From a general definition of the term fermentation, this is the anaerobic conversion of sugar and glucose to alcohol and carbon dioxide. In this case, through the process of fermentation there are chemical reactions that are induced by living or nonliving ferments that split complex organic compounds into smaller substances (El-Mansi & Bryce 34). Combining these definitions, it can be stated that fermentation is a process of converting carbohydrates like sugars into alcohol or acid. In most cases, yeast is used in the process of changing sugar to alcohol or bacteria are used in the creation of lactic acid in some foods (Vogel & Todaro 23). Fermentation has been recognized as one of the methods of food preservations that were used especially in the traditional days mostly in the developing world. One thing that should be noted in this process is that there are chemical reactions that are involved in the conversion of sugars into alcohol or acid (Fruton 16). Fermentation occurs naturally in various foods when given the right conditions and as indicated, it has been used by many people for a long period of time. Basically, the earliest uses of fermentation were in the production of alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, and mead (El-Mansi & Bryce 34). Due to the importance attached to the process of fermentation especially in food, the World Health Organization food safety unit has provided high priority in research conducted in this area. This is because is helps mostly in food preservation in developing countries (Vogel & Todaro 23).
From a biochemical point of view, fermentation is a process used in extracting energy from oxidation of organic compounds like carbohydrates through the use of endogenous electron acceptor which is an organic compound (Fruton 16). Fermentation is therefore defined as the opposite of respiration. It should be noted that fermentation is mostly important in aerobic conditions especially when there is no oxidative phosphorylation that help in maintaining the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by glycolysis (Vogel & Todaro 23).During this process, pyruvate is metabolized to different compounds and when lactic acids are produced from pyruvate, this process is called homolactic fermentation. On the other hand, alcoholic fermentation is a process whereby pyruvate is converted to ethanol and carbon dioxide (El-Mansi & Bryce 34).
It should be noted that despite that fermented products are mainly aerobic; fermentation does not necessarily take place in aerobic environments. This implies that fermentation does not necessarily take place in the absence of oxygen (Fruton 16). For instance, even in absence of oxygen, to oxidative phosphorylation is preferred by yeast cells as long as sugars are readily available for consumption. This shows that sugars are very imperative compounds for the process of fermentation to take place (Vogel & Todaro 23).
Typical examples of fermentation products include; lactic acid, ethanol, lactose, and hydrogen. However, more exotic compounds like aetone and butyic acid can be produced by fermentation. In the production of ethanol in beers, wines and other alcoholic drinks, fermentation is carried out by yeast as well as in the production of large quantities of carbon dioxide (El-Mansi & Bryce 34). It therefore becomes important to note that fermentation is a biological and chemical process that is very imperative in production of alcoholic drinks as well as carbon dioxide (Vogel & Todaro 23).
The chemistry occurring in can be described practically. This is because chemical energy is contained in fermentation products (as they are not fully oxidized) but they are considered as waste products as further metabolism cannot occur in the absence of oxygen (Fruton 16). The chemical equation for can be indicated as C6H12O6 → 2 C2H5OH + 2 CO2 and it shows the alcoholic fermentation of glucose (C6H12O6) (El-Mansi & Bryce 34). In the equation, one glucose molecule is converted into two carbon dioxide molecules (CO2) and two ethanol molecules (C2H5OH). From the process, it should be noted that before the fermentation process takes place, one glucose molecule is broken down into two pyruvate molecules (Vogel & Todaro 23).
The simplest form of fermentation is lactic acid fermentation which is a redox reaction. Notably, in anaerobic conditions glycolysis is the cell’s primary mechanism of ATP production (El-Mansi & Bryce 34). In the process of of lactic acid, glycolysis helps in the reduction and transfer of electrons to NAD hence forming NADH. However, there is a limited supply of NAD available in any cell (Vogel & Todaro 23).
In an environment where oxygen is available (aerobic) electron transport chain helps in the reduction of NADH through a process called oxidative phosphorylation (El-Mansi & Bryce 34).However, it is important to note that oxidative phosphorylation cannot occur in absence of oxygen due to the pathways dependence on the terminal electron acceptor of oxygen.One molecule of pyruvate is converted to lactate while the other is concerted to ethanol and carbon dioxide in heterolactic acid fermentation (Vogel & Todaro 23).
In summation, it can be indicated that fermentation which is a biochemical process is very useful in many different ways especially in food preservation as it helps in keeping food health for a long period of time. The processes and chemical reactions that take place in fermentation may seem to be very simple but they are very important. From the study on fermentation it is clear that alcohol and carbon dioxide are some of the by products of this process.
El-Mansi, Mansi & Bryce, Charles. Fermentation Microbiology and Biotechnology. New York: Prentice Hall, 2007. Print
Fruton, Joseph. Fermentation: Vital or Chemical Process? New Jersey: Sage, 2006. Print
Vogel, Henry & Todaro, Celeste. Fermentation and Biochemical Engineering Handbook: Principles. Process Design, and Equipment. London: Wiley, 1997. Print