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New Sourdough Starter

Ming's picture
Ming

New Sourdough Starter

Hi,

Wondering if anybody has any insight about my sourdough starter? I have tried to create a new starter twice this month unsuccessfully and wondering what did I do wrong. 

Started with a 10 g water & 10 g whole wheat 50%/bread 50%. Room temps were 77-83 F. Feed it 1:1:1 for 7 days. 

Day 1 (next day): it rose 3 times as high with no noticeable smell

Day 2: it rose 3 times as high with some baby vomit smell

Day 3: it rose 1.5 times as high with a mixture of baby vomit smell and sourness, it became watery 

Day 4: it did not rise at all with some sourness smell

Day 5: nothing happened which presumably dead

Day 6: nothing happened with most sourness smell almost gone

Day 7: nothing happened with the smell of hydrated flour

This same process happened twice on the row now so I am not sure what happened as the yeast was definitely there at the beginning. It seems like the yeast just died from Day 3 where it became sour and watery, like it created an acidic environment and then committed suicide. Anybody has any insight? Is this normal? 

 

HeiHei29er's picture
HeiHei29er

Read through these posts.  It should help you with getting your starter going.  It sounds to me like you were feeding your starter before it was established and you were discarding your bacteria/yeast before you had a strong population.

Good luck!

 

https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1

https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

Ming's picture
Ming

Hey, appreciate the links to the two articles. These seem to be very insightful posts. Wow, those rises of the first two days were not caused by yeast, great to know. I will get a bottle of pineapple juice and start over again this weekend. Thanks. 

Ming's picture
Ming

I actually saw someone suggested to me a while back (before I got the motivation to make a starter as I have been using commercial yeast) by cutting a few small chunks of fresh apple to put them into the mixture on Day 0 which now makes a lot of sense. Oh well, I will just try to use pineapple juice first to see what happen. 

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Read the label!  After one abortive attempt to launch a starter, I noticed that the bottled pineapple juice I used contained preservatives.  The preservatives in the juice did a great job of killing off the bacteria and yeast in the flour, too.

Pineapple juice without preservatives works great!

Paul

Ming's picture
Ming

Thanks Paul for the info. I think I will try fresh apple instead of juice. 

 

 

squattercity's picture
squattercity

That's apparently the magic answer -- see:

The Perfect Loaf - https://www.theperfectloaf.com/7-easy-steps-making-incredible-sourdough-starter-scratch/

and

Tartine Bread Experiment - http://tartine-bread.blogspot.com/2013/02/9-days.html

Rob

Ming's picture
Ming

Thanks for the links. I have read the first article and many articles and videos I found on the net. I do not use rye flour so I did not feel like getting it just for a starter, perhaps I do want to do that now. Are you sure I do not run into the same problem on Day 3/4 with rye flour like I have with WW/bread flour? It sounds like my problem had nothing to do with the type of flour I used, it had to do with the chemistry in the mixture that I did not know before reading the posts linked above. In any case, knowing what I know (I think) now I would have stopped feeding it on Day 4 and just stir it daily and wait a couple of days to see if the yeast would activate. Oh well live and learn I guess. 

squattercity's picture
squattercity

I had no problems with rye flour. It took longer than the 7 or 9 days the sites specify. But I never had an issue with deflation or inactivity. My initial starter would have days of intense activity and days of less activity. But never nothing.

Given that you've obviously read widely on this, Ming, you've no doubt considered a possibility that your local water is chlorinated. In some communities, tap water is treated heavily with chlorine and this can kill yeast. I'm in New York City and, though the city does treat its tap water with chlorine, it is not so strong as to impede yeast development. Still, I recently transported a portion of my sourdough to Switzerland and discovered that it worked quite differently there. Each feed with wonderful Swiss mountain water resulted in intense growth over the first eight hours -- much more robust growth than I get in New York. So maybe the chlorine in NYC water is holding my starter back.

Oddly, when I then took a portion of my Swiss starter to create a levain, I found I could ferment the levain far longer than I can in New York -- that growth of yeast and acids in levains and breads was far slower and more mellow than I experience at home.

Keep trying. Welcome to the sourdough journey.

Rob

 

Ming's picture
Ming

Thanks Rob for chiming in. Some of the things you described I will get into when I have a good starter established. I have been baking for quite a while with commercial yeast (too lazy) so using sourdough yeast is a new game for me.

