The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fishy smelling starter

Goats In The Kitchen's picture
Goats In The Kitchen

Fishy smelling starter

I'm in the process of making a new sourdough starter. I'm on day 4 and it's quite active and bubbly, but the last two days it smells a bit fishy when I take a sniff. I have minimal sourdough experience and have only made one starter before but I can't remember if it had this smell or not. I'm using 100% whole wheat flour, freshly ground, from a bag of grain that I've been using for months with no problems. Is a slight fishy smell normal at this stage, or should I toss it and start again?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

How long between feeds? 

What is your feed ratio? Starter + water + flour.

You might want to use pineapple juice in place of water for a single feed. The acidity will run off the bad bacteria if that is the case. But wait before doing that. Send us the requested info first.

Your starter is probably healthy.  No worries.

Wait a minute - do you think it might be the goats in the kitchen? LOL

Danny

Goats In The Kitchen's picture
Goats In The Kitchen

I'm using 2 Tbsp flour and 2 Tbsp water, same as I did last time I created a starter. Dump most of it out before feeding again and I've been feeding once a day and am on day 4. I hadn't considered the goat factor lol!

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

1 tbl of flour is 7.5 grams and 1 tbl of water is 14.9 grams. Your starter hydration is near 200%. I recommend mixer ng 2 tbl flour to 1 tbl water. Also because the quantity is so little you might want to increase to 4 tbl to 2 tbl.

Here is a technical answer to what I think your problem is.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

The good news is, if I am right your problem is the only temporary.

Dan

Goats In The Kitchen's picture
Goats In The Kitchen

Very interesting read Dan, thanks for the links. I weighed my flour and found about a Tbsp and a half gave me a 100% hydration so I went with that as a compromise, and will double both flour and water tomorrow to give more volume. Sounds like I just need to be patient and wait out this early phase while all the little sourdough goblins are getting organized. Thanks again for the help!

Xelanon's picture
Xelanon

Keep going!

Depending on your type of flour used, starters may give off anything from a yeasty/beery smell to a vinegary smell. Sometimes they even smell like old socks..bleah. Considering you're at day 4, a fishy smell seems to indicate that you're on the right track! Microbes in the starter are doing their job, so just continue your feedings as per normal. It will usually take a week or so to build up the strength of your starter. 

Watch for signs that your starter is ready, like: consistent peaks and falls, bubbles on the surface, doubling (or even tripling!) in size.

Good luck!

Goats In The Kitchen's picture
Goats In The Kitchen

Thanks for the feedback. The starter is very active already, now on day 5 it's bubbling, rising and falling, generally acting well but for that slight fishy smell. It's not overwhelming or anything, I have to stick my nose in the jar to get a whiff of it.

DeanSamson's picture
DeanSamson

I definitely wouldn't start again. Your best to keep going and using the 50/50 quantity, starters have all different variations of smells. Try feeling it using a different flour for a week. Are you correctly weighing up the correct amount of flour and water as this has a huge effect on acidity. You could also check the pH level if you have a meter. You want it around the 4.0 mark. 

Goats In The Kitchen's picture
Goats In The Kitchen

Thanks Dean, I might try using a different flour as you suggest. Actually that just reminded me that although I'm using a whole grain freshly ground flour, it was in my freezer for probably a week or so before I used it for the starter. I usually grind my flour fresh for baking but if I have a little extra I freeze it to make sure it stays fresh. Might this have killed my little friends and perhaps some bad guys invaded the starter instead? I don't have a pH meter unfortunately, could I just add a touch of something acidic to be on the safe side?

DeanSamson's picture
DeanSamson

Hi,

I would just try using a strong bread flour for a few days and see how you get on. It should get there eventually. If you want the sour to be extra acidic add more parts flour than water. But in reality you shouldn't have to do this. 

Goats In The Kitchen's picture
Goats In The Kitchen

Today it's smelling much better, fishiness is almost gone and it's starting to develop that yummy sourdough smell so I think I'm over the hump. I started feeding it twice a day, and also increased the amount of flour just slightly.  Seems to have done the trick. Thanks everyone for the help and reassurance. :)

 

Benito's picture
Benito

Sounds like you're on your way to baking sourdough soon with your very own starter, congrats.

Benny

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

That fishy/cheesy/funky/high-school-gym-locker-on-Friday smell often happens with a new starter.  It merely indicates that the wrong bacteria are dominating.  Stick to your current feeding schedule and LAB/AAB (lactic acid/acetic acid bacteria) will begin to prosper.  The acid they generate will kill off the bad guys, and will create a hospitable environment for the desirable yeast species as well.