Sourdough starter liquid - what is the liquid that's formed in my sourdough starter jar?
If you're new to making a sourdough starter, you might have noticed some sourdough starter liquid forming in your jar.
This liquid is called hooch and generally forms on the surface of your starter. It can sometimes form in the middle of your starter or even underneath.
It looks like the flour and water have separated, however this liquid (hooch) is quite normal.
Why Does My Sourdough Starter Have Liquid?
Sourdough starter is, in its simplest form, just flour and water.
The flour and water are mixed together and when given a little time and the right temperature, start to ferment.
After a few days, you might notice that the starter has liquid forming in the jar. It can be on top of the starter, but sometimes forms underneath or even in the middle of your starter.
This liquid is called hooch and it forms when your sourdough starter has used all of its food. It's an indication that your starter is hungry!
Hooch is actually alcohol and is a by product of the fermentation occurring in your starter.
Should I Pour The Hooch Off My Sourdough Starter?
Generally, no you should not pour the hooch off your sourdough starter.
The hooch is part of your starter's hydration, so pouring it off will change the hydration of your sourdough starter.
It also gives your starter flavor - if you're looking for a nice sour sourdough, the hooch is what will give you that!
In fact, you'll find that making your starter produce hooch is one of the ways to make your sourdough more sour.
If your sourdough starter forms hooch, mix the hooch back into the starter before you discard and feed.
The only time I would consider pouring the hooch off your sourdough starter is if it has been stored in the fridge for a long time and the hooch is very dark. You'll find instructions for reviving an old sourdough starter here.
What Color Is Hooch?
Hooch varies in color.
Generally, on a very young starter (so less than a week old), hooch will be a clear or slightly cloudy color.
As your starter matures, you'll find that the hooch may change color. A starter that has been left in the fridge for a long time will develop darker hooch. It can be brown, black or even purple looking.
All of these colors are normal and will not affect the viability of your sourdough starter.
They can just be stirred back in before you discard and feed.
The only time you should toss your starter and starter again is if your starter develops mold.
How To Stop Sourdough Starter Forming Hooch?
If your sourdough starter is consistently producing hooch, even after being fed, you need to look at changing a few things.
While hooch is harmless, it also indicates that your starter is hungry and so you need to increase its food and/or stop it from consuming the food so quickly.
Here are a few things you can do to stop your sourdough starter from producing hooch:
- Increase the regularity of feeding - so instead of every 24 hours, feed every 12 hours.
- Try to move the starter to a cooler spot. Warmer temperatures will increase the rate at which your starter consumes flour and water. Keeping it at 21C/70F or cooler will ensure that it chomps through the food a little slower.
- Feed your starter a higher ratio of flour and water. Instead of 1:1:1, try 1:2:2 so for 25g of starter, feed it 50g of flour and 50g of water.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hooch (Sourdough Starter Liquid)
A watery sourdough starter means that it has too much water. A sourdough starter should be thick, like warm peanut butter. Add a little more flour to the mix. Ideally your starter should be 100% hydration, so have equal amounts of flour and water. But a little extra flour is ok. Check out this guide on how to fix a watery sourdough starter.
If your sourdough starter has hooch, this indicates that it is hungry so it will not rise. A sourdough starter rises as it consumes food and the yeast produce CO2 gas, causing the mixture to rise in the jar. You'll be able to see bubbles forming on the surface of the jar. In order to make your starter rise, you need to feed the starter regularly and make sure you feed it more than it weighs.
If your sourdough starter continually produces hooch, you need to change the way in which you feed it. You'll need to increase the ratio of flour and water to starter. So instead of feeding it 1:1:1, you'll need to feed it 1:2:2. This means that for 50g of sourdough starter, you'll need to feed it 100g of flour and 100g of water. This means that your starter has double the amount of food to get through and it should stop producing hooch.
A hungry sourdough starter will smell like acetone or nail polish remover. Hooch can make your sourdough starter smell like this. A very strong acetone smell on sourdough starter indicates that it is extremely hungry and you'll need to feed it more regularly. Hooch can also make your starter smell like alcohol.
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