Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment
• No Sugar Added Apple Juice - reconstituted from frozen concentrate is fine, too.
• Cinnamon Red Hot Candies - you can find these in movie theater style cardstock boxes. year-round, or as Cinnamon Imperials around Christmas and Valentine's Day. They're often sold to be used as cupcake decorations.
• Sugar - plain old granulated white is fine, honey works, or a sugar substitute if you're looking to reduce a few calories.
• Brewer's Yeast - I used Pasteur Champagne yeast, any ale yeast would work, and bread yeast is okay, if a little less tasty. My packet of yeast was a bit less than $1 and would make around 16 liters of soda. Once you have some in your fridge you'll want to start carbonating everything.
• Water - tap water works fine for me, but do a one-bottle test if you've never tried anything with your tap water and yeast before. There are some water additives that can keep yeast from working well. (I go into this more in troubleshooting.)
• 1 or 2 LIter Plastic Bottles - If it has contained carbonated liquid before it can do it again. I used VERY CLEAN 1 liter bottles that had previously contained some carbonated flavored water. Don't use glass bottles. You can purchase bottles for this sort of thing from brewing supply companies if you don't have handy recyclables or want to be fancy.
• Measuring Spoons
• A Funnel (not absolutely necessary but definitely handy)
• Microwave safe glass pitcher or a small saucepan
• Something to stir with
Step 2: Mix Your Ingredients
Put your funnel into your bottle.
Pour 1/4 cup sugar (or equivalent sugar substitute) into the bottle.
Heat 1 cup of water to boiling in the microwave (using a MICROWAVE SAFE container).
Put the cinnamon red hots into the water and stir until they dissolve:
2tbsp for lightly cinnamon
4tbsp for a nice, spicy cinnamon
6tbsp for very spicy
more if you're feeling adventurous/ hate your tongue
You can do this on the stove if you would prefer (especially if you were making a lot of syrup at once.)
Slowly add 1 cup of cool water to the red hots mixture.
Pour the mixture into the bottle.
Pour 2 cups of apple juice into the bottle *making sure to leave 1 to 2 inches of empty space at the top* (you may need a bit less than 2 cups).
Close the bottle, check that it's sealed, shake it to dissolve the ingredients together. Make sure it's at a nice warm but not hot temperature. 100 to 105 degree Fahrenheit is ideal if you have a thermometer handy, otherwise shoot for something that feels cozy but not hot.
Add 1/8th of a teaspoon of yeast. Close the bottle up again and shake it to mix in the yeast.
Step 3: Wait (and Some Bonus Safety Info)
CHECK THE BOTTLES REGULARLY. As soon as they feel dense/hard they're fully carbonated. You're shooting for something that feels like a 2 liter on a grocery store shelf. You won't be able to dent it with your fingers. Do not open the bottles at any point while you're waiting of you'll un-do the yeast's hard work. My bottles generally take between 12 and 24 hours.
As soon as the bottles feel nice and dense get them to somewhere cold. A refrigerator is ideal, anywhere nice and cold will work. You need to make the yeast go dormant at this point because it will keep building up carbon dioxide pressure until the bottle bursts. This is why glass is a bad idea - a red sticky explosion mess would be bad enough, add shards of glass to it and you've got a potentially scary situation. Champagne yeast is designed to build a higher pressure than soda bottles are designed for this cooling step is really important.
That said, if you put your bottles somewhere cold as soon as they're hardened up, you almost completely eliminate the explosion risk. Don't make more than you'll consume in a few weeks, but don't be afraid to leave your unopened soda in the fridge for a while, I've found that the flavor improves over time.
Your soda will have a tiny bit of alcohol in it. If you have an alcohol allergy you shouldn't drink it, but I would venture to bet that even in most very young kids they would suffer ill effects from the sugar and cinnamon long before they could drink enough of this stuff to get drunk. I've also read that home brew sodas are lower in alcohol than grocery store orange juice, but that's from the internet so I don't really know if it's true.
Step 4: Troubleshooting
Too much heat. If your mix was too hot when you added the yeast you may have killed it. (I've had good luck with adding a bit more yeast and letting it sit for a while longer.)
Bad water. Some cities have water that is unfriendly to living things. The first thing to try is to boil the water you're going to use and then let it sit until it cools back to a yeast-safe temperature. If that doesn't work you're probably looking at trying distilled water.
Too cold. If you're keeping your soda in an area that's too cold it will never carbonate. Try to find somewhere warmer to set it.
Not enough time. A lot of recipes say it will take 3 to 4 days for soda to be ready. I think I have fast results because I micromanage.
Not chilled long enough. CO2 needs time to dissolve into a liquid. If your bottle has hardened up but it's not carbonated when you open it, you need to let it chill for longer before drinking.
Step 5: Serve
Some crud will collect at the very bottom of your bottle. Don't drink that stuff. Don't shake the bottles, pour them smoothly and don't pour our the last little bit of the bottle. The stuff at the bottom isn't dangerous, it just tastes icky. It's mostly debris from the yeast, but in this case there is probably also some wax from the candy mixed in. If you intend to keep using these bottles you'll want to rinse them right away to get this stuff out. It will be much harder to remove if you let it dry there.
As a mixer:
This stuff is great mixed with rum or vodka the same way you take a rum and coke or a vodka lemonade. 1 ounce of alcohol mixed with 3 to 6 ounces of soda is good place to start, adjust as desired.