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my sourdough starter isnt souring...

I followed the instructions on the back of the rye flour bag. It was basically
day 1: 1c water +1 c rye flour, mix, and cover with damp cloth
day 2: feed with 1c rye flour, and some water and mix, recover
day 3 (where we are now): your starter should smell yeasty. But mine doesnt at all! What do I do?

Our flat is naturally quite, um, mouldy, so Im surprised that my starter doesnt seem to have any of it. I can rig a sieve to cover the bowl to allow more spores in, but keep the cat out.

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  1. The mold you may have growing in your flat may well be something you don't want in a starter. Toxic molds would not be something you'd want in your starter formulas. Toss out what you have and use this. After it's developed and you begin feeding it on a regular basis, feed it using rye flour and it'll get nice and sour.


    1. Maybe too low ambient temperature? Can you place it uncovered (the sieve is a good idea) in a warm area, as on top of the refrigerator ?

      1. This is more of how I know to make it:


        Never added anything besides water and flour (pineapple juice, really?) but do start with whole wheat and use rye after you have a good yeasty bubble going,

        1 Reply
        1. re: Quine

          The pineapple juice lowers the pH. This starter formula essentially defies failure and I've nurtured a supply of it for a couple of years

        2. Is your starter bubbling and showing signs of life? You should see some bubblling.

          How warm are you keeping your starter? I shoot for 75 deg F. Also, I keep my new upstart starter in the oven (no drafts, sheltered from snoopy pets and maintains a constant temp.

          If you're seeing bubbling, give it a couple more days.

          If you see mold, dump it and start again. Mold and the sourdough bacteria/yeast are different. Mold is not good.

          Also, is your water chlorinated? Chlorine may inhibit the bacteria in the rye.

          3 Replies
          1. re: dave_c

            I was thinking exactly the same thing WRT chlorinated water.

            1. re: ricepad

              I, um, didn't follow the instructions on the bag which said to use Bottle Spring water and used tap water instead.

              1. re: relizabeth

                If your municipal water is chlorinated, it could be killing off the yeasts that are settling in the bowl. I would either let the water sit out for a few days to let the chlorine sublimate or use bottled water.

          2. For my sourdough starter, I mixed the flour and water on the first day. Then, I left it covered with a dry, breathable cloth and left it in a warm spot in the house for about a week. I didn't touch it and then, on around the seventh day, I fed it. My sourdough starter is doing fine now and I've had it for about two months.

            1. That recipe sounds way too optimistic to me about how quickly this process happens. Unless you're actually using a granulated starter culture, that is. Anytime I've made a starter from scratch, I use organic grapes with the stems on, and I don't even give it a first feeding until day 2 or 3. Time and patience are key. I figure on roughly a ten-day process, minimum, from scratch to a viable starter.

              But then I don't use any sugars, juices or other "stimulants." I don't want to peek in on my starter and hear it blurt out, a la Charlie Sheen, "Winning!"

              3 Replies
              1. re: Bada Bing

                Note that if you're using grapes, you are using juice and sugar. As for OP, you may need to make your preferment wetter, which will allow it to get going faster for you.

                1. re: LeroyT

                  Yes, your point is sound. I actually don't crush the grapes, though. My understanding is that the yeasts are already on the stems. That's why I use organic grapes, too, although in general I'm not fanatical about organic produce.

                  My thinking about starters is pretty much what I've gleaned from Peter Reinhart books. It's worked for me, but that's the extent of my experience.

                  1. re: Bada Bing

                    Well the yeasts point is solid IMHO but spores would transfer in a water bath that should be the water you used to start it. So let some sit for a few hours in nice plain warm water.
                    Yeasts are so Hardy! They don't need time to "seed" They just need time to eat, grow and multiply.

              2. Relizabeth, I'm wondering about the proportions of your day 2 feeding; any starter I've made and formula I've tried uses only a portion of the previous day's mix to feed with flour and water, not the whole thing. If you begin again, you might try halving the day 1 mixture (throw the rest out or give it away to another bread baker), and then adding another cup of rye flour and another cup of water. Also, the type of rye you're using will affect the starter--whole or medium rye has the right nutrients, but white rye is really, really weak in supplying what the hungry yeasts need.
                Will you use this starter for rye breads exclusively?

                1. Any time I've made a starter, I've never fed it before I saw signs of life (i.e. bubbles).

                  Mix your water and flour and let it sit for about 2-3 days on the counter or on top of your fridge (stirring a couple times each day, but not adding to it). It'll be a bit dry at first, but once full absorbtion occurs, it will loosen up. When you start to notice a nice ring of bubbles in the container, then go ahead and feed it 1 OZ of water and 1 OZ of flour, stir and let sit for another day. Some bakers will pour off the hooch, but I sometimes leave it with no ill effect.

                  It should take about a week for the starter to fully develop. You'll know it's good when it has a strong sour/almost alcoholic smell and it starts to bubble/foam within 2 hours of feeding.
                  Once you get to that point, you can then refrigerate the starter for future use.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Novelli

                    I second Novelli on all points here. Good rule of thumb: no feeding until the previous stage has produced bubbles.