I have a whole house water filtering system for both hardness and chlorine but I did not use my tap water anyway in this case, I used bottled water to create a starter. 

That is the problem with me to start a new sourdough starter in this case as all the YouTube videos I watched most experts don't get into the chemistry of the starter at the beginning, they just emphasize feed, feed, feed, and keep feeding it, and I followed. 

HeiHei29er's picture
HeiHei29er

You’ve got it right Ming, and the stall will happen with rye as well.  This is a natural and good thing as the lactic acid bacteria are lowering the pH and making your starter a good environment for both lactic acid bacteria and yeast to co-exist.

Many people on the site do prefer a whole rye flour for their starter.  The bran in dark rye (whole rye) tends to have more lactic acid bacteria on it, which means you’re giving your starter a boost every time you feed it.  That being said, many people also successfully keep a WW or a white flour starter.  You can make any of those work.  If you took a survey though, I think you’d find the majority maintain a whole rye starter.  I personally maintain my starter with a 50:50 blend of WW and whole rye.

Ming's picture
Ming

Thanks friend for chiming in. 

Okay what would you do on day 3 when a starter just starting to turn sour and watery? I think that is where I did wrong was to feed it by discarding most of the sour soup that would eventually activate the yeast. Am I correct here? Should I let it sit for a couple of days to turn it into a sour paste? Should I feed it with some flour without water so not to dilute the mixture? 

happycat's picture
happycat

No. You stick with the discard and feeding ratio indefinitely. It's important to understand the concept of sourdough and not blindly follow recipes or jump to conclusions.

You need to think in terms of a system of yeast, lactobacillus, other bacteria, water, temperature... not simple cause and effect of activating yeast like something out of a packet.

Flour comes with yeast and bacteria in it.

By adding water you are creating conditions in the jar in which the yeast reproduce into a large, strong colony.

During that process, the yeast change the chemistry of the starter which kills off nasty and stinky bacteria, but symbiotically work with lactobacillus (which is the sour in sourdough).

At the start, the nasty bacteria in the flour go nuts and cause lots of false growth. Over time they die off as the chemistry changes. Meanwhile the yeast are multiplying as long as you keep discarding and feeding according to the ratio.

If you buy dark rye, you will have way more potential to start with and won't have to be so patient to grow your yeast colony. If you buy other flours you may need to be a lot more patient.

You're not going to kill the yeast except with high temperatures or chlorine. You must feed yeast to keep them going and you must use discards and maintain the feeding ratio to ensure you feed them properly.

Ming's picture
Ming

Thanks for the feedback. 

A lot of what you said along with reading those two posts linked above make a lot of sense now especially those bad bacteria causing those false hope initial rises and the bad vomit smell.  What is still not making sense is on Day 7 all the sour and bad smells were gone, and it did not make sense to continue feeding it. I am trying to connect what I read here and what I saw with the two trails and I hope it will make sense soon. It sounds like I need to keep that sour smell going from Day 3 on in order to activate the yeast, and I think pineapple juice might just be the solution for my problem. 

Not sure I can find dark rye flour in my local Kroger stores but I will see if I can find some around to give it a try. I am super motivated to get this going as I have been making pizza but now getting into making baguette and can't wait to get it going with sourdough yeast. 

 

phaz's picture
phaz

Didn't give it enough time. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Enjoy! 

Ming's picture
Ming

At what point did I not give it enough time? I should have continued feeding it 1:1:1 on day 8,9....? 

phaz's picture
phaz

That's really only 1 of the problems.

Create a starter

Mix a small amount of flour and water to a wet dough like consistency, add a drop of oj, lemon juice, whatever as long as it's acidic. No need to cover at this time unless you have bug problems. Keep warm, like room temp, around 75, stir a couple times a day. From there, feeding will depend on activity ie anywhere from little activity and little food, to lots of activity and lots of food. Don't discard. Simple as that. Enjoy!

 

Ming's picture
Ming

One thing in your suggestion stood out was "don't discard" which I think I will do from day 3 on until I see some real yeast activity forming. I am using a 10 g ratio so I have a lot of room to feed without discarding any for a few days.

By the way, I just picked up a bag of Bob's Red Mill Organic Dark Rye Flour this afternoon. I saw the pineapple juice in the store but it was in a huge can so I did not pick one up as it would end up being wasted for little use so I plan to use my friend's suggestion a while back to cut up some fresh apple chunks to put it into the mixture. 

Thanks for the suggestion. 

