Starter help needed

Spirited Starter
(1) from above
(2) Org. rye/H2o and grapes
(2) from above

Hi Everyone,

Ive just begun my Sourdough adventures...what mad science it is. I mixed up my starters 6 days ago now and have had very mixed responses to my methods.I say starters b/c I'm experimenting with two types.(1) is organic rye and cooled ,boiled and airated water (2) is organic rye, cooled boiled and airated water plus about a handfull of grapes and their juice.The grapes were removed on day 3 and it continues to be the stronger smelling of the two. I've done a lot of reading whilst I've been waiting for action to make sure I'm doing everything right. I have the book "Wild Sourdough" by Yoke Mardewi and followed her instructions of starting with 150 gms of flour and 100 of h2o.When i mixed this amount up there really wasnt enough water to make a thick paste, so I began going by feel rather than doing things exact.I left it for three days without touching it...(although probably looked at it 100 times!) It was quite cool on these days here in Melbourne, a few times I moved it from the kitchen to the loungroom.On the third day I mixed them both and no (2) has lots of action and a really strong smell and had grown in size.(1) Had small bubbles a moderate smell and had increased minimally in size. This where I think I almost killed them both.I left them overnight...the next day they both had a layer of clear fluid that smelt like cider...I now know that was probably because I should have fed them at this stage and it was an alcohol byproduct.So I realised my mistake, mixed it in and fed them...but probably not enough. I spoke to a friend who put me onto this site and breadtopia which use a very different method (smaller amounts of flour) so there is not so much wastage. So in the last few days I've discarded half and replaced half with flour and h20. Also I should mention that only in the last 2 days I transfered them to glass jars so I could see better what was happening. I've made a mess of them but what is up the side is not from the starters rising up, its from me tipping some out.The most amount of bubbles I had was on day three and its not been the same since...some small bubbles in the first couple of hours after feeding but then they subside. I've read about checking the back of the spoon and it is usually covered in very small bubbles...probably not able to see from pics.Its been warmer in the last couple of days  so I've been leaving them in the kitchen. I'm hoping there is something obvious here I'm doing or not doing? I'm also not using any metal implements as I read that was a no no.

Thanks in advance,

Much Love, K


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Croc 2013 April 6

i tell you what you doing wrong

you are trying waaaaaaaaay too hard


 cooled ,boiled and airated water

cooled boiled and airated water plus grapes and their juice

not to say this is wrong but you adding so many extra variables and possible contamination sources it is just silly


you might or might not have luck getting your current startes to work ( i have figured that if you refresh often enough you can recover even dead mouse and have it bubble real nice) BUT i would start side project and is super simple


100gr of bakers flour + 100gr of water and for the love of god use just tap water please, mix in glass container cover with sourcer and walk away for a day then toss half of it out and add another 100+100 and so on, within 4-5 days you might find that it starts to bubble fast enough that you don't have to wait whole day for the magic to happen so refresh every 12hours after that.

within a week you should have working starter

if you wish change 100gr of bakers flour with 80/20 or 70/30 as in bakers/rye i find it helps to accelerate proccess fair bit.


OR if you feeling lazy then you are welcome to send me message and you can pop in and grab some really nice and super active starter from me (i'm in melbourne as well)


Hugo's picture
Hugo 2013 April 6

I used organic flour (rye, whole wheat, unblached white flour, whatever was left in the pantry) and bottled spring water (any cheap brand) at room temperature. Stirred, dumped half the mix, and feed it with fresh water & flour, twice a day (morning and evening). It took 2 days to bubble, then about 1-2 weeks more before the mix was mature and stable. Everything at room temperature, about 20-23°C and it went fine. I used a Mason jar covered with a cloth.



Spirited Starter 2013 April 6

Thank you, trying too hard perhaps. It seems that the resources I have come across before here have also been quite particular and the whole thing about boiling the water and airating it was to get rid of the chlorine (?) and then put some 02 back into it as boiling takes it out...but now knowing I can just use tap water...I feel quite silly!

So this morning, day 7 number (1) starter had doubled in size and has many more bubbles under the surface ...YAY :)

So hopefully things continue in this manner... I chose to do two types so I could see if there was a difference in the taste of the bread...

Thankyou for your recipe and offer of some of your starter, and if things go pear shaped I will definately follow your instructions...Ive put so much love into this one I really want to  hang in there and see if I can do the whole process.

Thankyou Hugo, for your recipe also.How will I know that it is stable? Just consistantly bubbling? How long should I wait as today is the first day it has doubled and has heaps of bubbles? Ive read I can make pancakes out of it in the earlier stages. Thankyou both for your help.x


Hugo's picture
Hugo 2013 April 6

In my case, I thought my starter was stabilized at day 10, but then it started bubbling like crazy, it was overactive. A few more days and it stabilized and became as precise as a clock: at 22°C, it slowly rises and peaks after 6 hours.

