Purchased Dried Starter Reactivation Survey

1)  I see lots of people promoting Sourdough International's dry cultures (sourdo.com) on the Internet; has anyone had any negative experiences with their cultures?

2)  Has anyone had any luck with dried cultures from any other companies?

10 comments

Lots of people? Where?

I don't know why anyone would bother with dried cultures when you can make your own. See sourdom's excellent instructions on this very site.

 

Candy,

            I have two cultures in my refrigerator right now that I bought about two or even three years ago and they are 

working fantastic.

                             M.A.Copeland

This same subject is being discussed over on "The Fresh Loaf" site and the postings are similar to the ones above.

My starter is based on a dried sample from NY Bakers and works well. I suppose I could've taken the time to establish my own but I wanted to get going on sourdough ASAP. Considering that the wild yeasts present on unbleached flours eventually dominate the initial culture, my starter probably is a mongrel starter but IT WORKS and that counts for a lot.

I'm presently using some Kansas grown and milled organic flour for my starter. It is still working away. If I can't get any more Golden Buffalo flour for a while, I won't be heartbroken, I won't be a philistine, and I won't be concerned about not being a purist. I'll be baking.

I have used Sourdough International for awhile.  I have killed some starters when I stopped baking and had to replace them.  I use the San Francisco starter from them and it is wonderful.  It has a nice mild sour smell and rises very well.  My sister purchased the South African starter and did not use it and gave it to me.  When I followed the instructions to activate the dry culture it smelled like paint thinner.  I baked some pancakes and bread with it and the rise was good but I could not get past the smell.  If it smelled like paint thinner I decided i did not want to eat it.  I also tried an old Gold Rush starter with the same smell. Don't know what happened but have always had good luck with the San Francisco starter.  I have also made my own starters with success.  They had a good rise but with a little funky flavor.  Made me think of weeds.  So I stick to sourdo.com SF Starter with great success

Wood's, Teresa's and Carl's Dried Starters 

I regularly bake my own sourdough bread and was very disappointed with Sourdough International's dried cultures. I tried to reactivate several using the instructions included and I also compared these instructions with the standard instructions in Ed Wood's two books "Classic Sourdoughs" and "World Sourdoughs From Antiquity". Each time I got the same poor results. After 14-25 hours there was a very vigorous and foul smelling foam separating out on the top. After 10 plus days of following the feeding schedule and following the written instructions for washing the mixtures, there was never any evidence of a healthy functional starter. Mr. Wood did not have any helpful suggestions and never offered any compensation or replacements.

Undeterred, I decided to try another company so I ordered a dried San Francisco culture from Teresa at Northwest Sourdough. Her instructions were a little different (activation at room temperature instead of Mr. Woods' 30°C/86°F) , but I had the same foul contamination take hold again at round 34 hours with no improvements after several days of feeding. The BIG DIFFERENCE was that she was very helpful in resolving the issue and promptly mailed me two replacements free of charge. I now have one of her San Francisco starters bubbling some of my doughs.

My biggest surprise was the free (plus SASE) dried culture from Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough. It reactivated from a dried state perfectly and was ready to bake after 43-48 hours.

So the old saying "you get what you pay for" is not always true (in CAD):

COST (CAD)

COMPANYREACTIVATIONFOLLOW UP
$50Sourdough InternationalFailed each time.No replacement offered.
$20Northwest SourdoughGood the second time.Prompt replacement & very helpful.
$2Carl Griffith's 1847Excellent reactivation.Helpful
FREElocal bakerExcellent, wet-cultureHelpful

 

What ever the problem is with sourdo.com it has happened to many.  The one's I had go bad smelled like paint thinner and I did not keep them.  Never had to deal with them for anything and it sucks the customer service is so poor.  The local baker that gave you some of his starter seems like the best gift of all.   

Hi Candy,

When you opened this thread, I mistook your post as an ad for sourdo.com masquerading as a genuine query. I guess I've come to view that word 'survey' with suspicion after years on the web being spammed!

I see now that my perception was entirely incorrect. I'm sorry!

BTW, Ed Wood's couldn't-care-less attitude doesn't surprise me. I borrowed his 'Classic Sourdoughs' book from the library and worked my way through 8 or 9 of his recipes - not one impressed me. His dough mixes were almost always too dry, or just 'wrong' (eg: his so-called 'stollen'), and to be honest, I've had way better results with the formulae so willingly shared by the home baker artisan bread community here and on other forums. I was glad I hadn't forked out any bucks and was able to return his book to the library.

I noted, also, that he didn't hesitate to push his starters and website in his book.  Not a capital crime, but let's just say my impression was that commercial considerations were high on his agenda. There are no such indications in my classic bread books (which I am happy I HAVE bought) - eg: Hamelman, Reinhart, Glezer...just a genuine love of all things bread and an effort to share it, and their knowledge, with a like-minded readership.

Cheers
Ross

I purchased two starters from sourdo.com - the San Francisco and Italian  (the Italian is 2 cultures for 1 price).  I previously purchased the starter from King Arthur Flour company.  I purchased the starters because I agree with Ed Wood's argument that the yeast and the beneficial bacteria are different which yeild a different flavor to the bread.

 

I have had very good success in the 4 months since I have started baking with them.  I found the "Produce Saver" by Rubbermaid 5cup size containers at the grocery store to be perfect for my starters.  There is no metal and there are small vents in the lids that allow any gasses to escape. They are also easy to get very clean every time I feed them.  Now I'm trying to keep up with weekly feedings of all 4 starters because I haven't been able to rule one or more of them out as "keepers" yet.  I used the directions that came with the starters from sourdo.com - our oven is a "double oven" - I'm using the lower oven for my proofing box.  I can get the temperature pretty close to the desired range just by leaving the light on or turning it off when it's warm enough. 

I take water out of my refrigerator which has a filter that must be removing enough of the chlorine - and 2 cups of water at 1 min in my microwave = 90 degrees.

 

 here's my "proofing box" in action - you can see the thermometer in the  right -

if you could look even closer, it would say "78"

 

(please ignore the flour in the bottom of the oven....)

 

 

 

 

Is'nt wild yeast something that should be free for all?  I give my starter away... at least for now, but I am considering selling it so that I can be re-imbursed for the jar and flour.  I read Ed's book and it was interesting, but I found all of his recipes to be not so much different from one another.  

Anyway from what I have studied, most wild yeast is mostly related to the available local flour types.  This supports the "it comes from the flour theory", which I subscribe to.  Many scientific experiments and methods point to this as the source for the type of yeast contained in your local starter.  The second contributer to your locally started starter are the conditions or local climate affecting growth.  Temperature and humidity will limit the types of yeasts and bacteria that will happily consume whatever you feed them. 

So, the theory with the strongest science seems to be that if you buy a starter from San Francisco or from Moscow, it will soon become a starter from Melbourne or Cleveland.  Because you will be feeding it the food for the yeasts in your area.  But, if the yeasts from the original (purchased) starter like your food, and your growing conditions, they may just stick around for the next meal.  So since you have a viable starter to play er bake with, why not try growing a local one at home?

 

Terri

You really are what you eat, so eat wisely...

I got mine from Sourdoughs  Intl, and was curious about the "70 Degrees" is says to keep it at after the first 24 at 90 deg. That seems kinda low doesn't it? its been 4 days now and I think I'm starting to smell yeast instead of just sour.