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Rye/Water starter - smell and taste??

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afjagsp123's picture
afjagsp123

Rye/Water starter - smell and taste??

I have never had good luck with sourdough starters. When I lived in "Nearly Canada, North Dakota" my starters never developed any sour taste. I think it was just too cold in our home, even when I placed on our hot water heater. Then again, I only tried them in the winter.

Now I live in "Nearly Mexico, Arizona". Our home is a constant 74 degrees. This time I'm trying a rye and water starter with the 3 step method of 2 oz rye/2 oz spring water for 48 hours, 2 oz rye 4 oz spring water 18 hours, 4 ounces wheat flour, 4 ounces spring water.

I just started stage two. At the end of stage one, I've got great bubbling, but little volume growth (was supposed to double, I gained about 25% volume). The smell is very tangy, but very unpleasant tasting. Not to be gross, it tastes like barf. It is not the definite musty taste. No sign of mold. Is this the normal taste for rye starter?

Thanks, and 17 1/2 hours to go until stage three!

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Yup, perfectly normal.  You're smelling the lactobacillus chewing away.  At that stage, my starter had a distinctly yogurt-like smell, though not in an appetizing way. :)  Keep going, you're on your way!  And I wouldn't taste it until it smells yeasty (trust me, you'll know when you get there)... :)

Tacomagic's picture
Tacomagic

As FP mentioned, it's perfectly normal to get that kind of "nasty" stage.  You'll find that after another couple of feedings, the nasty smell will subside a bit and the starter will seem to "die" and just sit there for a day or two.  Usually at this point you're ready to start the yeast development, and it'll pick back up.

As for the "three step method", I wouldn't neccisarily expect a starter to be useable after such a short time, so make sure to keep doing smell and strength (I'm thinking doubling within 4 hours is the standard) checks.  Personally the fastest I've ever had a starter... start, was 6 feedings (3 days with 1 feeding every 12 hours).  Most of my starters took around 10-15 feedings (5-7 days).

So, if after the third stage it doesn't look or smell right, don't give up on it.  Most likely you'll need to feed it some more and just give it time.  Like so many people here on TFL have said, there is no "paint-by-numbers" super success method for making starters.  A starter will be ready when it wants to be, you have have to give it food and time.

Confusion is a state of mind... or is it?

afjagsp123's picture
afjagsp123

I'll keep plugging away on the starter, and feed it more often.

Stephanie in Very Hot Almost Mexico
Visit my blog: http://bikebookandbread.blogspot.com/

 

holds99's picture
holds99

After you have your initial sourdough starter built you'll need to feed it every week or two.  I feed mine once every 7-10 days to keep it active.  Before you use it to bake you'll have to do a "refresh/build" to get it revved for mixing it into your dough.  Mike Avery, who is extremely knowledgeable posted a "refresh/build" process which works great.  I copied, pasted and edited his formula to put on my refrigerator to use when I get ready to make sourdough bread.  Anyway, here's Mike's formula.

MIKE AVERY’S Sourdough Starter - Refresh/Build

In order not to waste a lot of flour I like to feed up my starters over 2 or 3 days so I have a nice consistent starter each time I bake.  I like to feed my starter twice a day.  I like to double the amount of starter with each feeding.  I sort of copies, pasted and slightly edited Mike's instructions so I could keep them under a magnet on my refrigerator.

Produces 2 cups of starter

Mike suggests starting with less starter.  Plan on saving 1/2 cup of starter for the next bake and plan on using 2 cups of starter in the bake.  It's easier to do this by weight than by volume.... but we'll do it by volume. 

Day 1 - Evening

1.   First Feeding – 9:00 p.m.: Start with a tablespoon of starter from the fridge and add 1/4 cup of water and 3/8 cup of flour.

Day 2 - Morning

2.   Second Feeding – 9:00 a.m.: 12 hours later (more or less) add another 1/4 cup of water and 3/8 cup of flour.  This is close to doubling the size of the starter.

 

Day 2 - Evening

3.   Third Feeding – 9:00 p.m.: 12 hours later, add 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup of flour.

 

Day 3 - Morning

4.   Fourth Feeding – 9:00 a.m.: 12 hours later, add 1 cup of water and 1 1/2 cups of flour.  Now, take out 1/2 cup of the starter and put it into the fridge.  Starter lasts best if it is refrigerated as soon as it's fed.

Day 3 - Evening

5.   Fifth Feeding: 12 hours later, you should have around 2 cups of starter ready to use.  

6.   So, you're good to go.  The first feeding is a bit more than doubling the size of the starter - it's about 6 or 8 times.  This is to dilute the acidity in the starter from the fridge to give the starter a better chance to start up again.

