Influence of zinc on distiller’s yeast: cellular accumulation of zinc and impact on spirit congeners

Raffaele De Nicola, Nichola Hall, Stuart G. Melville, Graeme M. Walker

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    Accumulation of zinc by a whisky distilling yeast strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae was studied during fermentation of malt wort and synthetic defined medium. Zinc uptake by yeast cells was very rapid in malt wort, as zinc (0.32 μg/mL) was completely removed from the fermentation medium within one hour. The type of fermentable carbohydrate had an impact on the kinetics of zinc accumulation, with maltose most effective at enhancing metal uptake at zinc concentrations above 3.2 μg/mL. Enriching yeast cells with zinc by “preconditioning” impacted on the production of flavour congeners in the distillates produced from fermented cultures. Such distillates were characterized by an altered flavour and aroma profile. In particular, the production of some higher alcohols increased when yeast cells were preconditioned with zinc. This phenomenon is yeast strain related. Industrial fermentation processes, including brewing and distilling, may benefit from optimization of zinc bioavailability in yeast cultures resulting in more efficient fermentations and improved product quality.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)265–271
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of the Institute of Brewing
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • Zinc
    • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
    • Metal ions
    • Micronutrients
    • Whisky distilling


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