Homemade Soda

I’m from Pittsburgh, so it’s “pop”… let’s just get that out of the way. And one of my favorite pops is Red Ribbon Cherry Soda, made by the Natrona Bottling Company, in Natrona, PA. It’s awesome. Sweet. Kinda tart from the CO2. Nostalgic. Perfect. That, coupled with my homebrewing experience, inspired me to make my own soda. It’s so easy, it’s crazy to NOT do it. I don’t think this should get filed under “Money Svaing”, but it’s fun… and probably something great to do with some youngsters.

mmmmm... the sweet, sweet, taste of nostalgia.

Fist things first, clear out half of a shelf in the fridge. You’ll need it to store the pop in the chill box after it’s done carbonating… if you leave the bottles unrefrigerated, the bottles will continue to ferment, creating more CO2, which will cause an explosion. No one wants that. It’ll be a mess… and could be dangerous. Ok. No fridge space, no soda making…. rule #1. Also, you’ll need seven or eight 16.9oz plastic bottles.  Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Also, the credit for this recipe goes to: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2004-12-01/Brew-Soda-at-Home.aspx?page=5

1/2 gallon grape juice
1/2 gallon water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ale or champagne yeast

Simmer juice, water and sugar in a stockpot for 30 minutes. Let cool, and then add the yeast. Let the soda stand at room temperature for 24 hours, then use a funnel to pour the soda into bottles. Leave 1 to 2 inches of empty space at the top of the bottle and attach the bottle caps. Write the date on the bottles and store them in a warm, draft-free place, ideally at room temperature, for an additional 24 hours. Then refrigerate. For best results, let the soda sit an additional day or two in the refrigerator before drinking. Makes 1 gallon.

I substituted a half gallon of Juicy Juice Cherry juice.. it’ll probably work with orange drink for orange soda… or apple juice… maybe even grapefruit juice? Anything, really.

Also, I used two packets, totaling four grams, of some leftover Mr. Beer dry ale yeast instead of the champagne yeast called for in the recipe. I had the packets laying around, so I figured “eh… what the hell?” It worked pretty good. I followed the directions above, but sprinkled in the ale yeast, then bottled, then let the bottles sit out out for two days at room temp. Next time, I’m only going to use one packet (2 grams) of ale yeast and only let them sit out for 24 hours since my first batch was overcarbonated… it “gushed” over when I opened the cap, and the soda had a massive head on it (I know,I know… “he said ‘head’ *snicker*”).  Just let the bottles sit out at room temperature and ferment until the bottle is absolutely ROCK hard… that means they have enough CO2 to be carbonated. And, yes… since you’re relying on fermentation to produce the CO2 that is carbonating the soda, there will be a trace amount of alcohol… like 0.5%ABV. Absolutely minimal, and you would need to drink like 8 or 10 sodas to equal ONE beer. SO don’t worry about it… and it should be fine for the kids, too.

Champagne yeast is available online, or at a local homebrew shop (LHBS). Google for “homebrew shop” and you should find something in your area. If there isn’t a LHBS around, you’ll have to order online… northernbrewer.com, morebeer.com, brewmasterswarehouse.com, austin hombrew shop… all good choices. And, if you choose to substitute ale yeast for the champagne yeast, use a neutral ale strain, like the Mr. Beer packets, or Safale US-05. The only reason I chose to use the ale yeast was because I had it on hand… and I think it’ll flocculate (when the yeast cells “clump” together and drop out of solution) a little better than the champagne yeast when the soda bottles go in the fridge. DO NOT USE A LAGER YEAST! A lager yeast will continue to ferment the beer (albeit slowly) in the fridge… fermentation means CO2 production… CO2 production in a closed container means pressure will build… too much pressure equals ah’splosions. Ah’splosions are bad.

Be careful when you pour the soda into a glass… try not to disturb the layer of crud at the bottom of the bottle. That crud, known as trub (pronounced “troob”), is the natural “leftovers” from the yeast. And I wouldn’t try to drink the pop out of the bottle… same reason. I’d also think about “conditioning” the pop for a week or two in the fridge after you move it from room temperature… that’ll give the yeast cake at the bottom of the bottle time to compact, and for more yeast to fall out of solution. My first go was at this produced a very “yeasty” tasting pop… the extra time in the fridge might help.

And remember, the bottles of finished soda need to stay refrigerated… or they could explode. I wouldn’t even put them in a cooler full of ice.

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