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.
Here are my best tips for increasing the sourness of your sourdough bread.
- Use more whole grain flours across the sourdough process
- Oxygenate your starter
- Feed starter less and keep the hooch
- Use a stiff starter
- Add starter after peak
- Ferment the dough longer and at cooler temperature (using less starter)
- Keep your bread basic (no additional flavors)
- Add citric acid
Use More Wholegrain Flours In Your Sourdough Starter & Dough
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.
Using a blend of rye and bread flour or all purpose in your starter is a good idea. Alternatively, you can feed your starter rye for just a few days and then go back to white flour.
However, making sourdough bread with only Rye flour can be quite difficult because the rye flour creates a gluggy gluey texture. This can be problematic if you are new to sourdough.
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.
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 bread flour.
You'll find my easy Whole Wheat Rye Sourdough Recipe here. This recipe blends whole wheat, rye and white bread flour to give you a lovely tang, with maximum oven spring.
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!
If you really want to get the oxygen into your starter, consider mixing up your sourdough starter in a bowl and then transferring it to a jar each time you feed it.
This will make sure you incorporate all the flour, water and starter together.
Stirring a few times a day between feeds will really help.
If you find that your starter is quite slow to peak after a feed, give it a stir and you'll find that it will generally peak after this. Stirring moves the yeast and bacteria around and ensures they will consume all the flour and water in the jar, thus doubling, or even tripling in size.
Feed Your Starter Less (Stir In The Hooch)
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 (Stiff Starter)
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.
Alternatively, you could create a Pasta Madre which is a very low hydration starter.
Add Starter After Peak
We all know that using our starter when it peaks or doubles is the best way - it means our yeast colonies are at their maximum level and they're ready to rise your bread!
But, if you are wanting a more sour loaf of sourdough, you can wait until your starter is past its peak and starting to fall before you add it to your flour, water and salt.
This will ensure that it takes longer to ferment your dough, making the loaf more sour (this is further explained below too).
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 flavor of my bread this way.
The crust is nicer, it has bubbles and blisters - and it gives me the sour flavor profile I like.
Keep Ingredients Basic
It's a good idea to keep your bread to just flour, water and salt if you are wanting a really tangy flavor in your sourdough.
Keeping things basic means that you will be able to ferment the dough for a long time, without worrying about the other added ingredients.
Added ingredients can also change the fermentation - for example, dried fruit or sugar based inclusions can speed things up. You want things to slow down for a more sour flavor, so it's best to just keep things basic.
Use Citric Acid In Your Sourdough
If you really want a stronger flavor in your sourdough bread, adding a little citric acid to your dough will help.
You can add ⅛ to ¼ of a teaspoon of citric acid to your sourdough. Do not use more than this amount because it will make your sourdough inedible.
You add the citric acid to your dough along with the water, flour and salt.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, using rye, or any whole grains will give you a more sour profile to your loaf of sourdough.
Yes, you can add sour salt to sourdough to make it more sour - but did you know that another name for sour salt is actually citric acid? It's not a salt at all! Follow the above directions for adding citric acid to your sourdough bread.
It is often said that commercial bakeries use vinegar (among other things) to make their yeasted bread more sour - and then label it as "sourdough". I would not advise adding vinegar to your sourdough bread. It is absolutely not necessary.
Every sourdough starter is unique because of the environmental factors that go into developing and nurturing your SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). San Francisco Sourdough tastes uniquely sour because it has the strain of lactobacillus San Francisco - a strain of lactobacillus not found anywhere else in the world! You can read more about the secrets of San Francisco sourdough here.
If you're looking for more tips to help your sourdough starter, you'll find my 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.
When you called ferment, is your dough covered? If so, with what? Thank you
Yes I use plastic bags that I can keep reusing. Some people also like to use shower caps.
Been babying a couple starters for weeks and frustrated at the lack of tang, thank you for such a good article! Going to try the longer ferment!
If I do a cold ferment, does it need to come to room temperature before baking?
Thanks for all your suggestions!
The Pantry Mama
no, you want to take cold dough and put it into a hot, preheated Dutch Oven 🙂