Pure starch is a white, tasteless and odorless powder that is insoluble in cold water or alcohol. It consists of two types of molecules: the linear and helicalamylose and the branched amylopectin. Depending on the plant, starch generally contains 20 to 25% amylose and 75 to 80% amylopectin by weight.Glycogen, the glucose store of animals, is a more highly branched version of amylopectin.
In industry, starch is converted into sugars, for example by malting, and fermented to produce ethanol in the manufacture of beer, whisky and biofuel. It is processed to produce many of the sugars used in processed foods. Mixing most starches in warm water produces a paste, such as wheatpaste, which can be used as a thickening, stiffening or gluing agent. The biggest industrial non-food use of starch is as an adhesive in the papermaking process. Starch can be applied to parts of some garments before ironing, to stiffen them.
The word "starch" is from a Germanic root with the meanings "strong, stiff, strengthen, stiffen". Modern German Stärke (strength) is related. The Greek term for starch, "amylon" (ἄμυλον), is also related. It provides the root amyl, which is used as a prefix in biochemistry for several 5-carbon compounds related to or derived from starch (e.g. amyl alcohol).