Yeasts are eukaryotic, single-celled microorganisms classified as members of the fungus kingdom. The first yeast originated hundreds of millions of years ago, and at least 1,500 species are currently recognized. They are estimated to constitute 1% of all described fungal species. Yeasts are Unicellular And Helpful Organisms read Pritish Kumar Halder to get conceptual clarity.
Yeasts are unicellular organisms that evolved from multicellular ancestors, with some species having the ability to develop multicellular characteristics by forming strings of connected budding cells known as pseudo hyphae or false hyphae. Yeast sizes vary greatly, depending on species and environment, typically measuring 3–4 µm in diameter, although some yeasts can grow to 40 µm in size.
Most yeasts reproduce asexually by mitosis, and many do so by the asymmetric division process known as budding. With their single-celled growth habit, yeasts can be contrasted with molds, which grow hyphae. Fungal species that can take both forms (depending on temperature or other conditions) are called dimorphic fungi.
Yeasts are chemoorganotrophs, as they use organic compounds as a source of energy and do not require sunlight to grow. Carbon is obtained mostly from hexose sugars, such as glucose and fructose, or disaccharides such as sucrose and maltose. Some species can metabolize pentose sugars such as ribose, alcohols, and organic acids.
Yeast species either require oxygen for aerobic cellular respiration (obligate aerobes) or are anaerobic, but also have aerobic methods of energy production (facultative anaerobes). Unlike bacteria, no known yeast species grow only anaerobically (obligate anaerobes). Most yeasts grow best in a neutral or slightly acidic pH environment.
Yeasts vary in regard to the temperature range in which they grow best. For example, Leucosporidium frigidum grows at −2 to 20 °C (28 to 68 °F), Saccharomyces telluris at 5 to 35 °C (41 to 95 °F), and Candida slooffi at 28 to 45 °C (82 to 113 °F). The cells can survive freezing under certain conditions, with viability decreasing over time.
The useful physiological properties of yeast have led to their use in the field of biotechnology. Fermentation of sugars by yeast is the oldest and largest application of this technology. Many types of yeasts are used for making many foods: baker’s yeast in bread production, brewer’s yeast in beer fermentation, and yeast in wine fermentation and for xylitol production. So-called red rice yeast is actually a mold, Monascus purpureus. Yeasts include some of the most widely used model organisms for genetics and cell biology.
Alcoholic beverages are defined as beverages that contain ethanol (C2H5OH). This ethanol is almost always produced by fermentation – the metabolism of carbohydrates by certain species of yeasts under anaerobic or low-oxygen conditions. Beverages such as mead, wine, beer, or distilled spirits all use yeast at some stage of their production.
A distilled beverage is a beverage containing ethanol that has been purified by distillation. Carbohydrate-containing plant material is fermented by yeast, producing a dilute solution of ethanol in the process. Spirits such as whiskey and rum are prepared by distilling these dilute solutions of ethanol. Components other than ethanol are collected in the condensate, including water, esters, and other alcohols, which account for the flavor of the beverage.
Yeast, the most common one being S. cerevisiae, is used in baking as a leavening agent, where it converts the food/fermentable sugars present in dough into the gas carbon dioxide. This causes the dough to expand or rise as gas forms pockets or bubbles. When the dough is baked, the yeast dies and the air pockets “set”, giving the baked product a soft and spongy texture.
The use of potatoes, water from potato boiling, eggs, or sugar in a bread dough accelerates the growth of yeasts. Most yeasts used in baking are of the same species common in alcoholic fermentation. In addition, Saccharomyces exiguus (also known as S. minor), a wild yeast found on plants, fruits, and grains, is occasionally used for baking. In breadmaking, the yeast initially respires aerobically, producing carbon dioxide and water. When the oxygen is depleted, fermentation begins, producing ethanol as a waste product; however, this evaporates during baking.
Industrial ethanol production
The ability of yeast to convert sugar into ethanol has been harnessed by the biotechnology industry to produce ethanol fuel. The process starts by milling a feedstock, such as sugar cane, field corn, or other cereal grains, and then adding dilute sulfuric acid, or fungal alpha amylase enzymes, to break down the starches into complex sugars. A glucoamylase is then added to break the complex sugars down into simple sugars. After this, yeasts are added to convert the simple sugars to ethanol, which is then distilled off to obtain ethanol up to 96% in purity.