much else to see. There probably won't be much gluten degradation, and it may smell a little different, but it shouldn't smell particularly foul unless started with plain water. This phase can last one to three days or more. If it is going to get hung up anywhere, this is the place it usually happens, especially if it is put on a white flour diet too soon. If after three days in this phase, it still doesn't become more sour and show signs of progress, the best thing to do is switch back to whole grain flour for one or more feedings. Whole grain flour has a much higher microbial count and will re-seed the culture and get it moving again.

The Third Phase:
The starter will become very tart---an indication of more acid production by more acid-tolerant bacteria. The gluten may disappear and tiny bubbles become more noticeable. These are signs that heterofermentative lactobacilli have picked up the baton. Once a starter becomes really sour, it usually transitions right into phase four. Note that lactic acid doesn't have much, if any aroma, and so smell is not a very reliable way to judge the level of sourness.

The Fourth Phase:
Yeast start to grow and populate the starter relatively quickly at this point. It will expand with gas bubbles all over and begin to take on the yeasty smell of bread or beer.

Click here: The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 2 | The Fresh Loaf