If you wake up one morning and see that your Amish Friendship Bread or sourdough starter has separated or has an oily-looking film at the top, that’s called hooch. Don’t panic.
Starter Hooch 101
Hooch is fermented alcohol that’s released by the yeasts in your starter, and it’s also a sign that your starter needs to be fed.
Warmer kitchens will notice that the yeasts in their starters eat much faster than starters in cooler kitchens, which means you may need to adjust your feeding schedule to accommodate your hungrier starters.
A few notes:
- The presence of hooch does not mean your starter is spoiled. It does, however, mean your starter needs to be fed–the sooner, the better.
- You can pour off the hooch or mix it back in.
- If your starter is getting hooch on a regular basis, you need to adjust your feeding schedule. This may be especially true for warmer months.
- Hooch can range in color from light to dark, almost black. If your starter is SUPER dark, it means you probably haven’t been keeping up with your starer. This might be a good time to freeze it (after you feed it) so you can free yourself up from regular maintenance of your starter.
Is your starter spoiled?
If you suspect your starter may be spoiled, the rule in the kitchen is, When in doubt, throw it out. But a hearty starter, even with hooch, can stave off the bad stuff as long as it’s being properly fed. The presence of pink- or orange-tinged mold is a sign that your starter needs to be tossed.
Here’s the tutorial on how to fix your starter if your starter is separating and you’re noticing an accumulation of hooch.
Can I use an electric hand mixer to feed the batch on Day 10? I have severe arthritis in my hands, so any shortcuts I can use is gratefully appreciated.
This site is very informative. I’m a beginner and I understand the instructions. I like that there are options for saving the starter and solutions for situations that come up when a person is a beginner. Thank you.
KERMIT W HALE says
I have been trying to get my starter to produce hooch, but they would rather die than do that. Any suggestio s? I have tried almost everything but it is not sour. Bread looks like sourdough but tastes just like regular bread.
I keep feeding my starter but about 2-3 hours later hooch is on top of it. This is the first time I am making sourdough starter. I have changed to feeding it 2 times a day but there is always a layer of hooch!! I have no clue what to do. Also it is fine if I use all purpose flour to feed my starter? Should I feed my starter 3 times a day!?!
Hi Lucee! That does seem pretty active! How much starter do you have, and are you feeding it a 1:1 ratio? What is your temperature like where you are? These can all influence how often you’re needing to feed your starter.
Fran W says
I stirred the hooch in before making some King Arthur biscuits and they taste like Cheese Its. They are really tasty but now I’m concerned that mixing the hooch in may not be baked out… Any ideas? Anyone else done this?
Hi Fran! We haven’t noticed hooch causing problems with the flavor of the starter. However, we usually try to give the starter several days after feeding it and stirring it, before baking again with it. You can always scoop off the layer of hooch if you feel like it’s affecting your bake, as well! Let us know if you have any other questions!
KERMIT W HALE says
I will buy your hooch. Lol. Mine refuses to produce any.
Unca Alby says
OK, this is my second time taking it out of the refrigerator. I let it come to room temperature, and after about 6 hours, it had developed a layer of harder “scum” on the top. I scraped that all off and threw it away, and tried to just get the liquid parts underneath to put it the bread recipe. No signs of hooch or mold. Just a layer of hardened stuff on the top.
So did I do anything wrong?
Thanks for sharing! How long is it good for?
This looks so good! What a great way to still enjoy bread but with a natural rise!
What about a hooch-like layer in the middle of three layers? Starter is not quite 24 hours old.
Hi Amelia! If your starter is only a day old, it shouldn’t be having hooch. I would give it a good stir (which is a good idea, anyway) and if it smells fine and has a good consistency, then just wait to feed it. However, if it continues to separate (especially with the liquid on the top), then you may want to feed it, stir it, and let it sit.
Let us know how it goes!
Can coconut oil be used as a substitute for butter in your cookie recipes? Also is there a substitution for shortening?
Hi Karen! In general, coconut oil should be able to substitute butter with a 1:1 ratio. However, it will probably alter the flavor somewhat. Here’s a great post on different substitutions for shortening: https://food52.com/blog/24618-best-shortening-substitutes
I am allergic to milk and I am trying to do this with water. It is kind of working. I boil the water first and then use it. Has any one else tried this? does it work?
Darien Gee says
Hi Lena — You can substitute nut milk or soy milk instead of dairy. Water works, too. Did you use yeast, flour, sugar and water to start your starter?
Karen Jaquith says
My regular Friendship bread loaves aren’t very rounded after baking. I have used starter from the freezer and I know the baking powder I used was fresh. They are only about an inch in height. I’m using regular sized loaf pans. Taste okay.
My second question is can I freeze the starter in pint size jars. Using gallon freezer bags seems wasteful
Darien Gee says
Hi Karen! How active was your starter before you used it (or before you froze it)? You generally want to let it thaw and then see if it’s still active (some bubbles) as that will help with rise. If you want to post a picture here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/amishfriendshipbread/ I can help troubleshoot. Did you get the starter recipe from this website or another place? Was there a lot of activity during your 10 days? An inch in height is definitely NOT right and I’ve only heard of that happening with folks using other starter recipes or if they received one from a friend that turned out to be inactive.
And most pint size jars aren’t meant for freezing and you also need to leave room for expansion. I totally hear you on not using too many bags (it’s to help with portions and also to gift the starter easily), and would recommend plastic containers over glass, though those risk cracking, too.