Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/144

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to receive the spirit distilled. The flame of small wood-splinters being applied to the boiler, after a time vapor rose into the head, passed through the tube, was condensed by the cold of the water, and fell in a liquid fillet into the bottle. On being tasted, it proved to be that fiery and intoxicating spirit known in commerce as Kirsch or Kirsch-wasser.

The cherries, it should be remembered, were here left to themselves, no ferment of any kind being added to them. In this respect what has been said of the cherry applies also to the grape. At the vintage the fruit of the vine is placed in proper vessels, and abandoned to its own action. It ferments, producing carbonic acid; its sweetness disappears, and at the end of a certain time the unintoxicating grape-juice is converted into intoxicating wine. Here, as in the case of the cherries, the fermentation is spontaneous—in what sense spontaneous will appear more clearly by-and-by.

It is needless for me to tell a Glasgow audience that the beer-brewer does not set to work in this way. In the first place the brewer deals not with the juice of fruits, but with the juice of barley. The barley having been steeped for a sufficient time in water, it is drained, and subjected to a temperature sufficient to cause the moist grain to germinate; after which, it is completely dried upon a kiln. It then receives the name of malt. The malt is crisp to the teeth, and decidedly sweeter to the taste than the original barley. It is ground, mashed up in warm water, then boiled with hops until all the soluble portions have been extracted; the infusion thus produced being called the wort. This is drawn off, and cooled as rapidly as possible; then, instead of abandoning the infusion, as the wine-maker does, to its own action, the brewer mixes yeast with his wort, and places it in vessels each with only one aperture open to the air. Soon after the addition of the yeast, a brownish froth, which is really new yeast, issues from the aperture, and falls like a cataract into troughs prepared to receive it. This frothing and foaming of the wort is a proof that the fermentation is active.

Whence comes the yeast which issues so copiously from the fermenting-tub? What is this yeast, and how did the brewer become in the first instance possessed of it? Examine its quantity before and after fermentation. The brewer introduces, say, 10 cwts. of yeast; he collects 40, or it may be 50 cwts. The yeast has, therefore, augmented from four to five fold during the fermentation. Shall we conclude that this additional yeast has been spontaneously generated by the wort? Are we not rather reminded of that seed which fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, some a hundred-fold? On examination this notion of organic growth turns out to be more than a mere surmise. In the year 1680, when the microscope was still in its infancy, Leeuwenhoek turned the instrument upon this substance, and found it composed of minute globules