hist-brewing: ancient brewing

Daniel Butler-Ehle dwbutler at mtu.edu
Thu Feb 18 08:29:56 PST 2010

Will H <w_hanrott at yahoo.co.uk> writes:
> I'd like to suggest another possible route to access the sugars: Salivary 
> Amylase.

And it is used in many indigenous beverages around the 
world. Those are generally beverages that are made from 
starch sources in which there are no significant diastatic 
enzymes present. That I've read, they're all very 
inefficient and only convert a small percentage of the 
starch even after a day of chewing and spitting.  

However, we're not talking about those.  We talking 
about cereal grains such as barley and wheat relatives, 
which, once malted, are *already* much higher in amylase 
than saliva.

> Amylase works at considerably lower temperatures than mashing

Er, mashing uses amylase. . .that's how it works.  
There are primarily two amylolytic enzymes involved 
in saccharification: alpha amylase and beta amylase. 

Both are present in pretty huge quantities in malted 
wheat, barley, or rye.  They will both work, to a 
degree, even down at room temperature and function 
faster at higher temperatures.  However, they also 
denature more quickly at higher temperatures, so 
there is a temperature point at which the gains in 
enzymatic efficiency are overcome by the losses of 
activity due to the enzymes breaking down in the 
heat. (Actually, it's a lot more complicated than that, 
and there are other enzymes at work, such as protease 
and beta gluconase, that affect the progress, but I 
don't think it's necessary to go into that here.)

Sure, one could use room-temperature mashing to 
convert a small amount of the starches into sugars 
before the enzymes self deactivate. But it wouldn't 
be a significant enough amount even to qualify the 
resultant beverage as alcoholic.  That I know of, 
the reason that beers made with salivary enzymes can 
achieve noticeable alcohol is because the mash has a 
continuous stream of additional fresh enzymes.

So, even though one *can* convert some starches at 
lower temperatures, wheat and barley are used for 
making beer because they are capable of converting 
*all* the starch into sugars, when handled in the 
appropriate temperature ranges.

Dan Butler-Ehle

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