Smelly starter, very smelly very soon


 So I made my first starter yesterday following Peter Reinhart's recipe from artisan breads every day (3 and a half tablespoons of whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup of water, then stirred three times a day). Because it is ridiculously warm in Austria right now (35ºC so about 95F) it has already more than doubled in size and it is very bubbly and foamy. Now, when I was aerating it this morning the smell was... It smells a bit bad, not in a totally disgusting kind of way but I was wondering if this is normal or if I should throw it away and start again (and yes, I realise this is a slurry that's been sitting out in the heat, how can it smell good, but it does say it should smell "nice" and "nutty" on the starter page). 


I feel a bit silly asking but even in the book it says nothing about the smell... Thanks for your help!

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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 July 21

Hello mandy-chan,

Hopefully you have pressed on and now have a nice active starter and are making fine bread.

When a starter is being established it is not uncommon for it to go through phases - from super active to quiet and from smelling 'nice' to smelling 'awful' as the various yeasts and bacteria 'fight' for supremacy.  This is why most starter 'recipes' call for you to run for two weeks so that the population and balance can stabilise and become robust.  Once you have a mature, well-balanced starter it will be virtually immune to infection and can suffer quite a lot of 'abuse' without any harm being done.

Obviously, if the smell is really really bad and persistent then it would be best to cut your losses and start again but a day or two of not so nice followed by nice again would not be a cause for worry.

Let us know how it all went.


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