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What is this yellow puddle in my starter?

althetrainer's picture

What is this yellow puddle in my starter?

My wild yeast starter has been going very well for a couple of weeks now.  I have used it to make breads, cakes, and pancakes.  I usually keep one cup in  the fridge and feed it a couple times during the week then use it for baking at the weekend.  I got it out today and was ready to make a sponge.  But I saw some yellow color "puddles" in my starter (stored in a lidded plastic container).  I scooped out the surface and brought the starter to room temperature.  I was about to feed it an hour later, to my surprise, some of that yellow liquid had return.  I have never seen such development in my starter.  Is that normal?  Here's a picture of it.


mredwood's picture

I must say this about yellow stuff. Actually I want to say about the plastic container it's kept in. I would not use it. Especially if something else ever occupied the container. Plastic is porus. Once something gets put in it it is there forever. No matter what you do. My two friends one a nurse and the other a lab tech of some sort use to do infection control to public health workers. At some point the safety of water storage in milk bottles that were clean and rinsed came up. And out came the slides of bacteria that lived in all kinds of plastic from all sorts of things. We healthy folks can withstand a lot of that exposure but children, the elderly, medically frail and SOURDOUGH othen can not. A glass or pottery container that can be washed is a good idea. Also try not use a dirty spoon. It really does matter. Sourdough is a science project. Sorry if this seems like a lecture, I guess it is. 

Happy growing and baking.


LindyD's picture

It could be hootch; that's generally yellowish in color. And a sign that your starter is underfed.  But I don't know what the white spots are. Flour?

When you feed your starter, do you immediatley put it back into the refrigerator?


althetrainer's picture

Mariah, I have a glass jar that I used to store my starter.  I bought this plastic container for storage purpose because it has all the markings i.e. one cup, two cup etc so I could tell how much the starter has risen.  I had never used this container for anything else.  It's always kept in the fridge.  When I take the starter out for feeding, I always washed the container and use boiling hot water to rinse the container and the lid before putting it back. I suppose I can use the old glass jar again, if plastic is the cause.

Lindy, I didn't see the white stuff when I took the picture.  Wonder if it was reflection (starter was sitting right next to a big window).  I feed my starter at least once every two days because my son loves pancakes for breakfast.  When I want to make a sponge for pancake, I feed it with one cup of flour and water, let it rise, take one cup out and put it back in the container then put it back into the fridge.  I have done this for the past three weeks and today is the first day I see this yellow stuff.

I have fed the starter again after posting my first post.  This time I used less water than flour to made a less hydrated dough so there's no more yellow stuff, at least for now.

SourdoLady's picture

The yellow stuff is hooch--nothing to worry about. It does mean that your starter needs to be fed. How much old starter do you save before you feed the 1 cup flour/water? What I would recommend you do is, after you make your pancake batter discard all but 1/4 cup of the starter, feed again and then refrigerate. Don't leave it sit out for more than an hour after feeding before putting it in the fridge. What is happening is that your starter is consuming most of the nutrients in the flour before it ever gets to the fridge and then it begins to make hooch. You could also thicken it up before storage (more flour, less water) and it will have more food to snack on until the next time you use it.

althetrainer's picture

Thanks SourdoLady!  I believe you're right about my starter.  After posting my first post, I fed my starter again and made it a thicker one.  The yellow color didn't return.

I normally save one cup of starter in the fridge.  When I make pancakes, I add one cup of flour with one cup of water so I will have two cups.  One cup is to use for pancakes and the other cup goes back to the fridge.  I left my starter out for that long becasue I would like to have a stronger flavor.  My starter is only three weeks old.  It has good rising strength but it's not sour enough.  I thought by leaving it out longer and feeding it twice a day would do the trick.  I will return my starter back into the fridge sooner from now on.  Thanks for the tips.