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Fast, easy yeast detection kits for alcohol producers

EU-funded researchers made significant progress towards the creation of simple kits to detect the presence of an undesirable strain of yeast. Advances in this area promise important benefits for competitiveness and safety within the beer and wine industry.
Fast, easy yeast detection kits for alcohol producers
Yeast are single-celled organisms that transform sugars into alcohol in a process called fermentation. But not all strains of yeast are created equal, so to speak. Yeast of the genus Brettanomyces, also known as Dekkera, affect the flavour of beer and wine, with low quantities often being desirable and higher quantities leading to unpleasant flavours and odours.

Among the common conditions favouring growth of Brettanomyces is production of beers and wines with high alcoholic content, and storage and ageing of beverages in wooden barrels. Early detection of overgrowth of Brettanomyces can prevent further growth and spread to other wine batches but most methods require sending samples to special laboratories and a week or longer culture time.

European researchers initiated the ‘Development of diagnosis tools for Brettanomyce monitoring’ (BRETT Monitoring) project to overcome related difficulties by providing easy-to-use kits returning fast and reliable results with the possibility of automation.

Three novel detection kits were produced. A nutrient pad set (NPS or NKS) culture media or agar Brettanomyces included a specific culture media that changed colour in the presence of Brettanomyces. A real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) kit requiring a small sample and based on the use of DNA fragments produced results in less than four hours and included the potential for automation. Finally, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kit based on immunological testing provided selective, fast and reliable results, again with the possibility of automation.

The three kits produced by the BRETT Monitoring project team thus have the potential to provide beer and wine producers the opportunity to quickly, easily and selectively monitor the growth of Brettanomyces without having to send samples to expensive labs and risk further contamination while waiting for results. Further research should enable commercialisation of the results, with important impact on competitiveness and safety in the beer and wine industry.

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