The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Reviving Sourdough Starter

Clover23's picture
Clover23

Reviving Sourdough Starter

Hello!

Throughout the craziness of summer, I haven't been giving my sourdough starter enough love. I've been keeping it in the fridge for about a month and then taking it out to feed it. However, now that I am ready to get baking again, my starter seems to be a bit off. After I feed it, it doesn't have too much rise to it and it seems to get more liquedy. Also, it has a very pungent smell to it. I keep a cover on it to keep the fruit flies away, but I don't think that should matter. 

Any suggestions on how I can get my starter back in good shape to start baking!?

Thanks!
Chloe

cgap's picture
cgap

I'm very good at killing starters and this sounds like you've killed it.

However, wait for someone more experienced to give an opinion before you chuck it out and start again, although you may as well get another one going in the meantime...

 

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

keeping it on the bench.  wait till it has peaked (hopefully) before feeding it again. I think the wild yeast population needs a boost.  

I have been away for two months and left my starter all alone in the fridge for that time. since my return, I have refreshed and given it a couple feeds at room temperature and then sucessfully made bread.  keep an eye on it, but don't overfeed!

more knowledgeable folks may have a better idea. :)

good luck

Leslie

Clover23's picture
Clover23

Hi Leslie, 

How long did you wait till it peaked? I don't want to overfeed it!

Thanks!

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

its morning here now :). i think you should follow the advice Mini and others have given you and hopefully soon your starter will be bubbling away.  as mentioned, it sounds hungry so the small feeds, keeping it warm and patience should do the trick.  

Lechem's picture
Lechem

What's your maintenance schedule?

Clover23's picture
Clover23

It's a 50/50 whole wheat/white sourdough. Typically I bake once a month. So I'd take it out of the fridge like Tuesday, feed twice a day by removing 40g, adding 40 g water, 40g flour. That usually did the trick. Then I would put it back in the fridge for another month. 

But this time, it seems a bit flat and rather liquidy. And has a VERY strong pungent smell. I've tried feeding it with a little discard and adding 30g water and 30 g flour back in but not a lot of action...

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Acrylic?

You feed it 40g each of water and flour but how much starter are you feeding?

Clover23's picture
Clover23

Yes, very acidic smelling. 

Typically I leave in 40g of starter (so equal balance among starter, water, and flour.) Yet, this time, I've been leaving in about half the starter and feeding it 30g flour and 30g water. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Before you go onto a bigger refreshment has your starter bubbled up at all with the last one?

Clover23's picture
Clover23

There are a few little tiny bubbles. But nothing like past rises where there are big airy bubbles. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem

but last one! And how long ago did you feed it?

Clover23's picture
Clover23

I would say I fed it a day or two ago. And maybe the first feeding (after pulling from the fridge) a day before then. So probably 2 feedings with a day or 2 between each. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem

So it's had two feedings with not much action each time. Problem is with every feed you discard a bit and add fresh flour. With each feed the yeasts are being thrown away and replaced with fresh flour before they've had the time to increase. Carry this on and eventually you'll have just fresh flour and water.

I'd keep it warm, hold off feeding for now and just stir.

Check it before bedtime and see what's happening. If nothing then leave it for now and check it come morning. When you see a little more activity or it's been another 24 hours without a feed then add in a couple of teaspoons of fresh flour. Stir it up and repeat. When you see a little more activity then give it a bit of a bigger feed. Perhaps discard a couple of teaspoons and add back in 3 or 4 with a little water. Stir it up and repeat. So your feedings should increase with the increase of activity! Once your starter is really beginning to get strong again then discard 2/3rds and top back up 2/3rds. Allow to peak and then feed 1:2:2 and allow to peak again. This should bring your starter back to health.

Hopefully Mini sees this posts and helps you further. This is how I'd approach it but Mini is the expert.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

You haven't killed it, by any means. Certain kinds of bacteria have taken it over (hence the strong acid or acetone smell) and the yeast are starving. The best advice can be found on this post here, particularly Mini Oven's advice in a couple of places down the post.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

than anything else.  I just went thru boosting up my starter after a period of long neglect.  The first loaf was a little sour but It's looking good for the starter again.   Just keep the starter on the counter and be patient.  Good advice already given.  I just took a teaspoon and cleaned off an area of the starter and then with a clean spoon dove underneath the grey stuff for a clean teaspoon of bright flat starter.   I then added about 4 times the amount in water and then about a rounded tablespoon of flour to make a slurry.  And then waited for the aromas to change and bubbles to appear keeping the spoon in the jar to stir and plastic foil on top to keep the moisture in.  The next day I added more flour to thicken, marked the jar and then waited.  And waited.  It finally doubled and then peaked.  I didn't have enough for a recipe so I added more water and flour and put it into a larger jar marking the level.  It was peaking at bed time so I put it into the refrigerator for the night.  

