Which enzymes is right for your beer?

Which enzymes is right for your beer?

Pushing the envelope is a pretty typical brewer move. Maxing out the mash capacity, overfilling the kettle and blocking the heat exchanger with debris are more common than we may like to admit, but with experience comes education. Understanding the value of dextrose, silicone dioxide and hop extracts is akin to evolving as a brewer. While these ingredients may not be a first choice in ideal circumstances, the value they bring to practical applications is immeasurable. Another precision tool in the brewer's arsenal is supplemental enzymes. Read along as we identify which enzymes are right for you!

This medieval torture device is actually a mash tun. The complicated mechanical components provide mixing in this “modern” tun. Agitation improves the contact between enzymes and starch molecules as well as balancing the temperature of the mash. Without agitation extended saccharification times may be required.

Even after all these years, brew days are still the most fun. Sure, they involve a fair amount of labor, but turning raw ingredients into valuable product offers something uniquely rewarding. From the smell of cooking mash to the steady sprinkle of the sparge flow, inspiration calls out loudest when all the senses are firing. After all, one good brew day incubates the next! The reality is nobody likes a troublesome brew day. Grist mills, grain augers, pumps, and filters all like to present challenges, but with some understanding, equipment malfunctions and processing errors can be minimized. Unfortunately, biologic processes are not linear calculations and problems can trip up even the most experienced of brewers.

Preliminary research has shown evidence of dextrin hydrolyzing enzymes in hops. This fuels speculation that “hop creep”, or a reduction in specific gravity after dry-hopping, may be caused by late term saccharification in the fermenter. Care should be taken to avoid late diacetyl formation.

From recipe development through filtration and packaging, care should be taken to address any extraordinary concerns in your brews. Classic examples might include adjusting mill gap settings to accommodate for different raw materials, staging filtration for clarity and load, and cellar conditioning to reduce VDK’s. If these obstacles present constant headaches, consider looking deeper into the toolbox.  

While physical adjustments are supremely important, supplemental enzymes can offer additional avenues for improvement. Increasing liquefaction allows for improved starch hydrolyzation, helping to compensate for less-than-ideal malting and milling conditions. When conditions are ideal (or close), conversion times may be reduced significantly. This leads to faster turnover in the brewhouse, increasing productivity. 

Filtering beer offers a few advantages. Presentability is increased by visual clarity, as well as stability. Microbiological activity will be significantly reduced, although not entirely inhibited, depending on the level of filtration. Second only to a stuck mash, a blinded filter will ruin your day. Yeast solids and protein complexes can build differential pressure on the filter, indicating more resistance and less flow. While yeast is the easiest to blame, the truth is b-glucans and arabinoxylans present the most physical resistance. It all starts with a good mashing procedure; however, an addition of exogenous enzymes can break down cell walls and protein complexes much more effectively than endogenous enzymes alone. This leads to a reduced viscosity, improving lautering, extraction, and filtering.

Seen on the right, low molecular weight proteins will settle on top of the mash during vorlauf. These protein complexes can “blind” the top of the lauter, preventing sparge water from effectively rinsing the grist. If carried through processing, these protein complexes can also build up on filter media causing blockages.

Cellaring and fermentation can also make use of exogenous and endogenous enzyme additions. Raising temperature in the final stages of fermentation has been a traditional method to reduce VDK’s via yeast metabolism. Alpha acetolactate decarboxylase (or ALDC) is an enzyme which can reduce VDK’s and has been adopted by many brewers as “cheap insurance” against late diacetyl formation. This can be especially beneficial when working with fast flocculating yeast strains. Sometimes these yeast strains will drop out before they have had a chance to re-metabolize diacetyl into acetoin and eventually imperceptible 2,3 butanediol. 

Different yeast strains contain different enzyme compositions. STA1 positive strains can excrete glucoamylase, freeing glucose and causing hyper-attenuation. While beneficial to Brut IPA, Saison, or low-cal lager, it can lead to over-carbonation and possibly even exploding containers in products with high finishing gravities.

So, which enzyme is right for you? Odds are several can help. When moving through the daily brewing procedures, it is wise to analyze every opportunity for improvement. Look at raw materials to identify any potential headaches before you mash, and include a product like Ondea® Pro to boost mashing potential. Beyond simply unlocking and converting starch, it also releases Free Amino Nitrogen (FAN), an essential component for healthy fermentations. Ondea® Pro can be used in malted barley beers, however the real advantage is the ability to directly convert raw, un-malted barley and other ingredients. 

To reduce concerns of poor extraction and improve lautering, consider the use of Ultraflo® Max. Degrading cell wall material like b-glucans and arabinoxylans will lower viscosity and improve physical extraction, particularly in recipes containing large quantities of flaked wheat or rolled oats. Keep that in mind for your next “hazy” IPA!

Another specialty product gaining traction is Attenuzyme® Pro, an enzyme complex that de-branches amylopectin and amylose by way of glucoamylase and pullulanase. Supplementing with Attenuzyme® Pro can decrease mash times while creating a consistent mash composition. Influencing the wort composition will help tailor the fermentation profile, providing more or less esterification, among other subtleties. The “more-complete” breakdown from Attenuzyme® Pro is essential for extremely high attenuating styles, like low-calorie lager, or Brut IPA. 

Before you start milling the next batch, take a moment to walk through the process. Are you planning to use all the tools at your disposal? With just a bit of mental effort, you may be able to save on physical labor, raw materials, and time. Couple that with increased output and you’ve got a win-win!