Sourdough Starter Smells Like Vomit – Should A Starter Smell Like Barf?

Published Categorized as Sourdough Starter

No one likes the sound of anything potentially smelling like vomit, let alone their sourdough starter! If you are wondering whether a sourdough starter should smell like vomit, then the short answer is yes. Your starter will smell like a wide variety of things, though it’s best to recognize them before going into a frenzy! Here’s why sourdough starter smells like vomit and other things, and what you can do!

Sourdough starter smells like vomit – should a starter smell like barf?

Table of Contents

What is The Liquid Floating On Top Of My Starter?

If you notice some liquid floating atop your starter, then this simply means that the starter is hungry. The starter creates a hooch when it runs out of food, and it can be a variety of colors.

My Starter Smells Weird, Do I Need to do Something?

Your sourdough starter will impart a variety of smells throughout its life. This is often because new bacteria have developed within the starter. These new bacteria will produce unpleasant smells like vomit, cheese, sour milk and apples. These smells indicate a very young and unmaintained sourdough starter, requiring frequent feeds.

Moving your starter to a clean jar, and improving the feeding schedule will have this problem fixed in no time.

If you find that there is still no change, then consider increasing the feeding to twice a day. Include rye flour or whole wheat flour into the starter, or swap your flour for another kind completely, as the smell could be due to the amino acids in the flour.

Sourdough Starter Smells Like Vomit

It’s pretty normal for your new sourdough starter to smell odd during the first 14 days. After 14 days of regular feedings, these smells will slowly disappear, and you’ll have a wonderful smelling sourdough starter.

Sourdough Starter Smells Like Sour Milk

Sourdough starter contains wild yeast and oragnic bacteria, which experience lacto fermentation, creating lactic acid. This process is exactly the same as sour milk, cheese and yogurt.

The smells are perfectly normal for a starter, and with regular feedings, the unwanted bacteria will disappear and the wonderful sourdough starters smell will take over.

What to do If My Starter Smells Like Cheese

If your sourdough starter smells a lot like cheese the this is due to lacto fermentation that often occurs during sourdough fermentation, while the organic bacteria create lactic acid. The smell is a sign that the sourdough is very young and doesn’t need to be fed for much longer.

Sourdough starter smells like vomit – should a starter smell like barf?

Why Isn’t My Sourdough Starter Bubbling?

Often sourdough starters start off great and then drop a little between days 3-7. Though unsettling, theis isn’t a bad thing, and is normally an indication that the good bacteria are taking a little longer to take over.

With patience, you’ll be able to watch and catch your starter bloom. If you’re particularly worried you can always stir your starter in between feeds to encourage the levels of oxygen in the starter. This will help the good bacteria and yeasts to develop.

What Happens If I Missed a Feed?

It’s important to feed your starter at regular intervals, whether that is 8 or 12 hours, consistency is very important.

If you happen to miss a sourdough feeding, don’t panic. Simply discard as normal, and feed your starter.

Sourdough Starter Smells

Your sourdough starter will undergo many changes throughout its life. The important thing is to not give up when faced with challenging smells, because chances are, there’s always a logical explanation behind it!


How Do You Know If Your Sourdough Starter Has Spoiled?

Common signs of a spoiled sourdough starter include visible signs of mold, or an orange/pink tint.

What Should Sourdough Starter Smell Like?

Your starter should smell fresh, fruity and yeasty.

Why Does My Sourdough Starter Smell Like Sour Milk?

If your starter has a very strong sour milk smell, then this might mean that your starter is very hungry.

What Does It Mean If My Sourdough Starter Smells Like Cheese?

If your starter smells like cheese, then this is due to lacto fermentation that occurs during the fermentation process.

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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