Abysmal failure to create a starter
I have been trying for over a month to get a starter going, but it's no use. What frustrates me is that this is not my first attempt at creating a starter. I had created a starter a few years ago, then for various reasons I ditched it and I created it another two times with no trouble at all.
This time it's a complete failure. My previous starters were either an all rye starter or a wheat starter and they were all quite successful for the most part. Now all I get is a jar of starter with no activity whatsoever. My latest trial is with a mixture of wheat and rye flour. Before feeding it every day it smells very faintly like paint, but otherwise it's not at all active. Am I overfeeding it or underfeeding it?
I would appreciate some basic advice because I realize that I have to go back to basics to have any success.
Is there a schedule and relevant flour to water (and starter) ratios that I could try? I can control the temperature using a thermostat in my homemade proofing box, but I don't know what it should be. High or low? Currently I have it at 20° C.
The Pineapple Juice Solution
Thank you for the suggestion. I'll try it, but to be clear is this what I should do?
I'll be adding lemon juice as it's rather difficult to get fresh pineapple juice.
Also, I couldn't follow the link Basic Procedure for Making Sourdough Starter | Cooks Talk as it's dead.
If you have a chance read through Debra’s procedure for the pineapple juice solution. One of the reasons to use pineapple juice is to slightly acidify the starter to reduce the leuconstonic bacteria from taking hold. Pineapple juice has a pH of 3.5-4 while lemon juice is around 2. That is a huge difference. Although the flour will buffer the lemon juice somewhat, I’m not sure that it will enough. A pH of 2 would probably be too low and wouldn’t only inhibit the unwanted leuconstonic but also the LAB and yeast that we want to inhabit our starter.
If it survives the first 24 hours I'll switch over to orange juice. Otherwise I'll restart (no pun intended) with orange juice.
As Benito notes, lemon juice is more acidic than pineapple juice. I’d prefer orange juice to lemon juice for this use.
Something I learned the hard way: don’t use a juice that contains any kind of preservative. It will kill the bacteria and yeasts that you are trying to cultivate.
Cider is normally easily available.
I agree with Paul, I was able to create two starters using the Pineapple Juice Method.
Try bottled water instead of tapwater. Endless apologies if you're already doing this.
If so, try new flour.
My tap water is filtered already, but if all else fails I'll change the flour that I use.
Most filters don't filter out the chlorine and chloramine. I had problems until I started using bottled water (I used Dasani spring water). I only fed mine with spring water, but used regular filtered water in my bread. I also used the pineapple juice method with canned pineapple. I bought a small can of pineapple in the juice and used that.
Once you get yours going, you can keep it in the refrigerator and feed once or twice a week. I had to do this otherwise mine would go moldy here in Central Florida.
The flour I used was an organic rye. I used King Arthur or Arrowhead mills (that's what the stores used to carry around here, now I have to order it). I started with rye, then after it got going, I slowly switched it over to half rye and half whole wheat since rye is not cheap and I bake with wheat. I didn't want to have more than one starter.
After the holidays, I'll probably try to get my dried starter going again.
Exact measurements aren't important but for the purpose of the "recipe"...
Once you have a steady strong starter going then begin to increase the amount and how often it is fed.
Give it time and warmth. 75-78F is ideal. Anything below 70F and it'll slow down significantly!
Hi Miller! Your temperature is a bit low, it should be closer to 30C to see the results sooner. Since you can control your temperature and you do have rye flour, then you can have a working starter in a couple of days. The schedule for that is described here
1) 100g rye flour, 100g hot water (40-50C), mix, keep it for 24 h at 40C. This is your first culture full of lactic acid bacteria, a starter.
2) 100g starter, 100g rye flour, 100g hot water (40C), mix, keep ot for 12h at 35C.
3) repeat step 2, keep it for 12 h at 30C.
4) repeat step 3. After 12 h at 28C the sourdough culture should be ready. You can then switch to any other flour, bake with it, store it, switch to maintenance feeding, etc.
I'll continue with the pineapple juice method (modified to use orange juice). If it fails I'll try using wholegrain flour. In actual fact my first starter about four years ago was with wholegrain flour. I later changed to a rye starter and finally I had made a white wheat starter.
I don't want to fail, but the other suggestions given are also worth trying if necessary.
I'll post back in a few days with the result and hopefully it will be a success. :)
This is what the lemon juice starter looks like about 15 hours after being created (top jar in the photo). There are small holes on the surface. It smells lemony!
Using the pineapple juice method (modified as per my previous postings) I had a visibly successful result as from day 5. I used a combination of rye and bread flour at a temperature of 26º C to begin with which I gradually reduced to 23º C by day 5. I fed the starter twice a day after day 3 because the yeast activity seemed to deplete the starter. The starter has a light citrus aroma even though I'm replenishing it with water. I suppose that this smell will eventually disappear.