The Fresh Loaf

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Vinegar in new starter?

acurry's picture

Vinegar in new starter?

I recently made a new starter and, inspired by the pineapple juice method*, I decided to try making the starter more acidic to begin with by adding in a teaspoon of vinegar (just the cheap stuff from the supermarket, no mother) to bypass the initial bacteria bubbliness. I mixed equal parts bread flour (ASDA's own organic bread flour) and water plus the vinegar, and then I left it in a warm cupboard for a couple of days, then fed it with water and flour. I repeated this a few times (not discarding) until it got bubbly.  

I seem to have the best starter I've ever had. I've baked with it a few times and I'm making the best loaves I've ever made (it's not saying too much since I have always struggled with flat loaves). I am now getting a bit paranoid that I have grown something other than a normal sourdough starter. The starter easily doubles in 4 hours at 19C. It smells kind of alcoholic with a touch of acetone.

Has anyone tried this before? 


(*) I really dislike fruit juice so I didn't want to buy it just to make a starter.

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

However the reason why starter is discarded at the beginning is because if one is giving it healthy feeds while it is maturing it'll build up quickly. Due to exponential growth even if you start off with a small amount of starter and feed it, for argument's sake, 1:1:1 then before long it'll be a huge amount of starter. You managed to get one going with no discard which makes me think you haven't been feeding it well enough. Feeding a small amount every day will mean the starter to fresh flour ration gets smaller everyday so before long you have a large amount of over fermented starter causing this acetone smell. What you need to do is feed it out with healthier feeds of fresh flour which may involve some discarding just for now! Eventually when its healthy and smells good there's no need to ever discard with careful management. I never discard but it still gets a healthy feed. I'll explain...

You don't have to build too much starter. One never needs more than 80-100g at any one time (if that). So why not start off with a modest but still healthy feed of 1:1:1 e.g. 30g starter + 30g water + 30g flour. Allow that to mature. If it does well then move on to a better feed. If not then stay on that feed till it's stronger. When your starter is responding well then try a feed of 1:2:2 e.g. 20g starter + 40g water + 40g flour and see how that goes. If it peaks within 12 hours then go on to a feed twice a day and so on. When your starter has outgrown this smell give it one final feed, allow it to double and refrigerate. From here on in no more discarding. Simply take a little starter to build a levain each time. When your starter runs low then top it up, allow it to double then back in the fridge and so on. 

Your starter sounds good, it just needs better feeds and a bit of TLC. 

acurry's picture

I've been a bit hesitant to put it in the fridge because although I had made starters a few times before they were never as lively as this one so now I'm terrified I'll kill it! I'll give your method a shot to see if it loses a bit of the eau de nail polish :) 

phaz's picture

Not with vinegar, but the general idea is an acid to do 2 things. Jump start the creation of the proper environment. And discourage unwanted bugs at a very vulnerable time. Where the acid comes from isn't too important, just needs to be enough and not too much. Enjoy!