Why does sourdough smell like alcohol? Is it safe to eat?

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Sourdough used to be something you could only purchase at speciality bread stores. Yet, it has grown in favor among home bakers throughout the years, particularly during lockdown and shelter-in-place situations.

Being cooped up at home, many resorted to baking and cooking to relieve some of the worry caused by the epidemic, and sourdough became the ideal stay-at-home pastime for many.

Sourdough is basically slow-fermented bread, and anytime we indulge with anything fermented, alcohol is unavoidably brought up. Alcohol is a natural byproduct of yeast and sugar, and since sourdough contains both, it may sometimes acquire an alcoholic odor.

But in what circumstances does this occur? Is it okay to eat sourdough if it smells like alcohol?

Why Does Sourdough Smell Like Alcohol?

When the starter used in sourdough bread is underfed, the loaf might smell like alcohol. A sourdough starter should smell yeasty with a somewhat sour undertone. If it has a strong alcoholic odor, it suggests that the yeast in the starter is hungry. Increased, regular feedings may repair a sourdough starter that smells like alcohol.

What Is A Sourdough Starter?

A sourdough starter is a symbiotic and stable colony of wild yeast and beneficial bacteria formed by the fermentation of wheat and water and used to leaven and flavor bread dough. It is a system that must be continually maintained and fed in order to preserve its equilibrium.

While the microbiome population would rely on the organisms present in the flour, water, air, the jar, geographical location, and some studies even indicate, the baker’s hands, the particular composition of yeast and bacteria in each starter is distinct.

Each starting starts with a group of yeast and bacteria, and the best, most robust group of bacteria and yeast ultimately prevails, giving the starter its distinct microbial makeup.

The precise strains for each starter may change, but they are always made up of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria.

The yeast is responsible for manufacturing the carbon dioxide required to generate the fluffy, fragrant bread that is every bread baker’s dream.

The lactic acid bacteria is responsible for the tangy, sour flavor and stops harmful bacteria from multiplying in the starter.

After the first battle for control, the emerging colony produces something that is actively bubbling and rises when fed, with a nice yeasty and faintly sour fragrance.

Once stable, each starting will have its own distinct odor. Yet, during the first procedure, the scent might vary from vomit to old socks, filthy feet, spoilt milk, and bad-smelling cheese.

If the balance is not maintained, the sourdough starter may begin to smell like other things as well. A strong odor of alcohol, nail polish, or vinegar suggests that there is an imbalance in the colony.

My Sourdough Bread Smells Like Alcohol! Did I Do Something Wrong?

The scent of alcohol in sourdough is mainly due to the starter that you used to make your dough. Although a slight alcohol odor is typical, an overpowering alcohol odor suggests a condition of imbalance in the system.

What may have triggered it?

Your Starter is Hungry!

If your beginning smells heavily of alcohol, it is hungry and need extra food.

We spoke with Cultures for Health, a leading resource for all things fermented, as to why this occurs. They told us in an email that the reason a sourdough starter might smell strongly of alcohol is because it isn’t fed enough.

If a sourdough starter is not fed often enough, or if feedings are omitted, it will begin devouring wasted yeast as well as its own waste, producing an unpleasant odor similar to that of alcohol or nail polish remover.

Health-promoting Cultures

In other words, in the absence of a food supply, the yeast in your sourdough starter will feed on the waste of its deceased neighbor or on its own waste to live. That’s a lot of horror movie vibes!

Thus, if your beginning smells like it drank too much, it’s probably famished and simply needs more food. To prevent placing your beginning in the painful situation of eating their deceased companion or garbage, just offer it additional food to eat!

How Can I Save My Sourdough Starter That Smells Like Alcohol?

Fortunately, all hope is not gone. A sourdough starter that smells like alcohol may probably be preserved by feeding it more often. But, Cultures for Health warns that if your starting hasn’t been fed in a while, it may take some time to nurture it back to health.

Just keep feeding it until it achieves the optimal level of equilibrium.

