Kimchi is often stored for a long period of time for a diet during the winter season because it is an essential side dish for Korean meals. In this study pH, abundance of bacteria and yeasts, bacterial communities, and metabolites were monitored periodically to investigate the fermentation process of kimchi for 120 d. Bacterial abundance increased quickly with a pH decrease after an initial pH increase during the early fermentation period. After 20 d, pH values became relatively stable and free sugars were maintained at relatively constant levels, indicating that kimchi fermentation by lactic acid bacteria (LAB) was almost completed. After that time, a decrease in bacterial abundance and a growth in Saccharomyces occurred concurrently with increased free sugar consumption and production of glycerol and ethanol. Finally, after 100 d, the growth of Candida was observed. Community analysis using pyrosequencing revealed that diverse LAB including Leuconostoc citreum, Leuconostoc holzapfelii, Lactococcus lactis, and Weissella soli were present during the early fermentation period, but the LAB community was quickly replaced with Lactobacillus sakei, Leuconostoc gasicomitatum, and Weissella koreensis as the fermentation progressed. Metabolite analysis using 1H-NMR showed that organic acids (lactate, acetate, and succinate) as well as bioactive substances (mannitol and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)) were produced during the kimchi fermentation, and Leuconostoc strains and Lactobacillus sakei were identified as the producers of mannitol and GABA, respectively.
Practical Application In this study, we have shown that the growth inhibition of yeasts including Saccharomyces and Candida is necessary to extend the shelf life of kimchi in long-term storage. Additionally, we have shown that a mixed culture of Leuconostoc strains and Lactobacillus sakei is necessary to produce kimchi that contains both mannitol and gamma-aminobutyric acid.