The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Problems with sourdough sourness

Milksnake12's picture

Problems with sourdough sourness

I love a really tangy sourdough - problem is, no matter what I try, I'm failing to get even a recognizable sourdough taste in my loaves. I've tried very long bulk proofs, retarding loaves for 24 hours, using more salt, inoculating with very small amounts, different hydrations, different proportions of whole wheat and rye, and less hydrated starters. All of which produce a loaf that other people don't even recognize as sourdough. In an attempt to squeeze out a little tang, I made a 50% hydration starter with 200g of a 500g loaf and let it sit for 48 hours. It smelled of fruit and alcohol, but no tang in the finished loaf (didn't care about crumb, just wanted to see if I could get some sourness).

I've produced about 30 loaves trying to come up with a recognizable sourness and am failing... they keep coming out with no tang what-so-ever.

The starter I'm using was created about 3 years ago by me. It triples at 8 hours after feeding. 

I feel like I have covered all my bases to produce a sour loaf, the only other thing I can think of is maybe it's my starter. Is there a chance that my starter just doesn't make the sourness I'm looking for? Could it have become contaminated with commercial yeast?

I would love anyone's input and suggestions, or if anyone else has had this issue.



Edo Bread's picture
Edo Bread

When you do long proofs what temperature are you keeping your dough?

Milksnake12's picture

When I do very small inoculations, I kept them at 70-73. 

Otherwise they were at 52 degrees. 

Milksnake12's picture

I guess a better question would be has anyone had dramatically different levels of 'tang' using the same recipe but with different starters? 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that you have started and maintained, sugar? 

arthurprs's picture

How does your average recipe look like?

barryvabeach's picture

I can offer about a 1/4 tsp of help, since I have been on a similar journey for a number of months, though I use 100% home milled winter white wheat, so YMMV.    The best result I have found is to do a number of refreshments of my starter, with very low hydration, at fairly high temps, then a final refresh with high hydration.

My last attempt was to refresh twice  8 grams starter, 16 grams flour , about 10 grams water.  That helps develop the sour flavor, then for the last refresh, boost the hydration up to 125% or so,  say 4 grams starter, 8 grams flour 10 to 12 grams water.  I read a number of articles about this, some by Ms. Debra Wink, and my loose understanding is that the first two refreshments change the ratio of sour factors in the starter, the last one increases the strength of the sour notes.  Note that I try to proof at 82 F,  though I am still working out the ratios of flour to starter to get the starter to be ready when I am ready to bake -  I normally do refreshes for 8 to 12 hours, depending on whether it is overnight, or when I am away at work.

Finally, on mixing day, I use 1.7% starter to my final dough  ( typical example 450 flour  ,  360 water, 9 grams salt, 8 grams starter ) then BF at 82 F till increases in size 30 to 60%,   then shape, final proof on counter 30 minutes, then into fridge for 8 to 12 hours, then bake. 

If I let BF go too long, which is pretty common, I get a doubling or more in volume, and great taste, but no oven spring.  I have had some steps in the right direction by BF at 82 for 4 hours, then dropping the temp to 54F for the rest of the BF.  Again, with regular flour, your timing, hydration, and results may vary.

Here is the chart from Brod and Taylor - and Debra Wink


Filomatic's picture

Have you tried this?

I am in the same boat.  I like it sour, having grown up in the the Bay Area, the land of sour, and it hasn't been sour since I started refrigerating my starter.  I can't maintain my starter on the counter.  I do find that rye adds sourness, and you'll find that high percentage ryes are considerably more sour.