With the sale price for a two-liter bottle of soda at 99 cents – probably the same price it has been for most or all of your life – you may be wondering about the cost effectiveness of making your own.
Well, making your own soda is not about cost but about health. Most commercial brands are filled with all kinds of chemicals and preservatives and loads of sweeteners. Many types of cola, for instance, contain about eight teaspoons of sugar (or the equivalent amount of corn syrup) per 12-ounce serving.
When you make your own soda, you control the ingredients, and it is surprisingly easy and satisfying to create your own beverages at home with one-third of the sugar and with a fresher, more satisfying taste.
Basically, there are two ways you can make your own homemade soda. You can start from scratch by using yeast to ferment and carbonate the drink, or you can add ingredients to flavor plain club soda. It’s up to you.
Here’s what you need to start from scratch:
Clean and sanitized plastic bottles. You may prefer to use glass bottles later, but until you get the hang of the process, your soda can get over-carbonated. Since glass bottles can explode, plastic is safer for beginners. Another option is to purchase thick glass bottles with sturdy caps from a home-brew supply retailer.
Other supplies include: measuring cups and spoons; a large stainless steel stockpot; a large spoon for stirring; and a funnel with a strainer. Other items that are helpful are: a candy thermometer for measuring water temperature ; bottle labels; and a bottle brush.
Store-bought soda is made with a mixture of sugar or corn syrup, water and artificial flavorings that are carbonated with carbon dioxide pumped directly into the beverage. With made-at-home soda, you use a similar process, but you can use less sugar, fewer preservatives, more natural ingredients and you can produce the carbon dioxide naturally through fermentation.
Using a process that is similar to producing beer, you add yeast to a mixture of the other ingredients. Then you let the mixture sit at room temperature for a day or two (less time than with beer) so that the yeast cells are able to consume some of the sugar, forming carbon dioxide bubbles as a byproduct.
To make sure the yeast cells do not consume all of the sugar, you must refrigerate the beverage as soon as the carbonation process starts. Refrigeration cuts the fermentation cycle short, and a glass of homemade soda usually contains less than 1 percent alcohol. Don’t leave bottles of soda out on the counter or on the table for long; keep them in the fridge. If you must leave them out, remove the caps to keep the bottles from bursting. Also, after three or four weeks in the refrigerator, your homemade soda will lose most of its carbonation.
Since they dissolve well, ale and champagne yeast are good choices for homemade soda. Bread yeast will work as well, but it may leave some rather unattractive lumps in your finished product. Avoid nutritional yeast because its cells are inactive, and lager yeast can cause too much carbonation.
Experiment with different sweeteners. You might want to try a combination of honey and sugar. Another option is the herb stevia along with just enough sugar to carbonate the soda. Many of the herbs, spices and extracts you will need for basic homemade soda flavors are available in your local natural food store. Or check home-brew supply sites online.
Here are some ways to make your favorite flavors:
Root Beer: The Food and Drug Administration banned sassafras from food products in 1960 because of the suspected link with cancer associated with safrole. Today, most commercial root beer is made with imitation sassafras, a sassafras root extract with the safrole removed. Check your home-brew retailer for root beer extract or something called “Rainbow Homebrew.” Here’s a recipe to try:
- 1-gallon plastic bottle
- 1 gallon water
- 2 cups sugar (or other sweetener to taste)
- 2 tbsp. root beer extract
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp champagne yeast
In a large stockpot, heat the water until about 100 to 110 degrees. Using a funnel, pour the sugar and the extract into the bottle. Then pour half of the water into the same bottle. Next, add the yeast to the bottle, attach the bottle cap and shake well.
Add the rest of the water and shake again. Pour the mixture into 2-liter bottles and attach the bottle caps, leaving one to two inches of empty space at the top of each bottle. Write the date on the bottles and store them at room temperature (ideally 68 to 77 degrees) for two to three days. Then refrigerate them.
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Ginger Ale: Makes about 8 cups or 2 liters.
- 1 two liter bottle
- 2 tbsp. finely grated fresh gingerroot
- 1 cup water, plus some more to fill the bottles
- 9 tbsp. sugar (or sugar and honey combination)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp dry champagne yeast
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve. Add the ginger and let mixture stand until cool. Stir in lemon juice.
Pour the ginger water into 2-liter bottle using a funnel; do not strain out the ginger. Top off the bottle with water, leaving at least once inch open at the top. Add the yeast. Put on cap and shake to dissolve and distribute the yeast. Let the bottle sit at room temperature two to three days. Then refrigerate overnight or for up to two weeks. Open very slowly over the sink to release the pressure. Pour the soda through a fine-mesh strainer to catch the ginger.
Lemon Lime soda: Here’s an easy yeast-free recipe for making homemade soda with plain soda water.
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
In a small sauce pan, bring the honey and water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer rapidly for three minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Add lemon and lime juices to the honey mixture; then cover and refrigerate. To drink, add two to three tablespoons of this mixture to an eight-ounce glass of club soda or plain seltzer water. Garnish with slices of lemon or lime if you wish.
You can “doctor” this recipe to include any fresh fruit you happen to have. Raspberries work well and taste great, for instance.
If you need any more incentive to making your own soda, read the list of ingredients on your favorite commercial brand. Then go back and look at the ingredients listed here. You’ll find that making your own soda is an enjoyable and relatively easy way to make festive drinks for your whole family.
Have you ever made homemade soda? What tips do you have ? Tell us in the comments section below.