My Sourdough Is Too Sour!

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So you’ve made your sourdough starter, you’ve been making your loaves and it’s suddenly getting more and more tangy! My sourdough is TOO sour! Let’s take a look at why and what we can do about it.

Sourdough Starter in a jar

I LOVE Sourdough.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s true.

I love how it rises, how it tastes, and how it happens from seemingly NOTHING!! All it takes is water, flour, air and time!! That blows my mind!

I also know it scares people..

But it needn’t.

What is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a metabolic process by which naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria in the air and on the flour itself feed on the food provided (the starch and gluten in the flour). This process creates gas and lactic acid which create lift and flavour when used within a baked product. (1)

I tell you this only so we establish what is going on when we make a sourdough starter. That means we can adjust what we do when we know what the aim is.

Why is my sourdough so sour?

Sourdough yeast consume the simple sugars in the carbohydrate it develops in and the by product, as we have said, is acid. This acid is responsible for the sour taste. As the sugar is consumed, more acid is produced.

This can happen when we leave the starter too long between feeds (I have done this one more than a few times!), or leave the dough to prove for an extended period of time.

(Now, I know the dough needs leaving for a good few hours but I’m talking days on the side, not necessarily in the fridge.)

So How Do I Fix My Sour Starter?

A top view of sourdough starter in a jar with bubbles

Now we know what is happening, we can tackle it!

  1. Feeding more often will give an influx of fresh food to keep the bacteria and yeast happy!
  2. Leaving a smaller amount of starter to feed will reduce the number of yeast and bacteria feeding and producing acid
  3. Stirring in between feeds will help to oxygenate so the bacteria grow well.

1. More frequent feedings

The longer between feedings, the more the build up of lactic acid, so it makes sense that dumping or removing the starter and feeding with fresh food more frequently will help to keep that under control.

Instead of feeding once a day, try feeding twice. If it’s warm, like during summertime ,try feeding 3 times even, to keep replenishing the food supply.

I have found my starter can go about 24 hrs between feeds before it starts getting too sour for our tastes. If I don't plan to use it within that time, I put it in the fridge to slow down the activity. When I want to use it, I get it out for an hour or so to warm up, then feed it. 

2. Smaller Amount of Starter

The amount of starter that you feed can make a difference to the sourness.

Most recipes call for half the amount of starter to flour and water. If it’s too sour though, you can reduce the amount of starter you keep back and feed it your normal amount.

This may mean a little longer time before your starter doubles, but should reduce the amount of bacteria that is producing the lactic acid.

I've used what I thought was every scrap of starter from my jar and still used it anyway. Low and behold, within the day, my starter was bubbling away and rising again! Once established, it's quite resilient!!

3. Stirring between feeds

Adding air to the mix can help give it a lift, so stirring in between feeds after the other two points can really help get it going again, to achieve those beautiful airy bakes we are after.

Just use a fresh clean spoon or stirrer and give it a quick stir when you pass through the kitchen, and your starter will love you for it!

Mine is on the side in the kitchen and if I need to, I give it a stir when I start prepping our evening meal. I usually use mine on an evening to make sandwich loaves so it is ready when I want to use it.

Sourdough is such a rewarding bake, but sometimes it can be difficult to get to know how it works. I hope this helps you get to know your starter. Until next time friend x

Other posts you may like:

How to fix a runny sourdough starter

How do I feed a sourdough starter

Further Reading:

  1. Sourdough – Wikipedia

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