Help me get the fizz into my home made root beer
June 19, 2008 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me get the fizz into my home made root beer

I am starting out with making root beer at home. I have the extract, mix it with the sugar and ale yeast, and put it into 2 liter bottles. I leave about 2 inches of air space at the top after adding the water. After leaving the bottles out for about 2 days, they are pretty solid to the touch, so I put them in the fridge. I left them there for 2 days. When opening the bottles, the flavor is good, but there is absolutely no fizz. I thought leaving them out until the bottle was firm would do it, but no luck with that so far.

Is there anything I am missing? Should I be leaving more or less air space in the bottles? Should I leave them out longer after they have become firm?
posted by markblasco to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like 2 days may not be enough time, have you tried this and let it go an extra day to see if it get firmer?

The amount of air space will only affect how long you need to let it sit out. less air usually means less time (more of the CO2 goes into suspension), maybe you need to give it another go and try for a longer period
posted by wangarific at 2:26 PM on June 19, 2008

i'm not sure if the same is true for root beer as it is regular beer but it generally takes a minimum of ten days to two weeks to carbonate a 12 oz bottle of homebrew.
posted by phil at 2:36 PM on June 19, 2008

When my Dad and I made root beer we had to leave it sitting in our basement for about a month for it to be just right.
posted by lilkeith07 at 2:47 PM on June 19, 2008

Also, I only brew beer, not pop (or soda, or coke, or whatever it's called in your region) but I was under the impression that champagne yeast is usually used for that. Ale yeast might impart undesirable flavors. Then again it may be friggin' tasty, I dunno.
posted by piedmont at 2:50 PM on June 19, 2008

Exerpt from webpage:

"Bottling the Root Beer: Use a kitchen funnel to fill each bottle. Pour the root beer into the bottles so that there is about 1-1/4 inch of air space left in the neck of the bottle. Leaving to little air space will cause the root beer to remain flat. Leaving to much air space will cause the root beer to over carbonate and may cause the bottles to gush when opened or even explode. Fill the used plastic soda bottle in the same manner. Seal the bottles tightly and store them for 4 to 7 days at room temperature. This will allow the yeast to eat some of the sugar and carbonate the soft drink. You can check the carbonation by squeezing the plastic soda bottle. When it is hard, the soda is done and must be refrigerated. Allow the bottles to chill for at least 1 week prior to serving. The root beer will improve in flavor with time but it must be stored in the refrigerator."

Sounds like you need to carbonate for a lot longer.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:37 PM on June 19, 2008

Champagne yeast worked far better for me for cider than ale yeast, in taste and effect. It took about 10 days after priming to get fully carbonated, but it was already pretty alcoholic by that point, which starts killing off the yeast.
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:14 PM on June 19, 2008

Ack! PLEASE DON'T GIVE HOMEBREW ADVICE IF YOU DON'T HOMEBREW, YOU CAN KILL SOMEONE, especially with sodas moreso than beer/wine. (Ever seen a Pabst bottle explode? nasty nasty.)

No, seriously.

Someone on here sent me their recipe for homebrew rootbeer a couple years ago. It was awesome. As I check mefimail I see that it's not there. Sadface. Anyway, it sounds to me like you could have a lot of issues, I'll list them here in my typical fashion.
1. You might not have used enough sugar. Also, what kind of sugar did you use?
2. You don't say that you primed the bottles. You don't really have to w/ soda, but it doesn't hurt. Also, you say you added water as though you added your extract mix to the bottles first with sugar, then poured in water? If your water wasn't between 65 and 85 degrees, you might very well have a problem from the start. You also don't say if you made a yeast starter.
3. You probably didn't let them go long enough. Putting them in the fridge effectively shuts down CO2 production. They might recover if you take 'em out. They want cool, dark, and in a place where if/when they explode they won't hurt anything. Note that if they're close together and one explodes, the force of the explosion will often cause others to explode. Really 5-7 days is average before you crack them. I wait until 2L bottles start to absorb their feet...wish I had a pic, the bottoms will swell significantly.
4. Someone advocated using champagne yeast for rootbeer and discussed alcoholic rootbeer. Champagne yeast can attenuate up to 28 percent alcohol before it dies. Yeast don't die under pressure (they slow down...ish) and champagne yeast is designed to withstand superhigh pressure and co2 content. With rootbeer, unlike beer/wine, you never ever ever want the alcohol content to get to the point where the alcohol kills the yeasties. In fact, you never want the yeast to die. Homemade rootbeer is supposed to be yeasty, foamy, rich, and tangy. Also, the alcohol content of your rootbeer shouldn't ever exceed about 1 percent, as they're not making much because they co2 can't go anywhere. I would strongly advise against champagne yeast for a n00b. (I only use champagne yeast for mead...)

