How to Brew Your Own Beer, 1861 Style

This is an extract from A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes by Charles Elme Francatelli, late Maitre D'Hotel and Chief Cook to Her Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, published in 1861. This book has recently been published in reproduction by Pryor Publications in the UK and is full of recipes which contain delightful insights into working class life in Britain in the mid nineteenth century. I hope others find it as fascinating as I do, at least sufficiently to excuse the length of the post.
Ken Appleby (

The first preparatory step towards brewing is to gather your necessary plant together in proper working-order and thoroughly clean. Your plant, or utensils, must consist of the following articles, viz.:- A thirty gallon copper, two cooling tubs capable of holding each about thirty gallons; a mash-tub of sufficient size to contain fifty-four gallons, and another tub of smaller size called an underback; a bucket or pail, a wooden hand-bowl, a large wooden funnel, a mash-stirrer, four scraped long stout sticks, a good-sized loose-wrought wicker basket for straining the beer, another small bowl-shaped wicker basket called a tapwaist, to fasten inside the mash-tub on to the inner end of the spigot and faucet, to keep back the grains when the wort is being run off out of the mash-tub. You will also require some beer barrels, a couple of brass or metal cocks, some vent-pegs, and some bungs. I do not pretend to assert that the whole of the foregoing articles are indispensable for brewing your own beer. I merely enumerate what is most proper to be used; leaving the manner and means of replacing such of these articles as may be out of your reach very much to your intelligence in contriving to use such as you possess, or can borrow from a neighbour, instead. Spring water, from its hardness, is unfit for brewing; fresh fallen rain water, caught in clean tubs, or water fetched from a brook or river, are best adapted to brewing; as, from the fact of their being free from all calcereous admixture, their consequent softness gives them the greater power to extract all the goodness and strength from the malt and hops.

In order to ensure having good wholesome beer, it is necessary to calculate your brewing at the rate of two bushels of malt and two pounds of hops to fifty-four gallons of water; these propertions, well managed, will produce three kilderkins of good beer. I recommend that you should use malt and hops of the best quality only; as their plentiful yield of beneficial substance fully compensates for their somewhat higher price. A thin shell, well-filled up plump with the interior flour, and easily bitten asunder is a sure test of good quality in malt; superior hops are known by their bright, dry, yet somewhat gummy feel to the touch, without their having any tendency to clamminess. The day before brewing, let all your tackle be well scrubbed and rinsed clean, the copper wiped out, and all your tubs and barrels be half filled with cold water, to soak for a few hours, so as to guard against any chance of leakage, and afterwards emptied and set to dry in the open air, weather permitting; or otherwise, before the fire. Fasten the tapwaist inside the mash-tub to the inner end of the faucet and spigot, taking care to place the mash-tub in a elevated position, resting on two benches or stools. Early in the dawn of morning, light the fire under your copper, filled with water overnight, and, as soon as it boils, with it fill the mash-tub rather more than three-parts full; and as soon as the first heat of the water has subsided, and you find that you are able to bear your fingers drawn slowly through it without experiencing pain, you must then throw in the malt, stirring it about for ten minutes or so; then lay some sticks across the mash-tub, and cover it with sacks or blankets, and allow it to steep for three hours. At the end of the three hours, let off the wort from the mash-tub into the underback-tub which has been previously placed under the spigot and faucet ready to receive it; pouring the first that runs out into the mash, until the wort runs free from grains, etc.; now put the hops into the underback-tub and let the wort run out upon them. Your copper having been refilled, and boiled again, while the mash is in progress, you must now pour sufficient boiling water onto the grains left in the mash-tub to make up your quantity of fifty-four gallons; and when this second mashing should have also stood some two hours, let it be drawn off and afterwards mixed with the first batch of wort, and boil the whole at two separate boilings, with the hops equally divided; each lot to be allowed to boil for an hour and a-half after it has commenced boiling. The beer is now to be strained through the loose wicker basket into your cooling tubs and pans; the more you have of these the better the beer, from its cooling quickly. And when the beer has cooled to the degree of water which has stood in the house in summer-time for some hours, let it all be poured into your two or three largest tubs, keeping back a couple or three quarts in a pan, with which to mix a pint of good yeast and a table-spoonful of common salt; stir this mixture well together, keep it in rather a warm part of the house, and in the course of half an hour or so, it will work up to the top of the basin or pan. This worked beer must be equally divided between the two or three tubs containing the bulk of the beer, and is to be well mixed in by ladling it about with a wooden hand-bowl for a couple of minutes. This done, cover over the beer with sacks or blankets stretched upon sticks across the tubs, and leave them in this state for forty-eight hours. The next ting to be seen to is to get your barrels placed in proper in order and position for being filled; and to this end attend strictly to the following directions, viz.:- First skim off the scum, which is yeast, from the top or surface of the tubs, and next draw off the beer through the spigot, and with the wooden funnel placed in the bung-hole, proceed to fill up the barrels not quite full; and, remember, that if a few hops are put into each before filling in the beer, it will keep all the better. Reserve some of the beer with which to fill up the barrels as they throw up the yeast while the beer is working; and when the yeast begins to fall, lay the bungs upon the bung-holes, and at the end of ten days or a fortnight, hammer the bungs in tight, and keep the vent-pegs tight also. In about two months time after the beer has been brewed, it will be in a fit condition for drinking.