The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My sourdough suddenly changed

samirhatem's picture
samirhatem

My sourdough suddenly changed

Hi everyone,

I started a sourdough like over a month ago (started with flour, orange juice, raisins and water, got activity in 4 days, then since then refeshing with equal weight of beead flour and water). It was pretty alive, and did a couple of good breads with it. When i used to refresh it, it gained activity within 45 min, grew in volume, got air bubles trapped and even overflowed sometimes.

 

Then like a week ago, the activity was slower, and even when active, the bubles are smaller and escaping, rather than lifting the sourdough. Even though am using the same ratio of water to flour in refreshment, the sourdough always feels more liquid... It also smells more acid i guess. 

Did not yet try to do a new bread with it, but am afraid of the result.

 

What happened? Was it contaminated with undesirable bacteria? Is it god or bad? Anyway to fix it if needed?

 

Thank you,

 

Samir

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

Are you using tap water from a municipal source? Often it is the chlorine that slowly kills your starter. Use filtered or bottled water that has eliminated the chlorine. Bakeries all condition their water to remove chlorine.

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Have you changed flours?  It would also help to know your method of feeding the starter in order to help diagnose the problem.  What ratios are you using?  Is it kept at a constant temperature?

I have found different flours (different suppliers, even different lots of the same flour) can produce different apparent thickness of a starter even when keeping the ratios the same.  Also, when you feed your starter, how much seed starter are you using and how much flour and water are you adding?  The longer you keep a starter, the more likely the enzymes will start breaking down the proteins, and the result will be a noticibly thinner starter.  If you are using a higher ratio of seed starter, this could be the source.

-Brad

samirhatem's picture
samirhatem

Thanks for the replies.

 

I did not change flours, i am adding 150 g flour with 150 g water at each refreshment. The starter quantity is variable, around 600 g. After refreshing and waiting for clear actvity, i am putting at 4 deg in the fridge, cus it is quite warm now outside, 30 deg.

The change happened after i kept the starter for several days in the fridge without refreshing. 

 

I will try to keep only a small amount of starter, like 50 g and refresh it, does it sound good?

 

Concerning the water, i am using tap water that has rested for approx 24 hours in a bottle, that should remove any residal chlorine, no?

 

Could it be thatmy stock of flour gained moisture? Sounds extreme hypothesis. 

 

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

I think that if you changed your feeding amounts, you will be better off.  Try using a 1:1:1 ratio when you feed.  If you are using 600:150:150 (or 4:1:1), it is very likely that the yeasts don't have enough food and enzymes are breaking down the proteins.  If not baking, I typically feed my starter around once a week, using a starter:flour:water::1:2:2 ratio, let it ferment for an hour or two until bubbles just start (so I know it is active), then refrigerate it.  This leaves plenty of food until I build it for baking.

I'm not sure if the chlorine in the water will dissipate on its own in 24 hours unless you boil it first, but if you have had success with it in the past, try different refreshment ratios and see if that works.

-Brad

 

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... your feeding regime of 4:1:1 is the problem - you are underfeeding your starter.

Yes, instead of 600 grams, 50 grams of starter would be fine. Feed it as breadforfun suggests with 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water and it will be a lot happier.

Depending on how long you want to leave it in the fridge between bakes, you may even prefer feeding on a 1:4:4 basis.

Btw - I use tap water at home in the UK - and I can smell the chlorine when the tap runs - yet have not found any problems using it in my starter. Your problem here, I'm sure, is simply underfeeding.

All at Sea

samirhatem's picture
samirhatem

Hello, 

 

I want to thank you all for your answers, i did follow your advice and change the feeding ratios. As a result the consistency of the sourdough was back to "normal". The sourdough is moderately active, but i feel it did not regain the same level of activity as it had...

 

I might be acting a bit obsessive about it, but i am thinking of restarting a new sourdough and this time use the right feedign ratios from the start :)

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Bunch of Q's (warning)

what is your feeding ratio now?

what temperature is the starter, water, room when you feed and set it out?

how often do you bake?

Let's work on getting those yeast numbers up.  You might have to feed every 8 hours for a day or two to do it.  Ready?

samirhatem's picture
samirhatem

Hi, here are some answers :)

 

Well, i am baking around 3 times a week, but since my sourdough was not behaving so well, for the past 15 days i just kept it in the refrigerator without feeding, and i had reverted to commercial yeast. Following your questions, i brought it out of the ref yesterday, and today threw most of it, keeping around 100 g and fed it at a ratio of 1:1:1

I was usually bringing out of the ref, keeping one hour at room temperature, 30 deg here in summer, but now a bit cooler, then feeding it. At first i had the wrong ratios, too much sourdough and too little refesher.