Here’s why stabilizing a culture takes a few cycles. The initial reaction is performed by yeast present (as spores) in the flour or in the air. However the next steps are performed various bacteria digesting by-products. Here is an example of a digestion chain. Each step is performed by different micro-organisms (yeast, then bacteria):

Starches/glucose --> pyruvate + carbon dioxyde (sharp sour smell)

Pyruvate --> ethanol (aerobic)
Pyruvate --> lactic acid (anaerobic)

Ethanol --> acetaldehyde (green apple smell)
Acetaldehyde --> acetic acid (vinegar)

Of course there are dozens of substances involved and the smell and taste can get very complex due to the complexity of the bacterial flora. For instance, a mature starter using rye can smell like "fresh paint" according to one source.


Spirited Starter 2013 April 6

Thanks for your explaination Hugo...although some of it is as clear as I will know when I get there? The consistency of my (1) starter has remained mousse- like all day...and I think in hindsight it may have been that yesterday I feed it twice...and maybe also just needed more time to get also has been more of a consistant temp the last few days...there are so many variables...(2) I think I will abandon  and put all my love in the first one...its done nothing all day...initially it was the one with all the action?

I'm feeling impatient to get going on actually making bread but will take on your advice and let it stabilise for a bit so then my bread has a better chance of rising. And I will keep checking for that "fresh paint" smell.

Thanks again xK


handymanchef's picture
handymanchef 2013 April 6


I think if you look at my post under 'bread like a brick' this might give you a lot of help and some tips.

Good luck with everything.  If I can be of any further assistance, contact me through this site or through my blog at

Cheers for now


handymanchef's picture
handymanchef 2013 April 6

NO NO NO - I don't believe you should ever use tap water.

As you quite rightly know, tap water contains chlorine and other elements which inhibit the growth of natural yeasts!

It's dead easy, just use bottled water or spring water or water that you know is pure.  Never tap water.  It isn't as if you are going to be using hundreds of litres of the stuff anyway, and a couple of bottles of good still spring water isn't very expensive and will pay dividends in the end.


Croc 2013 April 7

"NO NO NO - I don't believe you should ever use tap water.

As you quite rightly know, tap water contains chlorine and other elements which inhibit the growth of natural yeasts!"

you forgot to add that sun and moon need to be aligned in perfect line with earth or else growth of yeast will be inhibited as well ;)

on more serious note you complicating something very simple for no reason at all unless you like to make your life hard.

amount of chlorine in tap water isn't going to kill your yeast that is just nonsense someone made up to justify theirs OCD and unless someone forgot to send the news letter to my yeast they know no difference and never had a problem doing their job and i use tap water (so does many other people including big boys like DL) BUT i did use to buy in to all that myth stories as well long time ago till i figure out there is no point in all of that extra voodoo.




gongoozler 2013 April 8

Have to say I agree with you Croc. I have been using tap water here in Shropshire, England for years without deleterious effects (perhaps it is different in France although I see that noted French baker Richard Bertinet uses tap water).

Because natural yeast baking is very far from being a precise science I suspect that it produces more that its fair share of old wives tales. The  factors that do make a big difference to the flavour (which is what really matters after all) are, IMO, the type of flour, the length of fermentation and the temperature but nothing is written in stone.


Spirited Starter 2013 April 6

Thanks Handymanchef for your offer of extra help if I need it and I will check out your blog and your post on here.

Re; the tap water YES, I read it so many times to use filtered h2o and not tap. I dont drink tap so I wont be putting it in my bread. The reason I boiled and airated was b/c my filter is on the blink atm.

This whole process has really been a meditation in patience for me...waiting, waiting, wanting something to happen...and when I've almost given up...Whalla it happens!!! Its so exciting. I cant wait to pass on some starter to some of my friends too so then there are more crazy nutter obsessed sourdough freaks out

I wanted to put up a pic of my starter today after a full day of being active and with a mousse like consistency, but it wont let me for some reason..

Thanks again,


Croc 2013 April 7

here is bread made with my clearly badly performing starter, look at this giant crumb holes they must be from all that chlorine in my tap water ;)

Spirited Starter 2013 April 8

For some reason I can't see your bread pic Croc...but I do believe that you have done it...and by the sounds of it its great.

I've been suprised by how nothing can happen for 6 days and then just happened seemingly all by itself...and a bit of luck.