Following day made my recipe and had about a tablespoon left  so I added more water and flour and continued on the counter top.  After it peaked, I knocked it down and let it go for a second rise before feeding it to a thick paste (flour only) waiting for a few bubbles and putting it into the fridge.  It's good to go for the weekend to inoculate levains and then I will feed and make another "mother! next week sometime.  

Clover23's picture
Clover23

Thank you! Okay so I have about 1/4 of a cup of flat starter right now. I already got rid of the crusty grey top stuff. So you are saying I should keep the 1/4 cup starter and add 4 times the amount in water!? So essentially a cup of water and only a tablespoon of flour. Would that be way too much water? Sorry if I misunderstood you!

phaz's picture
phaz

Way way too much water. Keep in mind that if using volume measurements, 1 cup water = about 2 cups flour. 1tbsp flour and 1 cup water would give you a cup of cloudy water, that's about it. So, take a little of the starter, a tbsp sized glob or 2, add a couple heaping tbsp of flour, and add enough water to make a thick paste. Leave it for however long it takes to double in height. Then feed the same as above and forget discard for a while (I've never discarded any starter, even when first getting it going). Eventually it will come back. The longer it was neglected, the longer it will take to come back. And just like when you started the starter, be patient. These things are hard to kill - I've left starters in the fridge a couple months and they always came back - may take a few days of regular maintenance - but they do come back.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I tend to skip over stuff.... sorry

 I should keep the 1/4 cup starter and add 4 times the amount in water!?   

No, take out only a teaspoon of the good goop underneath all that grey stuff and put the starter back into the refrigerator as back up (you can throw it away later after the starter is back up working) just in case you need to go for a second or third attempt.    Feed that heaping teaspoon of old culture, about 4 times with water or roughly something between one and two tablespoons of water.

Clover23's picture
Clover23

THANK YOU! Okay, so I will keep 1 teaspoon of the starter (and keep the remaining starter in the fridge as a back-up). I will feed the starter 4 times with water (so about 1-2 tablespoons). And also feed it the same amount of flour so 1-2 tablespoons? Then let it sit for a few days and see if any activity happens? 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

neglected starter around is this... after not working with the starter you have gotten out of a routine of taking care of it so there is chance of you putting all the just revived starter into a recipe without leaving some to feed and continue the starter culture.  Even an old neglected starter can sometimes be better than starting from scratch.  I have a habit of keeping a "back up" at all times.  

I just cleaned out many icky jars of old starter taking up fridge space but I left one jar in there while I was reviving an old starter.   "Just in case" something went wrong with the one I was reviving.  Any number of things can happen.... someone throws  away or it falls or bugs get into it or or or.   As soon as the starter is revived and working well, a new "back up" should be made.  In my case, it usually is an old mother being neglected as well as some dried starter sitting in a tight jar somewhere.

the hadster's picture
the hadster

When I forget my starter, some time for months, I never toss any.  I weigh it and double it with it's standard food.  The next day, I weigh and double again.

I don't throw out anything until I have a really nice bubbly mess on my hands.  I've occasionally had to start using large mixing bowls.

Good luck!

breadboy025's picture
breadboy025

my own experience is that as long the starter is refrigerated, it is very forgiving for months on end.  I dump out the black alcoholish stuff on top (I know there's a name for it, is it hooch?)

 

Anyway, mix it up minus the black alcohol and take 30 g of it, mix it with 50 g each of water and APF and do that every day for 2-3 days and it'll be back to new.   (Each day, I'd take only 30g of the mix and dump the rest, into the trash and not down the drain lest you clog)

 

Good luck

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

have you managed to revive your starter?

Leslie

Clover23's picture
Clover23

Hi Leslie, 

Thanks for the follow-up! Not so much luck unfortunately. I took 1 teaspoon of the starter, added 1 Tbs. of flour, 1 Tbs. of water and waited a day. I did it again a day or two later. There are tiny tiny little bubbles but no rise and fall. Any other suggestions? Thanks!

Lechem's picture
Lechem

If overly hydrated it won't rise much. That's about 190% hydration. You need to thicken it up. 

Next feed should only be flour and add enough so it's a thick paste. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I wouldn't thicken until I sense a change in aromas heading in the yeasty direction, which could happen anytime now.  Nothing wrong with a little extra water and keeping it wet for now, stirring is easier too.   Yes, it will not rise as dramatically as a thicker mixture but you will still see gas bubbles forming and rising .... and popping, and there is less a chance of making an overflow mess.   What is the temperature?

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

you are using wholewheat/AP flour?  you could also try a little rye perhaps?  I am no expert but this might help.  give it a stir to redistribute things... I am guessing here ....  

Leslie