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Homemade Root Beer, Recipes, Tips using Extracts
Root Beer is a sweet carbonated beverage traditionally flavored with sassafras. Making it at home means that you can control the flavours and avoid all the artificial flavors and preservatives used in commercial sodas.
It is much cheaper and so much fun to make it at home especially when you get your kids involved.
The general process of making root beer at home involves three basic steps: Sweetening, Flavoring and Carbonating.
Flavoring - Because of concerns about the chemical known as safrole, a polyphenol that occurs in natural sassafras, that has been shown to be carcinogenic in tests with laboratory animals, it is simpler and safer use a commercial root beer extract, which does not contain safrole. Various types of root beer extract that are safe can be purchased from specialty stores that cater for home brewers, health food stores and large supermarkets.
The root beer brewer has many options for each of these items and so can customize the root beer for their individual tastes and preferences.
Sweetening - You need sugar as this is what the yeast feed on, but you can substitute small amounts of other sweeteners such as honey. Artificial sweeteners will not work for fermented root beer. However you can control the amount of sugar you add and most of it is broken down by the yeast. Honey contains a natural preservative that may stop the yeast from working so experiment to get the right amount.
Try different proportions of sugar and honey in warm water and add some dry yeast. If the mixture fails to froth up you know you have used too much honey. Some honey may be an advantage in preventing excess gas pressure in the bottles.
Carbonation - This is produced by fermentation. The yeast consumes the sugar and releases carbon dioxide as a by-product. The yeast, especially wild yeast, gives homemade ginger beer its unique flavour.
You can use fresh bakers yeast bought at a health food store or dried yeast from the supermarket. You can also use commercial brewers yeast, but be careful that these do not increase the alcohol content of the root beer.
When making beer or wine much larger amounts of sugar are added and there is a pre-bottling fermentation that is designed to increase the alcohol content. Alternatively you can capture the wild yeast as has been described for making homemade ginger beer - see Ginger Beer Recipe Ideas | How to Make Homemade Ginger Beer.This makes a much more interesting root beer with a unique taste.
The yeast used in baking does produce a very small amount of alcohol about 0.35 and 0.5 %, which is only 2-10% of that found in many commercial hop beers (6% in many beer) and is negligible.
What Your Need for each 2 Litre Bottle or Homemade Root Beer
- A 2 liter soda bottle with a screw cap (such as a coke bottle) that has been rinsed with boiling water and cooled
- A funnel (also rinsed with boiling water and cooled
- 1 cup of sugar (or sugar and honey mixture)
- 1/4 teaspoon of dry bakers yeast or 1/2 cup of wild yeast extract from your 'plant'
- 1 tablespoon of root beer extract
- 2 litres of water. Boil the water before hand and allow to cool to remove chlorine which could interfere with the fermentation.
- 3 cups of warm water
- In a bowl add the sugar and dry yeast or yeast extract and then the 3 cups of warm water. Mix thoroughly to dissolved the sugar and yeast.
- Using the funnel pour the water/sugar/yeast mixture into the bottle
- Replace funnel and pour in root beer extract.
- Leaving funnel in place, top-up the bottle to about two thirds full with the water. Mix and then fill the bottle leaving an air gap of about 10 cm ( 3 inches) below the cap.
- Add the cap and seal.
- Store the bottles outside or in a safe place sit at room temperature for about four days. There is a slight chance that the bottles may explore, especially if you add too much sugar and so care is required. You can carefully release excess gas by partially opening the screw caps.
- Before opening, carefully transfer the bottles to a refrigerator and cool-down thoroughly before opening and serving. Loosen cap slowly when opening to allow gas to escape and avoid liquid fizzing over.
- It is wise to only move the bottles or to check for excess pressure in the early morning when the temperatures are low.
- If the bottles develop too much pressure or explode - reduce the amount of sugar.
Ginger Ale and other Soda Recipes
To make ginger ale or other recipes simple substitute freshly grated ginger extract you make yourself, or commercial ginger ale extract for the root beer extract in the recipe.
© 2011 Dr. John Anderson