Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology vol:82 issue:1 pages:155-167
The volumetric productivity of the beer fermentation process can be increased by using a higher pitching rate (i.e. higher inoculum size). However, the impact of the pitching rate on crucial fermentation and beer quality parameters has never been assessed systematically. In this study, five pitching rates were applied to lab-scale fermentations to investigate its impact on the yeast physiology and beer quality. The fermentation rate increased significantly and the net yeast growth was lowered with increasing pitching rate, without affecting significantly the viability and the vitality of the yeast population. The build-up of unsaturated fatty acids in the initial phase of the fermentation was repressed when higher yeast concentrations were pitched. The expression levels of the genes HSP104 and HSP12 and the concentration of trehalose were higher with increased pitching rates, suggesting a moderate exposure to stress in case of higher cell concentrations. The influence of pitching rate on aroma compound production was rather limited, with the exception of total diacetyl levels, which strongly increased with the pitching rate. These results demonstrate that most aspects of the yeast physiology and flavour balance are not significantly or negatively affected when the pitching rate is changed. However, further research is needed to fully optimise the conditions for brewing beer with high cell density populations.