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Analysing barley to beer chain

Issue 2 2006, Past issues  •  23 May 2006  •  Jari Rautio, Reetta Satokari, Kari Kataja,Anne Huuskonen, Heikki Vuokko,Arja Laitila,Annika Wilhelmson, Silja Home, Hans Söderlund and John Londesborough,VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

VTT’s novel TRAC system is a rapid, accurate and economic method to quantitate specific messenger RNA molecules and other gene transcripts. In the barley-beer chain, it can be used to characterise yeast condition, to monitor fermentation and malting and to measure the levels of harmful and beneficial microorganisms through the whole process by analysing critical transcripts of yeast, barley and grain microflora.The knowledge can be used to control current processes and as an aid for designing new, improved processes.
Yeast must change during fermentations

The familiar and ancient fermentation of wort to beer is a complex process, in which yeast must adapt to sequential changes in carbon (glucose, maltose, maltotriose) and nitrogen sources; to depletion of essential nutrients (including oxygen) and to a variety of stresses, such as increasing levels of ethanol and sudden re-exposure to oxygen when yeast cropped from one fermentation is pitched into the next. Many changes in gene expression are expected as yeast struggles to adjust to its constantly changing environment. Quantitative knowledge about how transcription profiles change during the process offers the possibilities of modifying process conditions rationally in accord with yeast behaviour and routinely monitoring yeast condition in the factory.

Traditional and modern biotechnology

Issue 2 2005, Past issues  •  3 May 2005  •  Annika Wilhelmson, Anu Kaukovirta-Norja and Silja Home, VTT Biotechnology

The brewing industry has changed from local, small breweries to global companies and fully automated plants. Our knowledge on biological processes of the barley-to-beer chain and tools to control the process and product quality, benefit from the development of basic sciences and engineering.

Beer has been brewed for thousands of years. For a long time beer production was, however, pure cookery. The development of the brewing industry began in the 19th century – largely as a consequence of the development of technology in general. The scientific basis of beer brewing was also laid at that time. Sciences such as biochemistry and microbiology benefited greatly from the early malting and brewing research that was driven by the need to understand biological processes such as germination, mashing and fermentation. Later the term biotechnology was invented meaning industrial application of living cells and combining basic sciences with engineering. Nowadays the definition of biotechnology is even wider and covers the research and development of biological processes on a genetic and molecular level.


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