 

Now do you think it can be back on track? I am ready to try :)

 

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Now after the feeding, watch it carefully.  When it peaks (not doubles, forget that for now)  Stir it, take out 20g and add 50g water and 50g flour (AP is just fine) level off and mark, cover and put it in a safe, non drafty spot.  Watch it until it peaks and starts to level off,  while it is rising, it will dome or be rounded, after it reaches peaking a sort of dent appears in the middle before it starts to fall.   How long did it take to reach peak, how long did it stay there before it fell and at what temperature?  To rise: 6hrs?  8hrs?  10?  12? 14?   Did it stay peaked for 10 minutes?  30 min?  an hour?  The starter should be above 75°F for best results.  The warmer the starter, the less time it takes to peak, stay there and fall.  

If under 12 hours,  with the next feed increase the flour amount---> like 10g starter 40g water and 40g flour.   Still peaking and falling under 12 hours? good!  if not, repeat until it is peaking under 12 hours.   (air conditioners and cool open windows will slow down fermentation if the temp drops below 75°F.)  

If it is way under and closer to 8hrs peaking remember to remove 10g (about a heaping teaspoon) starter when you think it is at maximum volume just before it falls. Stir it with enough water to break it up  You should be seeing improvement.  Do not feed it more than every 8 hours or 3 times a day.  Do let it rise to peak.  It should be rising more than double by now.   This is great for the yeast but sooner or later we want the bacteria back to work.  So if you know it rises in 8 hours at a (1:4:4) ratio, then you can let it sit for 4 more hours or a total of 12 hours before feeding it again.  When you are close to this happening,  bake with it.   

Now, go for 10g starter 50g water and 50g flour.  For every 100g of 100% hydration starter that you need for your recipe, use 10 to 20g of starter, 50g water and 50g flour.  Use more starter when it is cooler or water is colder and less starter if the water and room is warm.  This will change as seasons change.  If your room temperature drops, you can reduce the flour and water when feeding the starter or keep it high and go for 24 hour feedings.  Remember to save a little bit to feed and make more starter or replace an older mother starter in the fridge.

One rule of thumb:  always feed the same or more flour (food) to the amount of starter.  

samirhatem's picture
samirhatem

Hi Minioven

 

Thank you a lot for your advice.... I took my starter and I left it unfed for 36 hours outside the refrigerator, sheer negligence I admit.

I came back to find it covered by a light orange film with a nasty smell, nothing to do with how it should be... I assumed that it was definitely contaminated by some unfriendly bacteria, so I threw it away, and 3 days ago initiated a new starter, following Dan lepard's recipe from "Baking with passion" Flour, honey, orange juice, water, to which I added 2 spoons of dried raisins. I had good activity in 3 days, and today I fed it for the first time as it is suggested in the recipe: 150 g flour to 100 g water.

It is supposed to be a Biga, hence a rather thick starter.

I will try to have more discipline with this one :)

 

Regards,

 

Samir

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Good luck with this new one.  

It is around 66% hydration starter.  

Which starts out like a little ball of bread dough.  

As it ferments it will get taller,softer and act wetter.  Give it plenty of room to rise. If you can't feed it for any reason, it's better to tuck it into the fridge after it starts rising or the next day and give yourself a few days rest.  You can pull it out and let it continue to ferment and feed it when it's ready and you've got more time.  It's not ideal but it is better than starving it.  :)

vtsteve's picture
vtsteve

At 30 degrees ambient, things can go wrong in a hurry. Once your new starter settles down, I would make up a stiff starter ball (56%, at 5:25:14) using a little of your discard, and tuck it away at the back of the fridge.  Every 2-4 weeks, make a new ball using discard from your *healthy* starter, and toss the old ball. Then, if you get another case of spoilage, you can cut off half of the backup, and use it for seed. In a day or two you'll be back in business.

Also, I would be doing each feeding in a clean container (get two, and move your starter back and forth). The mass of starter at the bottom of the container will acidify quickly, but the film of starter on the walls above could get contaminated and taint the entire culture the next time you feed & stir.

wildman's picture
wildman

 

Why do you use the fruit in your starter? AFAIK this makes no good difference in developing an active flour yeast culture or flavor in the finished loaf. Adding more potential contaminants to your starter is not going to help you develop a strong healthy starter culture. If you want to grow a good wild yeast starter keep it simple by using good quality fresh flours and clean water. To help optimize the yeast culture  keep it clean and uncontaminated by using a container with a lid and mixing the starter with a spatula keeping your hands out of the starter as much as possible.

The yeast that grows on fruit will not be happy eating flour anymore then the yeasts found in your flours will be happy trying to break down fruit. The yeasts that consume flour and fruit have developed over millions of years and have become specialized. Just because you stick fruit yeast in some flour does not mean they will all of a sudden develop the ability to consume flour. If you take away the food the fruit yeasts have developed over millions of years to consume they will die off or go dormant as the culture will becomes balanced between the yeasts and bacteria that have developed over millions of years to break down flour.

This is pretty much the way it works. You don't have to belive me if you don't want to but it is easy to prove if you have a few days to feed a new starter using a small abount of commerical yeast and smelling what happens over time to the starter.