The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter fine, levain smells super strange, please help me!

lls's picture

Starter fine, levain smells super strange, please help me!

Hi everybody!


this is my first post here, I just introduced myself in the introduction section.

I hope you can help me out here. I have a starter that bubbles nicely and regularly and has recently been refreshed. It performed well and was fed with white flour.

Yesterday evening  I made a levain with the starter, rye, wheat and spelt flour so I could make the dough in the morning. But when I got up this morning the levain smelled so strange. Not sour, and not pleasant at all. I can't really say how it smells but feet came to mind.

I put it in the fridge  hoping it would sour up, the temp here at the moment is around 23-24 degrees C. The levain is bubbly and looks totally fine, it's just the smell that really makes me doubt whether to even use it in the dough.

Could this be a reaction to the types of grain I used or perhaps I didn't add enough starter? I added 50 grams of starter to about 250 grams of flour and 250 water.

Can I use this levain?

I would be grateful for any input you might have,




dosco's picture

I have noticed that my starter smells of vinegar when I feed it rye flour, and less so if I feed it white flour.

If your starter doubles reliably, I don't see any reason why you should try to use it ... I am not an expert, however, so YMMV.



golgi70's picture

Has the starter doubled?  Has it doubled and then collapsed?  Whole grains generally ferment faster than white flour but your ratio of feeding should  take a good amount of time to ripen.  

Another good question.  How old are the flours you used in the levain?  Whole grains spoil quickly as well.  If they have been sitting around for some time it could be the unfresh/rancid smell from the flours you used.  

That type of levain should have a strong but pleasant sour aroma.  (maybe its not a pleasant smell to all but I like it)

More info may lead to better adivce.  



LevaiNation's picture

Sorry to highjack thread but, briefly: Starter vs. Levain? I'm confused with the terms. I thought my levain was my starter, or mother or sourdough...

acebaker's picture

I agree with @golgi70. I would check the age of all your flours. If they are whole grain (including bran) there is a chance one of your flours is rancid. I lost a nice sour starter to rancid rye. I didn't notice it when the flour was dry, but it sure smelt bad when wet. It turned out that rye was several years old, which I found out by checking the serial number on the bag with the mill.