Tip - Lactic vs Acetic Smell Test
There is a tremendous interest in sourdough, largely in part due to the distinct flavors produced by Lactic and Acetic acids. There are a number of current descriptions attempting to describe each flavor and/or smell. Example; Acetic = vinegar, Lactic = yogurt. I often use Acetic = sharp cheddar cheese, Lactic = mild cheddar.
I think I’ve come across a very simple way to observe the obvious differences.
- Start with an active starter
- Mix a 60% starter
- Mix a 100% starter
- Ferment both starters in the same location
- Make sure they mature at or near the same time * See note below
- With the covers removed from each of the mature starters, cup your hands over the opening (to seal the gasses in) and place your nose between your hands.
- Smell the differences and compare the 2 starters
- Tastes a minute amount (Don’t be chicken :D)
If you do the comparative test, please report your findings. Reading and hearing about something is good, but the sensory test will drive the truth home.
* Starter are unique. In my case the 60% starter was mixed 1:7:12 and the 100% was mixed 1:20:20 for a 12 hour feed cycle @ ~73F.
Although the test requires a small effort, the results produced should be vivid. The flavors of sourdough vary quite a bit. Not only from mild to pungent, but also from Acetic to Lactic and their combinations. In any starter Lactic Acids will dominate in percentages, but Acetic Acids are potent and their smell is strong.
So, how do you coax the 2 different acids? Cool and dry = Acetic, warm and wet = Lactic.