The Fresh Loaf

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help, my starter is doubling/tripling in volume, but is still smelling like acetone !!!

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craigskelly88's picture
craigskelly88

help, my starter is doubling/tripling in volume, but is still smelling like acetone !!!

I was wondering if anybody can help me, as ive mentioned above i have a 100 % rye flour starter @ 100% hydration, which has been going for about a week. It has started doubling in about 6 hours, but constantly smells like acetone, even when a few hours in. Im in the uk, and its not really to hot here at the moment, so im pretty sure its not fermenting to quickly due to temp. Sorry in advance for grammar/ and or spelling mistakes in advance. just wanted to get this post out there ! Thankyou, craig.

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Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

Make sure your container is glass, or plastic with a snug but a loose fitting lit - not porcelain or other type of stone wear that may have tiny cracks that hold bacteria.  6 hours is about right for rye so it must be the container.  It also takes about 2 weeks to get to a point where the odd smells go away and the main bacteria/yeast that you want is king of the castle...  use the search box and there are other guides on this site.

holds99's picture
holds99

From your description it sounds like your starter is contaminated.  As Nick said, store it in a loosely sealed glass or plastic container so the small amount of gas it generates can escape during the time it's in the fridge .  Also, periodically remove your starter to another container and thoroughly wash your main container with soap and lots of hot water.  Make sure there's no soap residue on the container before returning the starter to the main container.  Sometimes the buildup around the edges of the container can cause it to spoil.  I have experienced cross contamination once, while the starter was stored in the fridge.  In my case it may have come from cheese or some other item in the fridge.  

It should not smell like acetone.  It should have a slight sour smell with a bit of alcohol (ethanol) The safest thing to do is toss it and make a new starter.  

Howard

craigskelly88's picture
craigskelly88

hi there, thank you for the replies. i was wondering, there's been a lot of talk of storing the starter in the fridge between feedings in a 12 hour period, and just wanted to clarify whether i should be doing that before my starter is established ? I was under the  impression that it should stay at room temp until the starter is rising and falling predictably over the course of half a day. Sorry to bring up a new question, its just these things inevitably do, and one question seems to follow another. Thank you for the replies so far ! Craig.

holds99's picture
holds99

Craig, here's a TFL link that may help: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/7815/how-maintain-starter-refrigerator

I use a stiff starter so I don't have to refresh it so often.  I use the following steps to maintain my starter.

1. At 2-3 week intervals I remove the starter and discard 2/3 of it.  Add water to the remaining starter, mix it well, then add enough flour to make a firm dough.

2. Put the lid on and return it to the fridge.  It will still ferment in the fridge, just not as fast as it will at room temp.

3. It's important to keep the container clean and free of caked on starter.  So I thoroughly wash my container monthly, when I refresh my starter.

Once you get a good starter going you may want to take some of it and store it in the freezer as a backup in case your main starter spoils.  I spread some of my starter on aluminum foil and let it dry out completely.  Then broke it into small pieces and stored it in a plastic jar in the freezer.  I've been using the same starter, refreshing it regularly, for 15 years.

Don't forget that you can use the TFL Search Box to find information on just about anything related to baking, particularly sourdough.

Good luck with your baking,

Howard