Oliver Crust is a culinary instructor and sourdough expert who has been teaching bread making classes for over a decade. He is known for his innovative sourdough recipes and his ability to make the bread-making process accessible to people of all skill levels. Oliver is also a regular contributor to various food and baking magazines.
Yes, a sourdough starter can still be alive even if it smells sour but never gets bubbly. While a bubbly and active starter is typically a sign of a healthy and thriving culture, there can be various reasons why a starter may not produce bubbles.
1. New Starter: If you recently created your sourdough starter, it may take some time for the yeast and bacteria to establish and become active. In the early stages, the starter may not show much activity or produce bubbles. Give it some more time and continue with regular feedings, and it should eventually become more active.
2. Temperature: Temperature plays a crucial role in the fermentation process of sourdough. If your starter is kept in a cooler environment, it may take longer for the yeast and bacteria to become active. Try placing your starter in a warmer spot, such as near a warm oven or on top of the refrigerator, to encourage fermentation and bubble formation.
3. Feeding Schedule: The feeding schedule of your sourdough starter can also impact its activity. If you are not feeding it regularly or providing it with enough food, it may not develop the necessary yeast and bacteria population to create bubbles. Make sure you are feeding your starter consistently, ideally every 12 hours, with equal parts flour and water.
4. Flour Type: The type of flour used in your sourdough starter can affect its activity. Some flours, such as whole wheat or rye, contain more natural yeast and bacteria, which can result in a more active starter. If you are using a lower protein flour, like all-purpose flour, it may take longer for the starter to show signs of activity.
5. Contamination: If your sourdough starter smells sour but never gets bubbly, it could be contaminated with undesirable bacteria or mold. This can happen if the starter is not properly maintained or if unclean utensils or containers are used. In such cases, it is best to discard the starter and start fresh with a new batch.
Remember, a sourdough starter is a living organism, and its behavior can vary. If your starter smells sour but never gets bubbly, it may still be active and usable. However, if you are unsure about its health or if it exhibits any signs of mold or off-putting odors, it's always better to err on the side of caution and start a new starter.
If you continue to have issues with your sourdough starter, it may be helpful to consult a sourdough expert or join online sourdough communities for troubleshooting tips and advice. Happy sourdough baking!