But fermentation is not limited alcoholic beverages. For instance, did you know sauerkraut is fermented cabbage? Or that both coffee and chocolate are made using fermentation?
Let’s “Define” FermentationWhen yeast ferments sugar, sugar breaks apart into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. When yeast is used to bake bread, both the alcohol and the gas cause the bread to rise. But fermentation to produce alcoholic beverages, involves no cooking. The alcohol must “disposed of” in a different way!
Now yeast is a budding, single-cell fungus. So fungus can be used for fermentation.
What about sauerkraut¹? The fermentation of sauerkraut is a little different. It involves lacto-fermentation, the fermentation primarily by Lactobacillus bacteria strains.
This fermentation produces lactic acid. The lactic acid imparts an acidic taste. Lacto-fermentation is not limited to sauerkraut.
An interesting “perq” of lacto-fermentation is that the lactic acid lowers pH, which prevents the growth of undesirable bacteria.
The fermentation in coffee is more complex. It involves yeast, bacteria, and mold. The fermented substance is mucilage. So, what is mucilage?
Mucilage is a gooey, sugar-containing, sticky substance found in certain microorganisms and plants. Are you familiar with mucilage glue? Or with Metamucil®? This product is derived from the mucilaginous psyllium plant.
ChocolateThe fermentation of chocolate has to be one of the most complex processes of the food world. It involves fermenting the mucilage, but in addition, the bean itself. It involves the harvesting and the preparation.
A full range of yeast, bacteria, and mold contributes to the process, though at different times during the process. Also, temperature plays an important role, as does fermentation time. A superb article on chocolate fermentation is listed in the references section.
You will undoubtedly find the following 6-minute video enlightening. However, if you are truly a lover of chocolate, you will also find it fascinating. The video is in another language, but is sub-titled. If the language distracts you, you can mute the video and read the subtitles.
In ConclusionChemistry and biology, health and food processes go hand-in-hand. To llustrate, what is bad in one context is good in another. Medicines heal, yet most powerful medicines are poisons. They must be administered in milligram quantities, even microgram quantities.
Molding and “fermenting” can ruin food items for general use. Milk sours. Bread molds. yet applied in special ways, it can actually improve flavor and can aid nutrition (e.g., probiotics).
So it is: Who wants to give up hot dogs and sauerkraut? the morning cup of coffee? a thick chocolate bar? a glass of port after dinner? Fermentation is one tool to improve Mankind’s quality of life.
¹ The process involving sauerkraut applies as well to the Korean kimchi.References:
- Extension Service, Oregon State University: Lacto-fermentation
- Science Direct: Coffee fermentation and biodata
- San Mateo County Community College: The Microbiology of Chocolate by Christine L. Case Ed.D.