Introduction: Homebrew Root Beer!

Picture of Homebrew Root Beer!

Growing up, my dad was always brewing something. Most of the time his brew pot was full of brown ale or chocolate stout, but occasionally he would pull the step stool up to the counter and we would brew a batch of homemade root beer together. He kept the recipe short and simple (much like my attention span at the time) by working with a bottle of root beer extract and a basic brewing method combine the proper proportions of water, sugar, extract and yeast; bottle; and ferment. This was a far cry from many of his beer recipes, which took the better part of a day to make, but the resulting root beer did the trick for my youthful palate it was my absolute favorite drink.

Now, I wouldn't call myself a root beer fanatic by any means I certainly don’t drink as much of it as I used to but when I have a craving for a glass, I almost always go for the small-batch brands, which are packed with a lot more spice and rich flavor than those made by the larger cola companies. Maybe that’s why, when I finally tasted some of my own root beer, I was disappointed with its relatively boring flavor.

In all honesty, I really shouldn't have expected much from my root beer in the first place. After all, I had been relying on a bottle of grocery store extract for all of the flavor. Curious to see how to go about producing a respectable bottle of homemade root beer, I started researching various recipes. I figured it would be a challenge, but I quickly realized that while my initial recipe was almost effortless, making a batch from scratch didn't require that much effort either. It was time to get out the brew pot again.

Step 1: Establish Roots

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In the days before you could buy bottled root beer extract in just about any grocery store in America, the typical root beer recipe started by steeping sassafras root the primary source for the flavor that we recognize in root beer in hot water, then adding sugar and yeast, and allowing the mixture to ferment in bottles. To further enhance the flavor of the beer, additional root barks and twigs such as sarsaparilla, burdock, and birch were also added. While foraging in the woods for these ingredients was once standard practice and still not uncommon even today, I was happy to discover that I could instead find them neatly packaged and ready to use at my local home brew store.

Step 2: Get Aromatic

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Over time other aromatics were added to the brew pot to enhance the flavor of the root beer. Searching through various sources, it was not uncommon to find recipes calling for ingredients like licorice, vanilla, mint, ginger, citrus zest, cinnamon and the like. For my recipe I wanted to incorporate some of the traditional roots with a few interesting aromatics without creating a laundry list of ingredients that was a hassle to gather.

Step 3: Water It

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I decided to base my recipe off of 1 gallon of water, which was enough to keep my refrigerator stocked for a while and could be easily handled in a small kitchen I’d leave the multi-gallon batches to the professionals. I preferred to use filtered water because my tap water at home was pretty metallic tasting.

Step 4: Steep It

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With 2 quarts of water in my saucepan, I then added my roots I chose a combination of sassafras and sarsaparilla along with some spearmint, star anise, ginger, and cinnamon for spice, and a vanilla bean for fragrance. After bringing the mixture to a boil, I covered the pot and allowed everything to steep for about 2 hours.

Step 5: Sanitize It

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With the root beer mixture off to the side, it was now time to start sanitizing my bottles and equipment. While homemade beverages are a highly unlikely source of food poisoning, any bacteria that do make it into a batch of homemade root beer can cause sour off-tastes and ruin the batch. For some, like my dad whose is a chemist by trade, the brewing area can imitate laboratory settings; for others, simply dunking their equipment in soapy water is sufficient. I tried to aim for the middle of the road. I washed all of my equipment in hot soapy water and then did my best to sanitize everything as well most importantly the bottles. I found that a simple 2-minute soak in a bleach solution (1 tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach for every gallon of hot water) did the trick. Make sure to drain everything well, for at least 30 minutes.

Step 6: Strain It

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After 2 hours of steeping, the root beer mixture was ready to strain. At this point the liquid was more of a concentrate so I added the remaining 2 quarts of water to dilute the mixture along with the sugar. I could have started with all of the water in the beginning, but I found that adding half of the water at this stage helped to cool down the mixture quicker, which was necessary before adding the yeast. Granulated sugar would have worked just fine, but I tested several versions of this recipe with different types of sweeteners and found a combination of 1½ cups brown sugar and ½ cup molasses was best. The darker color of these two ingredients also helped to achieve the signature look for the root beer.

