I want to bake sourdough bread and have created a starter.

It's three days old and bubbling a lot. However it smells like sour yoghurt and not at all yeasty.

Has it gone bad?

  • I've never made my own starter, but from everything I've read the last few times sourdough questions have come up, almost all of 'em mention that there's a period where you're likely to doubt if it's doing the right thing, and you're tempted to throw it out. (that doesn't mean that it hasn't gone off, but strangeness doesn't necessarily mean it's bad)
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 15:30

2 Answers 2


Hard to tell for sure, but it sounds like a good sour to me. It has been my experience that sours do not always smell like yeast. Did you add a pinch of yeast in the first place when making the sour? If not, you would be relying on nature to have any natural yeast spores within your sour, and that does not always work out that way.

Either way, if you are only using the sour to impart flavour in your bread, it doesn't really matter if it has yeast in it anyways, as you will add yeast for leavening purposes when you mix the bread.

It has also been my experience that often a 'strange' smelling sour has excellent flavour. Ultimately, it can't hurt to bake a loaf.

  • 2
    +1, although I have not needed to add yeast to sourdough over and above what's in the starter.
    – slim
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 10:25
  • 1
    Adding a pinch of yeast is just a little trick to get the train moving on the tracks. Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 14:35
  • @mwienerdog really? I thought salt was a yeast suppressant.
    – slim
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 16:32
  • Salt is a yeast suppressant. However, whenever I make a sour, I don't add salt. Adding a bit of yeast when you begin your sour (be it rye sour for example) helps to increase the speed of fermentation of the sour. Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 19:58
  • 1
    I don't know how I came to make that comment. I definitely read yours as "Adding a pinch of salt...", so I must have been hallucinating that day :)
    – slim
    Commented Apr 1, 2011 at 11:09

When my sourdough is at its best, it floats if I take a table spoon and add to a glass of water. When it is over the hill, it sinks to the bottom. Good news is that an over the hill starter can be great tomorrow night. Just pour most of it out and replenish with flour and water and leave at room temperature.

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