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Little activity after 7 days -- used an old packet of dried starter

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CSTR's picture
CSTR

Little activity after 7 days -- used an old packet of dried starter

A week ago, I decided to try to revive a 10-year old packet of dried starter (from Sourdough Intl.).  I had lost the packet in a move and found it during a file clean out!  I was not hopeful about it, but thought I would give it a try.  I have been feeding it at ~1:1:1 by weight.  On day 3, I divided it into 2 batches - one that was fed every 12 hours, and one that was fed every 24 hours (on the left and right of the photo, respectively).  I don't have much activity in either one.  Just a few bubbles and no visible rise at all.  Smells a bit sour and vomit-y.  The smell and activity of the starter has not changed at all for the past 3 days.  Is there any point in a young starter's life where it is beyond saving?  Is there a point where the undesirable bacteria take over and the yeast no longer have any chance of growing?  I don't have any signs of mold, no hooch formation, no weird color.  Should I keep at this one, or give it up?

Ford's picture
Ford

I think the starter is past saving,  Start over using the "pineapple solution".  I did not know how long the dried starter would last, but it seems that ten years is beyond its life,

Ford

CSTR's picture
CSTR

Let's assume that the organisms in the original starter were dead.  After 7 days, would that even matter?  Wouldn't new organisms from the flour being used start to take hold?  Would it be possible to capture the wild yeast in this medium, or is the culture too polluted with bacteria?  Is there a way to tell?

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Tap water that contains chlorine will kill the microorganisms in the sourdough, and in the flour. I don't think ten years should have been past a point of no return, as long as the packet never got moisture inside it. If you are using bottled or well-filtered water with no chlorine, then I can't think of any reason why it would have no activity after 7 days. Like you said, even if the packet was dead, a new culture should have formed in that time. Have you been discarding? You really shouldn't be discarding if there is no activity, because you are basically reducing numbers instead of building them. You shouldn't have to feed or discard until there is some visible sign of activity.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

in the attempt to revive the old dried starter. At least it would eliminate any competing bacteria. I would also use bleached flour to eliminate the chance of any competing wild yeast cultures.

CSTR's picture
CSTR

I have been discarding to the tune of keeping ~1/4 cup of the culture, and adding ~1/4 cup of water, and 1/3 cup of flour (KA all-purpose).  I did actually add a few drops of fresh lemon juice last night in the hope of dropping the ph and getting some good yeast action going.  Nothing much yet.  I think I'll just let the stuff sit for another 24 hours without a feed and then see how it is doing.  It has been a bit cool here, so I have had the containers sitting in the oven with the light on for the last day or so.

I have read through many of the threads on beginning starters, and no one seems to be able to say when a new starter is beyond saving...

clazar123's picture
clazar123

There may have been only a small population of viable yeast cells and by discarding/feeding as if it was a full blown starter, you may be diluting and reducing the few that are growing. Try just stirring for a few days until you see more activity. After 2 or 3 days of not feeding or discarding you should see a little more activity. I wouldn't discard at that point but I would feed. Keep an eye on it,stir several times a day. If it looks like there is increasing activity, gradually move to feeding once a day and then discarding and feeding twice a day. 

You will eventually have a starter that has some of the original population from the dried starter and also some from the current flour. Keep going-it will grow eventually. 

I believe a starter is beyond saving when it smells really stinky (rotten cheese-NOT aged cheese) or turns funny colors (pink,green,yelllow).

 

CSTR's picture
CSTR

I will stir the batches a few times a day for the next day or two and see what happens.  The smell IS a bit unpleasant. I would describe it as sour and barf-y, which sounds like a phase that many starters go through.  It does not smell like yeast, beer, or acetone.

CSTR's picture
CSTR

So I stopped discarding for 48 hours, I simply added 2 Tbsp of flour and a bit of water at the 24 hour mark so that any growing yeast could have just a little something fresh to feed on.  It looked like there was a bit more activity yesterday (large bubbles combined with a drastic change in odor, from sour to pleasantly yeasty).  I fed again with a few tablespoons flour and water to maintain the consistency and.... the batch tripled overnight!  Seeing as it had peaked and fallen, I kept 1/3 cup of the starter, added 1/4 cup flour and a few Tbsp of water.  It had close to doubled at 1.5 hours after being fed this morning.  I think I am on my way. Here is what I have learned from this: 

- I believe that most of the recipes out there are optimistic about the length of time that the leuconostoc phase lasts in a baby starter.  Judging by smell (vomit) and activity (almost none), mine lasted for a week. I probably didn't help things by continuing on a too-frequent schedule of discarding and feeding.

- Patience!  I was discouraged by so many tutorials showing lovely bubbling starters in 5 days, and almost none that showed a slower growth rate. 

This is such a wonderful forum.  Thanks for the advice!

clazar123's picture
clazar123

The activity is very encouraging but you may still be in the phase where the activity is mostly from lactos. What should happen is that it will suddenly get less active and then start a steadier, more consistent (not as wild) reactivity.  So keep the discard and feed schedule a few more days.

I have had a starter in as little as 9 days ( I never had a 5 dayer) and as long as15 days. Time and patience-they are ready when THEY are ready.

Great fun!

 

CSTR's picture
CSTR

I am impatient, so I decided to try to see how the starter would fare in bread -- I picked a 1,2,3 Sourdough recipe to try out.  I did a ~2.5 hour bulk fermentation, shaped, and then another 2.5 hour rise.  The crumb is OK, I might try increasing the hydration percentage next time to get larger holes in the crumb.  The flavor is pretty good for a new starter -- you can definitely tell that this is a sourdough!My shaping and scoring need work, but overall, I am pleased.