Step 7: Cool It

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Before adding the yeast, I cooled the root beer mixture further to around 75 degrees. If the mixture was too hot, there was a chance that the yeast would die. Most recipes I found recommended ale yeast because it did not impart any flavors, though I also read recipes that called for regular active dry yeast. Since I was already at the home brew store to pick up my sassafras and sarsaparilla, grabbing some ale yeast was convenient and what I used in my recipe, though I am sure traditional yeast would have worked as well. Once I added the yeast, I allowed 15 minutes for proofing before I began bottling.

Step 8: Bottle It

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There are several tools out there for bottling batches of home-brewed beverages. However, I found that for a small batch like this, the easiest way to bottle was with a funnel and a ladle. I simply lined the bottles up, placed the funnel on top of the bottles, and ladled in the root beer mixture. I preferred 22-ounce glass bottles, though 1-litre plastic soda bottles and smaller glass bottles would work as well. To avoid any exploding bottles, I filled the bottles to within 2 inches of the top, leaving adequate room as pressure built up in the bottles.

Step 9: Cap It

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Depending on the types of bottles used, the capping procedure can change. For my glass bottles, I placed a metal cap on top of each bottle and secured it with a bottle capper. Once capped, the bottles needed to sit at room temperature (ideally 62 to 77 degrees) so that the yeast could begin to eat the sugars and carbonate the root beer. The carbonation time depends on the type of yeast used and the temperature of the room, though in general it takes between 36 and 72 hours. I found that 48 hours was an appropriate amount of time for my root beer, which was sitting in a 75-degree room. To check carbonation, I just opened a bottle and poured a glass.

Step 10: Chill It

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Once the carbonation was right, I placed all the bottles into the refrigerator and waited a couple days for the flavors to meld. Refrigerating the bottles also caused the yeast to go dormant, which restricted the production of carbon dioxide even with the 2-inch gap I provided, too much carbonation would still cause bottles to blow.

Step 11: Fizz It!

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Wan't to make it fizz? Sodastream is a great carbonating machine.

Step 12: Drink It

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The end result was a huge success. The root beer was full of unique spice and rich flavor—everything I was looking for. Most recipes I found recommend drinking the root beer within 5 weeks for the best results, but my first batch only lasted 5 days. Cheers!


paininthebutt (author)2014-09-07

Please give us the exact ingredients i would love to make this for myself.

In the more northern states you can find a brand called sioux city sasperilla or rootbeer its basically the same thing and its really good you can find it anywhere from North Dakota to Missouri but not any further south.

Detken (author)paininthebutt2017-04-06

Did you ever get the exact ingredients for the root beer?

I just had Sioux City Sarsaparilla yesterday. Found it in Alamogordo, New Mexico. It was super good and actually why I wanted to make some. I brew beer all the time and decided it time to try a clone of SCS.

robomaxim (author)2017-03-05

How much yeast do you add?

monkeysinacan (author)2013-12-23

Isn't sassafras poisonous and or carcinogenic? Which is why no modern root beer contains it.

Jesse USMC (author)monkeysinacan2014-01-15

Sassafras is not really carcinogenic in reality. When the original study found that it caused cancer they failed to tell that the volume of sassafras taken by the rats was the equivalent of drinking over 50 gallons of root beer at one time to a human. They also failed to mention that there was a higher risk of cancer from alcohol. You can look it up online. The information isn't hard to find but bad info dies hard sometimes. For years people thought tomatoes were poisonous!

monkeysinacan (author)Jesse USMC2014-01-15

lol that does sound like something the FDA would do. Thanks for the info!

yah! You so right. It's kind of like when those wimps at the FDA banned Thalidomide in the U.S. and then thousands of pregnant European mothers who took the drug gave birth to babies wit horrible birth defects. Besides, dem FDA dudes are always making drug companies do all these safety tests on drugs, like they know about safety. The experts are the drug companies, and I trust them implicitly.

