Sunday, March 3, 2013

Old Fashioned Rootbeer Soda Tutorial.

Have you ever wanted to know how to make your very own homemade rootbeer the old fashioned way?  Or how about cream soda or any other flavor?  The way they did way back then before forced carbonation and made simply without all the added chemicals, and preservatives and high fructose corn syrup, etc.  

Recipe:  20 cups of water
2 1/2 cups of sugar
2 Tablespoons of Rootbeer extract (available at your local brew shop)
1 Tablespoon of Vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon champagne yeast (available at your local brew shop, and do not whatever you do, DO NOT use bread yeast like some recipes ask for.  It will make it taste terrible and like, well.... bread and yeasty.  Champagne yeast does not alter the flavor.  A small $1 packet will last for many batches.  I keep it stored in the freezer in a ziplock bag once it is opened, and keep using it till it is gone)

Begin by putting the sugar into a big pot along with the water.  Put on the stove and bring to a boil.  Once it reaches a boil, I put a lid on it to help keep the water from evaporating out.  Once it is boiling, set the timer on your stove for 10 minutes and let it roll.  

While it is going, scrub out the bottles you want to use.  If you are a beginner at this, I highly suggest using plastic liter bottles with a screw on lid instead of the beer bottles I am using.  The reason for this is because with the plastic bottles once they are carbonated you will be able to tell by squeezing the bottle and if it is firm, it is probably ready... but I am getting ahead of myself here.   You will need to sanitize your bottles.  You can soak your bottles in a sink full of water along with a couple tablespoons of bleach for about 1/2 hour, and rinse several times with hot hot water... The other option is to use something called "Star San" as bleach can leave behind a nasty flavor and you can re-introduce bacteria with your rinse water.  I mix  1/2 teaspoon of star san in 1 quart of water  (A batch of star san will last several weeks so you can keep re-using it for more batches.) .  I put some of it in a spray bottle and the rest into my nifty bottle washer.  You place the bottle on it, and pump it down a few times and it sprays the sanitizing solution into the bottle and drains back into the bowl below.  Otherwise you will need to pour some in, shake it around, and pour back out into a container to re-use. Once I have sanitized all my bottles I place them into a bucket to drain until I need them to fill later. 

Once your water has boiled for 10 minutes, place it in a sink full of cold water to help it cool faster.  Fill the sink first so no un-sterile water contaminates the pot by splashing in while filling the sink.  This will help it cool faster (yay! thermodynamics). Take a sanitized measuring cup (I usually spray everything with the sanitizing solution a few minutes before hand and keep on a clean and sanitized plate) and dip out about 1/2 cup of the sugar water.  Once it reaches about 80 degrees (check with a sanitized thermometer) add 1/8 teaspoon of the champagne yeast and wait a few minutes and give it a good stir with a sanitized spoon.  Once the pot of sugar water cools to 80 degrees pitch the yeast solution into it and add 2 Tablespoons of rootbeer extract ( I like gnome brand!) and 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract.  Give this a stir with a long sanitized spoon being careful not to touch the rootbeer with your hands.  

Usually I would use a brewers bucket with a spout and racking cane and hose, but for this tutorial I used equipment that the average person would have in their kitchen which is a pitcher and a funnel.  Make sure they are sanitized and fill the bottles using the funnel and pitcher.  You will need to re-fill the pitcher several times.  I take the pot out of the sink and dry off with a towel on the outside before filling the pitcher to ensure no bacteria filled water droplets end up in your rootbeer contaminating it. Fill your bottles and leave about an inch head space.  I cap with a capper, and bottle caps for beer bottles that have been soaked in the sanitizing solution first, and after I give the capped bottles a good rinse and dry off with a towel,  I label them.  I just use simple masking tape and a sharpie marker.  I usually end up with 12 - 13 bottles of soda, depending on how much I spill when filling the bottles. 

I realize most people will not have a fancy beer bottle capper and until you have been doing this for a while, I highly suggest just using some recycled plastic liter bottles with screw on caps.  Let them sit out at room temp for a few days.  In my house it is usually about 3-4 days.  The reason why I suggest for the beginner to use plastic bottles is that once the yeast does it's job, you will be able to squeeze the bottle with your hand to tell if it is firm.  If it is firm and carbonated, then you can put it in the fridge to crash the yeast.  At my house since I use beer bottles, I wait 3 days and open one bottle and drink it to see if it is carbonated enough.  Sometimes I need to let it go another day or so.  

Now the important part!  DO NOT store these at room temp once they reach carbonation.  The yeast will continue to eat the sugars and build more carbon dioxide (the fizzy stuff) and will eventually build so much pressure they will become bottle bombs and explode and make a huge mess in your kitchen (or where you store them!).  

Once the soda is at a good carbonation level you will need to crash the yeast.  This is where your ice box is key.  Put the whole batch into your fridge and let sit for a day or two.  The yeast will get too cold to work anymore and sink to the bottom of the bottle and go to sleep and stop building CO2 and pressure.  When you serve your soda, just pour into a glass leaving behind about 1/2 inch of soda where all the yeast is contained.

Congratulations!  You just made some homemade rootbeer.  If you want to make cream soda, just use vanilla extract from your spice cupboard (2-3 Tablespoons depending on taste, just play with it).  You can go to your local brew shop and they have a plethora of old fashioned flavors you can use too.  

Now wasn't that simple?  You will never again need to buy soda again and you can have it natural style without all the additives and nasty chemicals like in commercial soda.  A bottle of flavoring lasts for several batches.  2 Tablespoons is 1 ounce.  Depending on the size of the bottle extract you buy, you can make quite a few batches.   If you are really adventurous you can even boil down things like blackberries and filter out the seeds and go completely natural with your soda flavors.  Just have fun and experiment with your own creativity.  You can boil some grated ginger root along with some lemon rinds and juice for ginger lemon too.  If you purchase flavoring for baking, you can even use those flavoring extracts.  The sky is the limit! 

Now go forth and have some soda making fun!  You don't need one of those kits to make soda that uses chemical filled syrups and CO2 chargers.  All you need is some flavoring, either homemade (do a google search for homemade ginger ale for instance) or you can purchase old fashioned flavor extracts from a brew supply place, or go to and buy some.  

Just have fun!  And I hope you enjoy your rootbeer!  

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