I made my sourdough starter (made from whole wheat flour) 4 days ago and the first 2 days everything was going well. The sourdough started bubbling and it doubled its size. I was feeding it once a day with 1/4 cup whole wheat flour and 2 tbs of water. But yesterday when i checked it out, I saw some yellow liquid on the surface and it had a strange smell. I removed the liquid and some of the sourdough and kept feeding it twice a day now but with less water. Here is a picture of how it looks now but I dont know if it went bad. What should i do? Do I should keep feeding it twice a day or just once? Do I throw it away? I dont know if it was the feeding or the type of flour i used... i would really appreciate some help with your comments. Thanks!
During the early development stages of a starter, it can go through phases of varying activity and can produce a range of smells ranging from quite pleasant to not so nice but the latter should only persist for a day or two at the most. This occurs as the conditions change to favour different species of yeasts and bacteria that produce different waste products, but in due course the conditions will come just right to form a stable symbiosis that will be virtually immune to infection by 'nasties' such a mold and fungus. This is why most preparation methods speak of eight to ten days to get a starter going even though you might get high activity after a day or two.
The liquid separation probably just means that the food supply has run out and the gluten has broken down to release some of the liquid wastes that includes some alcohol and other esters. Nothing really to worry about except that, like us, the beasties don't like swimming in their own waste and that is why, particularly during the development stages, there is regular discarding of the batter before rebuilding with fresh flour and water.
My other comment would be, that, if you have a set of electronic kitchen scales, consider working on a weight basis as volume measurements are potentially quite variable and too high a hydration (too much water added) could also result in early separation of phases.
So, the message is keep going. Have a read of SourDom's beginners blogs that you can access from the right hand panel on the Home Page here and before you know it you will wonder what all the fuss was about.
Good luck with your projects.