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Starter not doubling and smells of acetone

Breadnewb's picture
Breadnewb

Starter not doubling and smells of acetone

Hello,

I wonder if anyone can help? This is my first attempt at a starter and I think I have failed miserably ?

I followed the Paul Hollywood instructions which were: 250 bread flour, 250 tepid water and 5 organic grapes, leave for 2 days to establish activity then dump half and thereafter feed with 100g flour 100g water.

Seemed to start well by day 2 it had doubled and was puffy with glutinous strands when I tipped some out. I was excited! I removed the grapes and fed as directed. Next couple of days no rise.

Panicked that I had removed the yeast when I chucked out the grapes and popped more grapes in. Now understand grapes are fairly redundant as yeast in flour so probably not that?

Kept feeding but ever since it has been flat with small bubbles on the top and smelled (sometimes quite strongly) of acetone. Smell dissipates after feeding but there doesn’t seem to be any rise at all now.

Have I killed it?

I read acetone = hungry but is yeast active if not puffing up? 

Some other info - temp of my living space is generally around the 19c mark so after I noticed she wasn’t rising I tried moving her to airing cupboard (23c) but haven’t noticed a difference.

Water is soft and doesn’t taste of chlorine. Flour is stoneground organic unbleached white.

Any help greatly appreciated I don’t want to waste flour. Thanks!

Anarchean's picture
Anarchean

I think acetone is bad :(

You shouldn't need any more yeast. To tell you the truth, I tried this fermented grape juice method once, and it actually back-fired at me, it seemed like there were yeast in the grape juice and they raised the dough, but them eventually they died and new colony started to grow as if I had just used water. It extended the amount of days to actually have an active starter in like 2 or 3 days.

Now, you didn't say how many days and how many feedings/day you are using, but if it's been like a week or so, and you're feeding once a day, I think you should start over. Try another method, the pineapple juice method works great (you can look it up here on the forum). If not, keep it in your cupboard, one feeding a day (I think you can drop the size of feeding to something like 50g flour and water) it should bubble in a few days, if the present bacteria hasn't created an inhospitable environment for LAB and yeast.

There are more experienced bakers here the surely will know better what the acetone smell means.

Breadnewb's picture
Breadnewb

Thanks that’s really helpful!

I read the blogs about the pineapple juice method and it makes a lot of sense. I think my starter might be stuck in what the blog refers to as the second stage. I mistook the doubling circa day 2 for yeast but I guess it was the acid producing bacteria that establish before yeast ?

I think you’re right about the grapes - they have not helped my understanding of what’s going on at a microbial level anyway.

I might reduce the amount of starter as you suggest and keep feeding it s but longer to see if it works it’s way through the acidic stage eventually ?

thanks again

Anarchean's picture
Anarchean

It is my understanding that the yeast on the grape skins are actually the ones that make CO2 first, but they are unable to live with environment created by the LAB (lactic-acid bacteria). So they end up dying and eventually some strains of wild yeast in the flour, which are resistant to the acidic environment end up taking over. Those wild yeasts + LAB create a symbiotic relationship and that's your starter.

But keep going! And give us feedback on how it is going or if you need something else. More importantly don't give up, it's worth the trouble :P

Breadnewb's picture
Breadnewb

Thanks for the advice I cut the starter back to 100g and fed with 100g of flour and 100g of water. The next day it seemed to be a bit more active.

Activity a few hours after feeding

The last couple of days it has been doubling nicely within about 6 hours of being fed.

thank you so much for the help. Can’t wait to test it! Can anyone point me in the direction of some more info on a) at what point after feeding it’s best used (when it’s at its peak? Before the peak?) or any beginner recipe info?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

wild yeast have taken over.  The natural way of things.  The yeast from the grapes die off but they become food for the new wild yeast.  Also various yeast help build acid as well.  I wouldn't worry about the grape yeast any more, they get diluted or killed off as acid builds and starter is discarded.  Soon it is just as wild as any other wild yeast.

You might want to increase the flour food in the starter when it peaks and starts to level out or even a little bit after it falls or deflates slightly.  Use the starter in recipes just before it peaks.  After removing starter for a recipe, set the jar aside and feed after mixing up the dough, after it has fermented just a little bit more.  This helps the bacteria numbers rise before the addition of fresh flour and water.  The starter can then defend itself better against the new introduction of bacteria in flour.    

More info can be found using the site search function.  Just type your question in the blank.    Type:  beginner sourdough recipe.  Or:  how to feed a new starter. Keep in mind there are many different ways to go about it depending on your objectives, how often you bake, the type of flour and your location.

