05 Oct Tracing yeast back to its origins
Tracing back yeast origin
Strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae are the most commonly used cultured yeast in modern-day food and beverages production. According to a Belgian research team the many thousands of these strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae can be traced back to five subgroups that were domesticated as early as the 16th century. This research was carried out with the help of modern genetic analysis techniques. This means that the food ingredient yeast extract, which itself has a 100-year-old tradition, is directly linked to the beginnings of yeast cultivation.
For centuries, yeasts have been an important constituent in the production of food and beverages
Admittedly, it was not until the late 19th century that it became technically possible to grow new yeast cultures in a targeted fashion. However, according to the Belgian researchers, the domestication of present-day yeast strains started back in the 1570s. It includes those used in the production of yeast extract.
The question is how this early yeast selection came about at a time when the existence of microorganisms such as yeasts had not yet been recognized. Beer brewers and bakers had noticed that they could speed up the fermentation process. They also could make it more consistent by adding a small portion of a fermented product to the next batch. For instance, the fermented product can be dough or brew. This, along with the increasingly professional production methods deployed in large businesses, led to the development of yeast strains. They were largely isolated from the wild yeasts found in nature and hence demonstrated special characteristics.