Introduction: Old-Fashioned Root Beer
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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
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
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
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.