 

phaz's picture
phaz

Instructions (lots from the looks of it) are given. What you do with them is up to you. Enjoy! 

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

I agree with many of the previous comments, but adding my two cents: I had zero problems using bottled water and organic rye flour to create a starter years ago, following a strict, daily feeding routine until it was established.  It took around one week.  I continued to feed it daily for another week until I felt like it was strong and healthy.  At that point, I started baking with it on the weekends, parking it in the fridge during the week, taking it out Friday night to feed overnight, using what I needed for my bake in the morning then feeding the small portion that was left, letting it rise a bit, then popping back in the fridge for another week.  I used rye to build the starter, then slowly switched it to a 50/40/10 mixture of WW/AP/rye respectively.  I also grew out a white version that I do the same routine with (for focaccia, pizza dough, etc).  I was not successful with the pineapple juice method.  Also, whenever I think my starter needs a boost, or if I've neglected it too long, I'll give it a higher portion of rye flour in the feed, including around 15 g in my white starter, which quickly gives it a kick start. I love baking with sourdough and hardly make anything calling for packaged yeast any more--natural yeast breads are so much tastier and complex!  Don't give up, do lots of research, and you will find something that works for you!  

This is an excellent source:  https://www.theperfectloaf.com/guides/sourdough-starter/

Ming's picture
Ming

Thanks for sharing your experience. I have noted to use rye flour to jump start the mixture since it is such a favorite here. It seems like everyone was able to cruise through the most crucial first 7 days of yeast establishment while I keep stalling on day 3 and 4 when it starts to turn into yogurt, which I believe is the most critical stage that I don't recall YouTube experts talking about it. I have learned a lot yesterday about sourdough starter just from reading this thread, far more than those countless hours I spent watching YouTube about it. I think most YouTube videos are heavily edited so we don't get to see all the problems. Nonetheless, I will keep trying with different things, and honestly I would like to be a new sourdough starter expert now that my curiosity is extremely aroused. I think even if I have one established for the next couple of weeks I still would like to start over a few times to learn everything about it and perhaps make a YouTube video of it. 

Abe's picture
Abe

"....when it starts to turn into yogurt"

Sounds (or smells) perfect! Keep warm, everyday discard half and top back up. Using some organic wholegrain can only do it good. As long as you know you definitely don't have something wrong with your tap water then using boiled water that has cooled should be absolutely fine. Otherwise all you can do is provide it food, warmth and time.

Ming's picture
Ming

Thanks Abe for chiming in. Can't wait to do it again this weekend. 

Abe's picture
Abe

You will need:

  • 1 small clean jar with screw lid [always good to weigh the jar empty so you know how much is inside as fermenting flour and water does lose weight]
  • Scales.
  • Some organic wholegrain flour and bread four.
  • Tap Water: Always boiled and cooled. Or some mineral water but stay away from distilled or alkaline water. 

First Mix:

  • 50g organic wholegrain flour
  • 50g water

Mix into a paste, using the spoon make sure there's nothing clinging to the sides and loosely screw on the lid so it's covered but can breathe. Leave in a warm place. 

Don't to anything for the first 24-48 hours when you should see some activity. Then when it shows signs of life then the following schedule:

Every 24 hours:

  • Discard half (50g); and top back up with...
  • 25g water
  • 25g flour (either wholegrain or 50:50 mix or bread flour if you wish)

Mix into paste, using the spoon clean down the sides, loosely screw on the lid so it's covered but can breathe. Leave in a warm place.

It might speed up or slow down. If it stays the same or slows then just stick to this feed every 24 hours. 

Should it speed up then keep the same feed but switch to every 12 hours. 

Once you have a strong predictable rise every time it's fed at 12 hourly intervals then try a healthy feed of:

  • 20g starter
  • 40g water
  • 40g flour

If that has no issue then it's ready. If it begins to struggle then slow it down again. But i think once you reach the stage of it bubbling up on cue it won't slow down. Then...

Prepare for a bake. 

Easiest way to bake and maintain will be to always build however much you need plus a little excess. For example if you need 150g starter/levain then build 170g. Take off 150g and store the 20g excess in the fridge as starter for next time. Simply take off any dried out starter (if there is any) leaving scraps and repeat... Build however much you need with about 20g excess etc. If you bake weekly then this is the schedule. If not and you take a break then still good to feed weekly to keep it happy and healthy but build less. Go back to 20:40:40. When you wish to bake then pick up where you left off. 

