Fungus Amungus: Microbes in the Tailoring of Barley Malt Properties

This Friday, August 31, Research Scientist Arja Laitila will be defending her thesis, Microbes in the Tailoring of Barley Malt Properties, at the University of Helsinki, in the hopes of being awarded her PhD.


Arja Laitila

Her goal?

Microbes – bacteria, yeasts and filamentous fungi – have a decisive role in the barley-malt-beer chain. Microbes greatly influence the malting and brewing performance as well as the quality of malt and beer. A major goal of the dissertation was to study the relationships between microbial communities and germinating grains during malting.

The research for her dissertation investigated the impacts of bacterial and fungal communities on barley germination and on malt properties. Her work “revealed that by modifying the microbial populations during malting, the brewing efficiency of malt can be notably improved. Well-characterized lactic acid bacteria and yeasts provide a natural way for achieving safe and balanced microbial communities in the malting ecosystem. She showed that the malting ecosystem is a dynamic process, exhibiting continuous change. The microbial communities consisting of various types of bacteria, yeasts and filamentous fungi form complex biofilms in barley tissues and are well-protected. Inhibition of one microbial population within the complex ecosystem leads to an increase of non-suppressed populations, which must be taken into account because a shift in microbial community dynamics may be undesirable. Laitila found some new microbial species in the malting ecosystem.”

 
More from the press release:

Suppression of Gram-negative bacteria during steeping proved to be advantageous for grain germination and malt brewhouse performance. Fungal communities including both filamentous fungi and yeasts significantly contribute to the production of microbial b-glucanases and xylanases, and are also involved in proteolysis. Well-characterized lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus plantarum VTT E-78076 and Pediococcus pentosaceus VTT E-90390) proved to be effective way in balancing the microbial communities in malting. Furthermore, they have positive effects on malt characteristics and they improve wort separation.

Previously the significance of yeasts in the malting ecosystem has been largely underestimated. This study showed that yeast community is an important part of the industrial malting ecosystem. Yeasts produced extracellular hydrolytic enzymes with a potentially positive contribution to malt processability. Furthermore, several yeasts showed strong antagonistic activity against field and storage moulds. Addition of a selected yeast culture (Pichia anomala VTT C-04565) into steeping restricted Fusarium growth and hydrophobin production and thus prevented beer gushing. Addition of Pichia anomala into steeping water tended to retard wort filtration, but the filtration was improved when the yeast culture was combined with Lactobacillus plantarum E76. The combination of different microbial cultures offers a possibility to use different properties, thus making the system more robust.

For the more technically inclined among you, a pdf of her dissertation is available online.

 

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