Tartaric acid is a white, crystalline organic acid that occurs naturally in many fruits, most notably in grapes, but also in bananas, tamarinds, and citrus. Its salt, potassium bitartrate, commonly known as cream of tartar, develops naturally in the process of fermentation.
Although it is renowned for its natural occurrence in grapes, it also occurs in apples, cherries, papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, strawberries, mangoes and citrus fruits. Tartaric acid is used preferentially in foods containing cranberries or grapes, notably wines, jellies and confectioneries.
Derived from grapes, it is good for exfoliating skin and stimulating collagen production. It will help with lines and wrinkles, and also stimulates collagen production to make the skin look firmer.
Tartaric acid may be most immediately recognizable to wine drinkers as the source of “wine diamonds”, the small potassium bitartrate crystals that sometimes form spontaneously on the cork or bottom of the bottle. These “tartrates” are harmless, despite sometimes being mistaken for broken glass, and are prevented in many wines through cold stabilization (which is not always preferred since it can change the wine’s profile). The tartrates remaining on the inside of aging barrels were at one time a major industrial source of potassium bitartrate.
Tartaric acid plays an important role in chemically, lowering the pH of fermenting “must” to a level where many undesirable spoilage bacteria cannot live, and acting as a preservative after fermentation. In the mouth, tartaric acid provides some of the tartness in the wine, although citric and malic acids also play a role.
Tartaric acid and its derivatives have a plethora of uses in the field of pharmaceuticals. For example, it has been used in the production of effervescent salts, in combination with citric acid, to improve the taste of oral medications. The potassium antimonyl derivative of the acid known as tartar emetic is included, in small doses, in cough syrup as an expectorant. Tartaric acid also has several applications for industrial use. The acid has been observed to chelate metal ions such as calcium and magnesium. Therefore, the acid has served in the farming and metal industries as a chelating agent for complex micronutrients in soil fertilizer and for cleaning metal surfaces consisting of aluminum, copper, iron, and alloys of these metals, respectively.
Author: Samra Shaheen (MPhil Food Science and Technology)
Supervisor Name: Dr. Saima Tehseen (Assistant Professor)
Address: Government College Women University, Faisalabad, Pakistan