Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Bottling in 1914 - chilling, carbonating and filtering

I won't tell you what was passed onto me today for fear that you get too excited. Let's just say I'll be returning to the topic of stoppers again soon.

But in the meantime, I'll continue my delightful stroll through the modern bottling plant of 1914. Something worth mentioning about the historic context of this article. The paper was presented to the Midlands Section of the Institute on April 23rd, 1914 and published in the November-December 1914 issue of the journal. That is, between presentation and publication, WW I had broken out.

We'll start with a description of one method of chilling and another of carbonation:

"Semi-rapid Process.
Many brewers who had installed the slow processes of beer chilling — and some of those who had the rapid chilling processes — but found them not rapid enough, have recently modified their plant to hasten the process and increase the output by fitting a quick chiller (of the tubular counter-current or similar type) between the conditioning vessels and the chilling vessels. By this process the time occupied in chilling is considerably curtailed, as the beer is forced through the tubular chiller, rapidly reducing the beer to any desired temperature (usually about 35° F.) prior to the time it actually enters the chilling and carbonating vessels, in which the beer is still further reduced to 28° F. and the chilling completed.

Continuous Carbonating.
This has been installed in some breweries and seems to be giving satisfaction. The chilling is kept entirely separate from the carbonating, and the beer, after chilling, is pumped through the carbonator, which is placed at option either between the chilling plant and the filter or between the chiller and filling machines. It is said to give more even results, keeping the beer in quieter condition for bottling, whilst it does away with the occasional wild beer we sometimes have to deal with."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 20, Issue 6, November-December 1914, pages 506 - 507.

I'm not sure what I can say about that. Obviously chilling beer more quickly will save time and hence reduce the amount of beer hanging around in the brewery. Which, especially with the British system of paying the tax upfront before fermentation, is money tied up.

The next section is scary. Really scary. It's the second parargraph. About the pulp used in filters:

"To be successful in chilled beer bottling the filters and the pulp are of the first importance. Cheap pulp is dear at any price, and the efficiency of the filter depends on the proper charging with the filtering media. One great error which creeps in as trade increases is the washing of too great a quantity of pulp at one time, the result invariably being knots and small balls, whereas a more dilute mass allows the fibres to disintegrate more readily and open out rather than ball in the washing process. After a liberal amount of water has been passed through the pulp until it is quite clean, steam or hot water should be injected until the temperature is raised to 165° F., above which it is unsafe to go, or perishing of pulp and resulting inefficient filtration must ensue.

In addition to the adding weekly of new pulp to replace that which gets carried away, best beer asbestos should be added once a week at the rate of 8 oz. per cwt. of pulp being washed, after the pulp has been thoroughly washed, as the fine fibres which hold back the smallest turbidity, adding to the brilliancy of the beer, are readily washed out again during the process of washing. Care must be taken not to add too much asbestos, otherwise clogging of the filter plates ensues. The asbestos should always be whisked up to a cream with water and added slowly to the circulating pulp."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 20, Issue 6, November-December 1914, page 507.

Beer asbestos. Who knew such a thing existed? Obviously you'd only want to use the best beer asbestos. None of that shitty low grade stuff. That can't have been safe, can it? It sounds like they had loose asbestos just hanging around in the brewery. Lovely.

Next time we turn our torch on the refrigeration plant. A personal favourite of mine.


Phil said...

The bit about whipping the asbestos into a cream is particularly jolly. Actually this was probably OK in health terms - this would have been white asbestos* rather than the seriously nasty blue or brown varieties**, and most health risks from asbestos come from inhaling it anyway. Not a nice thought, though.

*If you work with white asbestos over a period of years it's very likely to kill you.

**If you find blue or brown asbestos in a building, they send in the men in noddy suits.

Ron Pattinson said...


so only slightly rather than seriously scary.

Any idea what purpose the asbestos might have served?

BryanB said...

I thought the risk from asbestos lay in breathing in the fibres. So while it would be dangerous to the brewers to have it around, would there really be a risk to the drinker?

Anonymous said...

Asbestos is still on industrial filtered beer. It's equal to less health

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the asbestos was a filter medium just like diatomaceous earth in modern breweries which is also carcinogenic if inhaled

JeremyD said...

I seem to remember that asbestos-based wine filters were still around the the 1970's.

Phil said...

The weird thing about asbestos is that it's composed entirely of tiny, tiny fibres - not threads, tiny stubs like hair clippings. Very very bad to breathe in - although oddly enough we don't actually know how it causes cancer - but very good to filter stuff through. The jury's out on whether ingesting it is actually bad for you, but it's out in a "how about we just stop using this very nasty substance altogether" sort of way.

ed pondelik said...

Coors got into with the media about using asbestos in their filtering years ago. There was a stray paragraph about it in Citizen Coors, I believe. The beer came out of filtering with less asbestos than it went in with. It still made for a good scare story.