Letter written to the Hereford Journal by T.A. Knight

1829 – Letter from T.A. Knight of Downton regarding the chemist M. Leuchs and stopping the fermentation of wine with charcoal

Mr. Knight wrote to the editor of the Hereford Journal saying that the eminent continental chemist, M. Leuchs had said that he had discovered that if charcoal was added to fermenting new wine, the fermentation would stop.  He said that if it was then drawn off and put into other vessels the wine would not ferment again and that it could safely be bottled.


Mr. Knight believed that this being the case, it could also be applied to cider and perry.  He said that charcoal which had recently been “in a state of ignition” quickly absorbs air – but it was yet to be ascertained how much charcoal a hogshead of cider for example would require.  He did however feel that about 5lbs would be enough, with this amount being reduced whilst warm to a fine powder and mixed well with the liquor.


The charcoal could be obtained from an oven when heated, or from a wood fire.


Mr. Knight said that when the charcoal was first put into cider or perry, the colour would be almost that of ink, but charcoal being insoluble in water and of a greater specific gravity, it would sink to the bottom of the cask leaving the colour and taste of the liquor unchanged.


Mr. Knight went on to explain that charcoal has many different powers and properties – combined with a small amount of oxygen or water it intoxicates in brandy and other spirits;   a good eleven ounces of it is breathed off from the lungs of humans within the space of 24 hours;  it suffocates in the state in which it is exhaled from fermenting liquors.   It is a soft powder in the state in which it should be mixed with fermenting liquors, but it is the hardest of substances when it becomes a diamond.


It is therefore, he said, impossible to decide into what new combinations it may enter, nor what injurious or beneficial effect it may have on fermenting liquors……….his opinion was however that it would not produce any injurious effects.