question on how starter smells


I am trying to make a starter. My first try I used some active dry yeast (I didn't know any better) It smells like alcohol. the second I just used flour and water and I don't like the smell. Both have bubbles. How do I know if they are any good?



130 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2013 November 29


When it is first fed it will probably smell a bit like wet flour.  After a while it should have quite a yeasty scent.  As the activity progresses and declines there might be a hint of a vinegary smell (acetic acid) or possibly a sour milk (lactic acid).  It shouldn't be over-whelming though.  Alcohol can be a by-product of fermentation but is generally not noticeable as such although sometimes a liquid layer will separate in time that is called 'hooch' and this might be somewhat alcoholic.

If it smells like nail-polish remover (acetone) it can be going through a phase of development where a certain bacteria is dominant but this often only lasts for a day or so.  If it smells like vomit (or worse), this is a bad sign and it would be best to abandon it and start again.

Starting from scratch it usually takes one or two to several days for any significant activity to start.  Once bacteria get established and start to produce acid (making the mixture sour) different types of yeasts and bacteria are favoured or suppressed and this is why it can go through phases and why instructions usually recommend a period of up to two weeks to allow the populations to stabilise and the most favourable ones to be well established.

After that, the culture is very resistant to contamination.

If you haven't already, read SourDom's beginners blogs on this site.  They a mine of information to get you on the right track.

Good luck with your projects.


Post Reply

Already a member? Login