Sourdough Starter Smells Like Vinegar? 6 Steps to Fix It!

Published Categorized as Sourdough Starter

Your sourdough starter will be experiencing lots of things. From extreme hunger to stability, it’ll quite literally have you wanting to pull your hair out. Fortunately, there are subtle ways to tell whether your starter is doing well or not. If your sourdough starter smells like vinegar, or is beginning to resemble the familiar acidic scent, and you’re not sure whether that is considered a good thing or a bad thing, then here’s what you should do!

Sourdough starter smells like vinegar? Here’s what to do!

Table of Contents

What Should A Sourdough Starter Smell Like?

Generally, your sourdough starter should emit a wonderful yeasty smell. However, if it releases an unpleasant smell, then this might mean that your starter is hungry.

The vinegary smell is quite normal, as it is a by-product of acetic acid. The good bacteria in the sourdough starter tend to gobble up the nutrients in the flour, meaning that it’s time to feed your starter once again.

If you’ve noticed a recurring sour smell, you can increase the amount of food you feed your starter.

What Should A Sourdough Starter Look Like?

A healthy and established sourdough starter should appear nice and bubbly after it has been fed. It should have the consistency of thick pancake batter. It will glop out of its container, without pouring readily.

My Sourdough Starter Smells Like Vinegar

If your sourdough starter smells like alcohol, vinegar, or nail polish remover, it means that it is absolutely starving, and has produced kits of acetic acid. This means that the lactic acid bacteria have gobbled up the good nutrients in the flour, and need to be fed.

If your starter smells really sour, try increasing the number of feeds. If you feed it once a day, try feeding it twice a day.

You can also try switching to a different type of flour so that the bacteria can chew through the nutrients at a slower pace. You can use whole-grain flour or all-purpose flour.

My Sourdough Starter is Too Sour

To avoid extreme sour notes, ensure that you feed your starter with all-purpose flour. This allows your starter some time to eat through the nutrients, meaning that you won’t have to feed your starter as often.

Ensure that your sourdough starter doesn’t ferment for too long before using it to bake sourdough bread.

My Sourdough Starter Isn’t Sour Enough

You might have a starter that isn’t sour enough, and this normally happens when the starter isn’t active, or mature enough to use just yet.

How To Fix A Starter That Smells Like Vinegar?

Here’s how to fix a starter that smells like vinegar:

  1. Take your own sourdough starter that is at 100% hydration.
  2. In a clean jar, place a small amount of sourdough starter.
  3. Then double the amount to feed to the sourdough starter.
  4. Pour water into the mixture
  5. Stir the mixture well, then cover and leave to sit at room temperature.
  6. Repeat this 3-4 times, and you should notice a change in the smell of the starter.

Both yeast and bacteria are present in your sourdough starter. The yeast produces ethanol or alcohol, and carbon dioxide.

How Do I Know If My Starter Has Gone Bad?

A slight scent of vinegar shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, you must keep a close eye on your starter.

If your starter smells like vomit, strong cheese, or dirty socks, then it should be tossed out immediately. Don’t worry too much about the vinegar smell, as this is probably the work of lactic acid bacteria.

Other signs of your sourdough starter deteriorating are mold growth and colorful shades of pink, blue, or orange.

Furthermore, unless you’re feeding your starter regularly, it won’t last very long. You can test whether your starter is alive or not by feeding it a couple of times a day.

Sourdough Starter Smelling Vinegar

As long as your sourdough starter doesn’t smell of socks, vomit, or have signs of mold, you should be good to go!

Sourdough Starter Smells Like Vinegar FAQs

How Do You Know If Your Sourdough Starter Is Spoiled?

If your sourdough starter is spoiled, it will show visible signs of mold or an orange/pink tint.

How Do You Make Sourdough Starter Less Vinegary?

Your starter might be hungry, so try and double the amount of sourdough starter, you could also add some honey to your dough.

How Should Sourdough Starter Smell Like?

When your starter is in good shape, it should smell fresh, fruity, and yeasty.

Is My Sourdough Starter Supposed To Smell Sour?

No. Often a hungry sourdough starter will release a sour smell, but this is fairly normal, and it only requires some time to revive it.

By Natasha Krajnc

Hi! My name is Natasha and I'm specialized in home sourdough bread baking and currently based in Slovakia - a very small country in Central Europe. My bread baking story began in 2011 when I decided to give up commercial yeast. I felt tired all the time (especially after eating bread and other foods made with yeast), I wasn’t motivated to do anything, had trouble concentrating throughout the day, my abdomen was bloated and I was like a trumpet on steroids – basically, I was quite a wreck. I was a big bread lover (and still am) and having to stop eating bread was quite hard at that time but I felt I was on a right way to give my body a chance to heal itself.

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