Yeast (baker’s yeast, “germ”) is the most important biological dough-loosening agent for the production of bread, pastries and fine yeast-based desserts. Yeast is a unicellular plant that can reproduce by sprouting. The cell diameter is only a few thousandths of a millimeter, around 5 billion cells make 1 gram. The qualities of yeast which are interesting in terms of baking technology are
- the impetus for loosening the dough through the formation of carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) and alcohol and
- the aroma formation through various fermentation by-products, important for the smell and taste of the baked goods.
Yeasts of various breeds are widespread in nature. For a modern baker’s yeast, however, only cultivated yeast breeds that are specially bred in the laboratory are suitable.
This yeast is propagated in large fermentation tanks with strong aeration, in a nutrient solution that is made from sugar beet molasses and various nutrients. After the fermentation process was complete, the yeast was obtained from the mash by centrifugation as yeast cream using large separators and dewatered on rotating vacuum filters by using the system known worldwide as the “Mautner Markhof filter yeast process”.
The second main pillar of his entrepreneurial activity was just as important for Adolf Ignaz as the brewery and it also generated even higher profits. Although the invention of a new pressed yeast production method made him go down as a pioneer in economic history, here success was not a given.
Around 1837, some scientists such as Theodor Schwann, Friedrich Traugott Kützing and Charles Cagniard de la Tour proved independently of one another that yeasts – as microorganisms – are not only responsible for alcoholic fermentation, as for beer production, but also are very important for the production of the staple foods white bread and pastries. The bakers also needed yeast for the production of the famous Viennese white pastry, which they obtained from the breweries at that time. The top-fermented beer was fermented warm and drove the brewer’s yeast, as a thick foam, to the surface of the vessels, where it could be skimmed off, washed and used as baker’s yeast.
However, the production of bottom-fermented beer with the introduction of cold fermentation soon created a dramatic bottleneck in yeast production. In fact it settled on the bottom of the vats and could be obtained after the beer had been drained, but the bakers could no longer produce tasty white bread because of its weak impetus, its dark color and its bitter aftertaste. The resulting lack of yeast finally began to threaten the very existence of the entire baking industry. It was now the task of the industry to find a cheap nutrient material in which the top-fermenting brewer’s yeast could be further cultivated.
The Viennese Bakers’ Guild announced a premium of one thousand guilders for a adequate baker’s yeast and the Lower Austrian Trade and Crafts Association supplemented this by ensuring the winner of the award of the great golden club medal. When Adolf Ignaz learned about this, it was his firm intention to introduce such a production. In 1845 a separate test bakery was set up for this purpose, but the yield was still very low and of not very good quality. Compressed yeast was systematically produced in St. Marx as early as 1847, but due to the unreliability of the results, no desirable commercial success could still be achieved. On the one hand, the level of fermentation chemistry proved to be inadequate, and on the other hand, the small number of customers was split up as a result of the rapidly emerging competing factories, even if they were unable to maintain their market position. In 1848, Adolf Ignaz allied himself with the young Westphalian chemist Julius Reininghaus, who was soon supported by his brother Peter. They began to burn corn to the malt and rye mash, which not only made the yeast last, but was also cheap and more profitable. The additive use of corn is the soul of the so-called Viennese process, which later became the first and the world’s leading industrial production method. In 1850 Adolf Ignaz won both prizes: They were unanimously awarded to him for his product, among several competing yeast types, because of the greatest impetus and durability, which also made it highly exportable. For the domestic production of a perfectly usefully artificial yeast they then received the prize money of 1000 guilders and the gold medal of the trade association. Today you can hardly imagine how difficult it was […] to explore the hidden life manifestations of a microorganism – as it is represented by yeast. The modern biological investigation methods were still lacking and there was practically no useful literature. Indeed, Adolf Ignaz had to start over. Commemorative publication on the occasion of the family reunion on December 1, 1989
St. Marx was the first company in the world to produce a so-called “pressed yeast” that was independent of the breweries and that was to triumphantly spread around the world from here, as it could be used by bakers without restriction. Initially, the output of this “Viennese process” was 10 kilograms of yeast and 30 liters of alcohol from 100 kilograms of barley malt, grain and corn, but in the following two decades production was increased from the same amount of raw materials to 21 kilograms of yeast and 39 liters of alcohol. The use of corn was a brilliant idea of the research group because it could cushion the price fluctuations for the yeast price caused by different rye harvests. This ensured a significant economic advantage. Up until 1850, the basic material used to produce compressed yeast was, besides malt, only rye. As the main food of the people, this type of grain was subject to tremendous price fluctuations, to which the pressed yeast price could not always smoothly adjust if the commercial sales development should not always suffer. Adolf Ignaz remedied this by discovering that corn could also be used as a substitute for rye on pressed yeast and alcohol. At that time, maize was only grown in Hungary as much as it seemed necessary to cover household needs. Therefore, at the beginning, the larger quantities of maize needed for the pressed yeast production had to be imported from Wallachia. The fact that Adolf Ignaz used maize instead of rye for yeast and alcohol production gave the impetus to the fact that larger areas that had previously been fallow were cultivated with maize, thereby opening up a new sales area for Hungarian production. This discovery resulted in a saving of the rye, which was so necessary for people’s nutrition, as well as a price-reduction and price stability of the pressed yeast.
The yeast business soon blossomed, because not only did every domestic baker inquire about the product, but exports also boomed. At the 100th anniversary of Mautner’s compressed yeast factory, the following were proudly reported: Not did exist a fermentation with a greater impetus and longer stability, i.e. more transportable than the St. Marxer pressed yeast. Thank you and appreciation letters came to St. Marx from cities many hundreds of miles away from Vienna. Summer heat and polar cold had affected the new yeast and did not harm it.
Adolf Ignaz Mautner was a visionary producer and Julius Reininghaus was a gifted researcher. Since 1851 they had the factory license for yeast production, which saved them a lot of official harassment and released them from all guild rules. Julius and his brother Johann Peter married the Mautner daughters Emilie and Therese. Together they founded the Reininghaus brewery in Graz in 1853 with the financial support of their father-in-law, which soon produced an as wide range as Mautner in Vienna. Adolf Ignaz devoted himself increasingly to yeast production and when he reached the limits of capacity in St. Marx, he had to open a second (Vienna-Floridsdorf, Prager Strasse 20) and a third (Simmeringer Rosenhof) location.