Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Bootlegger in Your Mouth

April 20th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Over the weekend, Microkhan had the enormous pleasure of re-watching Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, about a daft German’s attempt to build an opera house in early 20th-century Iquitos. Without giving too much away, the quest brings him in contact with an Amazonian tribe that prepares chicha the old-fashioned way: By balling up the maize in their mouths, and letting their saliva do the fermenting.

Upon seeing this scene, Microkhan wondered how such a thing could be possible. Fortunately, the good folks over at the Journal of Dental Research have the knowledge. Suffice to say that you can ferment pretty much anything with spit, from chocolate cookies to bananas. Sounds yucky, perhaps, but if given a choice between saliva-fermented Saltines or Budweiser Chelada, we’d definitely opt for the former.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    I am now highly tempted to spit into a microcentrifuge tube and see if it will sediment. That hour in the morning before my boss shows up has got to be good for something.

    I also like the end of their results section, which might be summarized as “give us more money so we can figure out what’s really going on in spit.”

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    The liquor industry will never allow their vital research to proceed. The stakes are just too high–if folks figure out that spit-fermented Saltines have the same effect as Jack Daniels, think of the economic impact.

    Well, bad for Tennessee. And good for wherever Saltines are manufactured.

  • Jordan

    Speaking of making booze at home, I read an entertaining article about making your own whiskey a few weeks back:

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/drunk-of-the-week/Content?oid=1177421

    As far as plaintive cries for funding go, nothing beats the DOE report on producing biodiesel from algae that was put out in the late 90s:

    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/fy98/24190.pdf

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