If increasing the frequency of feedings does not work, Cultures for Health recommends removing 2 tablespoons of the alcohol-smelling starter and replacing it with a quarter cup of water and a quarter to a half cup of flour. Provide the regular quantities at the next mealtime.

You give your sourdough a fighting chance to reestablish its natural state of balance by diluting and introducing a fresh set of bacteria to populate the starting.

How Do I Know When It’s Time To Toss My Sourdough Starter?

Alcohol, acetone, or vinegar odors are one thing, and they can typically be remedied by increasing feeding to enable the proper bacteria mix to prevail with the right nutrition.

Nevertheless, if you see anything pink or orange in your starting or visible mold, it is a solid indicator that evil bacteria have taken over your sourdough starter and the good guys have lost. It is better to simply dump everything and start again at this point.

Is Sourdough That Smells Like Alcohol Safe to Eat?

Sourdough that smells like alcohol is safe to eat, but whether it tastes nice or is pleasant is a another story. Some alcohol scent on bread dough is typical, and the alcohol normally cooks out as it bakes. But, if the alcohol fragrance is strong, the aroma may persist even after baking your bread.

There are no safety concerns if it is something you can consume. Alternatively, you should start anew and ensure that the starter you use is adequately nourished and does not have an overpowering odor of alcohol, which may give an unpleasant and bitter flavor to your sourdough bread.

What Is Sourdough Bread?

Sourdough bread is organically leavened with wild yeast and bacteria using a starter formed by fermenting wheat and water.

Sourdough, as opposed to normal bread, depends on natural, wild yeast and the beneficial bacteria created during the fermentation process to rise. It has no additives and depends on the natural fermentation process to generate its distinctive acidic taste and chewy texture.

Sourdough may take a long time and patience to create, especially if you’re just starting out and producing your own starter. And I’m not surprised it became so popular during the lockdown, since time seemed to be something most people had enough of at that time.

Is Sourdough Healthy?

Sourdough bread is often healthier than other forms of bread for a variety of reasons.

Naturally leavened

Sourdough bread is claimed to be healthier than white bread since it is naturally leavened and does not include the artificial yeast and chemicals present in store-bought bread.

Fiber and Digestive Health

Sourdough includes fiber that aids digestion, especially when prepared with whole wheat flour. Sourdough includes a lot of probiotics during fermentation, but not many of them survive the baking temperatures.

Yet, the prebiotics it contains survive and help feed the healthy bacteria that already reside in our bellies, facilitating and maintaining gut health.

Increased Bioavailability

The lactic acid in sourdough bread also serves to make the vitamins, minerals, protein, and other elements in the bread more accessible, or absorbable by the body.

As a result, the nutrients become more valuable to our bodies. This occurs during the fermentation process due to the breakdown of phytic acid, which generally hinders vitamin and nutrient absorption.

May Help Manage Blood Sugar Levels

Sourdough also has a low glycemic index, which means it does not produce blood sugar spikes since it is absorbed slowly by the body. As a result, unlike conventional white bread, it aids with blood sugar management. This is particularly useful for folks who need to monitor their blood sugar levels.

Less Gluten and More Digestible

Sourdough has less gluten than conventional bread due to the slow and extended fermentation process, and is therefore easier on the digestive system. According to one research, sourdough bread is more readily absorbed by the body than ordinary bread.

The fermentation process is what makes sourdough bread a healthier option for bread, as it provides our bodies with more readily accessible nutrients that it can utilise to promote health and well-being.

Is Sourdough Gluten-Free?

Sourdough has a naturally tart taste and, since it is slow-fermented, many people believe it is healthier than other forms of bread.

For people who are sensitive to gluten, sourdough is regarded to be a better digestible option since the gluten is broken down into a more digestible, absorbable form throughout the lengthy fermentation process, decreasing the discomforts it normally causes.

Sourdough has less gluten than conventional bread, and since it includes healthy bacteria that help the stomach in digestion, it is simpler for the body to digest and enjoy.

Although it may be simpler to digest and contain less gluten than conventional bread, it is crucial to remember that unless produced with a gluten-free starting, sourdough is not gluten-free. It is critical to remember this if you have gluten allergies or sensitivities, or if you have celiac disease.

