Mead has been a cherished beverage for thousands of years, enjoyed by ancient civilizations and modern societies alike.
As avid mead home brewer, I’ve been fascinated by the alchemy-like process of turning honey, water, and yeast into a delicious, intoxicating libation. One of the questions I often get from budding mead makers is: When do you add pectic enzyme in mead brewing?
The best time to add pectic enzyme in mead brewing is before fermentation, ideally when you are preparing your must (the mixture of honey, fruit juice and water).
This is the perfect time as the enzyme works best before alcohol is present and it needs time to break down the pectin.
However, it can also be added after fermentation, but with way less efficiency, if you are dealing with a stubborn haze in your mead.
Importantly, you should only consider adding pectic enzyme when dealing with mead where fruit juice has been added (melomel or cyser if honey is added to cider..) as pectin is not present in honey alone.
What is Pectic Enzyme?
Pectic enzyme, also known as pectinase, is a type of enzyme that breaks down pectin, a naturally occurring substance found in fruits and some honeys. Pectin contributes to the cloudiness or haze in mead, especially when fruit is used.
While this haziness doesn’t affect the taste, it can detract from the visual appeal of your mead. Pectic enzyme is added to mead to reduce this cloudiness, resulting in a clearer, more visually appealing final product.
Why Use Pectic Enzyme in Mead?
The use of pectic enzyme in mead is primarily for aesthetic reasons. A clear and bright mead is more visually pleasing and can be an indicator of a well-made mead.
However, it’s not just about looks. Pectic enzyme can also enhance the flavor extraction when brewing with fruits, leading to a more flavorful mead.
Types of mead that benefit from pectic enzyme treatment
Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey with water, and sometimes other ingredients like fruits, spices, or grains.
Only the mead variations containing fruit in some form will benefit from pectic enzyme. To quickly go through which ones these are, lets take a look at the types of mead out there.
Among the various types of mead, the three most popular variations are Cyser, Braggot, and Melomel:
- Ordinary Mead (Traditional Mead):
Ordinary Mead, also known as Traditional Mead, is the simplest form of mead and consists of just honey, water, and yeast. It does not contain any additional ingredients like fruits, spices, or grains. Since there are no fruits or other ingredients that contain pectin, pectinase is not typically used in the production of Ordinary Mead to improve clarity.
Cyser is a type of mead that includes apples or apple juice in its production. It is essentially a combination of mead and cider. The addition of apples or apple juice provides natural pectin, a complex carbohydrate found in fruits that contributes to the body and mouthfeel of the beverage. Pectin can also cause cloudiness in the finished mead. To address this, pectinase, an enzyme, is often used to break down the pectin, aiding in the clarification process and resulting in a clearer and more visually appealing Cyser.
Braggot is a hybrid mead that combines honey with malted grains, typically barley, and often includes hops as well. The addition of malted grains introduces proteins and polyphenols, which can lead to haziness in the final product. Because pectin is not usually present in significant amounts in Braggot, pectinase will not significantly benefit this type of mead.
Melomel is a general term for mead that includes any type of fruit other than apples. It can incorporate fruits like berries, cherries, peaches, or any other fruit of choice. Similar to Cyser, fruits used in Melomel can contain pectin, which may lead to haziness in the mead. Here again, pectinase can be used to address this issue and improve clarity.
In summary, Cyser and certain variations of Melomel (depending on the fruits used) are the types of mead that may benefit from the addition of pectinase to improve their clarity.
In Ordinary Mead, the primary concern for clarity is usually related to proper fermentation practices, racking (transferring the mead from one container to another to leave sediment behind), and aging. It’s essential to maintain proper sanitation and handling to avoid any contamination that could cause cloudiness or off-flavors in the mead.
The addition of pectinase helps to break down these compounds and enhance the visual appearance of the mead.
Preparing the Must
When making fruit mead, the first step is to prepare the must. This involves mixing your honey with water, fruit or fruit juice, and this is the best time to add your pectic enzyme.
Doing so at this stage allows the enzyme to start breaking down any pectin present in the honey or any fruit you may be using. Remember, pectic enzyme works best before alcohol is present.
Adding Pectic Enzyme Before Fermentation
By adding the pectic enzyme before fermentation, you are giving it the best chance to work effectively. The enzyme works optimally in an environment without alcohol, and at this stage, your must is just that. Additionally, it takes time for pectic enzyme to work, so adding it early in the process gives it plenty of time to do its job.
Ideally you will add it directly to the fruit juice to treat it more effectively.
Adding Pectic Enzyme After Fermentation
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your fruit mead may still end up with a haze after fermentation. In these cases, you can add pectic enzyme post-fermentation. However, keep in mind that the enzyme doesn’t work as well in the presence of alcohol, so you may need to use a larger amount and wait longer for it to work.