Jesse USMC (author)declankliban2016-11-23

Forget the root beer, keep drinking the kool aid.

lperkins (author)monkeysinacan2013-12-24

As with many things, it's a matter of dosage and may well be affected by species (There are two). Large doses were found to cause liver damage and cancer in rodents. It has been used medicinally by humans for a long time to combat scurvy, rheumatism, and bacterial or fungal infections.

As is typical of the FDA, studies showing that (often ridiculously) large doses cause problems for small rodents is sufficient to get its use banned without further study of the effects on humans.

razamatraz (author)monkeysinacan2013-12-24

And I should be more specific: Safrole is the carcinogen. Sassafras with low (almost none) amounts is available.

razamatraz (author)monkeysinacan2013-12-24

The FDA banned it from commercial products because it caused cumulative liver damage in rats and various cancers. That said many micro brewers still use it so the risk is up to you.

FrenchDavid50. (author)2016-08-12

So after I add the yeast and bottle it.... what happens to the yeast? Do I have to remove it?

mh21238 (author)FrenchDavid50.2016-10-20

No you dont have to all that it does is just carbonate the soda so you dont need to remove the yheast

mmmelroy (author)2016-06-24

marked for later use! this is a great writeup

JB610 (author)2016-04-21

Its a thing kids probably don't like unless they were exposed to it early the taste of one soda that does not go down well with many people. Pepsi/Cola, Ginger ale or orange/fruit flavored sodas are easier to like

It has a taste of something a preacher would make one drink and I feel that way though it may not be true although many popular foods would be if unsweetened (cola extract), chocolate etc. Personally I dont care for RB or think its something I want to acquiure a taste for as an adult either though I sampled it a few times in my life growing up when it was offered at certain events maybe only 2 or 3 times in my life

I do not care for wine either although I may rather invest in liking that or if not for the booze would rather have cola or fruit juice as a cold drink which I rarely consume

Tecwyn Twmffat made it! (author)2015-12-14

Mangle Wurzel root Ale!

Ggungaby (author)2015-07-19

Hmm, this may be an excellent to do project.

onemoroni1 (author)2014-12-23

Someday I will have to try a home brew root beer. I do it the lazy man's way with extracts and baking yeast. Been doing it for 30 years and everyone raves about what I make. I only had a couple batches that didn't fizz.

American Ruin (author)2014-09-24

If the fermentation process is allowed to continue, will it become alcoholic, or will the batch just get ruined?

Blastenforte (author)2014-01-24

I just found these, so I thought I'd share. If someone tries them, please give a shout out:

Root Beer Recipe Links:

Jesse USMC (author)Blastenforte2014-03-09

Thanks for the links to these recipes, it's more than the author of this instructable did. I contacted him personally and still got no reply. I wonder if it was not really done at all. Thanks again, good job finding these recipes.

The Gingham Ginger (author)2014-02-14

If I felt ambitious enough I would make this for my Cafe.

Blastenforte (author)2014-01-12

Even if you have to approximate the amounts of the ingrediants, a recipie would be helpful for those of use who aren't as creative in the kitchen.

prickly vegan (author)2014-01-04

1. Where is the recipe?
2. Why use yeast if it is not going to cause the drink to ferment and make bubbles?
I feel like I am missing something. Not sure what the point of home brewing is if you are just going to turn around and use a machine to inject bubbles.
Aside from those points, it's a nice write-up.

BdaSpidey (author)2013-12-24

Would you please provide the exact "root" ingredients and the quantities.


roballoba (author)BdaSpidey2013-12-29

yes... Recipe please! I want this resting in my fridge ASAP!
looks delicious!

also, did you bottle it in a soda stream bottle and hit the gas? Does it overflow like crazy?

How about boiling it down to make a syrup to use in soda stream?

