The Fresh Loaf

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Help! For no clear reason my starter smells bad and has lost its strong rise

bumpycrumbs's picture
bumpycrumbs

Help! For no clear reason my starter smells bad and has lost its strong rise

 

I have been keeping a sourdough starter for several years, and typically I have had good luck getting a good, predictable rise, feeding once per day. I leave the starter out on the counter. A few weeks ago, I bulked up the starter to make a batch of pancakes (normally I take just a tbsp when I bake to get the leaven going) and I noticed a day or two after the pancakes a pungent, abnormal smell. I went back to regular feedings just as I have always done, but the smell remains, and activity has dropped. The starter still bubbles, but it is sluggish and there is no perceptible rise. I tried switching to white flour for a while, thinking this might kick start it, but no effect. I tried lengthening the time between feedings and shortening the time between feedings. No perceptible change. Next I tried reviving a bag of starter I'd dried and frozen about a year ago. I kept it on the opposite side of the kitchen to avoid contamination, and it did well for a week or so and then has taken on the same foul pattern of the other. I'm afraid some nefarious organism is wreaking havoc in there, and I'm feeling at a loss to figure out how to restore the harmonious balance. Sourdough sorcerers, I call on you skill. What can I do?
pcake's picture
pcake

but i've had a similar end to several starters, although they did continue to rise to some degree.  but they'd go from being active starters that taste great and make great bread and discard pancakes to smelling bad and tasting bad and lifting less.

in my case, i'm also worried.  we can't ripen avocados in our kitchen - they go bad first.  every time.  and potatoes, which i used to keep in a bag in a dark area - here, they go bad, too.  so i can't help wondering why...

 

suave's picture
suave

What do you feed it with?

pcake's picture
pcake

if you were talking to the OP - which is what i expect - please ignore this post.

if you were talking to me, it depends on what i started the starter with.  i've had white spelt starter that i fed with white spelt, white spelt flour starter that i fed half white and half whole grain spelt to, whole grain spelt starter i fed whole grain spelt to, and i'm trying brown rice starter right now that i'll feed brown rice flour to.  i tried adding a little rye flour, but that's when we discovered my husband is allergic to rye.  

bumpycrumbs's picture
bumpycrumbs

I'm feeding it 100% whole wheat. Usually I've done 100% hydration. This last week I've been doing 80%.

suave's picture
suave

I suspect that microflora of your ww flour it too strong and abundunt for the starter to keep in check.  If that did not happen previously with the same bag of flour, it means that your starter has weakened for one reason or another.  You could cut your ww flour with white and see if that helps.  Another alternative is to mix it on pineapple juice in hopes that extra acidity would help.

pcake's picture
pcake

are you weighing the amount of flour you add to the starter?  

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

When my starter went bad (most likely because I hadn't been feeding it for a long time), I simply "washed" the starter following the directions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6sb0QtKAtQ