Introduction: Old-Fashioned Root Beer

Picture of Old-Fashioned Root Beer


I don't want to sound cocky but may I say I tasted original root beer made from a 200 year old recipe and it is no where near as good as my root beer. This soda is not alcoholic, and I'd imagine it's pretty healthy from all the herbs and spices that are in it. So enjoy and have fun soda brewing.

Step 1: Preparing Your Ingredients

Picture of Preparing Your Ingredients

Obviously fresher is better, if you can find some actual raw ginger root that will make it all the tastier but you can do with the regular spice and that is the same with cinnamon sticks vs. the ground stuff . The most important thing I have learned through my several attempts to get it right and finally my success is that order does matter. The herbs you put in first will be more pronounced than those that come after it if sized proportionately of course. Some of these ingredients you can get anywhere but others you will have to travel to your local brewing supply shop or online to find.

2 1/2 Quarts of water

3 Tablespoon Sarsparilla

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1/2 Cup of Wintergreen Leaves

1 Tablespoon Ginger Root

2 Cups of Honey

3/4 Cup of Brown Sugar

1 Handful of Peppermint leaves (this is optional, it tastes just fine without)

1 Tablespoon Dandelion Root (You can use 3 tea bags of dandelion tea so long as dandelion root is the only ingredient in the tea bags)

1 Tablespoon Licorice Root

1/4 Cup of Molasses

1 Teaspoon Vanilla

1/4 Teaspoon Champagne Yeast

I think it is really important to find fresh water. City water will make the batch taste a little off so you may want to get a gallon from your neighborhood grocery store or something. If your drinking water is properly filtered and you have an osmosis system that should be good too. Brewing yeast is a necessity, regular baking yeast will not cut it. I personally prefer the champagne yeast over ale yeast because it gives it more fizz and preserves some of the sugars better. Now do not worry, even though we are using brewing yeast we wont actually be making alcohol. I'll explain the difference later but this soda is ok for young folk and old alike.

Step 2: Brewing

You are going to want to take a big pot and put it on the stove. Add the water and bring it to a boil. It should be kept at the point where it starts steaming. It doesnt need to be roaring just hot. The idea here is not to boil away the water but just to get it hot enough so the water can hold more of the spices from the herbs, in chemistry it is called oversaturating. That being said, having a glass lid for the top of the pot to keep some of that water in could only help.

Now add the sarsparilla first, stir, and then let it steep for about 3 minutes all by itself. Sort of like you are making tea, except this tea will be immensely flavorful and eventually fizzy.

Add the cinnamon and wintergreen leaves and do the same let it steep for another 3 minutes and give it a good stir. These first 2 herbs are the main flavors of the brew.

Now add the ginger, honey, and brown sugar. It may seem like a lot of sweet and it is but some of this sugar will be eaten by the yeast to make it fizz. So don't worry about it being too sweet. Stir it all together making sure that the sugars are disolved in the brew. It should be a rich brown in the pot by now.

Now you can take the pot over to the sink and strain it into another pot or if you are using mason jars right into them. With the brew still hot it makes for an excellent way of sterilizing everything.

Add peppermint leaves (if you have them), dandelion roots (or tea bags), molasses and Licorice root. Molasses may not be necessary but I think it adds a good flavor to tie the sugars together and it gives the brew a nice golden color. Stir it all up and give it a good 3 minutes to steep again. Then take it away from the heat and let it start to cool.

Step 3: Adding Last Ingredients and Bottling

Picture of Adding Last Ingredients and Bottling

Let the brew cool to right around 100 degrees Farenheit then add the vanilla. Prepare your bottles, I have the old fashioned bottles with resealable tops. But you can use mason jars. Make sure whatever you used is sterilized otherwise any bacteria could ruin the yeast and sour everything off. I would suggest rinsing it with hot water or the like.

Prepare the yeast as its package says. Mine has me disolve it in 1/4 cup of water at 100 degrees farenheit for 2 minutes. then add the yeast water to the brew and stir it really well.

Now pour into your bottles or jars leaving pletty of room at the top, otherwise the glass could burst. Suffice to say broken glass in the hand is not good. If you are using plastic bottles you don't have to worry because it will expand. For glass brewing bottles like mine you want to fill a little past the start of the neck on the bottle. For mason jars leave about 2 inches, usually this is right at the last filling line on the glass.

Now stick them in the bath tub and let sit at room temperature for 2 days but no more. Putting it in the bath tub is always a good idea, just incase the bottles were to burst. Yeast like many other organisms grow at an exponential rate. To us that means we can let it fizz our soda and eat our sugars for 2 days and know that the alcohol content will stay low (probably around the level of grape juice or the like). If you wanted alcohol you'd have to let it sit much longer at room temperature. Although I'd recommend talking to an experianced brewer if this is what you're after. Many folks from the prohibition days found out the hard way that if you dont know what you are doing you could go bind or die, so read up on alcohol if that is your aim. Me being 18 and not much of a beer enthusiast I'm ok with amazing root beer.

