A-Z Series

“F” for Fermentation

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"F" for Fermentation

Another weekend, another Beards A-Z!

For this week, we have the letter “F” for FERMENTATION.

First, there are actually three different forms of fermentation.

1. Lactic acid fermentation: This is the process that turns yeasts and bacteria into a variety of food such as pickles, yogurt and sourdough bread

2. Acetic acid fermentation: This process turns starches and sugars into foods like vinegar and kombucha

3.THE ONE THAT GIVES US BEER– Ethanol or alcoholic fermentation: the process of turning starches and sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is the one we want to explore.

So how does it work? Like all things beer-related, the process is super simple on paper, even though complexities abound during the actual process.

Fermentation in its simplest steps goes as thus: Grains are heated, and then allowed to cool. As they cool, yeast is added. The yeast wants to grow and multiply, so its first step is to consume the available oxygen which is critical for its growth. When the oxygen is depleted, the yeast becomes active and begins to work on the sugar (the yeast’s food) in the wort. As the yeast culture expands by consuming the sugars, two byproducts are created: alcohol and carbon dioxide. There is then a second phase of fermentation, where yeast growth drops quickly as alcohol content rises. The yeast, starved of food, and in a now inhospitable environment of alcohol, dies, and settles to the bottom of the fermenting vessel, leaving behind its gift of alcohol, and with the CO2, carbonation as well.

Think about it like this: the malt is the food. The yeast is the hungry monster. When the hungry monster consumes all the food it can over a period of time, it burps and then goes to sleep. The burp left behind gives us beer! One day down the line we’ll wake up the monster again and feed it to make more burps.

Anyways, science gives us beer (not hungry monsters), so thanks science!

Can anyone beat our Hungry Monster comparison? How do you explain fermentation?

(who doesn’t like Cookie Monster, though?)