Yeasts, especially those of the genus Saccharomyces, have long been of commercial importance because they are the chief agents in alcoholic fermentation. Because of this they are essential to the making of beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages and industrial alcohol. Wild yeasts, those found in nature and probably carried by insects from the soil to fruits, are frequently active in the fermentation process. In breadmaking the yeasts act upon the carbohydrates in the dough, forming carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol, which are driven off in the baking process; the escaping carbon dioxide causes the bread to rise. Since early times yeast has been used in treating various ailments; brewer's yeast has a high content of thiamine and other vitamins of the B-complex group. Yeasts are classified in the kingdom Fungi, phyla (divisions) Ascomycota and Basidiomycota.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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