Amazing things discovered by accident, microbiology.

Since earlier microrganisms, such as yeasts for fermenting cereals and fruits to make beer and wine, were mentioned, I thought it would make sense to mention Antonie van Leeuwenhoek.


Many know him as the father of microbiology. However, did you know that this was discovered, by accident? Leeuwenhoek was a draper, that is he dealt in cloth goods, mainly for clothing and curtains and furniture covers. He was interested in making very fine designs and viewing the quality of cloth on a very small scale. So he developed lenses for magnifying cloth to see its quality. In the process he saw small organisms (which he called “animalcules, as they appeared like little animals to him). Over time his studies would reveal single celled organisms like the ones used to make beer, bread, and wine.


Albeit the production of beer, bread, and wine was well known by the 1600s when Leeuwenhoek discovered this. Nonetheless he was able to add to this discovery.

Would you like to do some cell culturing of your own?

Learn to make your own beer! (Try your own recipes)


I may even post a few recipes in the future.

Pepper, why do we call them that anyways?

So you might ask yourself, why do we call this vegetable (actually it is a “fruit” depending on the definition you use, mentioned before) a “pepper” when we also sprinkle this spice called “pepper” unto our food as well? You don’t chop up the “fruit” of a “pepper” (a bell pepper) into little sprinklets and put it on food to give it a spicy taste do you? Well, sort of, not really.


The word “pepper” comes from an Old English mispronunciation of the latin word “piper.” That is actually what the name of the biological family from which many plants called “pepper” come from (Piperaceae). Other related “peppers” often come from the Capsicum sub family of Solanaceae (deriving their name from a concentration of capsicnoid chemicals mentioned before with reference to the Scoville scale). Though not belonging to the Capscium sub family (not even all that closely related actually), plants of the Piperaceae may also have a concentrated quantity of capsaicin and grows into small immature corns. Those picked corns are boiled and dried and ground into what you might think of as pepper such as Black pepper (Piper nigrum).

Interested in growing your own peppers?

Check out this book Growing your own vegetables

As always if you just like what you learned appeciation


So what is this “Yeast” thing anyway?

So what is this “yeast” thing anyway? Yes that stuff that is used to make bread and beer. It is actually a living cell, a single celled organism actually. Yeasts are actually a type of very small fungus. The type used in bread and beer and wine has a genus and species name, namely saccharomyces cerevisiae. The breakdown of sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol (for our bread and beer) is part of its natural metabolism. Of course, we have learned to grow it in other media, which allows us to purify it and put in into packets that you can pick up to bake bread of make beer.


Now just to worn you, other fungi can cause problems. Saccharomyces cerevisiae probably won’t infect you like other fungus/mold could.

Having problems with yeast? Cures for a yeast infection

If you like what you have learned, I could also use a small bit of thanks.

A Dozen, is it really twelve?

While discussing the baking of bread, I thought of a dozen rolls (a common serving for rolls). So you may have heard that a dozen is the number 12. The etymology (history of the word) indicates that (the English word “dozen” coming from the french “douzaine,” meaning group of twelve). However, ultimately a dozen can refer to any standardized grouping of things by a certain numbers. Balloonists are rumored to carry 18 balloons (for those who have seen King of the Hill), so 18 is a “Balloonist’s dozen.”

You may have also heard of a baker’s dozen, or 12 + 1 = 13. There are many different hypotheses behind this. Wikipedia has an article that suggests baker’s would need to weigh their rolls and in the event one was a tad light for customers they would add an extra roll (a type of insurance).


As yeast was used to leaven bread as mentioned in a previous post, prior to the ability to grow yeast independently through cell culturing, yeast was obtained from skimming the head of beer (as mentioned) or from taking a small uncooked portion of bread from a previous dough. Some hypotheses exist that the extra bit of dough to be used in making the next bread roll was added to the dozen rolls made from dough (this is still done in making sourdough bread). So perhaps this was the origin of a baker’s dozen.

