All I want is a Pepsi, and she wouldn't give it to me.
June 2, 2010 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Make your own soda. Root beer. Seltzer. Cream. Ginger beer. Endless possibilities, maybe you'll be the next big thing at Galco's

inspired by a Serious Eats post
posted by MiltonRandKalman (31 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Cool! Love soda, love the title.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:57 PM on June 2, 2010

I like ginger beer, and I make a pretty good one. Quite alcoholic and hot with ginger and spices.

Following the linked recipe is like following IED recipes in the Anarchist Cookbook, it will work, but it will most likely blow up in your face embedding shards of glass everywhere. It is very hard to gauge CO2 pressure in a glass bottle until you open it and it geysers all over the nice carpet or it spontaneously explodes. I know, I've been there, picking pieces of glass from the ceiling tiles.

If you want to make safe ginger beer, make it in a 2 liter or larger soda bottle, and use a stopper with an airlock. When fermentation slows down to 2 or so bubbles per minute, add a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a little boiling water left to cool to body temperature and then cap and put in the fridge for a few days.

If you don't want to bother with an airlock, just leave a few inches at the top of the soda bottle empty, squeeze all the air out and cap it tightly. You will have a slightly squished bottle. It will start inflating back to normal with the fermentation CO2. Once it is back to normal shape, feel it every day. When it feels as solid and pressurized as a normal soda bottle you can try it. If it has been attenuated enough for your taste you can drink it, otherwise squeeze the air out again and repeat.
posted by dirty lies at 3:13 PM on June 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

I've had a seltzer bottle for years, and use it regularly. It's a great way to carbonate just about anything without having to do the yeast fermentation process. The added bonus is, you don't lose the fizz on the non-consumed portion of the liquid still in the bottle.

Still these are great recipes. I'll have to dig into this concept at some point, just for kicks.
posted by hippybear at 3:14 PM on June 2, 2010

The fermentation is not just for the bubbles, it is for the alcohol too, but yeah, forced carbonation rules.
posted by dirty lies at 3:29 PM on June 2, 2010

Root beer extract? Root beer grows on a magical tree or bush? I had no idea.

Any way, it seems like a significant short-cut in the process, so I'll offer this: how to make root beer from scratch, with some recipes from 19th century.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:31 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

"How to make rootbeer"

...add rootbeer extract...

And that's when I stopped watching.
posted by qwip at 3:33 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

dirty lies: I like ginger beer, and I make a pretty good one.

Care to share the recipe?
posted by neuromodulator at 3:34 PM on June 2, 2010

I'm dying to get my hands on some sassafras to make some honest (and alcoholic) root beer, but it's very hard to buy in North America, another casualty of the drug war. If anyone has some tips, I'd appreciate it. I'm on the west coast so I can't just go out and forage some.

In the meantime, I'll have to make do with ginger beer.
posted by mek at 3:42 PM on June 2, 2010

As noted in Wikipedia Safrole is currently recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture as a potential carcinogen. Safrole, and sassafras not certified as safrole-free, have been banned in the United States as food additives or flavoring agents by the FDA since 1976 due to safrole's designation as a carcinogen. Sassafras leaves do not contain sufficient amounts of safrole to be covered by the FDA ban. states: Since there have been no human studies, nobody really knows what levels [of safrole] might be dangerous to people. If the safrole hasn’t been removed [from the sassafras root], it can be legally sold only as a topical skin wash or as “aromatic potpourri” or as a dietary supplement in the US.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:43 PM on June 2, 2010

neuromodulator: Mine is a "real" ginger ale, all grain, hops, plus some extra sugars. If you have a home brewing setup it is easy to make, otherwise the recipe will not make sense. It requires about 4 weeks of conditioning.

For a 2.5 gallon batch, 75 minute boil, I get about 3.75 gallons of wort and boil down to 2.5.

4 pounds whatever pale malt you can get, in my case English Maris Otter.
4 oz to 6oz of some darkish crystal malt for color and body.
12 oz Honey. The character of the honey will shine through, clover honey is pretty plain, I like wildflower honey or herb garden honey.

8oz up to 2 pounds of ginger finely grated. Depending on how crazy you want it. 1.5 pounds make a strong brew that most people can handle, but only a few ask for seconds.

1oz hops, willamete and cascade are what I have, divided into .5oz additions.

Zest of 1 lemon and juice of one more.
Pinches of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and a bit dried chili, all ground. Add to taste.

Add bittering hops at 60 minutes.
Add 2/3 of the ginger, lemon juice, honey and spices at 30 minutes.
The aroma hops and the rest of the ginger and spices at 5 minutes.

Any yeast is good for this IMHO. Safale 05 is the easiest to get around here, I want to try a strong ale yeast to get a drier beer.

Fermentation and condition are like normal beer.

