Sunday, December 23, 2007


This blog is created for those people out there who are interested in the field of fermentation. This blog is open to both novices and specialists in both applied or non applied fields of fermentation. To many, the term fermentation is synonymous with the production of fermented beverages and food. In reality the field of fermentation covers diverse activities that affect our lives in many ways.

This blog will hopefully bring together all the various parties interested in understanding fermentation and will be the forum among all fermentation lovers.


Historically the subject of fermentation is interesting and the understanding and definitions of the fermentation process changes with time.

In the beginning fermentation is discovered accidentally by our ancestors when they discovered that food left accidentally in vessels showed no signs of deterioration and instead the food is preserved. They also found out that these preserved foods have undergone physical and biochemical changes that are somehow very pleasing to them.

Of course during those ancient times when knowledge about the science and the roles of microorganisms were unknown. Our ancestors then attribute the changes occurring during the fermentation to the work of spirits, magic and others. This was the period where "ignorance" ruled the day and the theory of spontaneous generation was the popular theory to explain the changes that occurred during the fermentation process

What is interesting during that early period of fermentation discovery, our ancestors observed that the process of fermentation is always associated with the generation of gas bubbles in the fermentation liquid. The observation mimics the boiling of water and thus the first definition of fermentation is associated with term "fervere" which is Latin meaning "boiling"

Fermentation then was an art and not a science! Good fermentation skills were developed as an art and handed down from one generation to the next. Even till today the archaic traditional food and beverage fermentations are still carried out in homes and cottage industries. Wines and fermented foods are good examples!


The next important step in the understanding of the fermentation process occurred many years later when Pasteur did several experiments and concluded that the fermentation processes are mediated by the activity of microorganisms such as yeasts. Pasteur helped in " demystifying" the process of fermentation from the status of witch crafts and placed it in the realms of science. The microorganisms which carried out the fermentation processes are anaerobic microorganisms which can live in the absence of oxygen. These anaerobic microorganisms obtained its energy by breaking down the sugars to form alcohol


The next step in understanding the fermentation process occurred quite recently when scientists get together and characterized the fermentation process. Fermentation is now defined as a process of energy generation by various organisms especially microorganisms. The fermentation process showed unique characteristics by which it generate energy in the absence of oxygen. The process of energy generation utilizes the use of substrate level phosphorylation (SLP) which do not involved the use of electron transport chain and free oxygen as the terminal electron acceptor.

SLP is a unique mechanism shown by certain anaerobic microorganisms which allow these microorganisms to occupy niches which were once thought not possible to support life.

The drawback in this energy generation system is that very little amount of energy can be produced compared by using aerobic respiration involving oxygen as the terminal electron acceptors.

In SLP both the electron donors and acceptors are all organic intermediates!


It is only up to recently with the rise of industrial microbiology and biotechnology that the definition of fermentation took a more less specific meaning. Fermentation is defined more from the point of view of engineers. They see fermentation as the cultivation of high amount of microorganisms and biotransformations being carried out in special vessels called fermentors or bioreactors.

Their definitions make no attempt to differentiate whether the process is aerobic or anaerobic. Neither are they bothered whether it involves microorganisms or single animal or plant cells cells.

They view bioreactors as a vessel which is designed and built to support high concentration of cells.


These two terms "fermenters" and "fermentors" are often used freely in most fermentation literature. Strictly speaking it is not the difference of English or American glossary! Fermenters refer to the microorganisms that carry out the fermentation process and fermentors refer to the vessels or bioreactors in which support the growth of the microorganisms.


It is quite surprising that traditional fermentation activities such as the fermentation of food and beverages start early in the cultural history of mankind. Many countries have sort of independently discovered the fermentation process and have produced their own type of fermented food and beverages. The method used in the fermentation is similar or identical. It is only the diversity of substrates used for the fermentation differ to produce the different types of fermented foods and drinks. Each country or civilization will use the substrates indigenous to their own country.


Fermentor Bioreactor said...

Nice Post. I got some useful information from this post. keep posting.. Thanx

Fermentor | Bioreactor
Fermentor and Bioreactor

Anonymous said...

nice post very simple and nice explanation

Orton said...

interesting. I joined the blog because I fermented fish in a bottle. anchovies. I put vinegar and ate them uncooked. I believed the enzymes are there because no heat was applied. I believed fermented fish gives more nutrition than cooked fish per cent or dollar. Am I right?