The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

problem with my starter

Rob1's picture

problem with my starter

I posted here in TFL in other discussion but nobody answered me, probably not as visible as I imagine..

" Hello everybody
This is my first post here at TFL, I found very interesting your thread about "pineapple solution" on new sourdough starters but my problem is a bit different..
Recently my sourdough seems too much proteolityc (it degrades the dough very rapidly..and when I fold it it simply rip off!), when young it smells like rotten vegetable, in some cases like rotten eggs, but at the end of the maturation (approximately 8 hours ar RT with 1:2:2) it smells like ripen fruit..

I used young (with the rotten smell) and old (with the ripen fruit smell) but nothing I decided to start another sourdough.
What I want to ask you is that: is there a way to "cure" an old sourdough and get rid of bad bacteria? Is the smell of rotten eggs (sulfurous) typical of "Leuconostoc" or can be other bacteria instead?

I really can't imagine what could be the problem with my sourdough..

I don't want it smell like rotten "something"..even if it's at his younger stage!! Is there a cure for that?


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Sounds like it's been infected with bad bacteria. A starter grows out of its leuconostoc stage once mature. If it goes bad after that it sounds like the bad bacteria has been introduced.

A young starter should smell sweet and a more mature starter should smell yeasty - never like rotten eggs.

If your starter had turned rogue and was breaking down the dough due it being too acidic then I don't think it should be smelling rotten either. Would rather think it would smell very tangy and/or alcoholic/acrylic and could be saved.

Sulphurous I would think is  smell you'd never want and not sure how to go about fixing that. You could try transferring a bit to a clean jar and giving it one feed with pineapple juice then switching to water (which has been boiled and cooled). Also by giving it increased feeds and allowing it to peak each time before feeding again.

I didn't see your last post.

Rob1's picture

Hello Lechem,

thank you for the answer..It's a really "bad" news for me because I now realised that I had this problem very very often during my experience of home-baker..
Sometimes I got nice results, sometimes not...that's normal I think, but what is not normal is the smell of young refreshed confirmed that a smell different from "floury, fruity, acidic, alchoolic .." is not what we are searching for!

Sulphurous yes, rotten smell is what I was experiencing..I hope that someone had my same problem, and to find a solution for the future!!

I'm bit curious to know what could "infect" my sourdough!! I always use cleaned containers..

I'm starting to think at the two main ingredients used, so flour (with particular unwanted bacteria) or the water.. I use bottled water, this could not be the problem. The flour remain the first clue at the moment, and infact this problem occur mostly with a particular flour..

I cannot be sure..I only collected a series of clues, nobody really convince people..have you got the same problem? How did you resolve?

Every contribute is really appreciated! ;)

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

How did you make it? How old is it? The more details the better!

Rob1's picture

It's a relatively "old" 100% hydration sourdough which I created one year ago from a previous experience with another sourdough...
Flour + water ...until fermented..I've never put a great attention to the smell, I always paid attention to the power of fermentation, the time that occur to the SD to "double" in height....

So that until I got the firts real problems on my doughs as explained...lack of structure, gluten fast degradation..and so on.The problems that occurred one year ago! When I decided to replace the SD with a new one!

I went occasionally on this forum..I read the thread on pineapple solution and "A new world discovered!!"

So I started to smell and taste my sourdough..and I found that something was wrong.

I only read that a SD could die for bad bacteria infection..and this could happen suddenly even if the method of refreshment is correct!!

The main clue at the moment still remain the bad quality of the flour used for the SD..because I got interesting result when I refreshed SD with another flour...

Yeasts and Bacteria are present in the flour..and this is normal..I only think that some bacteria could be not very helpful for SD!! Many home-bakers like me probably continue baking..without any particular great result! Thinking that is normal..

That's not what I want ..because I got really good bread in the past..really good doughs to work with!

I can only say that sometimes I changhed hydration from 100% to 90% or 80% and I changed flour and water during the time...

 I'm used to leave the SD on the counter in a plastic closed or opened jar ..

Sylvaneer's picture

You say "Flour + water ...until fermented".  Are you eyeballing the feeding times, or are you on a schedule?  I'm by no means an expert, but if you're leaving the starter alone until your perception is that it has doubled in size before you feed it again, it seems like it's possible that you're underfeeding it, which I think would leave it weak and not give you good results when you bake with it.  Also, if you have it in an " jar," as you say, then that seems like a recipe for having contaminating elements make their way into the mix.  I've always gotten the best results on very regular feeding schedules - 12 hours apart for me; in the mornings and evenings.  I also wonder if temperature might be a factor - I recently realized that my starters needed a cooler environment this time of year.  Even a few degrees can make a difference for me.

Rob1's picture

Thank you Sylvaneer,

all that you write is correct in my opinion!

The feeding schedules is important as temperature and the question about " jar" . I pay now much more attention to all of these factors in particular with my new sourdough which I started 4 days ago, and things seems to go really better now. I only must check is healtiness in my next dough!

I think the main problem with the old SD was that I thought that it was all ok, that bacteria could "cure" every condition! That's not true! 

From my last researches and from what I understood when a SD has bad smell, bad behaviour on doughs..there's nothing to do that throw it away and start another SD.

The work is to be done before bad bacteria and problems come out!!