I'm wondering if you or anyone else can help me with what is the best type of recipe to start with? I have organic stoneground wholgrain plain flour and hope to use it.Is it possible to use it in place of spelt flour for recipes? 

I made my first batch of pancakes for my family this morning and they were an absolute hit! The kids loved them and I'm sure they will become a regular menu item.

So now I'd love to organise and get some bread happening...any suggestions and advice welcome :)



farinam's picture
farinam 2013 April 10

Hello Spirited Starter,

Check out SourDoms beginners recipe Pane Francesa.  It is about as basic as you can get and something that I recommend that you practice a number of times to get the feel for the dough and its development.  Results can be a bit variable until you do this but will improve without having to change the recipe at all as your technique and timing improve.  This basic recipe can then be used for all sorts of variations with just a bit of tweaking (which is what most varieties of bread are any way).  Don't get too bound up with timings as published because this is dependent on the conditions in your kitchen/house particularly with relation to temperature.  if you can control temperature, all well and good but if you can't then be prepared to vary the time to compensate.  If necessary, use retarding to control the timing to suit your schedule.

Substituring different flours takes a bit more finesses as they will have different water absording characteristics and different gluten contents that will develop differently.  Also wholemeals are quite different to white flours for various reasons.

Good luck with your projects.


Spirited Starter 2013 April 13

Thanks Farinam, I found SourDoms recipe and have given it a go...but I'm hopeless at following directions to a tea...I substituted for the flour I had and will let you know how it goes.

I made a 100% wholewheat loaf a few days ago and it was great...thick crust and taste was very was dense but not to the point where it wasn't enjoyable and it would have been better to get a bit more rise.I'm pretty sure I cut it too quickly after it came out of the whole family were cheering me I did it against my better judgement. The crumb in the photo still appeared wet and a bit doughy but after some resting time it came good. I would post some pics if I could figure out how to do it?

Thanks for all the help and encouragement everyone...I'm loving this world of Sourdough and find myself talking to anyone and everyone about it...basically anyone who will

Croc 2013 April 11

here is another link to the pic, hope this one shows, first one still shows here so must be useing my loging to skydrive

for recipies to start i can't recommend enough my fav sourdough vienna white

I would replace all white for 80/20 white/wholemeal and see how that goes for you.

it is under recipe section on this very site.

Spirited Starter 2013 April 13

Ahhh yes Croc, looks good. Would try the Vienna loaf but I'm trying to stick the wholewheat/ rye and spelt...any other ones you could suggest? Or can I make the ratios higher of these flours instead of white?

I made a 100% wholewheat loaf and I'vebeen trying to put up some pics but cant work out how to do it.Any tips?


davo 2013 April 11

I agree with Croc as far as Melbourne's water goes. The chlorine in it is not enough to affect SD. I use it; it's all I have ever used. Melbourne's water is incredibly good quality. Nearly all of it comes from closed (no public access) forest catchments and requires nothing more than a little chlorination. In some places the water is much poorer coming from more degraded catchments and so on, and is more heavily chlorine dosed, or dosed with more stable chloramine (not free chlorine), and this might be a problem. (If you have chloramine, boiling won't remove it...). I gather this is more common in other countries, perhaps why some people might (rightly in their location) steer clear of tap water. But not in Melbourne.

Anyway, tank water should be fine, which is presumably what you are using - forget boiling etc for that! (But as well as whatever filter you use, make sure you check for any sediment build-up in your tank - I recently had a water tank desludged and it was pretty ugly in the base.

Spirited Starter 2013 April 13

Thanks Dave for your words of wisdom. I have lived in Sydney also and the water here in Melbourne is definately better. The pipes in Sydney are so old...I remember outbreaks of Giardia in about 1997 or so...terrible. The water can vary quite a bit depending on where you inlaws are in hurstbridge and there h20 is different to the water in Watsonia where we are. Very interesting.

Still using my cooled boiled water tho, I'm sticking to whats working atm :)


davo 2013 April 16

Age of water pipes is not really relevant - practically all water runs through a (benign) bacterial slime (a bit like the slime on your bar of soap). So the water doesn't contact the pipe! Pipes in a lot of country towns are made of asbestos, but they can also be made of uPVC, cement-lined steel, polyethylene... As i say, none of this really affects the quality of the delivered water, its collection in the catchment and (where necessary) treatment (eg where Sydney had concenrs with cryptospiridium and giardia) is what really affects quality. Salinity in Melb water is about 50 ppm (recommended range for drinking is up to about 1000 ppm. For comparison, Adelaide is around 500 ppm.

Melbourne water is very good. I don't work for any water company (never have), just used to work in the inudustry a long time ago.

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