July 18, 2011

Sourdough Starter - Day 3: What the Heck is That Smell??

Sourdough Starter - Day 3: What the Heck is That Smell??
7/18/2011 7:43am

Actually most of the work was last night.

At 8pm last evening, noticing how vigorously active the starter was, to the point where I feared it would escape from it's large container overnight, I removed the cover to beat it down (anyone who has seen the kitchen scene in Woody Allen's "Sleeper" will get the idea).

The smell coming from the starter was similar to that of an open sewer, which I don't think is the smell we're going for. I've used clean equipment, the flour coming from a bulk food store. Maybe the flour was contaminated, but I decided to divide it and refresh a little earlier than Day 3.

I removed half the mixture- maybe slightly more than half- and refreshed with 1/2 cup COLD bottled water and 1/2 COLD dark rye flour.

I decided to use smaller amounts as I had no idea how much flour this would wind up using in the long run.

I again beat the mixture for a minute or two, and then sprinkled some rye flour over the top of the starter as suggested in Jeffery Hamalman's Bread.

I also put it into a cooler part of my house, not my kitchen, to let it rest overnight. This morning it has a milder, more vinegary smell rather than a sewage smell.

If it continues to smell like sewage, I'll discard George and start again.

7/18/2011 11:30am

Divided again, tipping out 1 cup of the starter and refreshing it with 3/4 COLD water and 3/4 COLD dark rye flour. I may have to switch to whole wheat as I'm running out of rye flour.

As I stirred it before removing the 1 cup there was a faint sewage smell again, but I think as I'm removing the original Mother starter (or Father as he's male :) ) the smell will be removed. It had a mild vinegary smell before I stirred it up, so I have hope.

Tomorrow at feeding time I may remove George from his container, wash the container and return him, just to make sure the container is fresh and clean.

7/18/2011 4:30pm

Fed George 1 cup cold water and 1 cup dark rye flour. He smells like vinegary apples. :)

Sourdough Starter page is here.


  1. Mmmm...I love to make my own sourdough bread! The wait will be worth it! :)

  2. I hope so, my husband doesn't like sourdough, lol!

    Did you ever have an issue with a smelly starter? I read a little bit online about it, it seems that maybe the bad bugs are in residence and the good bugs will hopefully take over. A persistent feeding schedule is the recommendation.