Malic Acid is as old as fruit and vegetables. However, it wasn’t isolated from apple juice until 1785 by Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Antoine Lavoisier in 1787 proposed the name acide malique which is derived from the Latin word for apple, malum, which is the principal flavor that is used in commercial food preparation today.
Malic Acid is formed in metabolic cycles in the cells of plants and animals, including humans. For instance, in both the KREB and glyoxalate cycles it provides the cells with energy and carbon skeletons for the formation of amino acids. A relatively large amount of Malic Acid is produced and broken down in the human body every day. Malic Acid is the principal acid contained in apples and many other fruits and vegetables.
Malic Acid has:
- a clean, mellow, smooth, persistent sourness
- flavor enhancement and blending abilities
- a high solubility rate
- lower hygroscopicity than Citric or Tartaric acids
- a lower melting point than other acids for easier incorporation into molten confections
- good chelating properties with metal ions
- economical acidulant blends with other acids
- more soluble calcium salts than Citric acid
- effective buffering mixtures.
Malic Acid in food
Malic Acid contributes to the sourness of green apples. Malic Acid is present in grapes. It confers a tart taste to wine, although the amount decreases with increasing fruit ripeness. The process of malolactic fermentation converts Malic Acid to much milder lactic acid.
Malic Acid, when added to food products, is denoted by E number E296. Malic Acid is the source of extreme tartness in so-called “extreme candy”, i.e., Mega Warheads or Sour Punch candies. It is also used with or in place of the less sour citric acid in sour sweets such as Jolly Ranchers, Sweet Tarts and Salt & Vinegar flavor potato chips. These sweets are sometimes labeled with a warning that excessive consumption can cause irritation of the mouth. Malic Acid aids the formulator, because it:
- intensifies the impact of many flavors in foods or beverages, often reducing the amount of flavor needed
- blends distinct flavors resulting in a well-rounded flavor experience
- improves aftertaste by extending the impact of some flavors
- increases burst and aromaticity of some flavor notes in certain beverage applications
- boosts savory flavors like cheese and hot peppers in snack food coatings
- deepens and broadens the flavor profile of many products, resulting in a richer, more natural flavor experience
Adding Malic Acid improves economies, especially in artificially sweetened products. Flavors are enhanced, allowing the use of less flavor additives, and the overall flavor profile is broader and more natural.
Malic Acid is a preferred acidulant for still beverages (fruit drinks, nectars, iced-teas, sports drinks, calcium fortified juices), because it enhances fruit flavors, improves pH stability, and masks the aftertaste of some salts.
In iced tea, sports drink or fruit soup dry mixes, Malic Acid is preferred due to its rapid dissolution rate and flavor enhancement qualities. Since Malic Acid provides more sourness than Citric acid, less acidulant is required and unit weight can be reduced.
Low Calorie Beverages
In beverages containing intense sweeteners, less Malic Acid than Citric is required to achieve the desired sourness and flavor at a higher pH. Malic Acid’s extended sourness masks sweetener aftertaste (see Taste Retention Chart) and its blending and fixative abilities give a balanced taste. In a study with 14-30 year olds, aspartame sweetened low-calorie soft drinks acidified with Malic Acid were preferred over those with Citric acid.
Ciders and Wines
For “alcoholic” apple ciders, Malic Acid is added to maintain a consistent “sharp” taste. In wines, malolactic fermentation improves the flavor profile of the wine.
Acidified “Dairy” Products
- Whey-based protein beverages acidified with Malic Acid have enhanced fruit flavor and less noticeable whey flavor.
- Fruit flavored milk drinks made with fruit juice and acidified with Malic Acid have improved flavor and palatability.
- Coagulated soy-milk acidified with Malic Acid produces a yoghurt-like product.
Calcium Supplements and Calcium-fortified Beverages
In liquid calcium supplements, Malic Acid adds a tart and fruity flavor while controlling the pH. In calcium-fortified beverages, using Malic Acid in place of Citric acid prevents turbidity due to precipitated calcium citrate.
Malic Acid gives an appealing tartness to hard, soft, tabletted and sugarless candies as well as chewing gum. Blending multiple acids creates unique tasting confections. For example, to prolong the sourness in candy or chewing gum, Citric acid is used for an initial sour boost, Malic Acid for a lingering sourness, and Fumaric acid to sustain the tartness even longer. Malic Acid’s high solubility allows it be blended with cooled confections. Adding acids at the end of the candy making process minimizes sugar inversion.
Malic Acid boosts sourness intensity and enhances fruit flavors. It has a lower melting point than other food acids – this means that it can be incorporated into the molten hard candy without added water – shelf life is increased since the initial moisture level in the hard candy is lower.
In agar, gelatin or pectin-based candies such as jellies and gummies, Malic Acid is used to achieve a natural fruit flavor profile, proper gelling and good product clarity.
Malic Acid is preferred over Citric acid in this application because it enhances flavor, especially fruit flavors, and boosts sweetness. Blending the sorbitol solution during the heating process is made easier by adding Malic Acid.
Organic food acids combined with saccharin improve saliva stimulation in chewing gum. Malic Acid is preferred due to its flavor enhancement properties. Using blends of acids with different partition coefficients results in a sequential release of acid – this creates prolonged juiciness and flavor during chewing.
Fruit Preperations and Preserves
Malic Acid enhances fruit flavors and creates a more natural flavor profile in jams, jellies, and fruit preparations. Malic Acid stabilizes pH to control pectin gel texture due to its strong buffering capacity at the pHs used for pectin gels. Fruit preparations are acidified with Malic Acid so that the fruit flavor stays strong, even when the fruit preparation is used in dairy products, frozen desserts or baked goods.
- Fruit preparations for frozen desserts show enhanced fruit flavor when Malic Acid is included
- Malic Acid is an economical fruit flavor enhancer in sherbets and water ices
- In gelled desserts, Malic Acid enhances fruit flavors and helps stabilize pH to control gel texture
Bakery products with fruit fillings (cookies, snack bars, pies, and cakes) have a stronger and more naturally balanced fruit flavor when the fruit filling includes Malic Acid. Pectin gel texture is more consistent due to Malic Acid’s buffering capacity.
Medical and Personal Care Products
In throat lozenges, cough syrups, and effervescent powdered preparations, Malic Acid enhances fruit flavor and can diminish the flavor impact of active components. As Malic Acid stimulates saliva flow, it can be used in tooth-cleaning preparations and mouthwashes. Germicidal compounds are used in combination with Malic Acid in soaps, mouthwashes, and toothpaste.
Acid-Based Facial Products
Malic Acid, an alpha hydroxy fruit acid, can be used in skin care products to rejuvenate and improve skin conditions.
Oil Field Applications
Demands for Malic Acid in the oil industry are rapidly increasing. The product is used to aid in the transfer of raw crude from the well to the refinery.