Beyond Celiac claims that even if it contains less gluten, it does not contain enough to be termed gluten-free. Even if someone with a gluten sensitivity does not experience symptoms after eating sourdough bread, there is always a chance that harm is occurring within the stomach.

As a result, it is critical to remember to use certified gluten-free items when serving to persons who have gluten allergies or sensitivities.

Frequently Asked Questions to Sourdough Smells Like Alcohol

What Should My Sourdough Starter Smell Like?

Each sourdough starter is unique and will develop its own distinct aroma. Sourdough starters, on the other hand, should have a light yeast-like fragrance with a hint of sourness. It should not have an offensive or disagreeable odor. If it happens, keep feeding it until it is balanced.

How Do I Get Rid of The Alcohol Smell In My Sourdough Starter?

If your sourdough smells strongly of alcohol, it’s because it’s hungry and needs to be fed. Increase the frequency of feedings until the alcohol scent fades and the situation corrects itself.

Conclusion to Sourdough Smells Like Alcohol

If the starting used smells like alcohol, the sourdough will smell like it. If there is not enough food supply for the yeast in the starting owing to insufficient feeding, a sourdough starter might acquire a strong alcoholic scent.

Sourdough bread that smells like alcohol is safe to consume, although it may be distasteful and unpleasant to eat depending on the person’s tastes.

To prevent this issue in the future, always use a ripe, mature, and well nourished sourdough starter.


Is it safe to use a sourdough starter that smells like alcohol?

A. The black liquid is hooch, a naturally occurring alcohol that tells that your sourdough starter is hungry. Hooch is OK to drink, but it should be drained off and discarded before churning and feeding your starting.

Is it safe to eat dough that smells like alcohol?

Bread that smells strongly like alcohol is entirely fine to consume. The fermentation process of yeasts produces alcohol, which is the source of this odor. The fragrance normally goes away after the dough is cooked in your oven.

Is it safe to eat bread that smells like yeast?

Product security

Consuming bread with a chemical odor caused by yeast infection may taste unpleasant and cause mild digestive complaints, but it poses no health risk.

Can sourdough become alcoholic?

A sourdough starter ferments in the same way as a loaf of sourdough bread does, and hence creates alcohol. If the beginning runs out of nutrients from new flour, it becomes over-proofed, and alcohol levels rise. In severe situations, the alcohol rises to the top of the starting and is referred to as hooch.

Can I bake with sourdough starter that smells like acetone?

Your starter may sometimes produce an acetone or nail polish remover odor. It’s quite natural; it’s just hungry, so feed, feed, feed.

Is hooch on sourdough starter bad?

The liquid that forms on the top of your starter when it hasn’t been fed in a while is known as “hooch.” This liquid is the alcohol produced by wild yeast fermentation. The presence of booze does not indicate that your starter is in danger. It does, however, signal that your starting is hungry and need feeding.

Why does my sourdough smell like alcohol?

Yet, why does our sourdough starter smell like beer, alcohol, or even nail polish remover? The germs are at blame. The healthy bacteria in your starter are so busy fighting off harmful bacteria throughout the fermentation process that it must be fed on a regular basis.

Is it OK to eat fermented dough?

After baking, the dough will most likely taste strange — too “yeasty” or “beer-like,” with some “wrong” tastes. It won’t be utterly inedible, but it won’t taste great either. Frankly, I wouldn’t spend my time doing anything like that.

Does raw dough become alcohol in the stomach?

Bread dough swells in the stomach, increasing the risk of gastric dilation, shock, and foreign body blockage. As yeast ferments, it produces alcohol, which causes ethanol toxicosis. This may result in acid-base imbalances, hypoglycemia, ataxia, CNS depression, convulsions, and death.

Why does my bread smell alcoholic?

Fermentation [1]: Yeast is frequently added to bread dough, where it ferments the carbohydrates and creates carbon dioxide, alcohol, and other byproducts. If you leave your bread dough to ferment for too long, the yeast might develop too much alcohol, giving the loaf an alcoholic flavor.

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