After letting the brew sit in the tub for 2 days at room temperature stick it in the refrigerator to let it cool down. When yeast is cold it goes dormant ensuring us that it won't continue to ferment and turn into alcohol. I'm not sure how long it will last in the refrigerator because me and my family drink it within days but I'd imagine a few weeks.

Step 4: Enjoy

Picture of Enjoy

Be careful when opening it for the first time sometimes it foams a little too much. Drink in good health with friends and family. Don't be afraid to clink glasses around and let out a good L'chiam as us jews say. I hope this instructable has been helpful. Please like and vote for it in the "Sweet Tooth" instructable contest. Also subscribers are always welcome, I may be adding sodas in the future as I have quite a few other good soda recipes as well as some different crafts and builds.


robomaxim (author)2017-03-04

How much water do you add?

l0rd0ct0d0rk (author)2014-12-24

Honestly, being a brewer, I can say that something as simple as leaving the yeast unattended for as long as 6 weeks (maybe more) will not cause any blindness or death. I've done so with my holiday ale and pumpkin ale in the past. I do know that the yeast stop producing when the drink reaches about 15-18% alcohol.

That being said, there's nothing wrong with this insteuctable that I can see, so next time i have a spare batch of brewer's yeast or champagne yeast, i'll give it a try.

Thanks for posting.

I agree though drinking the fore shots during distillation will, but obviously that doesn't apply here.

chad0321 (author)2015-01-08

Dude....Root Beer is my favorite drink, you sir are AWESOME...I definitely be making this....I want to make it with the best ingredients, so I have a few questions. Sarsaparilla is that small chopped root pieces or in dry spice form?..and is there a online website that I can buy this..because I will be buying everything online, even the bottles.

Nick Waszak (author)chad03212015-01-08

I used the chopped root pieces. I'm looking for an online supplier myself and I haven't found too much but I think rose mountain herbs may have some of the ingredients.

chad0321 (author)2015-01-08

I see people using Sassafras is that the same as Sarsaparilla

Nick Waszak (author)chad03212015-01-08

They are different. They used to use sassafras in sodas in the 50s till they discovered it can be poisonous in large quantities. Not really much to worry about cause you'd need gallons but it also contains safrole which is a sister chemical to acid the drug so it's heavily monitored by the U.S. government (if you tend to be there) it's also pretty pricy and hard to find. Sarsparilla is pretty cheap comparatively and the soda is pretty delicious with it.

beewrangler (author)2015-01-08

Another option for carbonating is to keg it and for carbonate with CO2. Of course this option will require for equipment and with that comes more investment.

bettina-sisr (author)2015-01-05

My mouth is where's that vanilla ice cream instructable???

Blake Waszak Cortessi (author)2014-12-31

You should try making coca cola, hAVE YOU EVER TRIED, OR DOES THAT LOOK TOO DIFFICULT

Nick Waszak (author)2014-12-27

For those who wanted to vote for me i am now in the Sweet Tooth contest. Thank you so much for your great feedback and consideration

fred3655 (author)2014-12-24

Just throw it into a Sodastream or other carbonation device. no alcohol & no off flavors from fermentation. I don't have a Sodastream, but easily made a carbonator using a paintball CO2 cylinder for $10, a 2 liter bottle and fittings.

Nick Waszak (author)fred36552014-12-24

way better with yeast just saying and the acohol is not a significant level

RayJN (author)2014-12-24

washed screw top plastic soda bottles 12->20 oz, 1->2 liter should work.

gerrit_hoekstra (author)2014-12-24

This is most certainly not "alcohol free"! To get a natural CO2 fizz, you do need to ferment it the point of getting about 0.5% alcohol, which is barely detectable. Here in the UK this still falls under the soft-drink category, so it should be OK to give sweet-toothed young-lings. Agree, Champagne yeast is the way to go, as it makes more, smaller bubbles. However it also ferments at lower temperatures than other yeasts and since you are trying to stop the fermentation process after a short while, you need to make sure that you really chill those bottles to kill the yeast cells off. I have had thick glass Champagne bottles explode on me because I did not properly arrest the fermentation. What a dangerous and sticky mess that was! :-)

Exactly alcohol free and nonalcoholic are different things and both are safe.

dmadam (author)2014-12-24

If you want to avoid any alcohol you can do it this way. For me a little alcohol...or a little more is not a bad thing.

½ cup ginger bug (how to make

fresh whey or 1 packet kefir starter culture

J2SARET (author)2014-12-23

my thought exactly. to be non alcoholic it would have to be carbonated from a co2 infuser

Nick Waszak (author)J2SARET2014-12-23

non-alcoholic doesnt mean that there is not any alcohol just that the alcohol level is not enough to cause ill effects

Nick Waszak (author)J2SARET2014-12-23

well think of it this way, grape juice even from the store has alcohol in it. But at levels that are so low that it wont matter unless you are drinking a ton of this stuff in which case youll probably be more sick from the sugar. Only giving the 2 days to ferment doesnt give time for a lot of alcohol to be made.

riff raff (author)2014-12-23

Yep, yeast and sugars pretty much equals alcohol. :)

Nick Waszak (author)riff raff2014-12-23

But for this recipe the alcohol level is not high enough to be labeled an alcoholic beverage. According to the brew store where I buy some of my supplies. Also if it adds confidence, me and my much smaller brothers (one still in elementary school) have not had any ill effects.

