Enzymes 101


Welcome to our Enzymes 101 page! Here, we'll break down what's what with enzymes; what they are, what they do and where they come from. Hopefully, this will help give you a little background into what our products do, and how they can help you optimize your beer production!

What are enzymes?

Enzymes are biological molecules, almost always a protein, that speed up chemical reactions in cells. Enzymes are not destroyed during these chemical reactions but can be used over and over. Every living cell contains thousands of different types of enzyme molecules for different chemical reactions. They are catalysts for many important functions within the body, and aid in everything from digestion to the metabolism.

Enzymes can also be used in food and beverage production. Microbial enzymes have been used for centuries to tenderize meat (pineapple in marinade, anyone?), produce cheese and even brew beer.

Where do enzymes come from?

The enzymes most people are familiar with are produced naturally in the human body. However, they can also be found in any living organism including other animals, plants and microbes.  

For brewers, Maltase and Invertase contained in yeast may be the most known enzymes. Yeast causes the fermentation in beer by metabolizing the sugar in grains. Maltase breaks down maltose and Invertase breaks down sucrose. The resulting chemical byproduct results in alcohol and carbon dioxide, thereby turning wort into beer!

Examples of common enzymes include:

Malted grains or tubers Amylase
Pineapple Bromelain (Protease)
Fig Tree Ficain (Protease)
Papaya Papain (Protease)

Liver Catalase (Peroxide Breakdown)
Calf Stomach Rennet/Chymosin (Milk Clotting)
Hog Stomach Pepsin (Protease)
Hog Pancreas Pancreatic Enzymes (Several)
Digestive Tract Trypsin (Protease)

Salivary Amylase

Fungi (Molds and Yeast) amylase, beta glucanase, hemicellulase, protease, cellulase, pectinase, lipase, (many types of each), lactase

Amylase, protease, isomerase, lactase (many types of each), rennet, oxidase, catalase, beta-glucanase, hemicellulase.

What are enzymes important?

The purpose of an enzyme in a cell is to allow the cell to carry out chemical reactions very quickly. These reactions allow the cell to build things or take things apart as needed. This is how a cell grows and reproduces.

Enzymes allow living cells to carry out chemical reactions quickly. Whether in the body, in food or even beverages, these reactions allow cells to build things up or break them down; allowing cells to grow, change and reproduce.

How do enzymes work?

Some enzymes break down large molecules into small pieces to allow for easier absorption by the body, or to speed up filtration. Other enzymes bind molecules together. These catalysts are highly selective and specialized; each enzyme only speed up a specific reaction within cells.

The molecule that an enzyme pairs with is called a substrate. Substrates connect to enzymes at a specific spot on the enzyme called an active site.

There are two theories that can help you visualize enzyme-substrate interactions:

  1. Lock-and-key: The active site of an enzyme is shaped to hold specific substrates.
  2. Induced Fit: The active site and the substrate both change their shapes to fit together