Research Biologist Meets Tobacco Bloom

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Preferred Member
Aug 25, 2014
Here's how all of this started. I hate Balkan Sobranie. I bought some tins of it and opened the first tin on October 27, 2014. Tried it - and just couldn't enjoy it. Left it sealed in a Ball Mason jar and sold my remaining tins. So tonight, while looking for a tobacco to smoke, I pulled out the jar of Balkan Sobranie and thought "what the heck? I'll try this again." So when I opened the jar, this awaited me:

Yup - the tobacco is covered with what I know to be "tobacco bloom," not mold. Then I lit up a bowl and WOW!!!! This stuff is amazing! Sweet, ripe, fruit, light though - not the deep tangy flavors of my preferred Virginias.
Here's where the science comes in. My son is home visiting, and he's a research biologist working on his Ph.D. in Human and Molecular Genetics at the top genetics research facility in the country, if not the world. He took one look and said "I can tell you exactly what that is." Not only is he home, his original tabletop microscope is still here. (Apparently even a $500-$1,000 microscope is a joke for someone sequencing and artificially rearranging DNA for his job, so we have a nice microscope sitting here collecting dust). Anyway - he took a piece of the tobacco, prepared a slide, and showed me exactly what was on the tobacco:
1) Sugar Crystals

2) Yeast. Specifically S. Cerevisae, also known commonly as Budding Yeast.
Then he explained the biological processes taking place in the tobacco from the time it was tinned until opened and then ultimately smoked.
First - Tobacco is sealed in the tin and yeast rapidly consumes all of the oxygen in the tin. He figured that could happen in mere weeks.
Second - the yeast eats the starches and complex carbohydrates in the tobacco, leaving behind the sugar crystals AND Aromatics. No - not aromatics like the goop added to aromatic tobacco, but "carbon rings" called aromatics because they do in fact have distinctive taste. That process continues until the yeast population is saturated and the reaction mostly stops.
Third - you open the tin. If you smoke a bowl right then you'll get a mix of the tobacco, with its natural starches and sugars, plus the sugars and aromatics created by the yeast.
Fourth - the tin, once opened, re-introduces oxygen to the system. The oxygen oxidizes the aromatic rings, modifying their flavor profile. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Maybe for better, maybe for worse. Just depends on what the individual doing the smoking seems to prefer.
Fifth - the oxidized carbon rings are more stable than the original carbon compounds, so once they've oxidized, they're done and no amount of aging/storing will convert them back. What's happened is the ratio of original starch to aromatic rings to oxidized rings has permanently changed and the ratio from when the tin is first opened will never be back.
That's why aged is different from fresh, and why once a tin is opened many people notice a substantial change after only a week or two.
Hopefully I made at least a little sense. I'm sure my son could write a ten page paper to explain in more detail what I just tried to summarize.



Preferred Member
Oct 23, 2015
I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this post.
Thank you, sir. And say "thanks" to your son for his time and expertise :)



Preferred Member
Sep 14, 2015
Thank you for sharing that. I love it. If he wants to write a paper, I'd sure as hell love to read it. I love organic chemistry. Should be able to bake bread with that stuff. :)



Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
Wow, science analyzing our beloved bloom instead of vilifying our noble leaf. Bravo! :clap:



Senior Member
Jul 7, 2014
What a great post! I now feel the urge to experiment with different aging times :)
Thank you, and your son!



Preferred Member
Jan 28, 2010
Chester County, PA
Yo jma - this is most bodacious! Could you ask your family research biologist how these yeasty findings square with the common theory of the bimodal ageing attributed to aerobic and anaerobic bacteria?




Preferred Member
Sep 18, 2015
Thank you for posting this! I have a couple of jars that look just like that and I have been a bit concerned about whether it was mold or not! I feel much better now :clap:



Preferred Member
Jan 13, 2014
Why dont tobacco manufacturers bloom their own tobacco blends and sell it?



Senior Member
Sep 22, 2015
Sunny FL
That is really cool. Does make me want to experiment a little by adding brewers yeast to some Virginia flake to see if the process can be sped up a little.



Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
Excellent. I thank you for taking the wives tales and witchcraft out of the discussion of aging tobacco.
Question #1 for your son: Yeast doesn't digest starch. It needs enzymes to break down the starch chains into sugars. What role do enzymes play in the process of aging tobacco, what enzymes might be at play and what triggers them (temperature, O2?)
Question #3: A lot of pipe tobacco is treated with Calcium Propanoate to retard mold growth. Does your son know if it also retard yeast growth?



Preferred Member
Mar 25, 2014
Woods.. I'm no microbiologist but:
Enzymes typically are killed at temps starting at 120F. This is below the temps Virgina tobacco would see (approx 160F). So you wouldn't expect enzymes to be present on Virgina or Red Virgina ( cooked to about 185F). Burley, on the other hand is air cured so it would be loaded with enzymes.
Tobacco leaf also contains quite a few species of bacteria such as Bacillus spp.

It also contains a lot of fungi.
How all this comes together I have no idea



Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
Beta-amylase is active up to 149°f and destroyed at just above that temp and Alpha-amylase is active up to 158°f. Destroyed at 176°f.



Preferred Member
Feb 26, 2015
Ask him how to capture the yeast so it can be used in home brewing? Might make an interesting beer.