The Fresh Loaf

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Black Specks on Side of Starter Container

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Enmalkm's picture
Enmalkm

Black Specks on Side of Starter Container

Hi, all. I've just gotten started keeping a sourdough starter over the past few months. However, over the past week or two, I've been noticing black specks appearing up on the side of the bowl in which I keep the starter, where starter has stuck when I stir it after feeding and dried. The black specks don't appear in the main bulk of the starter, just on the dried stuff on the side. I've transfered the starter to new bowls a few times now to clean out the container, but the spots keep coming back. The starter itself smells and tastes fine, and seems normally active; I haven't baked with it since the black specks appeared.

Some details about my procedures: I feed the starter 1 oz of tap water and 1 oz of organic white bread flour a day. The starter is kept out on a kitchen counter in a bowl with a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the top. I live in Ithaca, NY, and lately it's been rainy, with both cool and warm days; probably rainier than it has been so far when I've had the starter. (I also recently gave my sister down on Long Island some of the starter, and she's reporting the same specks.)

So, any idea what it might be? Can I just ignore it, or is it a source of contamination?

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)

Next time you feed, carefully remove starter from the container to a clean one and add water and flour.  Soak the old container in cold water to soften the dried flour and clean out well.  Then run it through hot soapy water or the dishwasher.  I tend to do this every time I feed my maintenance starter that I keep refrigerated.  That works out to every week or two.  On the counter, it might be more often.  The moment I see anything unusual, "clean the cage."  The sides of the starter container are where invasions are more apt to start.  

I think it a good habit to remove starter with a spoon avoiding contact with the sides of the container.   :)

Enmalkm's picture
Enmalkm

Good idea; thanks for the suggestion. I hadn't thought regular cleaning was necessary because I had avoided infections so far, but I guess I just got lucky :-)

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

You didn't say how much starter you are maintaining, but a two ounce feeding once a day at room temperature (even in Ithaca) is only enough to feed about 1/2 teaspoon of starter and your container appears much larger than that.

Is it recoverable?  I don't know.

Would I try it?  No.

You might want to do some reading about the basics of starter maintenance here on the TFL site before you attempt it again.

Enmalkm's picture
Enmalkm

I'll definitely be poking around more on TFL. So far, I've been following this series of articles on starting and maintaining a starter: http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/11/how-to-make-sourdough-starter-day-0.html I know there are lots of theories on how to care for starters, but mine has been bubbling away happily for a few months now (at various sizes, including a larger than the 1.5 lbs I have now), so I'm not sure why that would cause the specks, unless it's something to do with the weather change.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Read this:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/

Do I understand correctly that you are maintaining 1.5 lb of starter on 1 oz of flour and 1 oz of water per 24 hrs?

MANNA's picture
MANNA

Black specks dont sound very good. With the rain lately there could be a number of mold or other spores that have been carried into your area and gotten in there. Best to start over and be safe. Make sure to use a semi-airtight container. I am in syracuse. I want to get local TFL's in the area together for a meet and greet. Keep in touch.