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Sep 2, 2010 01:10 PM

Need some help with my sourdough starter

I started my sourdough starter about 10 days ago...about 3 days in the temp dropped in NY and slowed down the process for about that long (but I continued to feed it).

Two days after it warmed up, it smelled really nice and yeasty when I'd feed it.

The past couple of days it's really reeked of beer. Man it smells crazy beery.

Mildly bubbly at the top but hasn't gotten frothy yet.

I know these smells are normal but taking out the cold days, I am about 8 days in and my big concern is it hasn't gotten to the point where it increases in all. That combined with the really intense beer smell is making me wonder if something hasn't started going amok.

I feed it once daily, 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of water.

Any feedback on this?

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  1. You're fine, I expect. Feeding every day is perhaps too often just now, because you need an established vigorous colony of yeast to "process" that much new food. You might be overwhelming your yeasts just now.

    Wait until the starter is heavily bubbled at the top before additional feedings. The beer smell is just fine, indeed promising.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bada Bing

      Can you advise on how often and how much to feed at this point?

      Also, it's producing hooch which I assumed meant it needed to continue to be fed until it at least started increasing in size/volume.

      As I said it's not increasing at all and it's my understanding that until this bad boy can double in volume it won't be able to raise a loaf.

    2. You are doing good... the beer smell is the fermentation process.
      I'd be worried if it smelled bad or had funky colors (red streaks or black dots).

      I also agree that daily feedings is a bit excessive.

      1 Reply
      1. re: dave_c

        No funky colors. It just has a *very* strong beer smell. So much so I miss the yeasty smell.

      2. For many years I kept a sourdough starter (my friends at work called him Seymour (as in Little Shop of Horrors & feed me) since I would bring him into the office for mid-day feedings) I lived in LA and was a huge fan of Nancy Silverton's Bread book. It was one of the best science projects ever! I used her recipe to create the sponge & maintained it according to her master recipe. I always kept mine in the frig - it would separate and look nasty after a period of time, but then I would give it 3 feedings/day for a few days and then use it to bake. It ALWAYS came back and was great. The only reason I didn't continue to keep it was we moved to Tempe AZ six years ago and it's just too hot here to bake bread most of the time. I would recommend you taking a look at her book if you haven't already.

        1. I feed mine once a week ..pour off the "hooch" and mix with de-chlorinated water, a scant tbsp of sugar (turbinado) and a mixture of flours, chiefly AP white but a little whole wheat and a little rye. I feed it and it rises and I punch it down...several times. It settles by evening and goes back into the fridge, usually for a week but sometimes two. when I bake with it I usually do one knead only...afraid it won't sustain a second rise. I agree it smells like beer. "Mmmmmm," as Homer Simpson would say.

          I took a long time (months) to get really strong and it is still variable depending on weather. It seems to like being by an open window on a cool wet day.

          1. Thanks for all the feedback. I think my questions right now are because I started the starter from scratch just over a week ago and some think I am feeding too often, how frequently do I need to feed it?

            Like I said, I still haven't gotten it to the point where it rises yet after a feeding although it just reeks of beer.

            Stir more? Feed less? More patience?

            I just need to get it to the point where the starter can finally live in the fridge and I can give it weekly feedings rather than it being so high maintenance right now.

            4 Replies
            1. re: yrguide

              If you've overfed your starter, that will not hurt it, but you do need to back off and let it sit a while. Until there are bubbles on the surface roughly equal to the density of a rough-mesh screen door, do not feed it again. You're only one week out. I think of ten days or so as the normal time to get a starter going, but it might be a few more days if you've been over-feeding. The starter itself can tell you when it's rarin' for more.

              1. re: Bada Bing

                Got it, thanks. It's my first starter so I don't know what to expect other than the basics...bubbles, hooch, doubling in size, cheezy, yeasty, beery smells.

                So tomorrow morning, do I just stir the hooch back in?

                1. re: yrguide

                  Can't hurt to stir it in, but if you're getting a liquid layer over your starter every day, then I suspect you need a higher proportion of flour. Normally, a starter will only have a liquid layer on top when left for many weeks in the fridge.

                  But, again, let time do it's work. Starter is a very low maintenance food item.

                  1. re: Bada Bing

                    Ah ok, that might be the issue then...yes, almost every day I've had a layer of hooch.

                    Will tweak the proportions of flour and water next time it's fed.

                    Thank you!