What makes sourdough bread go too sour and how to lower it?



Hi everyone,

I've been baking for a few years on fresh yeast but I'm new to the sourdough world. I did a couple of variations to blacknumberone's Vermont recipe, the bread came out nice in terms of structure but the flavor is a little bit too sour. I'd like to know what makes sourdough bread go too sour and how to lower it.

The details:

I have an organic wholemeal starter at 100%H that's been going outside the fridge for ~3weeks, I feed it @ 24hrs intervals. Before baking I fed it twice at 12hrs intervals, when I added it in the dough mix it was at its peak (12hrs after last feeding and as high up as it gets in the glass I keep it)

White Flour                    535 g WM Starter 100% H       200 g Water                             300 g Salt                                   15 g

Bulk fermented for 7.5 hrs folding & stretching 4 times at 1.5 hrs intervals, shaped and proofed on metal tray ~1.5hrs (no stone or bannetons yet). Baked 10 mins @220C on convection oven with boiling water tray, then lowered to 200C for 20 mins (removed the water tray) and finally upside down for 10 more mins.

Thanks in advance for all your help.



356 users have voted.


petanque 2012 December 15

the longer the fermentation time the more pronounced the sour flavour.

the lower the temperature of fermentation the more pronounced the sour flavour.

I would suggest 3 stretch and folds at about 45 (minutes apart assuming you don't live in a fridge).

Fred Rickson 2012 December 28

I think the standard thinking is that acid-producing bacteria, both lactic and acidic, like high hydration and temperature.  Works for me.


SlackerJohn 2012 December 16

Use less starter......... and the final bread will be less sour.

I use 200-300 gms starter with 1 kg of dry ingredients, so try using 100-150 gms starter.




Graham's picture
Graham 2012 December 15

Hi Fedesol,

Sourdough fermentation becomes more sour when you restrict / slow down the access of microbes to nutrients. A stiff dough and cool temperature are common ways to make it harder for the microbes to feed. Long, cool fermentation is used for making popular styles of 'sour' sourdough.

At my own bakery we slow down, or 'retard' dough, either in the fridge or simply in the cool night air. I find that it is possible to retard for 8 - 12 hours and not make overly sour sourdough. Once a week I retard formed dough (rising in bannetons) for about 24 - 36 hours....and the result is a more sour bread.

I am not a big fan of sour sourdough, except maybe in rye bread, because we use a beautiful fresh local flour and I want that to be the dominant flavour, rather than the 'tang'.

So back to your issue...we need to know more about your 7.5 hour bulk fermentation. Is this a retarded style of fermentation or is it simply a standard fermentation that is over-fermented? What temperature is the bulk proof at? How much does the dough rise during the bulk proof?



fedesol 2012 December 16

Hello Graham, thanks for taking your time and sharing your knowledge. The bulk fermentation was standard, the temperature in my kitchen is between 20 and 22 C now in the winter months. The temperature of the bulk ferment is a big question mark, I'll record it in the future for reference. It bulk fermented that long (7.5hrs) because it didn't seem to rise as much as with my regular fresh yeast doughs, I'd say that it rose max by 70% during the bulk ferment and that happened after 3,5 or 4 hrs. Thanks again!

Graham's picture
Graham 2012 December 16

O.K. Thanks.

Suggest you try a 1 hour bulk fermentation, or until you just begin to see a puffyness in the dough. Go for the big rise in the final proofing rather than in the bulk dough.

A shorter bulk proof = a longer final proof. You might find that your final proof takes about 3 hours or so at 20/22C.

Let me know how it goes.


fedesol 2012 December 19

I did as you suggested, now the bread has a balanced amount of sour and tastes much better. The structure of the crumb is also much more complex, I could sell this stuff! Thanks a lot for taking your time :) 

kristof 2015 October 28

hello Graham, not sure if you are still here! we are starting a small bakery in Budapest and I'd love to introduce a great tangy, sour-smelling sourdough bread to this community. We started our own sourdough levain and feed it twice a day at its peak - we are using it in some of our breads but no tangy taste or smell at all so far. We autolize the dough, bulk ferment for 3hrs at room tmeperature, measure, rest for 20min, shape and proof for about 40 min. What do we miss?


Staff 2015 October 28

Hi Kristof,

Great to hear from you. Can't wait to visit Budapest & see you one day. Your final proof of 40 mins is very fast for a sourdough only dough, even after 3hrs bulk proof. What is your room temperature? 
Also, I would recommend thinking about achieving the tang you mention as a secondary consideration. Work on a fermentaion cycle that makes good bread in your environment, then look at parts of that cycle that will give you the tang.
You mention your starter is being fed twice a day at its peak. It is therefore likely you are working with a more lactic than acetic starter, and it sounds like you would prefer the acetic tang. You could reduce the hydration of your starter, find a cooler area in the bakery (?) and ferment this stiff starter for a full 18-24 hours. Or you could find a cooler spot for the final rise in the forms, rising over 3 hours or more (rising overnight at 8C to 12C is lovely).
Please let me know how it goes and post sime pics here if possible. Thanks. Graham

dinasavta@gmail.com's picture
[email protected] 2013 September 1

Hi! I`m new member

I have been baking with my sourdough for 3 years.My present starter is one and a half years old.I feed it rye flour and water about twice a week or at least every time after Ihave used some .All week it sits in the fridge.

The rye bread always comes out very good.The Chalos,which used to rise so nicely ,now are not so nicely risen of late[even though they still taste good].

The method that I use is as follows:Iput about amug of starter,1 cup sugar, 1 cup hot  water and 1 cup whole wheat flour in a bowl over night,having been mixed well and put the bowl in 3 plastic bags. In the morning I add third cup oil ,rest of the kilo of flour andhalf cup of hot water with tbl.spoon of salt disolved inside ,perhaps more water until dugh is formed. Then back in 3 bags to rise for 5 hours.After that braided and put to rise again for 2 hours in baking trays in 2bags  before baking.

This procedure worked wonderfully until about6 weeks ago .Now it seems that the starter has a dominant rye to the baking and heavy.

Francesco 2020 October 7
Hi. I love baking overnight but in winter my house is a little bit cold. How can I manage the fermentation of the dough on temperatures like 15 degrees to obtain a no sour bread with a stiff yeast? Should I increase or lower the amount of my starter? Thank you.
Manuele 2020 October 9

Hi Francesco, You really need to look at the temperature of the water. Normally in winter the water temp I use is around the 30 degree mark. A formula I used to use in a bakery I worked at was: 45 minus the ambient temperature. Hope this helps

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