Beer is a widely popular and a favourite drink for many people. Compared to other alcoholic beverages, it seems easier to consume, enjoyable and combinable with any dish. Ease of consumption, however, does not go hand in hand with ease of production. Brewing beer is a complex art, requiring a profound knowledge of elements, ingredients, processes. The quality of the end result depends precisely on the attention paid to detail and the balance achieved at each stage of the production process.
In this respect, brewing enzymes play a crucial role. In the mashing process, the malt and cereal mix are brought to higher temperatures to activate precisely the enzyme action and prepare the wort for fermentation. The action of enzymes, therefore, is important for the success of the entire brewing process. Let us take a closer look at why and how it is composed.
When beer enzymes are activated
In the warming phase of the mash, as already mentioned, these particular protein molecules are activated which are capable of accelerating certain chemical reactions. In this case, they are useful in preparing the wort for proper fermentation.
In theory, they are inexhaustible molecules, which means that they are capable of triggering new chemical reactions each time. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of their action also depends greatly on the environment and a number of factors.
First and foremost, precisely, the heating action of the must. But salinity, acidity and the presence of alcohol can also affect the functionality of beer enzymes. Maintaining the balance of these factors is important, as the quality of enzyme action and the success of subsequent brewing steps depend on it. If, for example, enzymes are placed at extreme temperatures or conditions, they can denature to the point of irreversibly impairing their action.
What may be interesting to know is that the enzymes involved in the meshing stage are many and varied. They all have the function of making the wort fermentable and enabling the brewer to achieve the final result.
Which enzymes are mainly activated?
Types of beer enzymes
Among the most common enzymes are β-glucanases, and they are used in beers where unmalted cereals are utilised, such as rice, wheat, barley, oats. These enzymes attack the walls of these cereals, allowing the body and foam retention of the beer to remain unaffected.
In addition to this, there are proteases and peptidases, which act to break down amino acids and allow the yeast to act better during fermentation. Furthermore, these enzymes are able to interfere with the long protein chains so as to lower the turbidity of the beer and increase foam retention.
The group of diastases are the most important enzymes in the brewing process, as they allow starch to be reduced into sugars and make the wort fermentable. In fact, several enzymes belonging to this group are involved, such as amylases that enable the release of maltose, a sugar that is extremely useful during fermentation and responsible for the body and alcohol content of beer. If the degradation process by amylases is exceeded, this can result in very alcoholic beers, with less body and also rather dry.
These are just a few examples of the most important enzymes in beer. Other types of enzymes not widely used in the recent past are phytases, which are responsible for the acidification of wort, but also improve its extraction. However, they are falling into disuse, because their use would protract this preparation phase by lengthening preparation time.
For the correct use of enzymes in the brewing process, it is necessary to learn more about their nature, characteristics, functions and suitable environmental conditions, so that their function is activated in the brewing process in a natural way.