WHAT IS FERMENTATION AND ITS BENEFITS

Welcome one more day to the Amerex Blog! In this post you will find out all about food fermentation and its importance and application in industry as a way for food preservation.

Fermentation is an oxidation process that does not require the presence of oxygen. Fermentation is carried out by different microorganisms to transform organic matter, by means of enzymes. Therefore, a fermented food would be one that is obtained from the process of converting carbohydrates into alcohol or acids.

This reaction allows different organoleptic characteristics (such as changes in taste) to be obtained while increasing the shelf life of the food.

What are the products obtained from fermentation?

Fermented foods have been with us for many years. Bread, beer and wine are fermented foods, but also foods that are currently in fashion such as kombucha, kimchi or tofu. All of them are referred to by some people as “living foods” because of the micro-organisms that have carried out the process.

The most popularly known fermented foods are those derived from alcoholic fermentation: wines and ciders (fermentation of apple juice), beers, distilled beverages (whisky, cognac, rum, brandy, vodka), kombucha tea and bakery products (carried out by yeasts and lactic bacteria).

However, there are also products generated by lactic fermentation, one of the main processes for the generation of staple foods of both plant and animal origin. Some examples of foods with this type of fermentation are: yoghurt and cheese, fermented milks, sauerkraut or kimchi.

What types of fermentation are used in food production?

Alcoholic fermentation and lactic fermentation are clearly the best known and most used fermentations in the industry. But there are more types of fermentation used in food production.

Let’s go through all of them at the molecular level to understand their differences:

  1. Alcoholic fermentation: process in which from hexose (glucose): ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and other secondary compounds are obtained. For example: wine and beer, bread, kombucha, etc:

C6H12O6 = 2CH3 – CH2OH + 2CO2

  • Lactic fermentation: process in which lactic acid is obtained from lactose. Examples are yoghurt, cheese, fermented milks, etc:

C12H22O11 = 2C6H12O6

  • Acetic fermentation: consists of the oxidation of ethanol to form acetic acid. It is used for the production of vinegar, for example:

C2H5OH + O2 = CH3COOH + H2O

  • Malolactic fermentation: process by which acid lactic acid bacteria transform malic acid into lactic acid mainly. It is mainly used in red wines to eliminate malic acid and give rise to better organoleptic properties.

HOOC – CH2 – CHOH – COOH = CO2 + CH3 – CHOH – COOH

  • Propionic fermentation: fermentation carried out by bacteria of the genus Propionobacterium which generates propionic and acetic acid. This fermentation produces the characteristic holes in Emmental cheese.
  • Butyric fermentation: it is produced by the action of bacteria of the genus Clostridium giving rise to butyric acid. It gives rise to organoleptic modifications in the food. It is used in different types of cheese.
Alcoholic fermentation of wine

What are the micro-organisms used for food fermentation?

Once the types of fermentation used in the food industry have been defined, it is necessary to define which micro-organisms are responsible for these processes.

The micro-organisms of interest in the food industry can be classified into three types:

Bacteria: Mainly lactic acid bacteria (also known as LAB), which produce lactic acid. They can be divided according to the end product they produce during fermentation into: homofermentative, which only produce lactic acid, and heterofermentative, which produce more compounds. The best known are Lactococcus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus. On the other hand, acetic bacteria oxidise alcohol, converting it into acetic acid and lowering the pH of food, thus giving rise to products such as vinegar.

Moulds: these organisms are able to generate protein and lipolytic enzymes in food through their metabolism. These enzymes are essential for preservation, as they can transform substrates of low food value into products with assimilable elements with a good taste. A clear example are the Penicillum moulds. They are present in the manufacture and curing of certain cheeses, such as Roquefort, Cabrales or Brie.

Yeasts: yeasts are single-celled fungi that produce enzymes that give rise to fermentation. In general, yeasts can live both with and without oxygen, but it is in the latter case that fermentation occurs. You are probably familiar with the yeast Saccharomices Cerevisiae, known to everyone as brewer’s yeast. It is the most commonly used yeast and plays a very important role in the production of bread as well as in the production of wine and beer.

What are the benefits of fermentation for food?

Fermentation was traditionally a method of preservation. Milk was preserved by fermenting and from it cheese was obtained, the same happens with meat, thanks to whose fermentation we obtain cured products such as salami, chorizo, etc.

Fermentation is a process that provides different benefits to the food. First of all, fermentation favours the preservation of food for a longer period of time and in many cases without the need for chemicals. In addition, this process allows the elaboration of food by means of PHs and temperatures that improve the nutritional value and organoleptic characteristics of the food. Fermentation allows us to obtain, thanks to the generation of enzymes and other compounds, a series of aromas and textures that would not be possible to obtain through other procedures.

Fermented foods, especially those rich in probiotics, have great health benefits: they help to improve digestion, reduce cholesterol, combat allergies and strengthen the immune system. These characteristics, together with an increasingly health-conscious and health-conscious consumer, have led to a revival of these products.

What are the advantages of preserving food in this way?

As mentioned above, fermentation not only generates a particular taste and texture in the food, but also extends its shelf life and safety, and can even improve its nutritional value.

When we talked about the micro-organisms that carry out this process, we were referring to the “good” bacteria. Many foods (especially raw meat) can sometimes be contaminated by harmful bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illnesses, such as Salmonella, Listeria or Campylobacter.

At Amerex we have a wide range of products used for the fermentation of food, as well as for the preservation of the final food by means of natural protection mechanisms. In this way, we provide solutions to the main challenges of the industry in different matrices such as the appearance of Listeria or Salmonella in dairy products, or Clostridium botulinum in cooked meat products.

Contact us to know all the proposals for food protection and make your final product safe, stable and tasty.

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