The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First Sourdough Starter

Jordan's picture

First Sourdough Starter


I love baking and recently decided to start making my own bread, which has been great. I have not yet, however, tried my favorite type of bread which is sourdough. After doing a bit of research on wild yeast starters, I found a recipe for one using rye flour and unsweetened pineapple or orange juice. I started it three days ago using the orange juice.  Today when I went to feed it, it had a peculiar smell, as far as I know the only smell it should have is a yeasty smell. The smell was kind of, well, gassy. I'm not sure how else to describe it, like fruit that sat out too long and is beginning to go bad. Any ideas what's going on? Should it smell like this or did it go bad?

cerevisiae's picture

Hi Jordan,

Your starter will go through many stages and smells while it's still young and developing. Once it is older and more stable, you'll notice changes in the smell after each feeding, too, but they'll be more predictable. Mine usually smells pretty fruity and acidic right before I feed it.

It is very unlikely your starter has gone bad, and you are definitely doing the right thing by coming here to learn more instead of getting discouraged and tossing it.

I would recommend using the search bar in the upper right part of the screen. You could try searching for "orange juice rye starter", pineapple juice has gotten a lot of discussion here, "trouble starting starter" "help beginning starter" "weird starter smell" are all things you will probably find threads on.

So, read on, and keep feeding it.

Ford's picture

I agree with "cerevisiae".  It is unlikely that your starter has "gone bad."  Just keep on with your feeding schedule.  Below are some sites that you might find helpful.


PetraR's picture

I have a 100% Rye Starter , I only used Water and Rye flour to start it though BUT mine got to several smell stages, that is normal.

Have fun baking:)

doughooker's picture

Starter takes at least 7 days to mature, sometimes more. Don't worry about the various odors.

placebo's picture

Just be glad that it doesn't have the odor of smelly feet like my rye starters attempts. 

Jordan's picture

Thanks for the answers guys! After reading some more I guess it's normal for all the different smells! I didn't realize that before, thinking the only smell would be the yeast once it starts to grow which certainly wouldn't have been so soon. Today it started to smell sour, not totally unpleasant though, and is beginning to get bubbly. I'm exited!

PetraR's picture

I remember how Exited I was with my first Starter, my * Gordon * , yes, I named him, he is 1 Year old now:)

I was checking every few hours to see if I can see bubbles.

My husband thought it was funny, well, the kids too BUT I was so very exited.

Now I have also a Rye Starter * Ryan * lol.

Gordon lives in the fridge and I feed him once a week.

Ryan sits on my Counter and I feed him every 24 hours as I now prefer to use a Rye Starter.

I wish you a lot of wonderful bakes with your Starter:)

ghazi's picture

Ive got 2 starters going, one a WW and the other Rye. It has been more than a month now and still cant bake a loaf with them alone though I like the taste is adds (preferment), seems some take longer than others. Depening what bacteria are around. I always check with the float test by putting a small amount into a bowl of water, if it floats its ready to bake with. So im told I have a feeling mine will never float, though im guessing different countries different timings. Who knows I will just push on.

I currently feed my starter(s) 30g starter to 30g flour and water and started keeping the rye in the fridge because It likes the cold. Also I want to waste as little rye flour as possible and just bake bread with that flour instead. The WW is locally milled so its ok to use more often.

Keep going, don't get discouraged at all if you don't get to where you want to be in the time suggested. This site is full of useful information. Never throw your starter away remember how much effort you put in with feedings. Youll have to start all over again. I once HAD to throw away a wheat starter for the main reason that the water I was using was coated with oil. (seems pipes were not cleaned enough at water factory) . Starters are strong and only a few (common sense) can kill it including very high temp.


Jordan's picture

Oh, boy, this is long overdue! I just thought I'd give an update for anyone reading this post in the future.

Anyway, once it got going, I was quite pleased with my first sourdough starter. It did seem to go through different stages and smells. Some smelled good and a few not so good! I assume some of the different smells were caused by the fact that I would feed it using different flours (rye, whole wheat, and all purpose) depending on what I was planning on baking with it next. I got great results with it. I was able to make pretzels, waffles, and a few great loaves of bread! Unfortunately, a couple months in I asked my mother to look after it for a few days and came back to a very moldy mess, *sigh*, she forgot about feeding it. Oh well, I look forward to starting another in the near future;)