Ethanol and methanol were compared for their performance as carbon sources for denitrification. The study was carried out in two chemostats, operated in parallel on synthetic media containing ethanol and methanol respectively as carbon sources. In addition, pure culture studies were performed on one ethanol- and one methanol-utilizing denitrifier.

Ethanol was found to be considerably more readily available as a carbon source for denitrification than was methanol. An efficient denitrification with ethanol was established in a short time, while denitrification with methanol required a substantial adaptation time and never showed the same stability as denitrification with ethanol. The growth rate of denitrifiers with ethanol as carbon source was 2–3 times higher than with methanol. The amount of COD required to denitrify a certain amount of nitrate was somewhat lower for ethanol (3.85 g/gN) than for methanol (4.45 g/gN) in the continuous experiments, while it was considerably higher for ethanol (6.1 g/gN) than for methanol (4.1 g/gN) in pure culture batch cultivations.