Revealing the Many Faces of Alcohol

When microorganisms (yeasts) digest (ferment) the sugars in carbohydrate foods, they make two byproducts: a liquid and a gas. The gas is carbon dioxide. The liquid is ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol, the intoxicating ingredient in alcohol beverages.

This biochemical process is not an esoteric one. In fact, it happens in your own kitchen every time you make yeast bread. Remember the faint, beer-like odor in the air while the dough is rising? That odor is from the alcohol the yeasts make as they chomp their way through the sugars in the flour. (Don't worry; the alcohol evaporates when you bake the bread.) As the yeasts digest the sugars, they also produce carbon dioxide, which makes the bread rise.

From now on, whenever you see the word alcohol alone in this book, unless otherwise noted, it means ethanol, the only alcohol used in alcohol beverages. (Yes, yes, yes. That definition applies backward, too. If you find the word alcohol in a previous chapter, it, too, means ethanol. Gee. Some people are sooooooo picky.)

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