Water, heat, and enzymes are applied to the corn, and the corn breaks down into a slurry. The slurry is sterilized through more heat, pumped into another tank, and more enzymes are added to convert the corn starch into glucose. Then the corn is pumped into fermenters, where yeast is added. The liquid is then left to ferment.
After fermentation, the alcohol (ethanol) is distilled from the corn mash.
There are two main types of corn ethanol production: dry milling and wet milling, with each type utilized in different ways. In the dry milling process, the entire corn kernel is ground into the flour and referred to as meal, which is then slurried by adding water. Then enzymes are added that convert the starch to dextrose and then ammonia is added to control the pH. To reduce the bacterial levels, the mix is processed at high temperatures and cooled in fermenters. This is where the yeast is added and conversion from sugar to ethanol and carbon dioxide begins. The entire process takes between 40-50 hours.
Wet milling takes the corn grain and steeps it in a dilute combination of sulfuric acid for 1-2 days in order to separate the grain into many components. It then goes through a series of grinders and then the components are dried and filtered to make a corn gluten – meals co-product. The corn starch produced can be process one of 3 ways: 1. fermented into ethanol 2. made and sold as corn starch 3. made into corn syrup.
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