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Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, is a flammable, colorless, mildly toxic chemical compound with a distinctive perfume-like odor, and is the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. In common usage, it is often referred to simply as alcohol. Its molecular formula is variously represented as EtOH, C2H5OH or as its empirical formula C2H6O.

Ethanol for use in alcoholic beverages, and the vast majority of ethanol for use as fuel, is produced by fermentation: when certain species of yeast (most importantly, Saccharomyces cerevisiae) metabolize sugar in the absence of oxygen, they produce ethanol and carbon dioxide. The overall chemical reaction conducted by the yeast may be represented by the chemical equation

C6H12O6 → 2 CH3CH2OH + 2 CO2

The process of culturing yeast under conditions to produce alcohol is referred to as brewing. Brewing can only produce relatively dilute concentrations of ethanol in water; concentrated ethanol solutions are toxic to yeast. The most ethanol-tolerant strains of yeast can survive in up to about 25% ethanol (by volume).

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