Interested in learning about baking a dozen? How about a cake making course that I am sure you would enjoy! Cake making.

If you like the bit that you learned I could also use a small bit of thanks.

Yeast, the same kind used in bread?

So from a previous post I mentioned microorganisms like yeast used to break down sugars to create ethanol, the alcohol found in beverages like beer. Now you might be thinking to yourself, yeast, the stuff used in bread?

Yes that is right, yeast which is used to leaven certain types of bread can also be used to make beer and wine. Bread has a long history (look up some good stuff on wikipedia) which relates to the making and production of beer. I have even heard beer called “liquid bread.” To some degree this makes sense as many of the same ingredients are involved. Foam was sometimes skimmed off the top of beer for use in making bread or small rolls of kneaded uncooked bread were used in beer and wine production (or to make more bread).


Interested in learning how to make your own bread at home? Go here and check it out! Bread can be lots of fun to make and there are some great types.

If you like the bit that you learned I could also use a small bit of thanks.

Red Wine Vinegar, a bit redundant there.

Since I am mentioning brewing of alcoholic beverages (ethanol), I thought that I would share something kind of funny that has to do with it. You see ethanol forms as the result of microorganisms, yeasts and bacteria, breaking down sugar molecules for energy, without the use of oxygen. So ethanol forms due to anaerobic (an = “without”, aerobic = “air”) processes.

Theses microorganisms would still break down sugars if air were present, but the result would be different. Instead of ethanol forming to make a potentially alcoholic beverage, acetic acid (also called ethanoic acid) would form. The term “acetic” comes from latin and means “sour.”

What is even more interesting is that the more common name for acetic acid, “vinegar” ALSO comes from latin. It comes from “vinum” = wine + “agar” = sick. So vinegar forms because the wine is sick.


So vinegar made from red wine is a bit redundant. ALL vinegars, an acetic acid beverage, form as an alternate for of an ethanolic beverage. I suppose beer base vinegar would be interesting too though.

Like learning about vinegar? Why not pick up a good book on use of vinegar as salad dressing! Follow the link (CIDERBOOK).

If you just enjoyed learning perhaps you could provide a small tip by going here.


Alcohol, really? Being a bit general here.

Sorry it has been a while, I will be doing more of these, I mean it. The more you show interest the more I will do. Comment if you would like me to cover something.

So I am going past this bar and I see a sign outside that says, “Alcohol” with an arrow pointing into the bar. As a Chemist I think to myself, “Well that seems rather general.” I go in and talk to the bartender and say, “Really, you want people to drink Sterno and wound cleaner?” He asks what I am talking about and I mention the sign outside. It clicked and he snickered, saying in a joking manner, “Yes exactly we are trying to kill our customers.”


For those not picking up on the joke, “alcohol” as a chemistry term is very general. It indicates a hydroxyl group (Oxygen single bound to Hydrogen) singly bound to a chain of carbons. You can have several of them actually, two -OH groups (a “di-” alcohol) or three (tri-) or more. The shortest chain of carbons to which this applies is not a chain at all, but one carbon, forming methanol (the main burning agent in Sterno). Concentrated alcohols are toxic to microorganisms which is why an alcohol, namely propanol that you can pick up in the drug store, is rubbed on your when you are injected with a needle or receiving a cut. Of course if you drink these, it would kill you too.

The alcohol found in beer, wine, and spirits / hard liquor (which requires a special technique) is a two carbon chain long alcohol that can be poisonous in large / concentrated enough amounts, but relaxes you (too much if you consume a lot) in smaller amounts. This is “Ethanol” (note concentrate this is also flammable and is sometimes made for that purpose like in small flammable lighters. Not very pleasant to consume.

So this (ethanol) is something to think about when consuming an “alcoholic beverage.”


Interested in learning how to perform this chemical reaction and make your own beer or wine? Why not get into home brewing!

Home brewing.

If not and you like what you have learned I would always appreciate a small tip if you can.