Curious! and I have a soda stream....

jbogstie (author)2013-12-24

Sassafras was banned from Root Beer in 1960 because it is a known carcinogen. Ignoring what the person said about red dyes, sassafras really is carcinogenic. Store bought root beer does not use sassafras like the old recipes do because of the ban. I would strongly recommend not using pure sassafras.

callen19 (author)jbogstie2013-12-29

I always chuckle when the 1960 report is cited. Since then more studies have been conducted and, yes, sassafras contains a "known carcinogen" safrole. However, as has been mentioned below/above, the amounts necessary for safrole to cause cancer are enormous. Further, safrole is found in many of the spices we eat including nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper. Interestingly enough these are not regulated ingredients.

For further reading...

camforman (author)jbogstie2013-12-27

The testing of Sassafras as a carcinogen was done by feeding enormous amounts to lab animals in a short period of time. This was supposedly because of the limitations of budget and technology of that time. However, since then, this method has been found to be unrealistic because the liver becomes overloaded and unusual by-products are made instead of it being broken down. A few artificial sweeteners (if I remember correctly) such as saccharin and cyclimates have been "pardoned" since this era and testing method. However, the rootbeer industry does not have the budget for such research and the FDA would never fund it because they like having sassafras "illegal". Without a legal food use, it is difficult to ubtain safrole for the manufacture of MDMA/extacy. So instead there are 2 industries that are making substitutions, but neither industry is likely to be any safer now.

Because of this, you will have a hard time finding good sassafras. Your luck will be best in small amounts, if it doesn't cross major political borders, is a low grade form such as bark chips (not oil) and if you are willing to put your name on a list that is monitored by numerous government agencies (like my name is now for this post).

cooldudeintown (author)jbogstie2013-12-26

Yes Sassafras is a Carcinogen , But what isn't these days .
An alternative to Sassafras is Acacia and is used as an ingredient in Barq's Brand Root Beer.

Oh and sasparilla can be used as a substitute as well .

ldavis10 (author)2013-12-27

Great article! File spice, which is made from sassafras leaves is available for sale, as is sassafras tea. Either can be used as a source for concentrate. Sassafras root extracts which do not contain safrole or in which the safrole has been removed are permissible, and are still widely used commercially in teas and root beers.
(Source, Wikipedia:

horphmyre (author)2013-12-27

Someone introduced me to the Sassafras root back in the '70s. Initially I made tea, but I got the idea one Saturday afternoon that if we collected enough roots and boiled them and then reduced the "tea" to a concentrate (and added sugar of course) that we could make root beer by simply adding club soda. When we opened the trunk of the car where we had put the bits of root, the aroma had been so intense that we looked forward to sampling the root beer. The end product was a great disappointment. I've taken medicine that tasted better. We finished the club soda with ice and left the concentrate to its own devices. After that, I tried the bottled concentrate. I don't drink a lot of soda any more as I've heard that the acid is not good for the kidneys. But it was fun reading the article.

nutgone (author)2013-12-24

We don't have root beer here in the UK, but it's something I've always wanted to try. Do you have the full recipe with amounts of everything? (Unless I missed it I just saw amounts for water & sugars). I'm not even sure I can get all the stuff here, but I'd be willing to try. Think I would chicken out use plastic bottles as well, just in case.

camforman (author)nutgone2013-12-27

Dear Nutgone, I have watched a few Europeans drink their first root beer. The beverage is not at all what they expect and they spit it out (leaving me to finish the bottle). Apparently there is a cough remedy that tastes similar (but worse?). Their reaction is how I remember it as a kid, it is an (albeit, often quickly) acquired taste. Similarly, Canadians and Americans don't really care for those licorice candies that are made with ammonium chloride.

nutgone (author)camforman2013-12-27

I tried a drink called sarsaparilla(??) once, that wasn't too bad. Over here we have a drink called dandelion & burdock (which is very nice) which I suspect is what "we" expect root beer to taste like.
Think I will give it a try anyway.
As for carcinogens; I'm told cardamom pods (used in Indian cooking) are carcinogenic, but they are still in common use over here, as is aspartame & saccharine (neither of which I ever touch) & countless other things. I'm even told "they" (whoever they are) are now finding animal based fats are actually better for humans than the ridiculous amount of vegetable based fats we now consume. Both my grandmother & great grandmother from my dad's side ate lots of these sorts of things & both lived well into their 90s. Always fry, never grill I say (it tastes better), & sweeten with sugar, not chemicals.
Perhaps I will come back & let you know what I think of root beer (I promise to be nice).

