Am I Doing It Right?

 So I've had my starter for about 4 weeks and refresh it every 3 days, I unfortunatly have not had the time to make any loafs (I will be doing it very soon!)

 

Recently my starter has started to smell very strong and sour, quite similar to nail polish remover. To taste it doesent have much sweetness either.

 

Does this mean that my starter is ruined or could I tweak it to improve it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated

1 comment

 Hey mate! Welcome to the starting addiction of sourdough. 

 

Its probably smart enough that you waited with making a loaf - a starter really needs time to find itself and its newfound life before you can rely on it to behave. 

 

As to your question. Its abit difficult to tell from the image, but it seems to be as if though you have a kinda big volume of starter (as in, you have fed it every 3 days but not discarded any of the starter in the process). If this is indeed the case, it is no wonder acids and alcohols / aldehydes start building up; it is a 4 week old meal that has been eating new stuff frequently but is still living in large amounts of "leftover". In a sourdough there are several yeast cultures and several bacteria families living side by side. Some are responsible for the development of that wholesome taste of grain we like in sourdough breads, others make the sour taste, and they "eat" different parts of the flour so to say. You cant have one without the other, when you make a sourdough odds are every single culture that can, will take root and grow. But you can do things to limit the acid producers - which seems to have taken a hold of your starter.

 

The "taste" developing, major CO2 producing cultures evolve and multiply fast, but also "die out" or fall in activity fast, whereas the acid producing cultures evolve slower but also have a greater staying power. This is why, for example, a dough that you ferment, proof and bake within the same 6-8 hours have a mild, grainy taste, whereas a dough that you bulk ferment, shape, put in the fridge and proof for 12+ hours, then take out and proof for another few hours at room temp, and THEN bake it, will have a more complex, acidic taste. 

 

To put it short, heres the method that many people including myself praise. 

Take one tablespoon of your starter and mix in with 100 g flour of choice and 100 g water. This will give the "tasty" cultures a fresh, massive meal to feast on, while the "acid" cultures will be carried over in limited amounts and will produce a more round and midly acidic flavour that is the trademark of sourdoughs. 

 

Anyways this ended up being bit of a wall of text but I felt I wanted to explain not just what to do to get rid of the overwhelming acidity, but also why that particular method is what you do and why it works. I hope this works for you - I see absolutely no reason why your sourdough shouldnt work - the strong smell is just a sign its feeding, and that its hungry for more. Let me know how it goes!