The Chemical Magic of Yeast in Brewing
Yeast has played a mysterious role in the brewing process since the early days of civilization; however, it wasn’t truly discovered until the late 1800s by Louis Pasteur. The fungus is responsible for producing a variety of compounds, including ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. Whether creating ale or lager in any form, yeast is a necessary component in the brewing process, and it’s worth exploring its history a bit further.
What is Yeast?
Everywhere you look, yeast is there. It is a spherical unicellular microscopic fungus that is so versatile and adaptable, you probably wouldn’t believe it existed if you weren’t so familiar with its byproducts.
While you wouldn’t be able to see it without a high powered microscope, yeast cells are egg-shaped micro-organisms that grow to a maximum size of six to eight thousandths of a millimeter. That’s not much bigger than a pinhead. Its tiny size means a 1cm cube weighs only one gram, yet contains more than 10 billion yeast cells.
Yeast cells are made up of an outer layer of mannoprotein, an inner layer of glucanes, and a cytoplasmic membrane. The latter contains high protein complex content.
Yeast in the Brewing Process
In the absence of oxygen, yeast cells transform their sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. According to historians, this discovery happened accidently in Mesopotamia and Egypt where the first beers were brewed centuries ago. As various civilizations caught on to the amazing wonders of yeast and fermentation, each region began brewing its own local beer. Eventually, yeast became known as the “gift of god” – for many obvious reasons.
While the “gift of god” was enjoyed for many years, it wasn’t fully studied and researched until 1876 by Pasteur. It was at this point that specific brewing strains were selected and stored for optimization.
What was once a very rudimentary practice was perfected at the turn of the 20th most beers are spontaneously fermented with high or low fermentation yeast. Yeast ferments differently when stored at various temperatures and therefore produces multiple types of beer. For example, high fermentation yeast (15-20 degrees C) yields ales, while low fermentation yeasts (7-15 degrees C) usually produces lagers or pilsners.
The Value of Yeast
While brewing involves a number of calculated steps and careful attention to detail, many brewers claim yeast to be the most important ingredient in the process. Most won’t divulge details regarding the strains or temperatures they use, and brewers often consider their yeast “proprietary.”
At ABQ Beer, we proudly serve the Albuquerque community by providing information on local beer, events, competitions, and breweries. If you are looking for the best beer Albuquerque has to offer, simply navigate through our website where you can choose to search beers based on brewery or style. For help brewing beer, finding supplies, or getting hooked up with competitions, visit our Brew Beer page.
For more information on who we are and how you can market your business on ABQBeer.com, please contact us today!