How do you control the sourness of your starter ?


Hi all,



This is my onion sourdough bread.   All the baking procedures were good. However I found that the taste was quite sour .  I want it a bit milder.  


If you keep a starter for months or years as refreshing periodically, is the starter going on more sour until it gets bottom level of sourness ?   Is there a way to hold your starter to stay at the certain level of sourness that you want ?  



247 users have voted.


Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2010 September 4

Your starter won't get more sour the longer you have it on the go - mine is two years old this month actually and it's no more sour than it was when I first created it.  Sourness comes from how long you ferment and proof the loaves, that way it will vary with the technique you use to make the bread.  Sourness will also vary with the proportion of starter used to make your dough.

What was the recipe/technique you used molifemo?


Happiness is making bread.

molifemo 2010 September 5


My recipe is like this.


white wheat bread flour  350g

Starter ( 100 % hydration )  100g

Sugar    5g

Salt        6g

Water 190g

Baked onions  120g



First bulk fementation : 4 hours 2 foldings at room temp.

Rolling and bench time :  30 mins

Final proof : 2 hours at room temp.

Bake : 10 mins at 210C and 10 mins at 180 C


I made another  SD bread with a different culture a month ago using same technique.  At that time, the bread was not so much sour . That's why  I thought that the sourness of bread came  from the culture maturation.  


As you advised,  I could use culture less , but in this case I heard that there would be a downside. Fermentation time would take longer,  which could harm gluten network in the dough. ( I had experienced cracking on the dough surface before when the culture didn't have enough leavening power.  I think this is because of long bulk fermentation. Bad quality of flour might be another cause. But my problem  is that  I don't think I can find  better flour now.) 



Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2010 September 5

Your recipe and method look just fine to me (and so does the loaf of bread for that matter - nice blistered crust!).  Interesting that you added sugar (I don't add any) as I would have thought that the caramelised onions would add enough sweetness to the bread.  Your proportion of starter to flour looks fine too - I've made bread with equal weights of starter and flour before and haven't even noticed that they've been particularly sour.

I can't suggest anything else sorry molifemo, but maybe someone else can.


Sid Bailey 2010 September 5

As you have been told, the sourness deoends upon the length of time taken for raising, this can be shortened by the inclusion of a small amount of yeast, this makes the bread far less sour.  I have been using this method as my wife does not like very sour bread with her marmalade and other preserves.  I know this sounds like failure, not to rely on the sourdough culture you have sweated over to form, but it does speed things up and the nature of the bread is still sourdough.

The danger of this method is the possibility of introducing yeast into the sourdough culture, I remove the sourdough from the fridge, take out what I need, add more flour and water and remove it far from the rest of the activity before I play with yeast.

Incidentally, if I could produce a loaf of bread looking like yours, I was very quickly learn to appreciate the taste of the bread. Have you considered that the problem is not with the bread?

Gamya 2010 September 5

Hi Sid,

Your recipe is like using a sponge made with SDS. This can be done as follows for a 2lb. bread (4cup flour)

Making Sponge :

8 A.M          Mix 1/2c flour + 1/3c water + 1/4c sds.

12 Noon      Add flour and water as above but no more sds.

4P.M           Add flour and water as above but no more sds.

8P.M           Add 2 1/2c flour +

molifemo 2010 September 7



Thansk for your comment , Sid Bailey..


That way could be a easy way to get out of this problem, but I 'd like to know how to control the sourness only using culture itself, if there is the way. As you said, some people don't enjoy strong sourness much , so there is a demand from my friends if  the sourness can be adjusted into different levels. 





Sid Bailey 2010 September 8

There are many cultures available commercially, I use a San Francisco one, some firms have a selection with indications of what flour each one best suits:  I am not sure that the degree of sourness is suggested however. has a selection.

rossnroller 2010 September 8

Regardless of where a culture comes from, it will not retain its original characteristics over time. So, a SF starter that is typically sour in the flavour it imparts will take on different characteristics emanating from its new environment and the flour(s) you feed it.

I have gleaned the above from my reading, but also from the experience of 'adopting' a culture from someone who bought it online. I already had a thriving culture I started myself, and within a few weeks, the characteristics of both cultures were identical.

If you want sourness in your bread, the factors karniecoops has identified are the crucial elements IMO.

Also, I have found that using a chef (leftover dough from a previous bake) will give you a sourer result than starter culture (although I'm not big on sourness in bread, so when I use a chef I do it more for the increased complexity in flavour it tends to yield).

Muff makes some good points on the issue of sourness in this thread, too.

Why don't you follow up on these factors in your bread baking and see how you go? Beats paying good money for starters that will end up no different from that you already have.

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