One of the byproducts of the COVID-19 pandemic was the rise (no pun intended) of sourdough baking. Quicker than you can say, “cabin fever,” a nation of wanna-be bakers turned their homes into warm and crusty boulangeries. Key to the process is what’s known as a sourdough starter, a mixture of flour and water that has been fermented by naturally occurring yeast and lactic acid bacteria.
While hearty in nature, starters need a bit of TLC to do their thing optimally. Enter Sourhouse co-founders Erik Fabian and Jennifer Yoko Olson, two bakers who brought their skills as marketers and industrial design, respectively, to create Goldie, an appliance built to keep sourdough starters at an ideal temperature. The proper temperature for a sourdough starter is between 75-85°F (24-30°C), and this range provides the warm environment needed for the yeast and bacteria in the starter to thrive. Too hot and the starter may over-ferment, while too cold can slow or halt the fermentation process.
Fabian and Olson’s entry into the world of sourdough baking is called Goldie, as in Goldilocks of The Three Bears fame. Goldie is built to provide just enough warmth to keep a sourdough starter consistently in the “Goldilocks Zone” (as in not too hot, not too cold).
In a recent interview with The Spoon, Fabian explained that the idea for Goldie preceded the pandemic and was born out of his sourdough starter issues. “You know, New York apartment, it was getting down below 60, and it was just too cold for my starter,” he said. “I didn’t really understand the way temperature interacted with my starter at that point. So, I found a warm spot, which became a DIY trick. As I continued to bake, I found that my starter was kind of like always searching for a warm spot.”
Once COVID came along, with the assistance of Olson, an experienced product designer, discovery met opportunity.” We didn’t want to make something like smart technology. We wanted to be like dumb technology for marketing because there’s enough complexity to baking with sourdough, so we wanted to create something simple. My basic idea early on was like a warming base with a transparent dome,” Fabian said.
The next step was Kickstarter, where Goldie was introduced in April 2022. Ending in October, Sourhouse’s offering drew 1,007 backers who pledged $103,948, almost triple the $39,000 original ask. Along with the Goldie apparatus, the Kickstarter kit came with a cooling puck that a baker can keep in the freezer if the starter overheats and needs quick cooling.
With fermentation a thing now, what are the thoughts about the extensibility of Goldie? Would it work for other types of fermented foods? While Fabian wouldn’t be specific about such next steps, it’s clear he and Olson are on to something, given proper fermentation for everything from sauerkraut to kombucha works best with controlled temperatures.
“Our focus on bread is really because, from my point of view is like I think it’s one of the most accessible points to entry into fermentation,” Fabian commented, “probably along with sauerkraut. And you know, I think it’s just easier to launch a brand and a business around a more targeted kind of idea.”
Spoken like a true marketer.