What is Ferment?
Ferment is something that can cause fermentation. It may be some enzyme, bacteria, yeast, or mould. In its transitive verb form, it means “to cause something to be fermented or undergo fermentation”. Like in food and drinks, some substances will cause them to ferment.
Fermentation in general terms refer to the breakdown of sugar into alcohol or acid. This process may occur naturally like in food items, but it can also be manipulated to achieve a desired effect, especially in food or beverage processing.
The process of fermentation was first used in making alcoholic beverages like beers and wines. In making beers, the barley or wheat used are mashed and pulped before it is put in hot water. This will then start to ferment and with the addition of yeast, even more fermentation will result. The yeast in the mix will break down the carbohydrate/sugar content of the mashed wheat or barley and will later be converted to acid or alcohol. In wine making meanwhile, the yeast is added to the grapes. The yeast will then react with the natural sugars in grapes like fructose and glucose. These sugar substances are transformed into ethanol and carbon dioxide.
Fermentation is also used in various food items through micro-organisms such as yeast and moulds. Foods that undergo this process will be preserved longer due to the increased acid and/or alcohol content. Cheese, yogurt, fish sauces, bread, and soy sauce are just some of the foods that benefit from the fermentation process. But aside from food preservation, the process of fermentation also helps some food items to be digested easily because of its effect on starches. It also helps in reducing pathogenic organisms present in raw food.
The milk industry has also benefited a lot from the fermentation process. What we know as yogurt today, is actually a milk product mixed with a special bacteria for fermentation reasons.