The pH changes that occur during the fermentation of vegetables by lactic acid bacteria depend on the production of weak acids and on the buffering of the fermentation medium. Undefined buffering components of fermentation media make estimates of pH from acid production difficult. The objective of this research was to develop buffer models for a model cucumber fermentation brine system linking pH changes to acid concentrations. A novel titration method was used to measure buffer capacity in cucumber juice medium made from three grades of pickling cucumbers based on diameter. Fermentation of juice made from cucumbers of different sizes resulted in differences in fermentation biochemistry. The results of modeling indicated that the pH of the medium after 24 and 48 h of fermentation by heterolactic Leuconostoc mesenteroides and homolactic Lactiplantibacillus pentosus could be predicted from acid concentrations based on the measured buffer capacity of the corresponding unfermented medium. The differences for all observed and predicted pH values of the fermentation samples, based on measured acid concentrations, had a root mean square error of 0.064 pH units. The buffer models included a quantitative measure of the effect on pH of the malolactic reaction caused by the lactic acid bacteria. These models may have application for assessing the influence of a variety of lactic acid bacteria buffering reactions on pH and fermentation ecology by linking pH to fermentation acid concentrations.

  • Buffer models of cucumber brines linking pH and acid concentrations were developed.

  • Heterolactic and homolactic fermentations were used to validate the models.

  • The pH effects of the malolactic reaction of lactic acid bacteria were quantified.

  • These buffer models may be used for the study of fermentation ecology and safety.

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