What is pectic enzyme and why would you add it to your juice or cider. Pectic Enzyme is also know as pectinase, which is an enzyme that breaks down pectin. In other words, it is a protein that acts as a catalyst to degrade the pectin naturally found in fruit. Pectin is a complex carbohydrate found in many fruits that bind the cells together to give it structure. It’s a gelatinous material and great if you are making jelly, but not as great if you are making hard cider. If you make jelly that never sets up, you didn’t have enough pectin in it.
Why would you need to remove pectin from apple juice? Many fruits contain pectin, but apples and pears have a larger amount. This pectin can cause cloudiness, known as pectin haze, in your hard cider because it’s a complex carbohydrate, which is opaque and doesn’t pass light. Pectic enzyme converts this complex carbohydrate into lower complexity ones. These lower complexity carbohydrate will more readily pass light, reducing the haziness of your hard cider. It can also cause you to have a gelatinous sediment in the bottle of your bottles. These are mostly aesthetic issues.
There is another reason to use pectic enzymes besides promoting hard cider clarity. Breaking down the pectin in your pressed fruit juice helps improve the juice yield. I use pectic enzyme and normally yield one gallon of juice from 15-17 pounds of apples ( 1.8-2.0 kg per liter). It depends on the apple, yield decreases with softer fruit, but you could expect needing 1-2 pounds of additional apples without pectic enzymes. That would be around 0.2 kg per liter of additional apples. Beside higher yields, pectic enzymes can also enhance the flavors. Breaking down the fruit releases more flavor compounds found in the juice and it improves filtration because pectin is less likelihood to gum up the filter and block it prematurely.
Like with many things in hard cider making, pectic enzyme, works better when certain conditions are met. Pectic enzymes don’t like highly acidic juices and will not work as well when the pH drops below 3.0. It also doesn’t like alcohol so it is not as effective if you add it post fermentation. If you forget and want to add it after primary fermentation, it is best to double the recommended dose. However, the best plan is to always remember to add it to your fermenter before you add the juice and to let your juice sit for a bit before you pitch your yeast. There are a few different types of pectic enzymes so you should read and follow the directions on your package versus following a recipe.
Do you have to use pectic enzymes to make hard cider? Absolutely not. However, if you are pressing your own fruit and you like clearer hard ciders, it will be beneficial to your process. I know a lot of cider makers who don’t use it. Unlike some chemicals, like potassium sorbate, I am currently unaware of any country not allowing it under organic certifications as I t is not a preservative.
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