P.s. when making a starter it can go through an array of interesting aromas. Ok to ignore unless it grows mould. Once it is bubbling up and smells nice - yeasty and yoghurty or a nice sour/tang - then that is a good sign it's ready. 

Ming's picture
Ming

Noted Abe. What makes your recipe better than others😊? I did not have a recipe problem, I was looking for someone to tell me what I did wrong, which I think was addressed from the very first response. I was there on the first trial but didn’t know it. I didn’t know it was supposed to be an inactivity stage. I am still baffled by why others did not have this inactivity stage.

I did not mention it but I am already on a third trial and it is on Day 5 today in the yogurt stage with no activity at all in the last two days. There is a strong sourness smell in the mixture so I am hoping to see the yeast to be awaken at any time now. It is very watery feeling like a 150% hydration. I have been feeding it with just flour without water to bring the mixture up close to a 100% hydration with no discards. I know what a 100% hydration is like as I make a 100% hydration poolish every week for my pizza dough and baguette dough. I know I am actually deviating from a recipe (if there was really one) by feeding it with flour without water. I think I am at the beginning of understanding how it supposed to work regardless of what others do. Also, I think my mixture is so small which might have contributed to a slow transformation from one stage to another. Had I started with like a 50 g ratio instead of 10 g then perhaps I would have more bacteria to begin with to speed up the process. I think I know now the reason why people start with a large quantity. Nonetheless, I hope by Day 7 on Friday I will see some bubbling in the mixture with a small yeast colony established.

FYI, I do plan to start another trial this weekend regardless of the outcome of my current mixture will be and this time I will use dark rye flour and fresh apple instead. I plan to use fresh apple to kill the bad bacteria right from the getgo which is the same concept as using pineapple juice. The apple will be removed on Day 1 or 2 as it will not be needed once the chemistry is right for the good bacteria to go to work. 

Abe's picture
Abe

There is no recipe per se. 'My receipe' is not any better than any other. A starter makes itself and all you do is provide food and warmth. Call the recipe what i've given you a "no frills" recipe. Nothing very technical with easy to follow simple steps. Often the biggest downfall is over thinking the whole process. Put the flour and water together then forget about it and get on with your day-to-day life. All you have to do is give it food every now and again otherwise this pet takes care of itself. 

Ming's picture
Ming

Hi Abe,

My question was intended to be a joke, hope it was not taken offensively. Nonetheless, I have noted all the good points. I really appreciate you and everyone else trying to help me here. 

 

Abe's picture
Abe

Never read anything offensive into it. A starter can take 3 days or two weeks. You only have a certain amount of control over it. As long as you don't do anything too wrong, of which a common mistake is to overfeed it trying to speed it up if it stalls, it'll be fine. The rest is just waiting. It'll take however long it needs. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is a big job. It's all the waiting and wondering and speculation that zaps your energy. A starter can also develop on it's own without any play on our part.  Really it can, it follows a natural process in nature.  Pleae don't think that because you don't see any obvious changes, there is nothing going on. The lack of obvious change is also informative. A runny consistency is also a change, thickening it up is a natural response and not a bad reaction either. So note any color changes as well and don't worry about it.  If the starter is still thick at the next sceduled feeding, skip that scheduled discard and feeding and return to discarding and feeding the following day.

Ming's picture
Ming

Great. Thank you for the feedback. 

hreik's picture
hreik

Once you are successful (and you will be with all the good advice here), and after you are confident you've got a good starter, please dry it and save some chips.  Just this past weekend, I realized my 6 year old starter was kaput.  I'd dried some several years ago and with Abe's coaching and coaxing, I brought it back to life.Reconstituted Dry statSo instead of 4 weeks, it took me 4 days.  Gonna bake tonight.

Ming's picture
Ming

Hey thanks for the tip. I will definitely do something as a backup when I get to that point, and preserving a SD in a dry format sounds like a good option. Right now that is the least of my worry. 

Ming's picture
Ming

Day 5 Starter

I finally got it going after three failed attempts. This round fourth mixture I started last week and the yeast geminated on Day 5 as shown from the pic attached. This is a real rise with the work of LAB and natural yeast, not from those leuconostoc suckers. Those leuconostoc suckers stink really bad and I am glad we found ways to control it. I actually started this mixture with 4 small chunks of fresh honey crisp apple, flour and bottled water, I left them there for two days, without any feeding. On Day 3 I removed the apple chunks and fed it with pineapple juice and of course flour, a 50/50 mix of WW and dark rye. Last night on Day 4 I fed it the same thing with pineapple juice and flour but I moved it to a new jar with a reduced mixture size of course. This morning I left for work at 6 am and I took a quick glance at it and did not see anything unusual. I just got back from work for lunch and saw what shown in the pic, I was so please to see it doubled in size.

