Scientists have made the world’s first ‘healthy’ alcoholic drink from tofu whey.
The team used the tofu byproduct, which is often discarded, to create new drink Sachi, and have enriched it with healthy antioxidants isoflavones.
Researchers took three months to concoct the brew, which began by making fresh soya milk from soybeans.
The team at the National University of Singapore (NUS) then turned the milk into the tofu, collecting the whey, to which they added sugar, acid and yeast and fermented it to create Sachi.
The project began a year ago, led by Associate Professor Liu Shao-Quan and PhD student Chua Jian-Yong, from the Food Science and Technology Programme.
Dr Shao-Quan said: “The health benefits associated with soy products, coupled with changing preferences towards vegetarian diets, have fueled the growth of tofu production.
“As a result, the amount of tofu whey has also increased proportionally.
“Alcoholic fermentation can serve as an alternative method to convert tofu whey into food products that can be consumed directly.
“Our unique fermentation technique also serves as a zero-waste solution to the serious issue of tofu whey disposal.”
Mr Jian-Yong also designed a new fermentation technique which utilises the tofu whey fully without generating any waste.
The whole process of making the alcoholic beverage takes about three weeks.
Turning tofu into Sachi converts its strong beany odour into a fruity, sweet flavour, and extends the shelf life of tofu whey from less than one day to about four months.
The drink is a ‘tad sweet, with fruity and floral notes, and has an alcohol content of about seven to eight per cent’.
Mr Jian-Yong added: “The traditional way of manufacturing tofu produces a large amount of whey, which contains high levels of calcium and unique soya nutrients such as isoflavones and prebiotics.
“Hence, disposing tofu whey is wasteful.
“Very little research has been done to transform tofu whey into edible food and beverage products.
“I had previously worked on alcohol fermentation during my undergraduate studies, so I decided to take up the challenge of producing an alcoholic beverage using the whey.
“The drink turned out to be tasty, which is a pleasant surprise.”
Discarded tofu whey can create environmental pollution, as the protein and soluble sugars in the whey could contribute to oxygen depletion in waterways.