The Fresh Loaf

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Questionable Starter

mruberto's picture

Questionable Starter


I was wondering if anyone could help me to determine if my starter is safe to use.  I have been purchasing high quality ground einkorn flour for several years from the same store.  I have a 100% einkorn starter which I leave in the refrigerator.  I bake einkorn bread on weekends.  Up until a few months ago my starter was always healthy looking with the colour being uniform.  Recently when I go to use the starter there is a very, very, dark layer on top of the starter.  I cannot explain this sudden change.  It has happened consistently over the past few months.  I have done nothing differently than I have in the past two years.  Baffled.  Is this safe to use? Is smells fine.  I even started a new starter and the same thing happened.  Just to let you know, I freeze my flour when I purchase the 1kg bags.


BrianShaw's picture

That layer of dark liquid is normal for starter that is left in the refrigerator for a while. Either mix it in and feed it, or pour it off and feed it.

Rock's picture

A timely article I just got from King Arthur via email. Sounds like you're OK.


Abe's picture

Liquid or Starter?

If liquid it is hooch. I prefer to carefully pour it off and not mix it back in. 

JennP's picture

I haven't used einkorn but maybe it behaves the same as modern wheat where a starter is concerned? 

I agree, if your dark layer is liquid it's fine. I either pour it off or I mix it in, whatever I'm feeling at the time. If the layer isn't liquid, but is an extremely thin layer of the starter where the color has changed (oxidation), that's okay too, just mix it in. As long as the starter smells fine (boozy smell is okay) and doesn't have any discolored spots on it, it's probably okay. Your freezer is a great place for whole grain flours and I don't think that would have any effect on what your starter is doing.

The general wisdom is that a starter needs to be fed every few days or once a week but that's actually not the case. FWIW I leave my starter unfed in the fridge for long periods of time. Routinely a month or more; one time I think I left it almost 2 months. It gets a big layer of hooch and smells alcoholic. When I want to bake, I need to feed it a few times over the preceding 3-4 days to bring it up to speed but then it is totally fine. Also, I keep only a tiny starter, maybe 25-30 grams. I experimented with around 15 grams but it dried out. I keep it in a 4 oz canning jar with the lid on firmly. My starter is whole wheat 100% hydration.

Hope some of this is helpful.