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12 Facts About Yeast

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Fact 1: Yeast is a microscopic fungus

In the world of tiny organisms, yeast holds a special place. Measuring just a few micrometers in size, it’s practically invisible to the naked eye. But don’t let its small stature fool you – yeast plays a big role in our lives!

Fact 2: Yeasts come in different species

There are over 1,500 species of yeast, but only a few are commonly used for human purposes. Some popular ones include Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is used in breadmaking and beer brewing, Candida albicans that causes thrush or vaginal infections, and Kluyveromyces marxianus, used as a biofuel source.

Fact 3: Yeast helps make bread rise

When bakers add yeast to dough, it ferments the sugars present, producing carbon dioxide gas. This gas gets trapped within the dough causing it to expand or ‘rise’. Once baked, this rise gives bread its characteristic soft, fluffy texture.

Fact 4: Yeast is used in beer brewing too

Yeast isn’t just limited to baking; it plays a vital role in beer production as well. During fermentation, yeasts convert sugars from malted barley into alcohol and carbon dioxide, giving beer its unique taste and fizziness.

Fact 5: Alcohol production originated with yeast

Scientists believe that our ancestors first started producing alcohol accidentally when grapes fermented naturally using wild yeasts. This discovery led to the development of winemaking and eventually, brewing and distilling.

Fact 6: Yeast cells reproduce asexually through budding

Instead of sex like humans or plants do, yeast reproduces by forming tiny protrusions called ‘buds’ from their parent cell. As the bud grows, it ultimately detaches itself to form a new individual yeast cell.

Fact 7: Wine and bread fermentation are similar processes

While they differ in what’s being fermented (grapes for wine, grains for bread), both processes involve yeast converting sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is why your sourdough starter smells a bit like your favorite merlot!

Fact 8: Some people have trouble digesting yeasts

For some individuals, certain types of yeast can cause health issues. A condition called Candida overgrowth occurs when there’s an imbalance in the gut microbiome allowing Candida species to grow excessively, leading to symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Fact 9: Yeast cells have a mitochondria-like organelle called the mitochondrion

Though not true mitochondria, yeasts possess an equivalent structure known as ‘mitochondria-like organelles’ or MLOs. These play a role in generating energy for cellular activities.

Fact 10: Yeast can survive extreme environments

Unlike most other living organisms, some species of yeast can thrive in high salt concentrations and acidic conditions. This allows them to inhabit places like pickles and sourdough bread starters where others wouldn’t survive.

Fact 11: Yeasts are used in science experiments

Due to their fast growth rate, simplicity, and ease of cultivation, yeast is often utilized as a model organism for scientific research, especially in genetic studies and drug development.

Fact 12: Commercial baker’s yeast isn’t the same as wild yeasts

The type of yeast found on fruits or dough left out too long is different from commercially produced baker’s yeast. The latter is specifically cultured and selected for its consistent performance during baking, while wild yeasts vary greatly in their properties.

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