The Fresh Loaf

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Sourdough Taste Problem

comn's picture

Sourdough Taste Problem

I made my first sourdough loaf today.  It's not very good.

It's way too sour.  I like my sourdough sweet, but this is barely edible it's so sour.

It rose wonderfully, the bread looks nice, it just doesn't taste good.

Is it possible I've used it too early?  I thought that it was ready to use when it could double in size. 

What would make it taste so sour?

bwraith's picture


Sorry if this is an overwhelming and perhaps annoying array of questions, but it would help to know the following, in order to begin to answer your question. 

What is the recipe you are using? Please include amounts of starter, flour, water, salt, type of flour, and rise times and temperatures you used. Add in any other details you think relevant.

Also, what state was the starter in when you used it? When had it last been fed, and how much, and what temperature had it been at?

How long since you started the starter, and what has been your feeding routine in the last few days?

If you feed the starter in a ratio of (1:2:2) by weight of (starter:flour:water) how long does it take to rise by double at room temperature? What does it smell like after it has doubled, and what is the consistency of the starter at that point?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You can do it.  You've got us all curious now.  Take a deep breath and tell us.   Mini Oven

comn's picture

Ok, this is the recipe I went by, though the amounts here are for 3 loaves so I cut it down to make 1, and put in some potato flakes with the flour.  I used Pillsbury enriched bread flour.


6c Flour (or 5c + 1 oatmeal)
1/3c Sugar
1tsp Salt
1/2c Oil
1 1/4c Starter
1 1/4c Water

Cover with plastic wrap.
Leave overnight.
Make into loaves and let rise 4-8 hours.
Bake at 350* for 30 min.

I let the dough rise at room temperature, about nine hours, then made into loaves and let rise for 5 1/2 hours.

I fed the starter about 4 hours before using it, one part starter, 2 parts flour and two parts water, approximately. It rose at room temperature, and it had doubled in size by the time I used it.

I started it about 20 days ago, and for the past two days have been feeding it every 5 hours or so. Before that I was feeding every 12 hours.

When fed, it takes about 5 hours to double in size, and smells slightly sour. I'm not sure how to describe the consistency; it was bubbly and when stirred, it seemed thicker than before rising.


bwraith's picture

Hi comn,

Your description of the starter sounds good. It sounds healthy to me, based on how fast it rises and the consistency being still like paste or dough after it has risen.

The rise times in the recipe itself seem very long to me. It's hard to tell exactly without using a scale to measure ingredients, but let me take a stab at some things that you might want to consider.

First, it looks like there is not quite enough water. If cups of flour weigh about 4.5 ounces, then you have 27 ounces in the flour and 5 ounces in the starter for 32 ounces total. For water you have 10 ounces plus 5 ounces from the starter. That's less than 50% hydration. To have 65% hydration, which might be a more typical number, though I don't know what water absorption to assign the potato flakes or the oat meal, you would need 21 ounces of water, or about 6 more ounces of water. The oil may reduce that somewhat, but only by a couple of ounces.

Also, the rise time I would have guessed, if the water were adjusted, would be more like 4-6 hours to double the dough during the bulk fermentation. The lack of water would result in a somewhat stiff, dry dough that may not rise well. I would have guessed the final proof should be more like 1.5-2 hours.

The salt seems low relative to typical dough (2% of flour weight is more typical for salt weight in dough). The weight of salt can vary a lot for the same volume, depending on the type of salt, so it's hard to say. However, if you guess that 1 tsp of salt is .25 ounce, then you have less than 1% salt. That isn't necessarily a big problem, but the fermentation should go faster since salt inhibits the fermentation activity, so that would reduce the expected fermentation times yet some more. The other thing is that salt does affect the consistency of the gluten, so you may find that more salt helps the dough handling. However, you may want to keep the salt low for health or flavor reasons, but at least it will have an effect on the dough you can watch for.

So, if you want the bread not to be overly sour, you probably need the bulk fermentation and the final proof to be shorter, as well as add water to get a better consistency and a better environment for the starter. You could add a little more salt to slow down the fermentation also, although that's a matter of taste and health, too.

All in all, once the water is correct, I would expect you could stop the bulk fermentation when it doubles, and stop the final proof when the loaves have puffed up to somewhere between 50% and double. If that all happens in a total time of more like 6-8 hours, then I would expect the bread would be much less sour.

I hope that helps.


sourdough-guy's picture

Hi Comn, if like me you're not into sour bread, then you are better off increasing the feeds of your starter and reducing the amount of starter you use. Proof at room temperature as you have been. Always use as little starter as you can when buiding up your culture too.


I'm guessing at how you measure out a cup but you can get away with much less starter in that time frame. Even if you fluff the flour as much as possible I'd suggest using more water. To get around this problem try the recipe I posted the other day. Add you sugar and oil if you like. Try it the first time using the same amount of sugar and oil as you normally do or paly it by ear. That's totally up to you of course. 


comn's picture

Everyone seems to agree that more water would be helpful, and shorter fermentation times.  Thank you for the recipe sourdough-guy,  I think I'll use that for the next loaf.

I think I'm going to give my starter a few more days before I try again, to see if saving less starter and using more flour and water helps with the taste and smell; it still doesn't smell quite like it's supposed to, I think.  

I didn't know salt had an effect on the dough, I thought it was for taste only.  I don't think I even used as much as was in the recipe.  

I'll make sure to post once I give your advice a shot, guys.  Hopefully I'll get a success next time.  Thank you!

bwraith's picture


I think the shorter rise time applies to the amount of starter you've included in the dough. If you have 5 ounces of flour from the starter out of 32 total, roughly, then I think the rise times should be what I was describing. However, if you use sourdough-guy's recipe for a one-step sourdough, which uses a much lower proportion of starter in the dough, then you should use his estimates, which I think he gave in the recipe, for the rise times. In other words, with higher proportion of starter, shorter rise times will be needed, with lower proportion, longer rise times will be needed.

In either case, a simple indicator of when the bulk fermentation will be done is when the dough has doubled. The problem may have been that with so little water, the dough might not have risen normally in your previous attempt. You need enough water for the gluten to develop, and I think the yeast and lactobacillus probably need the water to be more active, as well.