Monitoring of lactic fermentation driven by different starter cultures via direct injection mass spectrometric analysis of flavour-related volatile compounds
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In this work, we used Proton Transfer Reaction-Mass Spectrometry (PTR-ToF-MS), coupled with an automated sampling system, to monitor lactic fermentation driven by different yogurt commercial starter cultures via direct injection mass spectrometric analysis of flavour-related volatile compounds. The aim is the identification of markers for real-time and non-invasive bioprocess control and optimisation as an industrial driver of innovation in food technology and biotechnology. We detected more than 300 mass peaks, tentatively identifying all major yogurt aroma volatiles. Thirteen mass peaks showed statistically significant differences among the four commercial starters. Among these are acetaldehyde, methanethiol, butanoic acid, 2-butanone, diacetyl, acetoin, 2-hydroxy-3-pentanone/pentanoic acid, heptanoic acid and benzaldehyde which play a key role in yogurt flavour. These volatile described the diverse flavour properties claimed by food biotechnological companies and, considering the possible contribution to yogurt flavour, are potential markers for the rapid screening of starter cultures and for the quality design in this fermentation-driven production. The strength of our approach lies in the identification, for the first time, of specific depletion kinetics of four sulphur containing compounds occurring during fermentation (hydrogen sulphide, methanethiol, S-methyl thioacetate/S-ethyl thioformate, pentane-thiol), which suggest a new possible protechnological feature of yogurt starter cultures.