The Reasons Why Sourdough Starter Smells Like Sour Milk

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Sourdough starters, like beer and wine, are activated by yeast. When yeast and flour combine, the fermentation process starts.

As it matures, a sourdough starter will emit a variety of scents.

Certain scents will be nice, while others may make you want to leave the place.

Sour milk is just one of the aromas that your starter will develop as it ferments.

The various scents of sourdough starter indicate how it is evolving.

Keep reading to find out why sourdough starter smells like sour milk.

Sourdough starter smells like sour milk

The scent of sour milk is similar to that of a delicious loaf of sourdough bread. By adding yeast to flour or letting flour and water to create yeast, the sourdough starter has diverse aromas. The fermentation process takes roughly five to seven days when creating a starter at room temperature. With time, the aromas might vary from sour milk to the fragrance of acetone. These scents are formed as bacteria feed on the carbohydrates in the flour in the sourdough starter.

Making a sourdough starter takes time.

It takes time and care to develop a superb sourdough starter.

You may prepare it with only flour and water, or you can add bread yeast to speed things up.

You will eventually learn the fragrances of fermenting flour and yeast and will be able to tell what is typical.

A sourdough bread starter may be made at room temperature or refrigerated. The difference between the two procedures is one of time.

The starting grown at ambient temperature will grow quicker than the starter grown under refrigeration.

The sourdough starter will go through multiple stages using either approach before it becomes a frothy, bubbly bread starter.

The scents created by a sourdough starter during the growing phase indicate whether or not the mix is hungry. You claim you’re hungry. Let’s go eat!

Odors of sourdough starter

If you don’t feed your sourdough starter enough or feed it too much, it can develop foul aromas. A beginning that smells like vinegar, for example, is normal.

The scent is caused by the acetic acid created by the bacteria when it digests the carbs you feed it.

A sourdough starter that smells like alcohol

Feed your sourdough starter if it smells like alcohol.

When your starting lacks nourishment, it will feed on the yeast of the starter and any waste, producing a stench of alcohol.

Feeding your beginning will restore its equilibrium, and keeping it nourished will keep it from smelling like alcohol.

Making a routine of feeding your started at the same time every day can assist you in making a wonderful sourdough starter.

Crusty sourdough starter

A sourdough starter with insufficient moisture in the mix might form a crust on top. Remove the crust and feed the starter if yours does.

Sluggish sourdough starter

Sourdough starters might become slow and lifeless. This problem with your starter might be caused by the temperature at which it is stored.

At about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, your sourdough starter is most active. Also, at this temperature, it will leaven bread faster than a cold product.

Discolored or moldy sourdough starter

A stained or moldy sourdough starter might be produced by a filthy container or by the yeast growing weak due to incorrect feeding techniques.

If a batch of yours has this problem, it is preferable to throw it out and start again.

Tips for success when making a sourdough starter

Producing a sourdough starter is simple; nevertheless, the procedure is time-consuming and needs your attention for a few minutes each day.

1 cup of flour combined with 1 cup of water is the nourishment for your starter.

While handling and combining the starting, be sure to use clean containers and equipment. Filthy containers may contaminate and damage your beginning.

Stir it before adding it to your starter. Remove the starting, set it in a bowl, add the water and flour slurry, and thoroughly mix it.

You may either discard the remaining starter or utilize it in a recipe.

The sourdough starter will need to be fed twice a day if stored at room temperature.

Nevertheless, if you store it in the refrigerator, you may feed it once a week.

The way you preserve your starting depends on how often you want to produce sourdough delights. Unless you want to bake often, keep it refrigerated.

If properly fed, its normal odor will be sour milk. Sourdough bread is popular due to its somewhat sour aroma.

Sourdough is the earliest leavened bread, having been created long before modern packaged yeast was accessible.

Hence, whether you build your starting using commercial yeast or from a slurry of flour and water, you may create a unique loaf of bread.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sourdough Starter Smells Like Sour Milk

What should sourdough starters smell like?

Sourdough starters should have a sweet, tangy aroma, and the mixture should be frothy and creamy in color.

How do I know if a sourdough starter is bad?

Sourdough never goes bad. Yet, it becomes out of balance and must be fed in order to continue to develop.

When sourdough starter smells like sour milk – is it bad?

While preparing a sourdough bread starter, the mixture will go through many stages, with aromas ranging from sweet to highly sour. Fermentation includes the scents created by a developing sourdough starter. If your mix becomes too annoying, feed it to quiet it down.


As long as you feed it, a sourdough starter will develop and expand.

There are sourdough starters that are hundreds of years old and are fed on a daily basis in order to last for hundreds more.

You, too, may make a sourdough starter to use and share with family and friends since everyone enjoys fresh bread.


Should sourdough starter smell sour?

What Should the Scent of My Starter Be Like? To begin with, your beginning should not smell too vinegary, such as exercise socks or nail polish remover. If it does, all it needs is to be fed. Don’t get too worked up over it.

Why does my sourdough starter smell like buttermilk?

Lactic acid is a byproduct of bacterial activity in a starter, and depending on its concentration compared to other products, it may provide a pronounced sour milk odor. Everything should be alright as long as your culture is active and does not look or smell bad.

Is it normal for my sourdough starter to smell like cheese?

What should I do if my sourdough starter stinks like cheese? This is because lactic acid is produced by the organic bacteria during the sourdough fermentation process. Cheese goes through a similar process, and the scent is only a clue that the sourdough is young and has to be fed for a longer period of time.

Why is my sourdough starter so sour?

or the hooch that emerges. As a result, the taste becomes more sour. To give your beginning a more sour taste, try moving to a more sparing feeding schedule. The longer the sourdough starter goes without food, the more acetic acid and lactic acid it produces.

How do I know if I ruined my sourdough starter?

But, if you see a pink or orange tinge or streak, your sourdough starter has gone bad and should be thrown. The stiff beginning seen above was stored at room temperature for two weeks. It’s time to toss it all out and start afresh.

How do you know if sourdough starter has gone bad?

If your sourdough starter is clearly moldy, the starting has gone bad and should no longer be utilized. Mold on sourdough starter will seem raised and fuzzy, with patches of white, yellow, green, blue, or pink hue.

What should a healthy sourdough starter smell like?

As your starter reaches the final stage and stabilizes, it will emit its own distinct odors. Despite the moniker “sourdough,” a healthy sourdough starter generally has a fresh yeasty fragrance with a little astringent accent.

Can you overfeed sourdough starter?

Indeed, your sourdough starter may be overfed. “Every time you add additional flour and water, you deplete the current population of natural bacteria and yeast,” Audrey adds. If you keep adding more and more, the starter will get so diluted that you will just have flour and water.

How long will sourdough starter smell bad?

It may smell like anything from dirty workout socks to vomit to pretty much anything in between. This is common in the first few weeks and will subside as the healthy bacteria take hold.

What if my house is too cold for sourdough starter?

The slower your starting grows, the colder the surroundings. If the average temperature in your house is less than 68°F, choose a smaller, warmer location to grow your starter. For example, place the starter on top of your water heater, refrigerator, or any item that generates heat.

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