Pathway No. 1 = Insalivation of a starchy paste

L'amylase salivaire (= ptyaline) est une alpha-amylase

Our saliva contains a natural enzyme, the ptyalin, which targets the starch. This salivary amylase and our gastric juices (a maltase called pepsin) overcome the starch (reduction to maltose then glucose). Humans share this biological adaptation to the digestion of starchy food plants with certain animals. Without it, we would be unable to assimilate starchy foods and carbohydrates in general. Man cannot digest cellulose, a polyholoside close to the starch macromolecule.

The processing of milk into curd by gastric juices of animal origin is based on the same efficient diversion. A kind of biotechnology mastered by our ancestors, thanks to which they were able to transform, preserve and ennoble their food.

The amylases are also present in plants, fungi and bacteria, which are living organisms that must break down starch into simple sugars in order to feed themselves. It can be considered that all brewing methods derive from this ubiquity of amylases, except the method no. 6 which proceeds by purely chemical acid action.

By chewing or insalivating cooked balls of starchy dough (corn, rice, millet, manioc, potato, etc.), then spitting them out into a container (pottery, gourd), the woman or man brewer makes the most of the precious biochemical power of this enzyme. All that is needed is to insalivate 2% to 5% of the dough to convert the whole into sugars, so powerful are human amylases. The apparent simplicity of this method does not imply that it is primitive, nor does it inspire all the other historical brewing processes.

All over the world, mothers chew cooked cereal dumplings before giving them to their infants when they switch from breast milk to their first porridges. There is an obvious link with the brewing of beer although it can only be dated very approximately (Neolithic or Paleolithic?).


Brewing with saliva (method no 1)





Our saliva or that of some mammals contains a powerful enzyme, ptyalin. Chewing or swallowing pellets of cooked starch (starch) is a very effective method of saccharification. The process is fairly simple.


A part of the cooked starch (approx. 10%) is chewed, insalivated and spat out into the remaining 90%. The action of the ptyalin is powerfull enough to saccharify the whole.



The liquefaction of the mash and its sweet taste serve as indicators to switch to the stage of spontaneous or induced alcoholic (and lactic) fermentation.

This insalivation method is practised nowadays in Amazonia (manioc or maize beers), in the Guyanas, in Borneo, in Java and until recently in Taiwan by the indigenous peoples of this island. Its use has been much more widespread on the surface of the globe, but remains too little documented.Certain myths evoke the use of animal amylases: the boar's slime in the Finnish Kalevala or the Germanic epics, the divine (Scandinavian myth of Loki), human or semi-divine saliva (Amazonian myths).




01/04/2013  Christian Berger