Effect of fermentation and nutritional conditions on the profile of flavour active ester compounds in beer.
During fermentation, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae produces a broad range of aroma-active esters that are important for the desirable complex flavour of beer. The sensory threshold levels of these esters in beer are low, ranging from 0.2 ppm for isoamyl acetate to 15-20 ppm for ethyl acetate. Although esters are only present in trace amounts in beer, they are extremely important as minor changes in their concentration may have dramatic effects on beer flavour. Therefore, optimization of the concentrations of these aroma-active esters in beer is of interest in beer brewing. The number and concentration of esters in beer may be influenced by the fermentation parameters, nutritional composition of fermentation medium and yeast strain type. Therefore, this study investigated the influence of fermentation temperature, pH, and wort nutritional supplements (amino acids and zinc) on the production of yeast-derived ester compounds. In addition, the overall fermentation performance was evaluated based on the reducing sugar and Free Amino Nitrogen (FAN) utilization, ethanol production and yeast cell density. These parameters were analysed using the Dinitrosalicyclic acid method, Ninhydrin assay, Gas Chromatography and standard spread plate technique. The concentration and stability of ethyl acetate, isoamyl acetate, phenyl ethyl acetate, ethyl hexanoate, ethyl decanoate and ethyl octanoate was monitored during storage at 4 °C and room temperature (RT), in the final beer by Chromatography. The expression levels of the ester synthetase genes under conditions that resulted in the highest increase in ester production were quantified by Real-Time PCR. For the lager beer, the best fermentation performance was achieved at RT (±22.5°C), resulting in the utilization of the highest amount of nutrients and production of 4.86% (v/v) ethanol. This was accompanied by the highest production of acetate and ethyl esters, which were 40.86% and 87.21%, respectively, higher than that of the control. Spent yeast density ranged from 2.492 to 3.358 mg/ml for all parameters tested, with the highest yield produced when wort was supplemented with 0.120 g/l zinc sulphate. Fermentations at 14 °C yielded the highest foam head stability and spent yeast viability with a foam head rating of 2.67 and a spent yeast viability of 3.85 × 107 cfu/ml. Ester compounds were relatively stable at 4 °C than at room temperature decreasing by only 7.93% after three months. Of all the volatile esters produced, ethyl decanoate was the least stable, with a 36.77% decrease in concentration at room temperature. For the ale beer, the best fermentation performance which resulted in the highest nutrient utilization was achieved when wort was supplemented with 0.75 g/l L-leucine resulting in the utilization of the highest amount of nutrients (51.25% FAN and 69.11% reducing sugar utilization) and production of 5.12% (v/v) ethanol. At the optimum fermentation pH of 5, 38.27% reducing sugars and 35.28% FAN were utilized, resulting in 4.32% ethanol (v/v) production. Wort supplemented with 0.12 g/l zinc sulphate resulted in 5.01% ethanol (v/v) production and 54.32% reducing sugar utilization. Spent yeast density ranged from 1.985 to 2.848 mg/ml for all parameters tested with the highest yield produced when wort was supplemented with 0.120 g/l zinc sulphate. This was also accompanied by the highest yeast viability of 2.12 × 107 cfu/ml achieved on day 3 of fermentation. Supplementation with 0.75 g/l L-leucine yielded the highest foam head stability with a rating of 2.67. Overall, ester compounds were relatively more stable at 4 °C than at RT decreasing by only 6.93% after three months, compared to a decrease of up to 16.90% observed at RT at the same time. Of all the volatile esters produced, ethyl octanoate was the least stable, with a 32.47% decrease in concentration at RT, phenyl ethyl acetate was the most stable ester at RT, decreasing by 9.82% after three months. Wort supplemented with 0.75 g/l L-leucine resulted in an increase in isoamyl acetate and phenyl ethyl acetate production by 38.69% and 30.40%, respectively, with a corresponding high expression of alcohol acetyltransferases, ATF2 (133.49-fold higher expression than the control). Elevation of fermentation temperature to RT resulted in the upregulation of ATF2 (27.11-fold), and producing a higher concentration of isoamyl acetate. These findings indicate that ester synthesis during fermentation is linked to both substrate availability and the regulation of gene expression. Therefore, it would be possible to manipulate the expression of certain ester synthestase genes to create new yeast strains with desirable ester production characteristics. Results from this study also suggest that supplementing wort with essential nutrients required for yeast growth and optimizing the fermentation conditions could be effective in controlling aroma-active ester concentrations to a desired level in beer.