I've been reading about problems people are having with the initial activation of the sourdo.com starters. I bought mine about 2 weeks ago myself, and recently finished with the activation of both the Camaldoli and the Ischia. I had several questions for Ed Wood and did email him at sourdo.com's contact email. He emailed me back VERY quickly, great great customer service there!!!!
Anyway, I had questions about the activation, I started with the Camaldoli, and saved the Ischia until after I determined that I knew that the process was working correctly and knew what I was doing. I built the proofer box with a stryo cooler, an edison socket with dimmer switch and a meat thermometer punched right through the side of the cooler with the tip basically in the middle of the enclosed area. temps were on average 88 degrees.
After 8-10 hours in the proofer I had a nice layer of hooch about a 1/2 inch thick on top, so I figured I was doing fine. I went to bed that night, and when I went to do the first feeding at the 24 hour mark, I noticed that the layer of hooch had moved to the bottom of the jar. I performed the first feeding anyway, and at one point, the jar was pretty full so I ended up splitting the jar into two jars and continued with the routine feedings. Now, both jars smelled wonderful, and there were no strange colors at all. at the next mornings feeding time, there was no hooch on the bottom, and the first jar had about an inch of foamy bubbles on top, then 2nd jar had 3-4 inches of foam on top. I emailed Ed about this, and explained as above, he said that it sounded like both jars were ok. I did the feedings and then went to work that day. when I got home, both jars now had a thick layer of foamy bubbles on top. So my jars ended up being in the proofer for about 3 days total before I did my final feeding prior to refrigerating.
My question I guess, is, do you think it is possible for a culture to initally be contaminated, and then clear itself due to acidity without doing the washings? My jars all smell wonderful, originally very organic/yeasty/earthy, now VERY reminiscent of wine. They look EXACTLY like the pic that was posted by Bill, of his activated starter.