Site search box is located at the upper right of the page, just scroll up.  When you find the info you're looking for and want to find it again, save the posted thread to your bookmarks. Can also type in questions.  Chances are they've been asked before.  :)

Mini 

Breadnewb's picture
Breadnewb

thank you! Can I just check - when you say to increase the flour do you mean I should be feeding it more?

I did wonder about that as I’m feeding 100g starter 100g flour only once per day and notice some people feed double that amount or feed twice a day. I am finding that I feed it mid morning and then she rises and peaks nicely but by the next morning it is sunken and has a tangy slightly acetone smell. Is bad for the yeast to let them get to this point and should I be feeding again sooner.

Thanks for explaining about the search function hadn’t quite figured out how to navigate the site yet ? I will have a search for some more info on feeding/maintaining my starter now that it seems to be doing something *happy dance*

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

start with less starter and give it more flour food and enough water to make a paste.  That 1:1:1 ratio is way too low for a now active starter to chew on for 24 hours.  It should be fed when it has reached the peak of activity.  Not a half day later.  A lot depends on the starter temp to be precise.  

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

A cup of water

~30g sugar

~30g honey (counteracts lactobac)

~50g Raisins

Add all to a large jar leaving plenty of empty space. Shake vigorously and release CO2 buildup a few times a day for 3-5 days.

Use approx 15-20ml of strained liquid to replace 7g of dried yeast, as a gauge.

Much simpler than starters.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That yeast recipe sounds very handy to have around when yeast is hard to find.

How long does it keep?              A 250g cup of water? 

Edit:  whoops, I put I too much honey with my cube yeast wrapper (instead of grapes) better add a bit more water. Where's that calculator?   

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

Once strained, about a month I remember.

I do forget the specifics and cant find my original source but one thing that I noted was that I remember being dubious about taking the next steps to create a ferment as a ferment doesnt last as long as the water itself and the water works as-is.

Mine is a week old now and ready to go. Ill tell you when it gets funky or ineffective.

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

My next curiousity is to see if re-using the same raisins will make a quicker batch or an equally potent batch.

Karaharf's picture
Karaharf

I tried Paul Hollywood’s Apple version. Rose really well on third day and got a small semi windowless loaf but it died and even feeding it etc couldn’t resurrect the stinky mess

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

Does that concoction require flour?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

cross over going from yeast water to flour starter.  Often yeast water starters fed flour are only a few days viable and then the natural process of bacterial changes pop up.  If you don't understand the chain of bacterial events, that first show of stinky bacteria can throw you off.  Waiting to see how it changes is key. Patience and a well vented room helps.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

raisins, those treated with preservatives, would present problems from the get go.  But if the yeast is on the outside of the raisin, unless you wash the raisins between starting a new batch with them, you only transfer the yeast water stuck on the outside of the raisin.  I Don't want to hyjack this thread.  Please start up a post with honey water yeast title and it can be discussed more fully.  Repost the honey water recipe and away we go!

Or do you think yeast is on the interior of the raisin?  Hey wash a few and see if there is a difference.   I got an Apple Yeast water (YW) in the fridge for over a year now that I toss chunks into eventually using a stick mixer to smash them up as a feeding between fresh feedings.  They are slow cold percolating.  Turn brown with oxidation but doesn't seem to bother the yeast.   I still have a reserve of instant yeast. Used up the last of my fresh yeast yesterday.  I got natural local honey.   Btw, welcome all to TFL. 

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

I notice that there are a few posts already on raisin water. Some in depth ones too, particularly one from 2011. Im reluctant to overpost that with my novice knowledge :)

In the context of this thread the important part of the recipe is the addition of honey to suppress the bacteria we dont want.

The original recipe I read mentioned particularly to avoid raisins etc containing Sulphites.

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

Also, one would hope its not actually Acetone given that its Carcinegenic!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but acetone like aromas coming off the starter.  That speaks to bacteria and yeast metabolism and esters which I don't know much about.  I wish I knew more about what exactly is going on.  From what I fathom there seems to be two types of acetone aromas.  One harder to get rid of and the other a natural process, leading to conflicting ways to handle it.  I had one starter that never lost that background aroma and I eventually dumped it simply because the smell was not "good" to me.  Yet another starter that only required a day of no feeding to solve it.  I have read of members tossing in vinegar or lemon juice and problem solved.  Before experimenting, split the starter.