On Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity to he…

On Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity to help and observe a friend put a couple of batches of soda down. He’s been home brewing beer for quite awhile now and I, correctly, thought that by actually watching him do a batch I could pick up plenty of tips and techniques about brewing. It was quite a good time, and he even sent me home with half of the batches (8 bottles, 4 of each type) to observe, test, and enjoy.

We used the same yeast as I had with the fated Batch 1 a few weeks ago, but increased the amount of yeast used by quite a bit. His reasoning was that the packets are setup for 5 gallon batches, and the 1/8th tsp of yeast isn’t nearly a fifth of the package. It’s a good possibility that may be one of the reasons I was getting such slow carbonation on that batch.

Also, he had ordered a case of plastic bottles with replaceable screw on tops, just like you would get pop out of the cooler at a convenience store. The bottles are brown so it makes it somewhat difficult to really get a good idea of the color of the brews, but seem to be quite good otherwise. I’m not sure how much I like them just because of the long-term wear and tear is likely to make them unusable after only a few batches. Also, if you serve to people who don’t know that you actually paid for them, and are planning on reusing them you stand a good chance on not getting one or 2 back. We’ll see. It certainly makes it easy to figure out the carbonation levels though, as recommended by innumerable references. (More later)

Hmmm….

[From “Homemade Rootbeer, Soda, and Pop” by Stephen Cresswell (ISBN: 1580170528) page 97]:

“Those who are experienced in making homebrewed beers know that one telltale sign of an infected batch is a ring around the neck of the bottle. While such a ring may also mean your soft drink batch has been spoiled by bacteria or other unwanted nasties, you should recognize that with soft drinks such rings can also be caused by bits of root floating to the top of the bottle, or by floating bits of citrus pulp. Thus, taste will be a better indicator of a bad batch than any ring round the neck of the bottle. Whatever caused the ring, though, be sure to clean the bottle with a bottle brush and then soak in a solution of water and chlorine bleach before brewing again.”

So, those rings could very well be sassafras, especially given how fine some of the bark that I added was. We’ll just have to wait until to tonight to see when I open the first bottle to check carbonation. I’ll keep my fingers crossed just in case though.

Batch Report:

Batch Report:
Recipie Number: 1.0
Batch Number: 1
# of bottles: 8 (16oz clear EZ-Cap)

Recipie 1.0:
(From “Homemade Rootbeer, Soda, and Pop” by Stephen Cresswell (ISBN: 1580170528) page 32)

  • 0.25oz Dried Sassafras Root Bark
  • 4qts filtered water
  • 2cups Granulated Refined Sugar (Unknown brand, it’s what I’ve had on hand)
  • 0.125tsp Red Star Champagne Yeast

Equipment:

  • 1- 5in plastic Funnel
  • 1- large Stainless Steel Spoon
  • 1- 4 gallon Stainless Steel Cookpot
  • 1- 3in Tea Ball
  • 1- 3 gallon Glass Carboy
  • 1- Rubber Stopper
  • 1- 1 quart Pyrex Measuring Cup
  • 1- 1 pint Pyrex Measuring Cup
  • 8- 16oz EZ-Cap Clear Bottles
  • 1- Digitial Timer/Thermometer
  • 1- Thermal probe for Timer/Thermometer
  • 1- white Rubbermaid dishtub
  • 1- Jet bottle washer
  • 1- long Bottle Brush
  • 1- bottle Clorox Unscented Bleach

Procedure:

I started by filling the cookpot 3/4 full with warm water and added 2oz of bleach to the water and then added all of the equipment except for the bottle washer, bottle brush, bottles, and carboy (and the timer too, but that’s because it probably wouldn’t work if we did). After all the tools were in, filled the water right up to the top. I let them soak for ~40min.

While those soaked I mounted the bottle washer in the washtub in the basement and rinsed out all the bottles and the carboy, and gave them each a swish with the bottle brush. I filled the carboy with warm water with about 1in head room and added 1oz bleach to the water and let it sit.

After rinsing the cookpot and it’s contents very thoroughly and setting the tools in the dish drainer, placed the cook pot on the large burner of the stove and added the Sassafras. After adding 2 quarts of filtered water, and the sugar, set the burner to 4. After stirring the mixture a little bit, covered the cookpot and let it warm and simmer for 25min. Realized that I forgot to put the Sassafras into the tea ball before I added it. Smacked forehead firmly.

I put the dishtub in the sink and filled it 1/2 way with warm water and 1oz bleach. After filling each bottle with warm water and placing them in the dishtub, filled the dishtub to the top with warm water.

When the timer for the cookpot was up, stirred it up a bit and took a taste. Quite sweet with a definite flavor of the sassafras, though somewhat weakly. Recovered the cookpot and moved it onto the left burner and turned off the stove. Let sit for another 25min.

Went down and emptied the bleach water out of the carboy and rinsed it very thoroughly. Put the stopper in immediately after rinsing and took it back upstairs with me.

While getting ready for the next step I noticed that the funnel I had was not going to work very well for pouring from the very wide mouth of the cookpot into the very small mouth of the carboy. Decided that we would dip with the 1qt measuring cup and pour into the funnel with the open tea ball used as a particle filter.

Emptied and rinsed the bottles very thoroughly and let them stand dry in the drainer.