Factors Affecting Pectic Enzyme Efficiency
There are several factors that can affect the efficiency of pectic enzyme. These include temperature, pH, and the presence of alcohol. Pectic enzyme works best at temperatures between 20-55°C (68-131°F) and a pH between 3.0-6.5. As mentioned earlier, the presence of alcohol can inhibit the enzyme, reducing its efficiency.
Other ways to clear mead
Clearing mead is an important step in the brewing process to achieve a visually appealing and transparent final product.
Here are some common methods used to clear mead:
- Gravity Settling: Allowing the mead to sit undisturbed in a container for an extended period allows heavier particles and sediment to settle to the bottom. This method is simple but can take several weeks or even months to achieve satisfactory clarity.
- Racking: Racking involves carefully transferring the mead from one container to another, leaving behind sediment and cloudy portions. This process is repeated several times during the fermentation and aging stages to promote clarification.
- Fining Agents: Fining agents are substances added to mead to help attract and bind particles together, making them easier to remove. Common fining agents include bentonite, isinglass, gelatin, and sparkalloid. These agents aid in the removal of suspended solids and improve clarity.
- Filtration: Filtration involves passing the mead through various types of filters, such as pads, cartridges, or diatomaceous earth. Filtration can help remove even the finest particles, leading to a clear and polished appearance. Care must be taken not to strip away desirable flavor and aroma compounds during filtration.
- Cold Crashing: Cold crashing is a technique where the mead is chilled to near-freezing temperatures for a brief period. This encourages the precipitation of solids, making them easier to rack or filter out.
- Time: Allowing the mead to age over an extended period can lead to natural clarification as particles settle and flavors meld. Time can be an effective method for clearing mead, especially when combined with proper racking and aging practices.
It’s worth noting that the effectiveness of these methods can vary depending on the initial quality of the mead, the ingredients used, and the overall brewing process.
Brewers often employ a combination of these techniques to achieve the desired level of clarity in their mead. Additionally, maintaining good sanitation practices throughout the brewing process is crucial for preventing contamination and maintaining clarity.
To summarize, the best time to add pectic enzyme in mead brewing is during the must preparation stage, before fermentation begins.
This gives the enzyme the best environment to work effectively, leading to a clearer, more visually appealing mead. However, if necessary, the enzyme can also be added after fermentation.
Just remember to consider the factors that can impact its efficiency.
10 Key Facts about Pectic Enzyme in Mead Brewing:
1. Pectic enzyme, or pectinase, breaks down pectin.
2. Pectin is naturally occurring in fruits and fortified honeys (with fruit juice added).
3. Pectin can cause a haze or cloudiness in mead with fruit or fruit juice added.
4. The use of pectic enzyme helps to clear this haze.
5. Pectic enzyme can enhance flavor extraction in fruit meads.
6. The best time to add pectic enzyme is during must preparation, before fermentation.
7. Pectic enzyme can also be added after fermentation if needed.
8. Pectic enzyme works best at temperatures between 20-55°C (68-131°F).
9. The optimal pH for pectic enzyme is between 3.0-6.5.
10. The presence of alcohol can inhibit the efficiency of pectic enzyme.
Should I use pectic enzyme in fruit mead?
Yes, using pectic enzyme in mead with fruit added can be beneficial. Pectic enzyme helps break down pectin, a complex carbohydrate found in fruits, which can result in clearer and more stable mead. It aids in the extraction of flavors and aromas from fruits and can improve the overall clarity of the final product.
How many drops of pectic enzyme per gallon?
The recommended dosage of pectic enzyme for winemaking is typically 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of must.
How much pectic enzyme to use?
The amount of pectic enzyme to use depends on the specific recipe and the desired outcome. As a general guideline, it is recommended to use about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of pectic enzyme per gallon (3.8 liters) of fruit juice or mead. However, it is important to follow the instructions provided with the specific brand of pectic enzyme you are using, as different products may have different recommended dosage rates.
When can you add pectic enzyme?
Pectic enzyme is typically added to fruit-based fermentations, such as wine or cider, before or during the fermentation process. It helps break down pectin, a substance found in fruits that can cause haze or cloudiness in the final product. Adding pectic enzyme early on allows for better extraction of flavors and improved clarity in the finished beverage.
Can you add pectic enzyme after fermentation?
Yes, pectic enzyme can be added after fermentation, although its effectiveness may be reduced compared to adding it prior to fermentation. Adding pectic enzyme after fermentation can help clarify the wine and improve its stability by breaking down pectins that can cause haze or cloudiness. However, it is generally recommended to add pectic enzyme before fermentation for optimal results.
How much pectic enzyme to add in mead?
The recommended amount of pectic enzyme to add in mead is typically 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per gallon of must. However, it is important to follow the specific instructions provided by the manufacturer as dosage may vary between different brands. Pectic enzyme helps break down pectin, a natural fruit fiber, which can improve clarity and aid in the fermentation process.