Saturday, December 24, 2011

Making Sodas

For a long time I've wanted to make soda at home. This started as a dream to make my own good tasting cola to replace the ever increasing cost of my major brand sodas. We had a product, a marketing campaign, and labels all ready to go if we could just figure out how to make soda. We never had the capital to invest in this dream as college students. We couldn't afford to buy force carbonation equipment or ingredients to make test batches of soda. This has changed in recent times as we've begun to assemble our own at home breweries and the at home brewing equipment is largely the same as soda making.

(read more after the break.)

Making Soda w/ Yeast

One way of making soda at home is to use yeast to ferment a small amount of sugar in the soda and to trap that carbonation in the bottle to create a fizzy drink. Yes this does create alcohol. The inter-webs seems to think it's an inconsequential amount of alcohol, but I'll take readings and report. This looks hazy at first but when you cold crash it the yeast should fall out of suspension leaving you with a clearer soda. The yeast will eat a bit of the sugar too, leaving the soda ever less sweet, so it's important not to let it ferment too long.

Making Soda w/ Forced Carbonation

Making forced carbonated soda is similar to the yeast method but doesn't require any yeast. You use a 'Carbonator' brand cap or other means to pressurize a two liter bottle and allow CO2 to dissolve into the soda over time creating a sparkling beverage.

Making Soda w/ Carbonated Water and Syrup

For this method you make a flavored syrup and add carbonated water; give it a little mix and enjoy. It's fairly simple and convenient. A few food safe pump or squeeze bottles and a reliable source of carbonated water and you'd be in business. Carbonated water is fairly cheap to buy in 2 liters at the store or can be made by adding nice clean water to a keg and carbonating.

One Recipe; Three Methods(See improved recipe below):

24 oz clean water
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
champagne yeast

For a more refreshing treat add 8 oz to ice and finish with 2 tbsp of fresh cream.

I wanted to test the three methods out and compare the results. This could change how my fictional microbrewery makes sodas, or more likely how I make sodas at my home bar.

Not enough sugar in any of the options; it needed maybe a tbsp or two more sugar. This is in line with commercial examples: Coca Cola uses 5 tbsp of sugar for a similar sized recipe; Mountain Dew has 6. The flavor was too bitter I could taste the C02 in solution, the carbonic acid made it too bitter. I feel that I can still review other aspects of of the sodas and I'll report how the remake goes.

This was not great, and it wrecked the lid of my mason jar by pressing it out and dimpling it. My real objection to this was that the yeast flavor of the champagne yeast. Maybe a more neutral yeast would have been better. The yeast flavor did not mesh with the vanilla and it smelled horrible.

Force Carbonation:
Worked great. It carbonated up right in the fridge. The CO2 flavor was prevalent in the final product because there wasn't enough sugar to overcome it, although the flavors were just right otherwise. The almond extract gave the vanilla extract a supportive flavor that was interesting but hard to discern by without knowing it was there.

An inferior version of the force carbonation. Works about as well as force carbonation. I didn't like the outcome as much and the flavor was less consistent between glasses. This works in Italian ice sodas, and is mainly how pop is served from fountain pop machines. I have a feeling with a little tweaking and some practice it could be about as good as force carbonation but overall more time consuming.

Round 2: 


24 oz clean water
5 tbsp organic sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

I'm only doing the force carbonation method for this one. It was the easiest and turned out the best. I increased the sugar to overcome the flavors from dissolved CO2. I think that the vanilla and almond will come through because they were still strong flavors in the original iteration of this recipe.

A beautiful creamy yellow with a wispy white head. A combination of large and small bubbles escape as the CO2 fights its way out of solution. The effervescent carbonation keeps bubbles streaming upward through my experience. The flavors were spot on as the sugar was at just the right level to counteract the bitterness of the CO2. The almond almost over powered the vanilla and I would possibly restrain it in the future. Almond is very distinct but the sweetness is reminiscent of marzipan. I dunno if I would drink this every day in replacement of diet coke but I certainly wouldn't baulk at paying a dollar for a pint while I was DDing my idiot friends at the bar.

With Cream:
The soda with cream was sublime. The cream adds a creaminess to the soda that was a layer on top of the vanilla and almonds. The carbonation breaks the thickness of the cream and disperses it throughout the soda. I can't wait to try my orange cream soda with cream.

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