Scott Dallesasse (author)2013-12-26

Does your recipe / process make the root beer alcoholic?

John Sphar (author)2013-12-26

Nice instructable, but definitely need all the ingredients & quantities specified. I, also make root beer every year with my high school biology classes to demonstrate fermentation. We use plastic water bottles (personal 1/2 liter size, 1 liter and/or 2 liter as well). We remove some water to create displacement space for the sugar & flavor as well as head space for the production of carbon dioxide (see below about "dents"). This is a good visual for the students to see how much sugar is in sodas ( I use champagne yeast and Zatarains root beer flavor that I get from my local beer/wine supply place. When all the ingredients are combined and we fill the bottles with enough head space for the students to push a big dent in the plastic bottles as they seal the caps tight. We then allow the fermentation to process to proceed in a warm room. After one or two days (maybe more depending on the temperature), the "dents" will pop out and the bottles will become pressurized (firm) indicating that the yeast has produced carbon dioxide. This tells me that the root beer is now "fizzy" since carbon oxide is the primary by-product of the initial fermentation and that the alcoholic fermentation process is starting to produce more alcohol, something I don't want to serve my students in class and primarily because it with ruin the root beer's flavor. At this point, I refrigerate the bottles to arrest the fermentation process stopping the alcohol production. We generally start on a Monday and have root beer floats on Friday! Good luck!

gnu2d2 (author)2013-12-26

Thanks! I can't wait to try your concoction. Another option for carbonation if you don't want to wait several days for fermentation is to dissolve 1 or 2 lbs of dry ice per gallon of root beer. I don't know if it'd work for bottling, but it works great for a party or cookout.

danneauxs (author)2013-12-25

Get a Fizz Gizz instead. You are only supposed to fizz water with the sodastream. I made a mess trying to fiz some lemonade.

jheiss (author)2013-12-25

Do you know how much of each of these you used?

jlynn31 (author)2013-12-25

Could you publish a list of the ingredients so you don't have to click through every page?

Sir Lunch-a-lot (author)2013-12-25

What is the purpose of the yeast? Is it indeed to carbonate the root beer (ie, add the fizz)? I ask because I was under the impression that this was the purpose until we got to Step 11 in which you advocated using a carbonation machine.

ArticAkita (author)2013-12-25

you can make root beer from Dandelion roots, I got the information from a Amazon ebook titled: The Ultamate Dandelion cookbook by Kistina Seleskanko & there might be in paperback too I don't know but it said that is where Root beer was origionaly made from? since people were unsure of Sassafrass issues n all ...just trying to be helpful :) Merry Christmas!

fossilmaniac (author)2013-12-24

Great project. You gave great directions and I think I will try to make some this Christmas Holiday. Cheers to you and your dad. Peter

LordStDennis (author)2013-12-24

Is it the same without artificial flavors & dyes?

Some of the commercial root beer has Red Dye #20 in it which is carcinogenic. Why the Federal Drug Agency (FDA) hasn't reported this is a matter of intense curiosity, as if some Foreign Power is controlling the FDA and allowing poisoned food into the mainstream of things. Look at Ultra-Pasteurized milk for example: the process produces a "half-baked" protein, similar to what causes Mad Cow Disease. Does the FDA think that the same thing won't happen in humans? I won't drink milk anymore because of this. You can't even make decent cheese from the milk - just something that resembles cottage cheese. The milk is destroyed thru the UP process and Nobody seems to care!

MTJimL (author)2013-12-24

Now ya gone and made me want root beer. I love that stuff.

lilith79 (author)2013-12-24

I'd vote for this but with no quantities listed this is a useless instructible.

mdeblasi1 (author)2013-12-24

I'm confused about the fizzing step,
isn't it fizzy on its own, from the the yeast?

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