Find out what makes bread rise and champagne fizzy in this simple kitchen science.



Some yeast1 tsp yeastSugar3-4 tsp of sugar
A balloonA balloonA bottleA 500ml lemonade bottle
Warm waterLuke warm water  



Add the the yeast and the sugar to the lemonade bottleFill the bottle 1/3 - 1/2 full of warm waterShake the mixture thoroughlyStretch the balloon over the top of the bottleKeep the mixture warm for 30mins to a hour or so.


You should find that the mixture becomes frothy, and the balloon inflates.If you leave the mixture for a couple of hours and then shake it, you should find that it froths up like a fizzy drink.




Yeast Cells
Yeast cells © Masur @ Wikimedia


Yeast is a microscopic form of fungus, it is related to mushrooms.  Like us it will eat sugars and react them with oxygen from the air to form water and carbon di-oxide.  

However this wouldn't explain the increase in volume of the gas in the bottle.  This is because if you react a sugar such as Glucose (C6H12O6) with oxygen (O2) you form as much carbon dioxide as the oxygen you started with:

C6H12O6 + 6O2 -> 6H2O + 6CO2

The CO2 produced will be the same volume as the O2 taken in, so there would be no increase in volume and the balloon would not inflate.

However yeast has another trick up its sleave.  If there is lots of food about in the form of sugar but not enough oxygen, the yeast can generate energy by breaking down the sugar into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide:

C6H12O6 -> 2 C2H5OH + 2CO2

This is a big advantage to the yeast because it means it can thrive in many environments it wouldn't otherwise do so, such as in your bottle.  There is not much oxygen in the air above the bottle and even less in the water so the yeast breaks the sugar straight down to alcohol and carbon-dioxide.  This forms extra gas (if no gas is taken in, but gas is produced, the volume will increase) and inflates the balloon.


What has this got to do with bread?


A receipe for bread includes both sugar and yeast.  The yeast will eat the sugar and produce alcohol and carbon-dioxide. The CO2 forms as bubbles in the bread mix making the bread rise -  making the bread much lighter and easier to eat.


Bread rising as the yeast converts sugar into carbon-dioxide and ethanol.



Is bread alcoholic then?


When it is cooked most of the alcohol evaporates, so you wouldn't be able to get drunk on bread!


Why is the liquid sometimes fizzy?


A fizzy drink is just a normal drink with carbon-dioxide dissolved in it, so when the yeast produces lots of carbon-dioxide some of it dissolves in the drink making it fizzy.  This is the reason that traditional ginger beer becomes fizzy - you make it with some yeast and sugar, the yeast ferments the sugar into a small amount of alcohol and carbon-dioxide.  Champagne is fizzy for the same reason, it is fermented a second time with some added mollasses and yeast inside the bottle, making carbon-dioxide and so the bubbles.



After a couple of days, the balloon sucked into the bottle. Has that happened to you? do you know why?

If the bottle cools, for instance you move it from a warm place to a cold place, the gas will shrink and the balloon will collapse, possibly into the bottle.

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