Veewee111 (author)2014-12-23

Which type of molasses are you using?

Nick Waszak (author)Veewee1112014-12-23

Im using blackstrap molasses

CrayfishYAY (author)2014-12-23

So, you strain it before you add the peppermint, etc.? Or do you strain after you've added everything, including the yeast?

Nick Waszak (author)CrayfishYAY2014-12-23

Strain after you add herbs and spices but before you add vanilla and yeast

JaneH2 (author)2014-12-23

I own and operate a wine making business and I can assure you - you are making alcohol. when yeast eats sugar, it creates alcohol. two days of brewing is plenty of time. I have several wine recipes that call for a brewing time of less than a week. the yeast will continue to eat sugar and make alcohol, that's why your bottles are exploding if you don't leave enough head room. putting it in the fridge will stop the process, but it will not kill the yeast. in other words, if you take it back out of the fridge, the fermentation process will begin again.

Nick Waszak (author)JaneH22014-12-23

Yes there will be some alcohol made, but not enough to declare it an alcoholic beverage. I contacted a local brewing store and they assured me that this recipe is safe for children. You do have to keep it refrigerated to stop the fermentation process which is why i put mine in the fridge after 2 days but I'm told you can shorten that to 36 hours.

Nick Waszak (author)Nick Waszak2014-12-23

I have not had any bottles explode on me yet so I must not be making that much carbon dioxide.

jsmrekar1 (author)2014-12-23

Great intractable. Its on my to-do list. Do you know if it has any caffiene?

Nick Waszak (author)jsmrekar12014-12-23

I'm not sure about caffeine however i do know that wintergreen is a natural stimulant

The Lightning Stalker (author)2014-12-23

If you are lucky, you can find a nearby sassafras tree and get some of the leaves, and/or root bark to make it from scratch. Just don't feed it to rodents. It gives them cancer.

They used to use sassafras root in the 1950s for root beer, until they decided that at a certain point it becomes poisonous. True you dont have to worry about that as you would have to drink gallons of it for it to be dangerous. You dont really need it there are already plenty of flavors. It also can be hard and expensive to buy because the main chemical in sassafras is safrole which is a chemical relative to acid (and not the kind that burn through tables).

vbanaszak (author)2014-12-23

I don't see any way to vote for this. There is usually a flag at the top for voting. This sounds delish though.

Nick Waszak (author)vbanaszak2014-12-23

Yeah sorry i jumped the gun on that. Im up for review and i should be posted in the contest within a few days

dmadam (author)2014-12-23

I see mason/ball jars mentioned...will they hold the pressure?

Nick Waszak (author)dmadam2014-12-23

yeah they will hold so long as the caps are tight

cqaigy (author)2014-12-23

Im going to give this a go. It sounds delicious!! Good, simple, short, easy to follow instructions.

onemoroni1 (author)2014-12-23

I have been making root beer the extract way, quick and dirty with bakers yeast, I can make a gallon in less than 20 minutes, and I use the same bottles for over 30 years. This instructable is the first that I've seen that is fairly easy for traditional flavoring. I want to try it out and see the difference. Thanks for posting.

jmacfarlane (author)2014-12-23

The recipe sounds great, and I'm going to try it over the holiday. But I think you can simplify/speed up the process by carbonating it with dry ice instead of the yeast. That'll take about an hour pre-refrigeration time instead of couple days. Only change to the process would be to move it from the pot into a large enough sealable container to add the dry ice.

WiggieWiggie (author)2014-12-23

Nice recipie. Def going to try this.

agust82 (author)2014-12-23

Champagne yeast is very active and can turn a lot of sugar into a lot of alcohol very quickly. You should take a gravity reading before and after your 2 days and see what the abv really is. You might be surprised.

lvaladezjr (author)2014-12-22

do you pour out through a strainer when you put it into the bottles?

Nick Waszak (author)lvaladezjr2014-12-23

Yes I'm sorry I missed that step, i have now added that to the instructable. You can strain it directly after you take it off the stove.

jwineman (author)2014-12-23

I agree do you strain between steps or at the end all together? Pictures of the process would have sure helped! I've never made root beer at all before , but this recipe sounds great, and I would love to try it!

Nick Waszak (author)jwineman2014-12-23

So sorry I forgot to tell when to strain, I have now added that info to the instructable. Truthfully this isnt that hard to make so long as you treat it like any other baking recipe. Hope this helps

kburton13 (author)2014-12-22

Thank you nick I can not wait to try this, root beer is my drink of choice, with this recipe, how many bottles does it yield

Nick Waszak (author)kburton132014-12-23

Yeah I got about 6 brewing bottles (16oz) but the last one was not completely filled. If you are using mason jars I used one half gallon jar and a few smaller size ones (the ones the size of drinking glasses)

mk2001 (author)kburton132014-12-23

Looks like six

lfilek (author)2014-12-23

you should try brewing the polish one, its simmilar to this one its called podpiwek

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