The Fresh Loaf

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Something off mid feeding cycle of starter

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neilbaldwyn's picture
neilbaldwyn

Something off mid feeding cycle of starter

Hi,

 

I've had my current starter for around 2 years and until recently it has performed perfectly, being used almost every day.

 

Around a month ago I began to notice a sulphuric smell mid feeding cycle. There is absolutely no smell upon feeding, then after around 6-8 hours the sulphur begins, but dies off as the starter grows in strength and acidity, so that it has completely gone 24 hours after feeding.

 

At first I thought it may be because I had changed flour suppliers, so I reverted to my old miller but no change. I even tried keeping a batch in a different location but to no avail.

 

I'm currently mixing 50/50 stoneground strong white and stoneground wholewheat, 100% hydration and 10% old leaven. I've also tried feeding more/less regularly but nothing seems to effect it.

 

Any advice would be appreciated, I'm not sure if anyone else has experienced this as the other similar posts I've read all seem to have a sulphur smell that stays permanently!

 

Cheers

 

Neil

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Try increasing the old leaven to 30%.    or more....    Would the problem coincide with a drop in temperature either water, flour, or room?  Drafts?

What is the schedule for the starter?  In how many hours at what temperature do you need it ready to add into dough?  

jcking's picture
jcking

It may also be the water. Give the water you're using a good whiff, let it stand for a few hours and smell it again. If your water comes from a well or aquifer it could change.

Jim

neilbaldwyn's picture
neilbaldwyn

Thanks guys, I'll try increasing the old leaven % on tomorrows feed, I currently have 3 seperate batches so I can try different ideas on them and see what works.

 

As for the temperature and water, both have been the same since I first started it off, but I'll try bottled water and see if there's a difference.

 

I was also wondering if starving the starter might help the situation, if so how long can you feasibly starve for and still pull it back, and are there signs I should look out for? (I've always been vigilant in ensuring I feed a minimum of every 24 hours, although currently feed every 12 hours)

 

Cheers

 

Neil

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Starving at 23°C for two or three days after peaking should be no problem.  If the starter is overfed and under 18°C you may have much longer (weeks) before yeast starts to spore and go into "hybernation."   

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

I'll chime in with Mini Oven, your seed is too small.  This exact situation happened to me when I maintained a half whole wheat   starter.  When the seed is too small, and you're putting fresh leuconostoc into the starter with every feed (due to the whole grain flour), it takes too long for the proper acidity to return to the culture and leuconostoc gets a foothold and starts growing (and stinking).  It does smell sulphur-y.  This will disappear completely when you use a larger seed to narrow the window of pH opportunity for the leuconostoc.

I used narrow range pH test strips to monitor the acidity of my culture and compared it side by side with my white flour culture, whose acidity returned more quickly than the whole wheat.  I think this is due to the buffering action of the minerals in the bran.

 

neilbaldwyn's picture
neilbaldwyn

Fantastic, I'll go for a larger % on one batch and starve another. Fingers crossed it'll be over soon enough!

 

Thanks to everyone for their advice!

neilbaldwyn's picture
neilbaldwyn

Just another big thanks for eveyone's help, the starter is back on fighting form with no hint of a sulphur scent! 

 

Cheers

 

Neil

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

would be nice to know.  Or was it a combination?