E is for Enzymes

E is for Enzymes


Enzymes?! You mean that stuff that’s in your mouth and stomach that dissolves food? Isn’t that what enzymes are?

We pause for a moment while Penny contemplates the reasons why she chose ‘enzymes’ over any other ‘E’ word. Oh yeah, there aren’t many relevant brewing ‘E’ words.

Continuing on…

Enzymes are an important part of the brewing process. It’s enzymes that help change the starches in grains into the sugars that we then ferment in our beers and ales.

Starches are chains of sugar molecules strung together in seeds to be used for food between when the seed germinates and when it has leaves and can make its own sugars for food. The sugar molecules in starch are not accessible for food as they stand. They must be broken apart for the growing plant to make use of them. Enzymes do this.

The necessary enzymes are released when germination begins. Starches are broken down into sugars, and the young plant begins to grow, focusing its growth effort into making leaves.

Malting is a process wherein grains are germinated so that enzymes convert the starches to sugars. Once this conversion has taken place – at about the time it’s obvious that the grain has actually germinated, the grain is dried. This kills the young plant, but provides grains that are loaded with fermentable sugars that can then be crushed and used for making beer.

The length of time and temperature at which the grain is dried results in different kinds of malts, which is, in part, how we get pale ales versus dark stouts.

So let us salute enzymes, the unsung heros of brewing!

I’m participating in the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. The goal is to write a post prompted by a letter of the alphabet on each day of April (except Sunday). My theme this year is brewing. Visit my other A to Z posts by clicking here.

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