So, in summary, take 'em out of the fridge. Open one after 5 days, then 7, then 10. The great thing about homebrew is that so long as the yeast survives, you can open and close a lot w/o going flat.

Also, never ever drink homebrew rootbeer on ice. The ice eats your bubbles. Instafizz to instaflat. Sorta crazy really.
posted by TomMelee at 5:49 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

although bottle bombs are a real problem with glass i do not believe it is as big an issue with 2L soda bottles. as long as you keep an eye on things the bottles become noticeably deformed well before they explode. the one time i had an explosion i left mead unattended for a week or so and in all honesty it looked more like the 2L tore more than anything else. everything else is spot on though.
posted by phil at 6:03 PM on June 19, 2008

Some various data for you: Fankhauser says three to four days at room temperature for root beer. My parents have done root beer (in glass bottles!) for six or seven days, admittedly in a cool basement.

I have only brewed ginger ale myself (also from Fankhauser's recipe), which carbonated perfectly in 24-36 hours (in an apartment that was just above 30°C day and night). You want the bottles completely solid to a hand squeeze (grip strength varies, but Fankhauser there is a dairy scientist, so it wouldn't surprise me if his was pretty firm). Root beer is said to be slower than ginger ale, because the ginger provides extra carbohydrates.
posted by eritain at 6:37 PM on June 19, 2008

True, 2L's don't bust as easily and they're not as dangerous, however once one pops its cap and/or its side seam and makes a huge mess and takes out several other bottles, you realize that they can all explode.

I personally only use plastic anything for soda, everything else gets glass from the first rack to the bottle.
posted by TomMelee at 7:30 PM on June 19, 2008

TomMelee: Source for 30%? Wyeast lists their top % yeast for distilling at 21% ABV tolerance, and their champagne yeast as 17%, which is what I use for cider (they also have a dry mead yeast @ 18% and a cider yeast @ 12%, but I haven't tried either). In any case, if you use champagne yeast, you will get boozy root beer unless you kill the yeast off (which you can do, but then you need to force carbonate it, which kind of defeats the point).
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:46 PM on June 19, 2008

My source was a batch of cyser I made about 6 years ago. Hygrometer tested throughout, final alcohol content of right at 28%. Firewater. 3 years later it was drinkable, still wasn't very good. It fermented for months. And months. And months.
posted by TomMelee at 8:11 PM on June 19, 2008

Response by poster: OK, so it seems like I didn't give them enough time. Both of the bottles got to be very firm, but I will try with one and leave it for several more days and see what difference that makes. I guess the bottles need to be a lot more firm before they are refrigerated.
posted by markblasco at 8:31 PM on June 19, 2008

When you are carbonating something you are asking the yeast to make CO2 in a confined environment thereby pressurizing the headspace. After time the CO2 will dissolve into the soda, causing the CO2 to become Carbonic acid (essentially just dissolved CO2).

There are a couple of ways to speed this up. One would be to have the fluid chilled (gas more readily dissolves in a cold fluid) this is probably why your cold brew wasn't bubbly. A soda usually has around 3-4 volumes of CO2 per volume of soda (most beers range from 2.2-3.5) so if you are barely over 1.5 volumes of CO2 when it is warm (fairly pressurized) when it is cold there would be no bubbles. If you do actually have enough CO2 present but still no bubbles then it is possible that you just haven't given it enough time to dissolve into the soda yet. You could try shaking one (in a plastic bottle not a glass one) and see if that helps. By shaking it you are increasing the surface contact with the gas and allowing for a more rapid dissolution of the CO2.

Personally I would have used sterile water, and boiled the sugar a bit to ensure sterility and force carbonated using a CO2 cylinder and a keg. If you are going to be making your own soda or even beer then getting a kegging system is a GREAT investment. It allows you to force carbonate instead of relying on bottle conditioning, and you only have to clean one keg per batch instead of 50+ bottles. If you still want to be able to bottle, you just need a counter pressure bottle filler and that will allow you to bottle a portion of your brew so you can give some away.
posted by koolkat at 7:20 AM on June 20, 2008

Boo to force carbonating for non-commercial applications. Naturally primed carbonation is soooo much yummier and trubbier than force carbonated, it's also cheaper, easier, and more science-ey.

Also, I wouldn't recommend shaking the bottles, but swirling them is perfectly acceptable and a good idea.
posted by TomMelee at 7:39 AM on June 20, 2008

I just found this thread - I had posted a different question about root beer here without noticing it. These answers are really helpful! I just boiled and bottled my first batch tonight (in glass). My fingers are crossed that it won't explode!
posted by serazin at 9:32 PM on March 25, 2009

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