An overview is presented of the steady- and transient state kinetics of growth and formation of metabolic byproducts in yeasts. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is strongly inclined to perform alcoholic fermentation. Even under fully aerobic conditions, ethanol is produced by this yeast when sugars are present in excess. This so-called 'Crabtree effect' probably results from a multiplicity of factors, including the mode of sugar transport and the regulation of enzyme activities involved in respiration and alcoholic fermentation. The Crabtree effect in S. cerevisiae is not caused by an intrinsic inability to adjust its respiratory activity to high glycolytic fluxes. Under certain cultivation conditions, for example during growth in the presence of weak organic acids, very high respiration rates can be achieved by this yeast. S. cerevisiae is an exceptional yeast since, in contrast to most other species that are able to perform alcoholic fermentation, it can grow under strictly anaerobic conditions. 'Non-Saccharomyces' yeasts require a growth-limiting supply of oxygen (i.e. oxygen-limited growth conditions) to trigger alcoholic fermentation. However, complete absence of oxygen results in cessation of growth and therefore, ultimately, of alcoholic fermentation. Since it is very difficult to reproducibly achieve the right oxygen dosage in large-scale fermentations, non-Saccharomyces yeasts are therefore not suitable for large-scale alcoholic fermentation of sugar-containing waste streams. In these yeasts, alcoholic fermentation is also dependent on the type of sugar. For example, the facultatively fermentative yeast Candida utilis does not ferment maltose, not even under oxygen-limited growth conditions, although this disaccharide supports rapid oxidative growth.