Homebrew Ginger Ale Soda with Yeast [Primordial Pop Review]

Making Soda at Home

Over the last couple of years I've dabbled with the process of homebrewing my own soda. I've used raw ingredients such as ginger root and freshly squeezed lemons for ginger ale, and licorice root, anise, and sarsaparilla root for root beer. I'm constantly looking for new recipes to make the perfect beverage, and I've enjoyed every minute of the process.

I love the idea of making my own beverages for several reasons. The first has to be the science. When I think about the process of carbonation using yeast, I just can't help but be intrigued. This "lost art" was once a very common practice for people like us. These days we buy our drinks from the store or out of a machine. We pay way more than the cost of the ingredients for this convenience and have absolutely no say in the process. This brings me to the second reason I like making my own sodas: I know exactly what goes into producing what my family is drinking because I'm the one adding the ingredients together. There's no high fructose corn syrup. In fact, the amount of sugar per bottle is minuscule compared to most commercial products. The amazing thing? My sodas don't lack sweetness, despite having less sweeteners added.

The Copernicus Primordial Pop Ginger Ale kit.
The Copernicus Primordial Pop Ginger Ale kit.

Reviewing the Copernicus Primordial Pop Ginger Ale kit:

Making your own soda can be a lot of work when compared to the convenience of buying a finished product from the grocery aisle. There are certain factors that are very important to the process, such as sterilization. Introducing foreign bacteria into your brew could add some rather unsavory flavors to your soda. With this in mind, I decided to write a review on a soda making kit I was able to purchase off Amazon.com. The kits I chose are listed above. This particular review is for the Ginger Ale kit. I figured this would be the perfect way to write a review for an interested beginner, as an introduction into the homebrew culture.

You will notice that I am using brown glass bottles. I have these bottles because I also brew my own beer. I decided to use these bottles for demonstration. I don't recommend you brew in glass for this project if it's your first venture into homebrewing. The instructions provided suggest using plastic bottles with their original caps. This is a good idea for those of you who may drink soda regularly. Keep those bottles and reuse them!

Contents of the Homemade Soda Kit by Copernicus Toys.
Contents of the Homemade Soda Kit by Copernicus Toys.
Instructions for the Homemade Soda Kit by Copernicus Toys.
Instructions for the Homemade Soda Kit by Copernicus Toys.

Kit contents:

To the right you will see the contents of the homebrew soda kit.

  • 1 plastic funnel - Check!
  • 1 plastic bottle of flavoring - Check!
  • 1 packet of champagne yeast - Check!
  • 2 blank labels - Check!
  • 1 instruction sheet - Check!

You will also need plastic bottles, 4 cups of sugar, and water. This should really highlight how easy it is to brew your own soda at home. For this demonstration I did a half batch, and I really recommend you do the same. That means you'll only be using 2 cups of sugar and half the bottle of flavoring included in the kit. Don't worry if this seems complicated. The instructions are actually written for half batch production.

1 gallon of filtered water.
1 gallon of filtered water.
2 cups of sugar.
2 cups of sugar.

Ready the ingredients!

For this brew, I used 1 gallon of filtered water. You can use tap water, and many homebrewers actually recommend it for the minerals it provides. There can be other concerns, such as trace chlorine content which could harm the yeast, but that really just depends on how your local water is treated before it reaches your home. Since I was particularly concerned with the end result of this kit, I decided to take my tap water out of the equation.

Go ahead and measure out your 2 cups of sugar and start warming up your water. Heating the water will help to kill off any bacteria you might have lingering around, and will also help dissolve the sugar in a later step.

Champagne yeast for brewing Ginger Ale
Champagne yeast for brewing Ginger Ale
1/4 teaspoon yeast and 1/2 cup warm water.
1/4 teaspoon yeast and 1/2 cup warm water.

Prep the yeast!

After several attempts at opening the champagne yeast, I finally just unleashed the beast and chewed my way through the package. Sure, I could have used scissors, but we're making primordial pop here! I decided to get in touch with my inner caveman.

Once you get your yeast packet open, add 1/4 teaspoon of the yeast to a half cup of lukewarm, room temperature water. This is basically an activation process of waking up the yeast before you add them directly to your brew.

Make sure you stir them in well. Also, don't throw away the rest of the yeast packet. You'll need that for the second brew in the kit. Put it in the refrigerator until you're ready to make your second batch.

Brady Frost goes crazy with his stirstick!
Brady Frost goes crazy with his stirstick!
Dissolve sugar in water.
Dissolve sugar in water.
Stir well, add a touch of crazy!
Stir well, add a touch of crazy!

Ready the stir-stick!

Okay, most of you will not have a fancy stir-stick like me, but that's not a problem. I have this from my beer making efforts and it's just so fun to use. Really, though, a plastic kitchen spoon or spatula will do the trick. We're just dissolving sugar here. It isn't rocket science.

Since stirring is so fun, I'll take this opportunity to point out a few things that may help you in your first brewing adventure. Make sure you read through the instructions in the kit before you begin brewing. Knowing what you'll be doing before you start may help you avoid some mistakes that could ruin your batch. Take your time. Most of the mistakes I've made in homebrewing have come from my excitement to start the next step before I was supposed to. Homebrewing is fun and educational. Understanding the process will give you a better appreciation of the science that goes into making your own delicious beverages from home.

Knowledge is power.

I've included links to two great resources that I personally own and enjoy very much.

Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop has many great recipes for homemade sodas. I've tried several of these recipes and the results were amazing. This isn't just a recipe book, Stephen Cresswell does an excellent job of explaining the history of soda and where some of these recipes originated.

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is more of a beer-making compendium and includes a treasure trove of information on the process and how it all began. It details how to make your own brew and test for alcohol content. It includes recipes, pictures, charts, graphs.. you name it. The Associated Press calls it "The homebrewer's bible." And for good reason.

Measure out 2 tablespoons of Copernicus Primordial Pop Ginger Ale flavoring.
Measure out 2 tablespoons of Copernicus Primordial Pop Ginger Ale flavoring.
Add flavoring to your brew.
Add flavoring to your brew.
Half batch means you should have half the bottle of flavoring left over.
Half batch means you should have half the bottle of flavoring left over.

Back to business.

Once your sugar has dissolved, measure out your flavoring and add it to the mix. Remember, if you're doing the recommended half batch you will have half the bottle left over for the second half.

In the top two pictures of this section you will see a smaller pot behind my brew. At this point I've started to boil water for my caps, which I will be crimping onto my glass bottles. Again, this should demonstrate the need to eliminate foreign bacteria in the process. It's nothing to be paranoid about, really. It all comes down to including the proper steps in your brewing process, and respecting the science.

We're basically taking an organism (yeast), adding it to water and the flavoring of our choice, and then giving it food (sugar) which it turns into carbon dioxide in a sealed environment. This results in the fizz of carbonation and builds pressure. The remaining sugar not consumed by the yeast provides the sweetness that we enjoy.

Sanitize your bottle caps.
Sanitize your bottle caps.

Sterilizing the bottle caps.

Again, heat is a great method for killing unwanted germs and bacteria. I'm boiling my caps now so they'll be ready when it comes time to seal up my bottles and wait while the yeast consume the sugar and create the fizz. If you're using plastic bottles, as the directions suggest, the process of sanitizing your equipment is a little different. You will be soaking your bottles and caps in a gallon of water with 1 tablespoon of bleach for 20 minutes. Then you'll wash your items with soap and water to ensure any remaining bleach does not kill off your yeast.

Stir in the yeast.
Stir in the yeast.

Stir in the yeast.

Before you stir in your yeast, you need to make sure you didn't get the water too hot. Heat kills germs and bacteria. It can kill your yeast just as easily! The instructions say to keep your brew around 98 degrees Fahrenheit. If in doubt, just cover the batch and let it cool down to room temperature. Having a thermometer would make it more precise, but it isn't necessary. Once you're ready, stir in your dissolved champagne yeast.

Time to bottle!
Time to bottle!
Leave 1 to 2 inches gap from the top of the bottle for gas expansion.
Leave 1 to 2 inches gap from the top of the bottle for gas expansion.

Fill your bottles!

It's time to fill your bottles with your homebrew soda! Place the funnel in the bottle and carefully pour your ginger ale into the bottle. I like to use the measuring cup I used for the sugar for this step. You definitely don't want to try pouring from the pot, that's for sure!

Easy does it, and make sure you leave some room at the top of the bottle so the gas has a place to expand. Remember, we're creating pressure through the natural carbonation process. Your bottles can, and will, explode if the pressure becomes too great.

Place the cap on the bottle.
Place the cap on the bottle.
Crimp down bottle cap with the capper.
Crimp down bottle cap with the capper.
Mark the date of brew on the cap.
Mark the date of brew on the cap.

Cap your bottles.

This section may be of particular interest to those of you who may be interested in using glass bottles like I am. Hopefully this isn't your first go at brewing if you are using glass, but if it is, you should pay very close attention to the ambient temperature. Yeast will consume sugar and reproduce far more rapidly at 80 degrees than 65. This will result in a quicker carbonation process and pressure will build much faster. Once the bottles have had enough, they will explode and leave a sticky mess everywhere. There is also the consideration of possible injury to anyone near the bottles when they go off. Check your bottles regularly. You may want to open one early to test the pressure. Better safe than sorry. Once you've done this a few times, like I have, you become more comfortable with what the conditions of temperature and yeast variety will produce. Even so, always keep safety at the forefront of your homebrew process.

Other than that, it's pretty straightforward. Place the cap on the bottle, crimp it down with the capper, and make sure to label the bottle date on at least one of the caps.


Finished batch of homebrew Ginger Ale.
Finished batch of homebrew Ginger Ale.

Science does the rest!

Carbonation could take anywhere from 12 hours to 5 days. If you're using plastic bottles, you'll want to give them a squeeze periodically to test for readiness. When the bottles are hard to squeeze, but still push in a bit, it's time to refrigerate.

Chill for at least 1 day and then enjoy! Always keep your finished soda refrigerated and drink within 4 weeks. Be sure to open carbonated beverages slowly and carefully to release the pressure.

Results!

This batch turned out excellent! It has a much stronger ginger taste than traditional Ginger Ale you buy from the store. For those who drink ginger soda for help with nausea or because they love the taste, this kit is a sure-fire winner! The carbonation turned out perfect as well, I couldn't be more impressed.

I was very pleased with this homemade soda kit. The instructions were easy to follow and the process was very simple. I believe this is a great kit for beginners and old hats alike. If you have yet to experiment with homebrewing, I strongly urge you to give it a try. You may just be amazed at the results!

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