Starter grows well but quickly


My starter grows really well. Its at 100% hydration aand doubles within an hour of feeding. It has lots of small bubbles and foam on top.

I divided it last night and fed both halves and used one this morning. So right now I have two jars:

1. I fed after using this morning. It doubled in an hour and tripled in two and smells like what I would describe as floury, with a hint of alcohol. It has lots of mostly small bubbles with a few bigger ones at the bottom.

2. The one I fed last night, which doubled and had then fallen back by the morning. It now has an alcohol smell, its the first time I have detected this smell.

 The bread I have made has had a floury taste like the smell of the starter. How do these sound?



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farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 26

Hello again redrich,

Sounds as if you have a very active starter going there.  The rate at which a starter works depends very much on the temperature that it is kept at.  Do you know what your room temperature is - I assume that you are working at room temperature.  With such an active culture, you will probably have to shorten the time line for making your bread from those that you might have read.  You might only need two or three hours, rather than eight or ten that might be necessary for a slower culture or at a lower temperature.  In the scheme of things you have take notice of what your dough is doing and adapt your procedure to suit rather than following a timeline published by somebody with a different starter and ambient conditions.

The main thing to be concerned about is if the starter smells 'rotten' or like nail polish remover.  Most other smells are pretty much OK.

It is possible that your bread has tasted floury because you incorporated so much new flour into the dough and it wasn't properly developed.  Other than that it might not have been properly cooked but that is probably less likely.

If you can give a detailed description of your recipe, ingredients and procedures after your next try (plus some pictures if possible) having taken into account the advice given so far then we might be able to work out where to go to from there.

With any sort of luck you might just have some joy /;-{)}

Hang in there.


redrich2000 2011 December 26

Basically everything happens really fast. The dough doubles in size in 2 hours minimum. I tried it in the fridge but then it didn't really expand and seemed to dry out. So today I tried it in an esky with an ice brick but it has still doubled in a couple of hours.

So should I just proceed with the recipe once the dough has doubled and not worry about time? Or should I proof it in the fridge with a few hours out in the end for it to rise?

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 26

Hello redrich,

Go with what the dough tells you and try it without refrigeration.  If it only takes two hours then that is what you use.

If you do put it in the fridge for any reason, it still has to be covered to maintain humidity and to prevent drying.  A large plastic bag is OK for your loaves - just close the end with a lacker band.


Panevino 2011 December 26

You could also try controlling your time line by using less starter in your dough and cooler water.  Don't forget the salt!!  I had a similar starter years ago and I messed it up  One more thing, your flour could be too diastaic or it could have too much damaged starch.  Either one of these factors would make a starter and a dough react too quickly.  These difficiencies would also explain why your dough is so sticky (from your other thread).  I bet that's it.  Change your flour brand and try again.  I've had bread that was completely (over) fermented during the time it took to knead it.  Zero control over the process.  Very frustrating.

redrich2000 2011 December 26

Thanks for the help. The flour I have been using are Lauke bakers flour, a reguar super market plain flour and a Macro white Spelt. I am going to get some Kiala when a local organic place reopens. I should also add I am in Sydney and its warmish and very humid.

I thought about using less starter but I am getting virtually no sourness.

One of the loaves I have done rose really well, about double the height of the tin and had regular bread type texture, like an old fashioned high-top loaf. The others have all barely gotten to the top of the tin and had a moist, cakey texture. None were sour :-(

I read somewhere else about some starters having only yeast and not the sour bacteria and wondered whether that was my problem? I am thinking about buying some starter from here to compare.

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 26

Hi redrich,

There is a good blog article about - I just don't remember where exactly but somebody will know, that sets out the whys and wherefors of natural cultures.  Basically, the bacterial activity that gives the acidity occurs later than the yeast activity so that with a high reaction rate from a yeast there is little time for acid to develop.  The bacterial activity is not slowed as much at lower temperature so that more acid can develop.  That is why retardation can be beneficial in this regard.  I would be surprised if your culture did not include the necessary bacteria.  If you taste your starter (before you feed it) you will probably find that it is quite sour.

I use Lauke bread flour from Safeway/Woolworths and find that it is very satisfactory but wouldn't like to consider using their home brand so I would drop that if I were you.

I think you should persist with what you have.  Perhaps try keeping your starter (or a duplicate) in the fridge and compare the rate of reaction and the taste with your bench version.  Also think about retarding after you have shaped your loaves remembering that retarding only slows things down and, with what seems to be a very active culture, you should monitor progress in terms of rising to avoid over-proving.  Don't just leave it in overnight and expect that things will necessarily be alright in the morning.  Also don't forget to protect the loaf from drying by keeping the humidity up inside a container or plastic bag.

As an aside, I personally am not too fussed as to whether the bread is 'sour' or not - as long as it is edible and 'natural'.

Sounds like you are making progress.  Before long you will be wondering what all the fuss was about.


Panevino 2011 December 27

One of the loaves I have done rose really well, about double the height of the tin and had regular bread type texture, like an old fashioned high-top loaf. The others have all barely gotten to the top of the tin and had a moist, cakey texture.

Were the loaves the exact same recipe, same flours, etc.

The other thing you could try is this - get yerself another clean jar and put in 5 grams of your starter.  Then build it stiff to 100 grams -

36 grams water

64 grams flour

Knead and see what happens @ room temp.

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