Pectic enzyme is included in many of the wine recipes here on Home Brew Answers, it is an integral additive in the winemaker’s arsenal. Did you know it even has uses in beer making depending on what kind of beer you are brewing? When you see it included in a home brew recipe you may wonder why it is needed, that is what we are going to cover in this article.
What is Pectin?
Pectic enzyme or pectolase is a fairly common ingredient in the vast majority of fruit wines and fruit beers because many fruits contain pectin.
Pectin is a type of carbohydrate called a polysaccharide which helps maintain the structure of a plant or fruit. The effects of pectin as a gelling agent are most evident in things like jam making where pectin is the key ingredient to set a jam after being heated with sugar. If you don’t have enough pectin in your fruit when making a jam it won’t set and stays runny.
There are some fruits that have higher amounts of pectin, fruits such as pears, apples, plums gooseberries and citrus fruit have high amounts whilst softer fruits like strawberries, grapes and apricots have lower levels of pectin.
Pectin is important when you are cooking and want something to set or gel together but for the winemaker or brewer introducing fruit with high levels of pectin can be problematic for several reasons.
Pectins Effect On Wine or Beer
If you are making a fruit/vegetable wine or a beer with a lot of fruit in then you are introducing pectin to a liquid. If you don’t take preventative measures it’s highly likely there will be a permanent haze in the finished wine or beer. This can be fine in some styles of beer where haze is a natural occurrence but it is definitely not good for wine, I can’t think of any instances where a haze in a wine is acceptable.
The other problem caused by having pectin in your wine is that if you intend to filter the wine prior to bottling then it is very easy for the filter to get blocked and stop running at all.
Fortunately, it is easy to reduce the amount of pectin in your wine or beer using a pectic enzyme which is also referred to as pectolase.
Using pectic enzyme has the following effects:
- It breaks down the fruit you are trying to extract juice and flavour from. After you pulp or mash a fruit pectin still acts as a structural member, using pectic enzyme breaks this structure getting more juice and flavour into the wine.
- Prevents pectin forming a haze in the finished wine or beer.
- Aids filtering should this be part of the process prior to packaging.
Using Pectic Enzyme / Pectolase
Pectic enzyme is a protein that works specifically to break down pectin. It is recommended you use this in almost all fruit wines you make, even commercial wine producers will add pectic enzyme as it aids juice extraction.
This is the reason why it is desirable to add pectolase before fermentation as you will produce a wine better colour, clarity and you will importantly extract more juice and flavour from the fruit you are using.
How Much To Add and When to Add Pectolase
The typical dosage for pectolase is 1tsp per gallon added directly to the wine “must” and stirred thoroughly before fermentation. If you forget to add it before fermentation you can add pectic enzyme later but you will have less juice extracted from the fruit. It will not inhibit yeast growth or activity if added later.