Hope I got the days in order (morning/evening, etc.). Hope this helps. 

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

afjagsp123's picture
afjagsp123

Been doing the feeding every 12 hours. Should I give up and start over as it is not doubling or increasing AT ALL? It still smells atrocious...not a hint of yeastiness. 

Stephanie in Very Hot Almost Mexico
Visit my blog: http://bikebookandbread.blogspot.com/

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

I'd just keep going.  The fact that you've got a bacterial culture going is a good sign, now you just need to wait for the yeast to catch up.

Incidentally, I don't know what hydration you're working at, but I initially built my starter at 100% hydration, but around day 5 or 6, upped that to around 120%.  At 100%, the starter was very thick, and required some real muscle to stir.  At 120%, it's more like a thick pancake batter.  Anyway, I have no idea if that did the trick, but I found the starter became lively within a day, and was fully active just a couple days later (my own theory is that the higher hydration gave the yeast more freedom to work... and given that stiffer starters tend to be more sour, evidence of greater bacterial activity relative to yeast activity, I think it's a valid theory).

holds99's picture
holds99

Stephanie,

First, let me say that there are a lot of other bakers on TFL that are far more competent re: sourdough starter than me.  Ten years ago I made Nancy Silverton's grape starter (a 14 day process using organic grapes). 

The positive aspect of Ms. Silverton's starter, at least for me, is that it works wonderfully and I dried out a cup of the starter, crushed it into small pieces and keep in the freezer in a plastic jar, for backup in the event my active sourdough starter goes bad.  I have had to use the backup starter once in the past ten years, and that was because I didn't properly care for my active starter in the fridge (operator trouble) :-)

The down side of Ms. Siverton's starter is the process is long with large volumes of discarded "build" during the process. There are many ways to create a good starter without going through her process.

FWIW, here's a couple of suggestions.  Here's a link to a TFL post for a sourdough starter recipe which looks like it will work.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/3588/sourdough-starter

In the interest of saving time and getting a starter up to speed and ready for use as quickly as possible you may want to consider purchasing a starter.  Here's a link to King Arthur's site which offer sourdough starter at a reasonable price.  I have never used K.A.'s starter but I know the products they sell are first rate.

 http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/landing.jsp?go=DefaultSearch&stype=product&term=sourdough+starter&x=33&y=17

I have seen other posts for Carl's sourdough starter which seems to work well.  Again I have never tried Carl's but here's a link.

http://home.att.net/~carlsfriends/source.html

One final suggeston, use TFL's SEARCH funtion in the upper left corner of the home page and look at some of the "sourdough" postings to get an idea of what other sourdough bakers on TFL are doing, the problems they have encountered and some of the solutions to the problems.

If it's any help, here's what mine looks like.

 Refreshed Sourdough StarterSourdough Starter and Container: Refreshed Sourdough Starter

Hope this helps.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

afjagsp123's picture
afjagsp123

Thanks everyone! I'll just explore the site a bit more and start from scratch. Hey, I've only used about 1 1/2 of flour -- it's not the end of the world!!!!

Stephanie in Very Hot Almost Mexico
Visit my blog: http://bikebookandbread.blogspot.com/

Kuret's picture
Kuret

dont rush it, keep it for a couple of days more. My starter took 7 days until it began to rise so try to keep it up.

afjagsp123's picture
afjagsp123

I started from scratch using the method posted on the sourdough lessons page. It's been 3 days and is already expanding! I'm so happy I could cry! (A little exaggeration, but not that much!)

Stephanie in Very Hot Almost Mexico
Visit my blog: http://bikebookandbread.blogspot.com/

holds99's picture
holds99

It's the little things in life that make it so meaningful.  I'm really happy for you and hope it's all downhill from here on.  Keep us posted on the results.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Not to rain on your parade, but I wouldn't claim victory until about day 7 or so.  The first few days are often marked by bacterial action, which can cause significant gas production.  My starter quite happily doubled itself on day 2 or 3, but by day 5 looked dormant... turns out, bacteria went to town for the first little bit, but there was no actual yeast action.

The easiest way to tell if you've got real yeast is by the smell.  See, the starter should smell... well... yeasty. :)  It'll also smell a bit tangy, but not overly so.  If you've got something that smells quite sour, but doesn't have that nice yeasty odour, then your starter isn't ready yet.

'course, I could be totally wrong... there are some who've reported starters that were alive and well within 3-4 days.  But that's definitely outside the norm.