Sunday, March 9, 2014

Home Made Root Beer

Have you ever thought about trying to make your own root beer?  It really is a fun project and I think it would be great to do it with kids!  The basic premise of the project is to use a closed system to set up a fermentation - that way, the closed system captures the generated carbon dioxide which naturally carbonates the root beer.

In a 'closed' fermentation system (such as this home made root beer), the carbon dioxide dissolves in the liquid, since it has no other place to go.  This gives the drink its fizz, and stops the fermentation process - this leaves most of the sugar intact, which is why the resulting beverage still so delightfully sweet. 

So why go to the trouble of making your own root beer?  I make it because unlike store-bought root beer, making your own gives you a delicious, naturally carbonated beverage that has less fizz and a smoother, richer, creamier taste.  

I had wanted to make root beer totally 'from scratch,' but when I looked up recipes I saw that I needed the roots of a sassafras tree.  At this point, I have no idea where to find a sassafras tree (though I will be keeping my eyes open)!

I decided to use a root beer base.  You can usually find root beer extract at your local supermarket or home brew supply store.  Also, you can order it online if you can't find the extract anywhere else. 

The next thing that is handy - but not totally necessary is a bottling bucket and wand.  You can make the root beer in the bucket, and use the wand to easily fill your bottles (the end of the wand has a spring loaded tip that makes it easy to fill bottles - just press the tip to the bottom of the bottle for flow and release the tip and the flow stops).  If you don't have this type of equipment - no problem.  The directions at the bottom of this post will be to make a 2 liter bottle of root beer with the only needed equipment being: a clean 2 liter bottle and a funnel. 

The next important thing is yeast: I have had good results with this Red Star Premier Cuvee yeast (found at my local brewing supply store), but you can also use regular baking yeast. 

Next step: sanitize your bottles of choice.  I like to use old swing-top beer bottles.  You can probably tell from this picture, but this bottling tree is fantastic: at the top is a spring loaded shooter that sanitizes the inside of the bottles quickly and easily, then they can drip drain on each of the pegs.  The tray at the bottom catches all of the drips!  Again, just in case you don't have this equipment, the directions at the bottom of the post will be for using a 2 liter bottle.

The bottling tree is filling up!  By the way, I should make mention when using glass bottles, there is always a risk of the bottles exploding (yes, I speak from experience).  If you are worried about it, a safer option would be to use clean 2 liter bottles.

Now, to begin; into the bottling bucket (or 2 liter bottle): water, yeast, sugar and the root beer extract. 

Doesn't the root beer extract look neat?

Then, start stirring!

I also like to use this stirring wand that attaches to a drill - as you can tell, it really gets the mixture moving!  It is important to get all of the sugar dissolved. 

And now, time to fill!  Make sure the end of your bottling wand is sanitized.  Grab your sanitized bottles and start filling!  If you have a bottling wand, just press the tip to the bottom of the bottle for flow and release the tip and the flow stops.  Release the flow just as the root beer gets to the top of the bottle - this way, when you remove the wand you will have the perfect amount of head space.  If you went with the 2 liter bottle option, don't worry about this step!

Look at all those bottles of deliciousness! 


Homemade Root Beer (To Fill A 2 Liter Bottle)

(note: if you have the brewing equipment and would like to make the root beer as I did in the pictures, please feel free to!  I used the whole bottle of extract which made about 4 gallons of root beer)

  • 1 tablespoon root beer extract (more or less to taste)
  • 1 cup white table sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon yeast
  • water to fill 2 liter bottle

Assemble your equipment: a clean 2 liter bottle with cap and funnel.  Place the funnel in the plastic bottle.  Add the sugar, the yeast, and the root beer extract.  Add fresh, cool (filtered if you have soft water) water to the bottle, making sure to leave about 1 inch of head space.  Remove funnel and cap.  Shake the bottle thoroughly to dissolve the sugar and yeast.

Place the bottle at room temperature for three to four days.  Check the bottle every day - you are looking for it to feel quite hard (think grocery store pop bottles).  After the bottle feels quite hard to you, move it to a cool place that is below 65 degrees, or, if you feel nervous about an explosion, just move the bottle to the refrigerator - there is no danger of this root beer exploding in the refrigerator (again, I am speaking from experience!).

Note #1: Before you drink it, make sure to thoroughly chill the root beer - overnight in the refrigerator is a good idea.  Open the cap slowly to release the pressure, and enjoy!

Note #2: When pouring the root beer, take note that there is a bit of sediment of yeast at the bottom of the bottle.  It will look a bit cloudy.  It certainly won't hurt a person, but I prefer to decant the root beer carefully to avoid the sentiment getting into my glass.

Note #3: Home made root beer makes great root beer floats, especially if you use your own home made vanilla ice cream.

1 comment :

  1. I want to make homemade root beer for a party I am having in a few days. I made root beer a few times a long time ago. I don't remember everything that I need, or how to do it very well. Your article is nice in that it goes over the process step by step and lists ever ingredient one might need. I think with your posts help I might be able to throw off a great party with some great homemade root beer.



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