Starter trouble?




Just used my starter kit and after 2 days experienced yeasty aromas and lots of white/grey mould! It has been hot here but not extreme. Any ideas???





140 users have voted.


maltybob 2009 November 14

keep your starter below 27 centigrade

keep it fed with small amounts of flour spring water

you can also use malt and honey which enhances flavour

if you do use malt make sure it is low diastatic

you might find your starter has overheated and burned out by the sounds of your description yeast would have spored though

i like to keep starters around 20 - 25 degrees to retard fermentation slightly

DebZam 2009 November 20

Hello, I just joined the forum and haven't done much sourdough baking.  I wanted to introduce myself and ask a question I haven't found the answer to...  yet.

I am a new grandma who finally has a little time, since the kids have left, to pursue projects put off.  I've always enjoyed baking and taking things to the simplest form when crafting or cooking.  I have tried many different crafts, but the idea of baking bread from wild yeast suits me.  I've gotten a 20 year old starter from a friend, along with the recipe for her only loaf she bakes.  It uses commercial yeast too and the family likes it, but that is not what I'm looking for.  My first un-scripted experiment was a cornbread.  I loved the rise, the color, the texture, but it wasn't as sweet as the family likes. 

These are my questions, if anyone would please give me input before I poison someone.  Is it possible to have "bad" starter, not necessarily dead, but something that bubbles & grows, but that is not good to use?  Can I leave it on the counter for a few days if I plan to use it often during the week?  And, man, did that stuff bubble when wet ingredients met dry in the cornbread.  Is that normal?  It was pretty exciting, like a mini lava spill.

Thanks for the help and I look forward to being a part of this group of people who enjoy creating something as timeless and beautiful as bread.



LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 November 20

 Yes it is possible to have bad starter.  Smell your starter and tell us your what it smells like.  To me when I smell my starter my brain tells me that it is just fine.  I think the nose picks up on tastes that it remembers from eating sourdough bread.  I leave mine out on the counter all the time.  Make sure that if you leave it out on the counter that you don't neglect the starter by not feeding it enough.  By this I mean you might have to feed it twice a day to keep it happy.  To keep from wasting a lot of flour if you do this is to keep the size of your storage starter small.  My mixes start to bubble when I add the starter, water and flour together.  Last of all welcome to the forum, have fun.

DebZam 2009 November 22

Thank you.  I see so many wonderful ideas here, I hope to be creating soon, but don't have many friends that know much about this type of bread making.  I look forward to measuring by weight and percentages, which is something new. 

OK, I think this one is done.  My first thought when I sniff it is nail polish or paint.  It bubbles and responds when fed, no funny colors or textures, just that smell, which is very sharp.  I saved/refrigerated a portion of my initial starter, so I do have something to work with, I'll "create" my own starter after I get a little experience baking with it.  I just know they used packaged yeast 20 years ago, which is probably long gone, but it's the principal. 

Thanks for the input,


SourdoughAng 2012 December 6

I know this post is old but if anyone else looks at this here is my experience:  I was feeding my new starter twise a day (sitting on the counter) and it started to smell like nail polish remover.  What worked for me was to decrees the amount of water in my starter!  I think with too much water the starter grows too fast?  Not sure but using less water worked great for me! 

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 November 22

 I would say that if it smells like nail polish then you are not feed it often enough.  Here is what is causing the nail polish smell.  Your starter is working and the yeast producing alcohol.  The alcohol when it is exposed to air makes ethyl acetate which is finger nail polish remover.  Can you post how often you are feeding your starter and at what temperature you are storing it at?  Also how much starter you combine with how much flour and water each time to feed the starter.

DebZam 2009 November 22

I can tell by what you've already said that I'm not feeding enough, and my portions are off.  (wince)  I'm starving the poor baby to death!

I have been putting about 3/4 cups (150ml) each of water and organic AP flour in every couple of days, maybe less.  Adding it to 2 to 3 cups starter.  The room is about 72F.  SO, should I throw out what I have and begin again?  or throw out all but half cup and start over?    I'm impressed that the smell meant something to ya', guess I'm not the first to have this problem.  Also, I've been keeping it in a gallon zip lock bag, should I just use a jar or crock?  It's so easy to mash and mix in the bag and I did a friendship bread like that before, so I thought it would work.

Thanks again, oh wise one.


LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 November 22

 I'm a Wine Chemist and ethyl acetate is a wine flaw.  The good news is that if it is making alcohol you have yeast that is doing its job.  There are lots of information here on this site on how to feed a starter.  You might look around and find one that fits your style of living.  Here is what I would do but remember there are many right ways to feed a starter.  I would save about 10 grams of your starter, you can put the rest in the fridge just in case something goes wrong.  To the starter add 15 grams of water and 20 grams of the organic AP flour.  Try feeding the starter twice a day by saving 10 grams and adding 15 grams of water and 20 grams of flour.  I would keep the starter in something that you can see through and place a cover on.  A clear glass with a small plate on top of it works fine.  When the starter becomes active you will see the bubbles and flour web form in the glass.  I use a small amount of starter as my storage starter because I can take 10 grams of that and have 45 grams of starter in 8 to 12 hours.  You can then take that and have 200 grams in another 8 to 12 hours.  This is enough for me to make most of my breads and as you see by keeping a small storage starter like this you don't throw a lot of flour away feeding it.  There should be posts around here what to do with the discards but sourdough pancakes are my choice.  Here is a picture of some active rye starter, wheat starter would look very similar.

rye starter

Jean 2009 December 8

Hello sourdough enthusiasts,


Just wondering if anyone can offer any advice - I live in Queensland and the other day put together equal quantities of organic wheat flour and filtered rain water in the hope to create a starter - it started to bubble after 12 hours and I fed it again with equal quantites - within 24 hours it had doubled and looked they way it was supposed to look - fed it again and now it is lifeless - smells ok - tastes tangy but no life - what I have done wrong - any advice would be much appreciated.


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