Also shown in the pic is my fifth mixture I started two days ago with pineapple juice and flour right from the getgo as suggested by Debra Wink to see if it will make a difference. I hope it will geminate sooner, perhaps on Day 4, we will see what happen.

Nonetheless, pineapple juice did work for me even using it on Day 3. For some reason all of my previous mixtures got hang up starting on Day 4 and were still inactive on Day 7. Knowing what I know now from observations and from reading, some bacteria were actually eating the flour but not producing any acid to lower the PH so the mixture just gets stuck without progressing to the next stage. I think this is where the pineapple juice can come into play by killing off these bacteria to make ways for LAB to go to work to geminate natural yeast. Also, I believe in my case the yeast must be geminated from the fresh flour I fed last night, as I am not sure if there was yeast in the mixture before that for being soaked for several days. I am all guessing here as it takes some lab work to really understand where exactly the yeast is geminated from. I don’t believe the yeast come from the air as I have my jars covered. Anyway, Debra Wink was brilliant about this subject and I am very thankful for her two writeups. I think these two posts should be pinned on top of this forum so all newbies can read them right from the getgo.

Here are some initial takeaways from my own little experience after going through 4 different mixtures from scratch:

-The quantity of flour to start the mixture on Day 0 does not matter

-Feed it with pineapple juice instead of water until the yeast is geminated

-Do not discard anything for the first 3 days (or until the yeast is geminated)

I like my mixture to be in a 150-200% hydration level at this point as it seems easier for me to transfer from jar to jar. I actually do not know exactly how much hydration is in the mixture right now but it does not matter as I will balance it out later with some high mixture feeding ratios.

The initial work seems complete but the real work has just begun, as I will have to experiment with different feeding and mixing ratios to work for my needs, and I am sure will ask a lot more questions then. Thank you all for trying to help me out here.

Ming's picture
Ming

Pictured here is the pineapple juice I am using. It was only available in a 1.36 L can, all I could find locally. I don't need it anymore once my yeast is geminated so now I have to drink the rest, it tastes good but little sour for my liking. 

 

phaz's picture
phaz

Since you mentioned honey crisp apples (my favorite), try making some apple pie or crumble with the juice, even some pineapple chunks. It's s great match! Enjoy! 

Ming's picture
Ming

 

Haha, I eat apple almost everyday. I love apple pie, haven't had it for quite a while. Anyhow, attached pic shows the apple chunks I put into my mixture. Thanks. 

Benito's picture
Benito

Congratulations Ming on your success with your new starter.  May it bring much happiness and delicious sourdough breads in your future.  I hope you post your bakes and stick around, like with the starter creation, there are a lot of knowledgeable people on this site who may be able to help you out as you start baking with your starter.

Benny

Ming's picture
Ming

Thanks Benny for some encouraging comments. I will definitely post something if I have something interesting to share. 

Ming's picture
Ming

I fed both mixtures after dinner tonight as shown in the pic. I fed my 1 day (Day 5) old baby yeast with bottled water and flour tonight for the first time so I can't wait to see how it reacts tomorrow. I noticed after drinking a cup of pineapple juice tonight it was kind of sweet so I think my baby yeast was sugar high all day today for it's first day of life. No wonder it was inflating some good size bubbles, it was still going strong early tonight before I feed it. I sensed some alcoholic like smell at feeding. Perhaps adding sugar would be a way to boost the yeast's strength? It would be interesting to continue feeding it with diluted pineapple juice to see what would happen. Oh well that would be an interesting experiment for another day as right now I just want to get one mature enough to make dough. 

Ming's picture
Ming

Wow, this morning on Day 6, it was already doubled in rise with more evenly sized round bubbles. I might have to feed it at a higher ratio tonight to slow it down, perhaps 1:3:5 to avoid feeding it twice a day. 

The other mixture I started on Monday at 5:30 am, the surface was getting shinny which an indication it is about ready to geminate. It is technically on Day 2 today so we will see what happen tomorrow on Day 3. I think I now can get a starter to geminate consistently in 3-4 days thanks to the pineapple juice solution, which is genius idea.