The massive amount of ginger and the little bit of chile make all the difference. Serve with a slice of lemon or lime. It always turns out cloudy, I guess I could use some irish moss or gelatin filings.
posted by dirty lies at 4:05 PM on June 2, 2010 [15 favorites]

Can't you skip all the crap and just mix seltzer water, tonic water, or club soda with whatever flavors or juices you want? I do this all the time with juice and it works fine.
posted by thorny at 4:30 PM on June 2, 2010

Bacon soda!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:31 PM on June 2, 2010

dirty lies, a friend of ours makes his own gingerbeer, too. He brought some when we met up a few days ago, and it was damn good. He makes his in 2 liter plastic soda bottles.
posted by rtha at 4:34 PM on June 2, 2010

Can't you skip all the crap and just mix seltzer water, tonic water, or club soda with whatever flavors or juices you want? I do this all the time with juice and it works fine.

You can ... but what fun is that?

Anyway, on a practical level it's less wasteful to use seltzer instead of bottled soda water, and cheaper, too.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:53 PM on June 2, 2010

If you're priming with sugar, measure it out and mix it with the whole batch before it goes into the bottles. Priming each bottle individually is imprecise and leads to glass grenades, flat soda and other misadventures. I used 3/4 cup corn sugar for five gallons.

Keep everything really clean and it is a snap.

This is post-millenial times, so just google "[name yer favorite] recipes" and there'll be about a dozen on your screen in a twinkling.
posted by warbaby at 5:35 PM on June 2, 2010

a friend's open source cola
posted by silence at 5:39 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Bacon soda.
posted by scalefree at 6:29 PM on June 2, 2010

2 litre soda bottles work just fine for homebrew - that's how I started out.

I'm highly skeptical of the FDA's claims re: safrole, especially given the lack of studies: the real reason for its heavy regulation is that it is a precursor for MDMA. Even accepting the mice studies as relevant, a couple root beers a year is not going to kill you.
posted by mek at 7:48 PM on June 2, 2010

I've had pretty stupendous results following Fankhauser's gingle ale recipe myself.
posted by the dief at 7:49 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tried to make this half a lifetime ago - quite a lot of work. The extract was pricey then (is it still?) and so odourific we had to keep the cap on (even though the smell was nice, it overpowered).

Long story short: It tasted like the worst generic versions of cola do compared to the Real ThingTM; flat and uninspired. Maybe they've improved the extract's taste; maybe we botched the recipe. All I remember is needing a gallon of mouth rinse.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:26 PM on June 2, 2010

A friend of mine is brewing ginger beer and I always underestimate how alcoholic it is. He brought some to my office the other day, and I drank a cup before realizing how buzzed I was. He's getting better with the brewing - it's kind of fun to watch the progress.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:21 PM on June 2, 2010

This used to be extremely common around my neck of the woods, but disappeared overnight when they stopped selling pop in glass bottles. I still have my old bottle-capper.
posted by RavinDave at 12:10 AM on June 3, 2010

Second Fankhauser. I drank some today.
posted by eritain at 12:30 AM on June 3, 2010

From WikiHow: Fewer days (perhaps as few as 3) results in a wetter (as opposed to dry and astringent) mouth-feel and a more pronounced change in flavor, as well as a significantly higher alcohol content.

Is that correct? Fewer days of fermentation give you more alcohol?
posted by cronholio at 2:41 AM on June 3, 2010

No, that statement is wrong.

Unless they are talking about you leaving the brew in a saucer under the hot sun for a few days so that the alcohol evaporates.
posted by dirty lies at 4:25 AM on June 3, 2010

So how would I go about making ginger beer with a slightly higher alcohol content (say 3-4%)? Can I use the Fankhauser recipe and just ferment it for a few days longer with an open cap, then add some sugar, close the cap and leave it for another 24 hours (to carbonate it)?
posted by cronholio at 4:39 AM on June 3, 2010

My grandfather used to make "raisin wine" in the basement. Back then there were no plastic bottles. One particularly hot summer day we heard what sounded like gunshots from the basement. When the explosions stopped my father opened the basement door. The smell of fermented raisins was like a physical body blow.

Pretty much every bottle had exploded. The ancient stone and mortar basement was coated with pulped raisins and embedded with shards of brown glass. Anyone down there when they went off would have been seriously injured if not outright killed.

Cleanup took weeks. It was disgusting. Everyone helped though. The smell lingered for more than a year. Not to mention the ants. Oh the ants...
posted by Splunge at 8:21 AM on June 3, 2010

I'll have to convince my nephew to try brewing some home-brew root beer (I'll be the taste tester).

If you're looking for some store-bought goodness, try this over some real vanilla ice cream: Art in the Age ROOT, "the First truly authentic American liqueur since the Pre-Prohibition Era!" 80 proof, organic.

I only wish it came in a non-alcoholic version. Liking the complex ingredients flavors, not so much the alcoholic kick.
posted by mcgurkster at 11:15 AM on June 3, 2010

Consider making some elderflower soda - it's sweet, fizzy, and about as easy to make from scratch as these things get. Here's the recipe I've been working from for the past few years: How to Make Elderflower 'Champagne'.
posted by kgander at 12:31 PM on June 3, 2010

I've tried making a good root beer just from herbs; it's tough to get the flavors right. I did do a killer ginger/rhubarb soda once, and made a Mojito soda another time. I'd post the recipes here but I don't have 'em handy.
posted by caphector at 1:58 PM on June 3, 2010

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