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I am having trouble getting my German Farmer Rye Bread (Bauernbrot) to taste sour enough. I have a good rise and good structure but the flavor is not sour enough. I tried making the starter less watery and letting the finished dough rise in the fridge overnight but it still lacks the classic German Bauernbrot sourness. Comments? Thanks!

  • I think we need more information about your sourdough starter. How long have you been keeping it? Where did it come from? – GdD Jun 13 '19 at 12:34
  • And with what ratios and timings are you working? What sourdough process? One-step (just refreshing) or multiple ones (e.g. working with different temperature levels)? – Stephie Jun 13 '19 at 15:37
  • Hi I made the starter myself with equal parts water and coarseground Rye Flour. In the fridge for 5 days with regular feedings --- bubbled up nicely and had a nice smell. I live in Sweden BTW so I don't have access to German bakery to buy starter. I took the starter out once to feed and left at room temp for several hours. – Paul Jun 13 '19 at 20:30
  • @Paul- I hope you don't mind but I changed the title to be a question. The question doesn't seem to be about the fact that the bread is German. – Sobachatina Jun 14 '19 at 20:27
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I've just been dealing with a similar issue. My sourdough starter wasn't producing sour enough bread. In my case Russian black bread which is also rye. It was rising well but tasted like regular bread.

I did a some research and experimentation and fixed it.

I'm sure you are aware that a sourdough starter has both yeast and bacteria. The yeast consume sugar and produce CO2 and the bacteria consume sugar and produce acids including lactic and acetic. Acetic acid in particular (ie. vinegar) is very pungent and sour.

The type of bacteria you have will strongly affect the flavor and acidity of the bread. After feeding, yeast is active early. As the acidity rises the yeast activity falls off and the bacteria become more active. Yeast is also more active at cooler temperatures.

As your starter was bubbling well your yeast was obviously active. If it isn't sour then you either have mild tasting bacteria or they aren't active enough or both.

Several variables made a noticeable difference:

  • I started keeping my starter in a warmer place.
    It was early spring and my kitchen was cool. The yeast was active at those temperatures but the bacteria were very slow.

  • I introduced different flours.
    I started feeding my starter with freshly ground wheat flour and rye. I was trying to get new microbes. The day after feeding with a new flour the starter changed flavor noticeably.

  • I fed my starter less frequently
    The recipe I was following said to feed the starter twice a day. This meant that my yeast was just finishing up their most active period when I fed again. The bacteria never really had a chance to take over. I read several articles that recommended leaving the starter a little longer and not feeding until the starter actually fell. The yeast weren't as active and the starter collapsed. After this point the starter would rise less but would become sour very quickly.

While I'm still not an expert, I found that I can now tweak these variables to tune my bread. If I feed more often and keep the starter cool it will rise more vigorously and be more mild. If I feed less often and in a warmer place then the bread will rise more slowly but be much more sour. I'm still trying to find a balance that I like but I know what variables to tweak.

The black bread I made this week was startlingly sour and delicious.

Addendum
I saw some blog posts that suggested that since the strongest flavored bacteria were producing acetic acid that one could simply add vinegar to the bread dough to achieve the same effect.
I tried it.
As you would expect it tasted sour but also flat and boring. I won't be cheating like that again.

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    Good point - interestingly, many US sources suggest feeding a sourdough twice a day (I have even seen every few hours, which would absolutely push the balance towards yeast) and use roughly equal ratios, while German sources say once a day, but with way less starter. – Stephie Jun 14 '19 at 18:40

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