The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter has developed cheese smell's picture

Starter has developed cheese smell

I've been baking with my starter for the last three years.  I do the same thing every time I feed it and either store it in the fridge or on my worktop with a lid on.  About 4 weeks ago I decided to start making kombucha and whilst it takes great, I've decided not to continue with it.  I stored the kombucha scoby in the fermenting jar on the same work surface, about 5 feet away from my sourdough starter.  

On Thursday night I opened my starter to find it smelled of sweet cheese and the starter all around the edge had taken on a grey tinge, and the top had developed a skin.  No mold. None of the lovely acidic smell I'm used to.  I removed the skin and scraped the grey starter off.  Took a spoon of the 'ok' starter from the middle and put it in a new jar.  I've been feeding it my usual organic dark rye since then but it's still smelling cheesy.  It's producing bubbles as usual. 

Could I have some sort of cross contamination from the kombucha going on? Because my initial thought was it smelled unusually sweet (not the sweet smell of starter but more like sugar).  I have moved the kombucha scoby out of the kitchen now. I also thought that I might have fed my sourdough starter buckwheat by accident as the flour bags are almost identical as they come from a local mill. Could feeding something like buckwheat only once cause this?  

I've read a few other posts, mainly from people just making their first starter who have this cheese smell.  I really don't want to get rid of this starter.  Should I add an acid like lemon juice, or just persevere with reducing down to minimum amount and feeding every day?  

Thanks all!



Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

carefully take out some starter that looks healthy, transfer it to a clean jar and give it a good feed.

Buckwheat does have a "different" smell to wheat and can turn a funny colour. If you did by mistake switch the flours then in all probability it's this. But to be on the safe side give some healthy starter some TLC.

Danni3ll3's picture

far apart to prevent cross contamination. I have no idea if there is any validity to this but I keep my kombucha in one room of the house and my sourdough in the fridge aside from when I am building a levain in the kitchen. I also have water kefir on the go and that is in the kitchen as well but so far so good.