Starter Trouble!


Can anyone advise me as to the smell of my starter?

I had a very successful starter a few months back which I had been using for a year but unfortunately it died due to me going on holiday and not being able to look after it properly.

I have started another and I have been feeding it for 10 days now. However, it smells like nail polish remover!!! It is not unpleasant or rotten smelling so I have continued to feed it but it does have a strong acetone aroma. It is rising and if it smelt fruitier I would try using it.

Any suggestions?



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HelenF 2012 October 4

Hi Saffy,


I had the same 'problem' with my two starters (one rye and one spelt) that I recently got going.  I was quite concerned but apparently the acetone aroma is infact ethyl acetate which is not comes about when your starter is in need of a feed.Some people seem to think this is completely normal while others don't ever seem to encounter this phenomenon.  I found that if I used a large percentage of this 'fumy' starter to make a loaf then it would have the same undesirable characteristics however it doesn't seem to have any adverse affect if a 'levain' is made from the starter to bake with as in the Pane Francese recipe in the beginners tutorial. My rye starter has since completely lost it's smell of acetone and now smells sweet and nutty but the spelt starter would strip your nostrils if you breathed too deeply! Nonetheless I've been making wonderful loaves with this starter and I'm glad I didn't throw it out as some had suggested I do.

Hope this is helpful.


20glen11 2012 October 4

Thank you Helen.

I have actually noticed today that I can detect a faint fruity smell amoungst the chemically smell so this and your experience is promising. 

Do you think I should try using it? or wait for it to become more fruity?


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