Sourdough Starter Troubleshooting
Not Activating (or weak activation):
Sometimes due to activation, temperature, water or flour change (and seasonal changes), a starter can give off a funny smell. Don't be alarmed, it is just re-adjusting. If it continues, check to make sure you aren't contaminating the jar or keeping the temperature too hot in the room. Some of the smells include beer, wine, fresh paint, burnt popcorn, strong cheese, raisins, and old bananas. A rice starter should smell like a yeasty milk biscuit when balanced. A wheat, rye or spelt starter should smell like a light beer mixed with fresh bread and a slight zip or tang to it.
Usually not a problem! Scrape off, switch to a clean jar, feed it a couple times using your regular process and it should rebalance in a couple days and be good to go! If there are streaks of color, throw it out and start over.
Too Slow or Too Fast of a Fermentation
First check if the temperature is too cold (below 72°F). Otherwise this may mean there isn’t balanced, especially if the starter gets soupy and loses its stringy elastic structure. In this case, give it a nice mix of plain and whole flour and a warmer temperature and feed often (right after it doubles in size) to restore strength. If the starter has already activated completely but liquid rises to the top of the starter (and its not doubling very well), stir it back in to redistribute the food supply. This can sometimes happen with a sluggish or weak starter once in awhile. Sourdough actually likes to be stirred in-between feedings anyways! A liquid hooch layer in the middle or top just means it has exhausted its food, and needs to be fed more, and possibly kept at a cooler room temperature.
Learn More About Sourdough:
- Sourdough Overview
- How to Make Sourdough (Step-by-Step Instructions)
What is Sourdough?
- Meet our Sourdough Starter
- The Difference Between Commercial Sourdough and Homemade Sourdough
- Sourdough Fun Facts
- Sourdough Dictionary
- Sourdough Mini Picture Guide and Interpretation
- Preparing Your Starter Before Baking
- Feeding, Vacation & Storage of Sourdough
- Baking Troubleshooting
- Baking Conversion Chart
- Sourdough Recipes
- Gluten-free Sourdough Recipes
- Sourdough Varieties of the World
- Sourdough Pictures
- Sourdough Videos
- Purchase a Sourdough Starter