Alcoholic fermentation – History

Alcoholic fermentation - History

For centuries, humans have used alcoholic fermentation as a method to produce beer from grains and wine from grapes in the form of must. The Greeks believed that the god Dionysus was responsible for the discovery of fermentation.

As early as 1150, Arnau de Vilanova worked on similar processes, including alcoholic distillation, which became an important aspect of the historical evolution of alchemy during the Middle Ages.

In 1764, the chemist MacBride identified the CO2 gas produced by fermentation, while in 1766, Cavendish described it as the gas present in the atmosphere and determined the proportion of carbon dioxide and sugar used in the process.

Baco joven en los Jardines de Aranjuez

Through scientific observations, it was discovered that alcoholic fermentation could occur in non-sweet substances. In 1789, Antoine Lavoisier conducted experiments to determine the quantities of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen involved in fermentation. Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac was the first to determine a fermentation reaction by obtaining ethanol from glucose in 1815.

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However, the fundamentals of alcoholic fermentation remained a mystery despite these chemical achievements and discoveries. In the 19th century, there was a scientific debate about the “fermentation hypothesis.” Two chemists, Jöns Jakob Berzelius and Justus von Liebig, developed a mechanistic theory that explained fermentation in the 1830s.

However, their theories contradicted the beliefs of Louis Pasteur in 1857, who based his explanation of the basic mechanisms of fermentation on the “vitalist theory.” Later, in 1875, Pasteur demonstrated that fermentation was an anaerobic process, meaning that it occurred in the absence of oxygen.

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