Monday, 20 October 2008

Brewing 1790's style

I've finally managed to tear myself away from the 1830's. Back a few decades to the 1790's. When they still had the annoying habit of writing "s" more like "f". You get used to it after a while, but you do wonder what the point was. At the end of words they wrote them the normal way, so you come across things like "bufinefs". Very odd.

Today's source is "A Treatise on the Brewing of Beer" by E. Hughes published in 1796. A work I hadn't heard of until I stumbled across it in Google books a couple of days ago. It's not too great on the details of mashing, but has a lot about cleaning techniques.

Thermometers were just coming into use at the start of this period, but many brewers were still accustomed to brewing without the aid of one. Water was boiled in the copper and then transferred to the mash tun. There was s imple method for ascetaining when it was at the correct temperature for mashing "do not put your malt in for mashing till the steam has escaped and you can see your face in the water; but if time will not admit of this, add about one gallon of cold water to eighteen gallons of hot."

After stirring well to mix the water and grains, the mash was left to stand for at least two hours. There was then a second, shorter mash. Finally, boiling water was poured over the grains to make small beer.

The wort was quickly brought to the boil in the copper. A vigorous boil was maintained in order to break the wort as quickly as possible. The boil lasted thirty or forty minutes for Ale, 6o minutes for Strong Ale.

As soon as the boil was completed, the wort was moved into the cooler. This was of a sufficient size so that the wort was no more than two inches deep. If the wort was not sufficiently shallow, it would not cool quickly enough in the summer and was likely to become "foxed" and quickly turn sour.

After cooling, the wort was transferred to the gyle or "working" tun. This was often done in a slow, thin stream to help cool the wort even more. Hughes recommended adding the yeast a little at a time to ensure that the fermentation was not too rapid, which could lead to problems with clarity later on. After each addition of yeast, the wort was stirred.

When the head of yeast began to collapse, the wort was cleansed. If it was left in the tun until it had stopped fermenting and the yeast fallen to the bottom, it was difficult to start a secondary fermentation in the cask. It could also be difficult to get the beer to drop bright.

The casks in which the wort was cleansed were kept filled so the the yeast would discharge from the bung hole more easily. This was important if the finished beer were to be clear. It avoided the need for fining with isinglass, which was considered a last resort as it tended to remove condition.

Cleanliness in breweries is nothing new. "Care should be taken to keep the brewing utensils as clean and as sweet as those used in a dairy; for without cleanliness tis impossible to have your beer in a good and wholesome state."

Coppers were cleaned after each brewing and, if not used for a while, before brewing to remove any verdigris. The mash tun was cleaned with boiling water after use. In warm weather, it was brushed with a solution of quick lime which was washed off after 24 hours. Coolers and gyle tuns were frequently cleaned with boiling water and lime to prevent "foxing" and unpleasant odours.


Wurst aka Whorst said...

I'm curious as to the yeast that was used back then. Surely there had to be some contamination?

zythophile said...

There's a lot of misunderstanding about the "you can see your face" test for judging when water was the right temperature to mash with. It's nothing to do with the steam clearing, but the point at which the reflective index of the water changes as the temperture alters until light is reflected back most strongly off the water's surface - around 60 to 70 degrees C.

Mark Oregonensis said...

I always assumed that the "s" vs. "f" spelling thing was an attempt to mimic the classical Greek use of the letter sigma, which had more of an "s" shape in word-final position.