Introduction: Malta Soda
Malta is a unique soda that is popular in the Caribbean and parts of Africa. It is thick, malty, sweet, and kind of medicinal tasting. Many people hate it but those of us who like it REALLY like it. There is no other drink quite like Malta. It can be tricky to find in some places and it is often expensive. Luckily it isn't too hard to make.
Although this recipe uses fermentation, the amount of alcohol will be negligible. In fact, due to its rich malty brewed flavor, Malta makes a great substitute for beer for those who can't or don't drink alcohol.
By the way, if you have never made homemade soda before, I recommend starting with something easier like Root Beer or Ginger Beer before moving on to Malta, since it is a little more challenging.
Step 1: Supplies & Ingredients
Malta is made of water, malt, molasses, sugar and yeast. Any kind of malt should make something similar to Malta, but ideally you want a dark, rich drink. I am indebted to askthebeerguy.com for his recipe, which I modified slightly but used as a guide. Here is what I came up with.
1. About two pounds of Malt, processed.
2. 1 gallon of water
3. 0.6 pounds of molasses
4. 0.3 pounds of sugar (White sugar will work. Brown or Piloncillo sugar are even better.)
5. 1/8 teaspoon of ale yeast (bread yeast will work almost as well.)
1. Large stockpot (not aluminum)
2. wooden spoon
3. kitchen thermometer
4. Large meash strainer
5. bottles and capper
For the malt quantities, I used 1.6 pounds of Pale Malt, 0.3 of Carahell Malt, and 0.1 of Chocolate Malt. The homebrew store near my house measured the quantities and processed them all for me.
See step four for choosing bottles.
Step 2: M*A*S*H
Mashing is the process of extracting sugars from malt.
1. Put the two pounds of malt in your stockpot with one gallon of water.
2. Turn the stove to medium-low heat and carefully watch the thermometer. Try to keep it between 150 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Add the molasses and sugar and stir until they dissolve.
4. Brew for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 3: Strain and Add Yeast
You will now need to strain the malt particles out of the liquid. Use a fine mesh sieve or colander. Do not use the kind of colander with holes or slits, since those will allow too many particles through.
1. Pour the liquid through the sieve. If too much debris gets through, pour it through the sieve several times.
2. Let the liquid sit and cool to below 90 degrees. Some of the water will have evaporated, so add enough new water to bring the liquid back up to 1 gallon. You can add cooler water to get the temperature of the liquid down faster.
3. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water for five minutes. Do not use hot water, which will kill the yeast. once it is dissolved, add it to the liquid and stir.
Step 4: Bottle & Ferment
Voila! You now have Malta soda. Except its not ready yet. To get fizzy, the yeast will have to consume some sugar to produce CO2 (carbonation) and a small amount of alcohol. This alcohol is only a tiny amount, so don't worry about anyone getting drunk.
1. Pour your soda mixture into bottles. Give the liquid a stir between each bottle so that the undissolved yeast doesn't settle to the bottom and end up in your last bottle.
2. Leave a small amount of "headspace", or air between the soda and the rim of the bottle. This will allow the yeast to grow a little.
3. Cap the bottles. If you like, give them a shake to oxygenate the liquid and give the yeast a bit of kickstart.
4. Store the bottles for a few days. Make sure they are out of the sunlight. If your storage area is about 65-70 degrees fahrenheit, it will probably take about 2 or 3 days. 70-75 degrees will probably will only take 1 or 2 days.
5. After you have waited, open a test bottle. It should fizz up to the rim before settling back down to the bottom. Taste it and see if it seems fizzy enough. If it is, place the remaining bottles in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process. Otherwise leave the bottles out for several more hours or days.
Note on bottling and safety:
Many people will tell you that plastic bottles are safer than glass. This is true. In case you let a bottle overcarbonate and explode, plastic will just send soda everywhere and not shards of glass. However, I like the classic feel of a glass bottle in my hand, the sound of a metal cap hitting the floor, and overall, the aesthetic of glass in general. Glass is class. All gourmet sodas come in glass bottles, and your homemade Malta will certainly be gourmet. In addition to this, glass can be reused indefinitely and will not impart any plasticky flavor to your drink. With a few precautions, you can minimize the risk of exploding bottles and enjoy the benefits of glass.
-Use thick glass bottles. Antique bottles are ideal. Any modern returnable bottles will also work great. Most microbrew beer bottles will also come in a slightly thicker glass than say, budweiser. And make sure your bottles are not threaded. The seal created on these bottles will not be as good as that of a pop-top, plus the glass tends to be thinner. Never use jars, growlers, or anything other than pop-top soda or beer bottles. Swing top bottles, if the glass is thick, work great. You can buy them at Ikea or most kitchen supply stores.
-Open a "tester" bottle after just a couple of days. If it gushes over, refrigerate it immediately. Open tester bottles in the sink to prevent making a mess.
-Leave about one inch of headspace when filling your bottles. Leaving too much headspace will make the yeast grow too fast a burst your bottles.
-Once refrigerated, use your soda within about one month. Refrigeration slows fermentation to a crawl, but it does not stop it completely.
-If you don't want to risk glass bottle explosions or you don't have access to a capper, use plastic bottles. Use soda bottles with intact threads and plastic seals. Refrigerate them when they feel tight like a bicycle tire. Do not reuse them more than a couple times as the plastic seal tends to weaken a little each time and will eventually fail.
-Whatever bottles you use, cover them with a towel so that any explosions will be contained.
Step 5: Enjoy!
Once your fermented Malta has chilled in the fridge, it's ready to drink! Pour into a frosty mug or over ice (unlike beer, Malta is often served on ice).
You can also mix it with sweetened condensed milk like they do in many Caribbean countries.
I haven't tried it yet, but I bet Malta would make a delicious float with vanilla ice cream.
If you're adventurous, you can turn it into Ponche de Malta.
Thanks for reading!