                  2. I asked this a few days ago here, still wondering about it:

                    I have a jar of sourdough starter that I've had for several years, got it from these people:
                    I use it all the time, it works fine, but isn't as sour as I'd like. (I'm in Utah, so the dry air maybe keeps San Francisco-like sourness from developing?) So I wonder, would adding a little pineapple juice (I assume fresh, not canned) to my *existing* stash do anything to change it? I've never put anything in it except flour and water.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: blue room

                      Was it previously as sour as you like? That is, has it changed with time?

                      I cannot speak from experience, but my own sense is that pineapple juice or any other flavor addition cannot effect the flavor of the resulting bread, which is determined by the yeast and the proofing rather than by sugars and acids in the starter. But I'll be interested to hear if someone's got a different take.

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        No, it was less sour at the very beginning. After 5-6 years it has soured, but not sour like I've had from bread labeled "sourdough" from bakeries and even groceries.
                        I thought the pineapple juice (sugars and acids) would actually *change* the yeast--but, no?

                        1. re: blue room

                          If you like the sourness from supermarket sourdoughs, that might well be some addition that they use which you could seek out. From my limited experience, I think it's maybe some kind of acid. I bet it's an addition to the dough and not genuinely a yeast involved in the fermentation/proofing.

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            correct...usually commercial sourdough bread contains vinegar as an acid to give it that 'sour' flavor.

                            The sourness can also depend on your area and the type of yeast in the environment. Do you pour off the hooch (separated liquid)?

                            @ Blue Room - I would try pulling out about 4 ounces of one of your starters, put it in another clean container and feed it 1oz of filtered water and 1oz of flour and stir. Leave it out overnight and stir again the next morning. Feed it the same 1oz of water and flour before going to bed and leave it on the counter. Keep this up for 3-4 days (do not refrigerate during this process of feeding). I'd say by the 4th day, that hooch should be potent, strong, and sour. From then on, you can pop it in the fridge to put them to sleep.

                            1. re: Novelli

                              Thank you, Novelli--I'll give it a try.

                      2. re: blue room

                        I use sour salt (cirtic acid) when I am baking my bread, not in the starter. That ups the sour taste.

                      3. I just had another cheat to offer - you can add a little water kefir to inoculate. And three days, yep, that's not anything. Just keep toodling along and at least run that tap water through a chlorine filter. It'll come along.

                        I have to say, if I could eat gluten like you folks, I'd just get on the web and order myself a few starters. There are so many fascinating kinds! And once you get the hang of those, it'd be easier to start one from scratch.

                        1. I've had great success with the recipe from Breadtopia....with pineapple juice.
                          CHeck out their video

                          1. I don't cover my starter right away because yeast has to fall in it. The only time I have successfully made a starter from scratch in 3 days, I added 1/4 tsp granulated yeast at the beginning.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: runwestierun

                              yeast is already in the flour and in the air. No need to really leave it uncovered for any time other than when stirring. If you still feel the need to leave it open and exposed, at least cover it with a cloth of some sort to prevent any other funk to get in it, but I guess that could really depend on where you live, such as right off a highway or something.

                              1. re: runwestierun

                                Well, luckily the OP already has a starter. They're just trying to bring it to life and get some true sourness out of it without additives.

                                1. re: runwestierun

                                  Actually, with the commercial yeast addition, you created what bakers usually call a "sponge" rather than a sourdough. But a sponge can lay a basis for very tasty bread, probably not very sour, though, or?

                                  One thing I'm not clear about is whether a sponge, if maintained and fed long enough, would eventually become a sourdough starter. The commercial yeast and the ambient natural yeasts would have to duke it out to decide who's running the show in the end.

                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                    Yes, the commercial yeast reproduces to a point, but is spent after a period of time. It can't really be fed and survive indefinitely.

                                2. I have a sour little friend growing in a big jar. His name is Bubba. I moved to North Carolina about a year or so ago and have found the native yeast to create a stout sourdough. It is so awesome and the bread I bake ( I do not use store bought bread anymore. It's cheaper to make it) each Monday just gets better and better.
                                  Here's what I know:
                                  Feeding the starter after some fermentation begins to take place works best.
                                  A sourdough starter is an acid environment. That helps the dough (especially those with Rye in it) proof.
                                  Native yeasts give the flavor nuances to the breads along with the flours used and fermentation/ retarding times, and of course salt and other ingredients. But for the sake of starters, I'll keep it to that.
                                  I feed my starter with a mix of light and dark rye, an equal part of high protein bread flour, an equal amount of plain mashed potato, and the best tasting well water that I've had since I was a child. I dont ever pour off the hooch, I just adjust the amount of water that I put in. Then, I mix it up well and cover it with one of those splatter screen things that you use to cover a pan when your frying up something.
                                  Cold doesn't kill it. Too much heat does. Don't leave it in front of a heater or on top of your cooker (stove), or in the sunlight.
                                  If you bring a sourdough into your house and it comes from another area of the world, it will lose it's original flavor and eventually take on the flavor of the indigenous yeasts that are there. This can happen in about a week to a month depending upon the weather.
                                  Un-chlorinated water is critical to the flavor of the sourdough bread.
                                  I always dry some of my starter and keep it in an air-tight bottle in the chill box just in case I lose my original. It also makes a great Christmas gift with a crispy loaf and a bottle of wine.
                                  Oh yes, I almost forgot, a really really good loaf of sourdough just gets grunty-er after a couple of days. The flavors just keep getting better...............