The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


beeman1's picture


I am in the proccess of starting 2 dried starters. In the first 12 hours I got a lot of activity. liquid on the bottom. I think they may be contaminated. I have followed the instructions from sourdough international. Has anyone had this problem? Am I doing somthing wrong? Can the starter be rehabilitated?

b_elgar's picture

Keep feeding as your instructions say to do.

I think it's likely pretty active, going hoochy fast and you'll be just fine.

I do not know what SI recommends, but my own start or maintenance refreshment technique entails tossing all but the scrapings from the container, and adding in 2 tbsps of flour and 2 of water. Mix and allow to ferment.

Building to use as a preferment is a bit different for quantities, but I always refresh/ resurrect my starters this way. I have 7 or 8 burbling away in the fridge right now.

Did you use all the dry starter you were sent in each packet? I like to hold back half of any dried starter I am given, just for safey's sake. Or did you take one packet and divide into two containers?


beeman1's picture

No, I didn't hold back any starter. I think I should have. I am following instructions but the results are not quite what they show n the pictures.

Brian D's picture
Brian D

I used their starter also (long time ago). It did the same thing. Just keep going. If you write to them they will say your flour was bad. At least that is what they told me. By the way, I eventually threw away their starter. I could never get it to produce anything that plain yeast couldn't do. But keep trying. You may be luckier than me.

bakerlou's picture

I am using the SI SF starter culture and it seems that the hooch is forming in the bottom-middle...  They say that its contaminated.  It smells fine I suppose.  Its not a real unpleasant smell, kind of like an alcoholic cheese...

 They are telling me to "wash" it.  I have once.  Do I just continue this or do I say to hell with their advice... or do I scrap it and make my own... ? 

SourdoLady's picture

Give you starter some time. I'm sure it will come to life. How many days since you activated it? Dried starters can sometimes take several days to wake up. Keep us posted how it is going.

Wild-Yeast's picture

I haven't any experience with SI but you should be all right. It seems that yours took off and isn't having any problems. Sourdough is sensitive to temperature, pressure, moisture content, flour constituents and pH to name a few.

Hooch is the clear, slightly yellow fluid in the mixture that you're seeing. Just stir it back in and feed it every 12 hours for the first several days. One of the best instruments for gauging sourdough is your nose. Draw in a draught of aroma from the fermenting vessel as you would to test the fragrance of a fine wine. What do you smell? Some of the adjectives used to explain it are: beery, tangy, slightly sweet, moist, earthy, organic, acetic, and nutty. Don't be afraid to taste it either. It should be sligtly sour, even acetic tasting and should leave a nice after taste or finish. The fact that you see CO2 bubbles indicates that the yeast is active. The sour or acetic smell and taste indicates that the other half of the symbiotic culture, the lactobacters and acetobacters, are active.

If your present batch doesn't work out you can always use this one:

Just be patient and, most of all, use your senses to observe your culture...,


beeman1's picture

Actually It seems to be doing a lot better now. In the beginning it smelded like dirty socks or worse. Now it seems to be smelling more like yeast with a slight lacto smell like kosher pickles. I just don't know for sure if the organismes are the ones that they are supposed to be.

Wild-Yeast's picture

Beeman, what temperature is the starter?  One item that you have to become very sensitive to is the temperature of sourdough no matter where or what stage it's at.  77 degrees Fahrenheit is the magic number.  Lactobacillus is the fermentation type used for Kosher pickles which indicates that the temperature might be slightly high.


beeman1's picture

Actually they were started at about 87F per instructions. I have them at about 77F now which is room temperature here.

c14h20o4's picture



In the instructions that came from SI, it talks about contamination. Under "Washing a Culture" Ed writes, "If there is an unpleasant odor and if the layer of 'hooch' is on the bottom or in the middle of the fermenting culture, it indicates that contamination is present."



Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Contamination?  When you feed a starter from a packet the vendor provided with tap water and flour from the store?  I doubt it.


Based on lots of correspondence with sourdough beginners and reading here and elsewhere, strange problems almost always get back to not feeding the starter enough and/or often enough.


I find that beginners are well advised to feed 2 parts of starter 1 part of water and 1 part of flour by weight.  By volume, it's closer to 4 parts of starter to 2 parts of water and 3 parts of flour.  (The volume thing is a guestimate, based on the idea you'll scoop your flour from the sack.)


The goal is to feed your starter 1 part of water to 1 part of flour by weight, and enough to double the size of the starter with each feeding.  Each feeding should be about 12 hours apart.


Feeding more water, making a more liquid batter, makes the starter work faster, which leads to the starter running out of food eariler.  Also, thinner starters tend to have hooch form in odd places.  Well fed, thicker starters, tend to have less hooch and when it does form its on top.


Hope this helps,




If you feed more water