How To Make Sourdough More Sour: A Guide To Getting More Tang In Your Bread

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Learn how to make your sourdough more sour depending on your personal taste. You’ll learn what makes sourdough sour and how to make your sourdough tangier.

One of the most frequently asked questions in our Sourdough Facebook Group is – how do I make my sourdough more sour? The best thing about baking your own sourdough is that you have the power to adjust your bread to suit your tastes. Manipulating the sourness of sourdough bread is not as difficult as you might think. Following these tips, you’ll have extra tangy sourdough in no time.

What Makes Sourdough Sour?

Before we can start to make our sourdough bread more sour, we need to know, what makes sourdough sour? The sourness in sourdough is created by two main acids – lactic acid and acetic acid.

Lactic acid is the same acid that gives yoghurt it’s tang – so it’s a more mild flavor profile. It’s the acetic acid in sourdough that gives it the unmistakable tanginess. That’s the acid we need to increase in order to make our sourdough bread more sour.

How To Make Sourdough More Sour

If you’re looking for a more sour flavor for your sourdough bread, you’ll need to work on the acetic acid in your bread.

There are lots of small things you can do that will add up to a more sour flavour in your sourdough bread. You can choose to do all of them, or just a few, depending on how sour you want the flavor in your sourdough bread to be. Most of the work you’ll need to do will be on adjusting the flavor of your sourdough starter, which has the biggest influence on the sourness of your sourdough bread.

Use More Wholegrain Flours In Your Sourdough Starter

Using wholegrain flour in your sourdough starter will make your sourdough bread more sour. You can choose to use all wholegrain flour, or a blend. Wholegrain flours have more complex carbohydrates that encourage more acetic acid producing bacteria.

Rye flour is a popular choice for making a sourdough starter because it creates a bubbly, active starter very quickly. However, making sourdough bread with only Rye flour can be quite difficult because the rye flour creates a gluggy gluey texture. Blending rye flour with a white, baker’s flour will give your bread good oven spring while still giving you the sour flavour you seek.

A rye starter will make sourdough more sour.
A sourdough starter made from whole grains can be quite spongy and will make your sourdough more sour.

Some wholegrain flours to try in your starter are:

  • freshly milled whole wheat flour
  • dark rye flour
  • wholemeal spelt flour

If you are going to use wholegrain flours in your actual sourdough bread, not just the starter, consider blending them with a white flour, like baker’s flour.

Flour Selection: check out the range of wholegrain flours available on Amazon.

Oxygenate Your Sourdough Starter

Letting more oxygen into your starter will encourage the bacteria to flourish – and this means more acetic acid and more sourness in your bread. The simple way to get oxygen into your starter is simply to stir it.

You can stir it when you feed it, but also in between feedings too!

Feed Your Starter Less

Feeding your starter less will starve the yeast and bacteria and encourage it to produce hooch. If you want to make your sourdough more sour, then you need to stir the hooch into your starter when you feed it, rather than pouring it off.

It’s safer to starve a more mature starter. You do need to be careful not to let it go too far – so keep an eye on it. I can get away with feeding my mature starter once over 48 hours, even when it sits on my countertop. Surprisingly, my starter does not produce hooch, even after 48 hours of starvation – however this feeding routine does give me a tangy sourdough flavor. You’ll need to experiment to see what works for your starter.

Before you start feeding it less, it’s always a good idea make a back up of your sourdough starter.

Keep Your Starter At A Lower Hydration

Lowering the hydration of your starter means to feed it more flour than water. It will be much stiffer and more spongy in texture. Sourdough starters made from wholegrain flour usually have this texture as the wholegrain flour absorbs more of the water. They will look like wet sand.

Keeping your starter at a lower hydration will mean that your starter will produce more acetic acid, making your sourdough more sour.

Ferment Your Sourdough For A Longer Time

One of the easiest ways to manipulate the sourness of your sourdough bread is simply to increase the time that it ferments for. There a few ways that you can do this and often you will need to experiment to find the level of sourness that is right for you.

You could use less sourdough starter in your sourdough bread dough and let it ferment for longer. You’d need to put it somewhere a little bit cooler (not as cold as the fridge though) for the bulk ferment or first rise.

Then once you’ve shaped it, you could leave in the fridge for up to 72 hours. The fridge slows down the yeast, so your bread shouldn’t overproof in the fridge, but the bacteria in your sourdough will flourish, giving you the sour flavour you’re wanting.

I am a big fan of a long, cold ferment. I will usually cold ferment my sourdough for a minimum of 36 hours as I love the texture of my bread this way. The crust is nicer, it has bubbles and blisters – and it gives me the sour flavor profile I like.

Increase the sourness of your bread with a long cold ferment.
A longer cold ferment will increase the sourness of your bread – and produce a beautifully textured crust.

I hope these tips help you to adjust the sourness in your sourdough bread. If you’d prefer your bread to be less sour, these tips will help you to reduce the tanginess in your bread.

If you’re looking for more tips to help your sourdough starter, you’ll find our troubleshooting guide here.

If you’re looking for tips to improve your sourdough baking, you’ll find 10 things no one ever tells you about sourdough here.

Want to nail your sourdough ear every single time? Check out these tips.

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