The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

sourdough starter problem

qahtan's picture

sourdough starter problem

 Every so often I get this urge to make or try to make sourdough...... and every time I fail....

I have obtained all linds of starters, and many very kind souls have sent me some of theirs to get started.

 But always the same, after about 3 days it stinks like strong paint. so I dump it.

 I have tried different flours, different water, still the same, now what can I do...

Many many years ago I  did manage some how to get a decent loaf, how I don't know. but it was a long long time ago.....Any ideas...... qahtan 

ehanner's picture

If your starter smells like paint, it's sending you a message. If you keep your starter culture on the counter it needs to be fed/refreshed twice a day. Don't toss it because of the smell. I keep around 200 grams of starter fed at a ratio of 25g old starter/80 grams tap water and 100g AP flour. After a few days of feedings at RT it will be stable enough to refrigerate for a week between feedings. There are lots of ways to feed your culture but this way works and produces a well fed and robust culture.


cranbo's picture

after about 3 days it stinks like strong paint. so I dump it.

As Eric said, there's your problem. It goes through weird smelling phases at first, that's normal.

Building a healthy, working starter takes typically 7-10 days, feeding 2x per day after the first 5 days. 

Read Debra Wink's Pineapple Solution Part 2, it is an almost foolproof way to start a starter. That article provides detailed instructions in the last section of the original post. Good luck!

lumos's picture

Probably depends on chlorine level in tap water in your area, but tap water doesn't work for me, even it's filtered.  If I feed my starter with water straight from a tap, after several feeds, the starter gets weaker and weaker, starting to smell sharp...just like glue/paint. Either bottled spring water or if not, tap water boiled and cooled completely or tap water left for several hours (or even a day or two) without a lid to evapolate chlorine is safer option, I think.  Wild yeast is a bit more delicate than commercial yeast, it needs more TLC. ;)

varda's picture

Hi,  I have a regular wheat starter that I got going over a year ago so can barely remember, but recently I made a semolina starter for a particular bread.   It was very easy - I fed equal amounts semolina and water twice a day (small quantities around 20 grams of each per feeding) for 3 days, and very quickly had a working starter.   After you get a starter going you can convert to any type of flour you want. 

davidg618's picture


I bought a dried starter, from a reliable source, and followed the vendor's initiation instruction. After three days it smelled like spackling paste, and destroyed its gluten structure within a few hours of feeding it. I read Debra Winks Pineapple solution, both part 1 and part 2, but wasn't sure it fit my problem--I think, frankly, I was overwhelmed by the density of information in those two postings. Fortuneately, I wrote Ms. Wink, describing my problem. She not only replied, graciously convincing me my problem was classic, but, additionally, over the next four or five days guided me, step-by-step through recovering. Along the way, she also helped me gain much practical experience in the how and why of mature starter maintenance.

I've been baking with this starter for two weeks now, with great results. I've been baking sourdoughs for about three years; my old sarter was failing due poor maintenance (and I didn't know how to save it.). Making a new starter precipitated, for me, a worthwhile lesson, despite its initial "pain".

Here's the link to the beginning of my day-by-day exchange with Debra working toward a successful new starter. It might be of some help to you, in addition to her Pineapple Solutions 1 & 2. It's part of the long thread to the Pineapple Juice  solution part 1, and begins at this comment:

David G

jcking's picture

When building a new starter the wild yeast will multiply quicker when fed more air. To do this use a wet chop stick and stir every 3 waking hrs if possible for the first 4 or 5 days. The bacteria  doesn't need much oxygen so (without stirring) they can grow faster and one can end up with nasty smells and separation. A ripe SD needs a balance of wild yeast and bacteria.


FoodFascist's picture

have a look at this website. It's a bit wordy but has many tips, especially for beginners.

hope this helps

qahtan's picture

Thanks every one for your help....


When I do get a glorious sourdough loaf you will all know as I shall have to show you....