Uncovered the cookpot and took another taste. The sassafras was flavoring much more strongly now, and it was still way sweet. We transferred the contents into the carboy as we had decided and added 1.5 quarts of cold filtered water. Took a temp reading: 106F – Too warm still. Added 2 Cups of refrigerated filtered water and took another temp reading: 101F. Stoppered the carboy and put it in the back hallway (where the air temp is ~50F) for 10min.

Added .25 cup warm water to the 1 pint measuring cup and put the yeast in. Swirled it up nicely and then let it rest.

Brought the carboy back in and the temp was now at 82F. Added the yeast and stoppered it again. Agitated the carboy thoroughly and then let it rest for 15min to let the yeast get working.

Filled each bottle to just over the bottom of the neck and closed each one and put them into the box they came in, just to be a bit safer. Hopefully if one of them goes grenade, the cardboard will at least slow the projectiles down somewhat. When I had been working in the basement, I had been noticing that the air temp was probably closer to 55F than it was to 65F and so we decided to leave the box in the kitchen overnight and then decide what to do with it in the morning.

Time of completion: 11:15PM CDT

Comments: Well, the funnel and filter screw up worked out okay in the end, but I am a bit worried about contamination from that step. I think I may see about investing in one of the siphoning systems to do the transfer from the cookpot to carboy, and carboy to bottle. Other possibilities are to find some sort of metal lip that an be attached to the cookpot to bring it down in girth a bit, as well as a larger funnel with a filter.

We actually ended up with a fair bit of liquid still left in the bottom of the carboy so I poured some and tasted it. It’s still a bit sweet, but I imagine the yeast will have something to say about that in the long run.

Other things to think about: an indoor thermometer for the area in the basement would be good so that I know exactly the temp so that I can have a bit more data about carbonation length/air temp relationships. I’m planning on checking carbonation at about 44 hours time to see how it’s turning out. I’m thinking that as cool as the house is in general, we’re going to need to go the full 72 at least to get the right level of carbonation, but we’ll see how it works out.

How to possibly reduce the incidence of catastroph…

How to possibly reduce the incidence of catastrophic carbonation: Adjust the recipie to include a set amount of consumable sugar for the yeast to activate, then sweeten with left-handed sugars (usually known as sucralose).

This would essentially make it a “diet” soda, but it should not taste any different than if you had used an equal amount of granulated sugar (beet or cane). Splenda is the currently marketed version of this, though I’m sure there are other suppliers. I didn’t know this previously, but granulated Splenda also contains MultoDextrose, so it might even improve the body of the soda in some ways.

A friend posted a link in a discussion about this …

A friend posted a link in a discussion about this topic to our BBS, L-Space, and there are some interesting possibilities there. I do think that it does highlight exactly how little information is really available publicly about the topic though.

(A hit about navigation on that link: It’s a sorted index of keywords and targets. If you scroll to the top of the page, you get links to the individual keywords, that take you to a listing of recipes that contain those keywords. Not precisely intuitive.)

Specifically, the Cranberry-Ginger Soda I think is a good idea though I have some issues with the recipe. I would think that adding real fresh (or, more likely, frozen) cranberries to the wort would work much better than adding cranberry juice right before bottling. I’ll have to give it a try at some point and see what happens.

This is an attempt to journal my brewing activitie…

This is an attempt to journal my brewing activities as I attempt to homebrew drinkable (and hopefully even good tasting) root beer and other sodas.

I had been thinking of trying this for a couple of years but had never actually gotten around to doing anything about it. That changed a couple of days ago when my sweetie Betsy gave me a copy of “Homemade Rootbeer, Soda, and Pop” by Stephen Cresswell (ISBN: 1580170528) for christmas.

I’m planning on posting as much detail as I can about my entire experience brewing so that I have a decent history of what worked, what did not, and how I got the results that I did.

I did some shopping last night for supplies (that I will detail in a little bit) and I think that I should be ready to put down my first batch tonight.

On the odd chance that someone actually ends up reading this, I would be more than happy to reply to any questions and would dearly love to hear suggestions from people who have actually done this before. In my research on the net thus far I’ve been digging up precious little actual data about any attempts, much less information about what ingredients, recipies, and processes they tried. Hopefully this will someday end up being a good start for other people to replicate some of my successes, assuming I ever get any.

At some point I will probably be very interested in interested parties giving my results a try to hear what they think. Watch this space for when I think I’m ready for some criticism outside my initial guinea pig pool, er, circle of friends, acquantainces and coworkers.

Anyway, welcome to my world and let’s hope I don’t get killed by flying glass or poisoned batches.

It’s been a good set of holidays for me so far. Pe…

It’s been a good set of holidays for me so far. People have gotten me some really interesting stuff that I’m looking forward to making some use of.

Betsy’s dad found a book of water tower photographs from all over western Europe and the US that it just astonishing. He also got me a bot kit that I think will be lots of fun to tinker with.

My parents replaced my poor cracked old vintage flower/sugar bins with some really nice somewhat more modern yet still classic looking aluminum bins. I think they’ll look fantastic in the kitchen as soon as I figure out where to put them.

Then there’s the item that got me the most fired up: Betsy got me a copy of “Homemade Rootbeer, Soda, and Pop” by Stephen Cresswell (ISBN: 1580170528) that can also be purchased here. Last night after work I went shopping for parts and supplies and I think I’ve got a good start on the items that I need to get a batch or 3 going. I’m toying with the idea of a new blog dedicated to just my brewing journal, but we’ll see what happens.