A utopia gone bad - My Starter smells like ......poo

Hi,

 

I've been using a starter I brought into this world in august and it made some goregous bread. stuff that made you go back for more and more and more until the loaf was gone and you had to bake one more you had been preparing earlier (in true blue peter fashion).

 

Anyway I went away over christmas and forgot to put it in the fridge. When I can back the usual sign of a poor starving yeast colony were present. orange/red layer of hooch. But this time there was an additional layer above this. A layer similar beige colour to my noraml started, but this time it looked stringy. It had loads of texture, it was interesting but almost definetly not something I wanted to be dinning with. I think some evil alien had formed a dictatorship over my unsuspecting colony in their time of weakness.

 

Also this smelt like dead things and vomit, it made me gag. I throw this out and cleaned the jar. Time to start over, time to create a new utopian bread dream. Time for the sweet smell of bacteria and yeast living in unison to waft gently from their world.

 

OH NO

 

After only a day my starter was showing signs of hunger. Ace.

after three it was re-feed. and wow bubble nivarana. This starter was fierce. But it was also quite warm in my flat since outside is -15 degrees C at the moment and so inside the heaters are pumping.

I smelt it today day 5........... but it smellls..... to be honest..... like poo. There is no joy in going near it. its like a that childhood rabbit hutch that my sister forgot to clean. yuck. gag.

 

I most definetly don't want sour doo-doo-ugh bread.

 

So I have a few questions (and sorry its taken me time to get to the point - but its friday morning and what is life without a little over elaboration).

 

I know that people suggest just throwing out the starter and starting again. But I guess theirs a buit of me that wants to brign this starter to fruition - I guess my parents being social workers is rubbing off on me - i want to see it thrive, turn my roggenmehl and volkkorn to dense loafy weights. Lead its life with the crust that other around it achieve.

 

so...

1)  Can I persist with this and allow the starter to settle into a sweet smelling start or when it goes bad its bad for god. there is no nuture, just inherent bad nature?

2) If I do persist as a socio-physcological extremement does this bad smell come with any dangerous (health wise to me ) roads? Have I created a biological bread bomb?

3) If no to both, what do you think happend? Should I ditch the jar that I've been using, maybe it was some residual evil lurking that was missed in the near boiling wash it recieved.

 

 

so im the meantime im lucky, I'm in Berlin at the moment so there is pleanty of sourdough around for me to buy and devour whilst my own babies are grown back up....

 

time I guess will only tell wether I have spawned a monster or my saviour

 

Thanks all.

x

 

 

 

 

 

5 comments

Hello rising,

Sometimes when a starter is getting going, the proportions of different yeasts and bacteria fluctuate so that you can get seemingly wild swings in activity and associated smells.  Sometimes these can be quite pungent - a common one is a smell of acetone (nail polish remover).  Very often if you persist, the offending bacteria get put back in their place and the pleasant yeasty/fruity smell returns.

This is why instructions usually call for the regular feeding and discarding for ten to fourteen days - to encourage conditions for the good guys and to make it hard for the bad guys.  Sometimes it will happen in a shorter time, occasionally it will take longer.

Just be sure that you keep your container covered with a loose fitting lid or plastic wrap to keep out mould spores and the like that might be drifting around.  I suspect that is what you had when your old one went bad.

If it hasn't come good in a few more days, then perhaps it might be time to start again and if you follow SourDoms beginners blog on this site, you can not go too far wrong.

Let us know how you go.

Farinam

I'm not a pro by any means and figure I'll be a novice for at least 5 years.  But I have had lots of experience with making starters, both failing (mostly) and success. 

You said you threw the old starter out and washed the jar.  Did you sterilize the jar, like run it through the dish washer?  I have made the mistake of not washing the container thoroughly and having my starter fail.  I've left mine on the counter for 2 days forgetting to feed it and it usually sends me a kiss when I do feed it again.  But 2 days is the longest I have gone.  I keep it next to the fridge so I will remember to put in away if I'm leaving for any length of time.

Maybe try another container?  That's all I can suggest.  Oh, and follow Sourdom's instructions.

=Janey

 Yesterday I put about 60g rye starter, from a jar of rye starter I store in the fridge.  I added 1/2 cup of w/meal wheat flour and 1/2 cup water.  I stored on top of my fridge.  This morning a bit of clear liquid was on the surface, and it smelt only average, a bit weak.  The dough didn't rise much, only about half as much bigger.  But when I baked it, the bread had risen. 

 

Do I need to keep feeding each day until it has a stronger smell?   Is a larger ratio of my rye starter to (flour + water) needed?

 Yesterday I put about 60g rye starter, from a jar of rye starter I store in the fridge.  I added 1/2 cup of w/meal wheat flour and 1/2 cup water.  I stored on top of my fridge.  This morning a bit of clear liquid was on the surface, and it smelt only average, a bit weak.  The dough didn't rise much, only about half as much bigger.  But when I baked it, the bread had risen. 

 

Do I need to keep feeding each day until it has a stronger smell?   Is a larger ratio of my rye starter to (flour + water) needed?

Dear Rising,

What are you feeding your leaven/starter?  I had a problem at some stage in the past whenever I fed my leaven on wholemeal wheat flour too many times in a row.  It smelled like poo.  Coliform bacteria was my assumption.  I brought it back to life with frequent feeds.  Your leaven is an environment of competition: desirable yeasts and bacteria versus undesirable yeast, bacteria, moulds, maybe even protozoa and who knows what else.  They all thrive in different conditions but share some ranges of conditions.

I think Farinam's got some great points about new leavens; I would say try changing the "program" one thing at a time, so you know what has worked.  I use any of the following strategies:

-change the "food"; rye flours tend to bring back life and balance, I have found; white flour can "sweeten" it but if you use it too many feeds in a row the leaven can lose a lot of complexity; wholewheat flour can increase liveliness and flavour complexity but I tend to use it as a one off; whole spelt seems to boost the leaven if it's getting a bit "bored."

-change the time between feeds; long times between feeds increase the acidity of the leaven and seem to reduce the yeastiness profile, shorter times seem to round out the flavour and increase leaven activity.  Sometimes a good starve (a week in the fridge after a day on the bench) really "cleans" my leaven out, but then I give it a couple of close feeds in a row - one each day or even two in one day

-change the temperature; warm temperatures favour desirable yeasts, but also moulds and undesirable bacteria especially if left out over time; cooler temperatures tend to favour the desirable bacterial cultures and acidity/sourness profile.

-change the hydration; this is sometimes debated, but I believe that lower hydration gives a yeastier leaven and higher hydration leads to a more acidic/sour leaven.  As for activity, I think I get more lift from a stiff leaven, but others have found that a lower hydration leaven gives a better rise, for them.

This is just my personal experience, but hopefully it helps you out.  Good luck.

 

By the way the German rye flours make really great leavens and beautiful breads.  I envy you and can't wait for my next visit to Germany.