MAKING ROOTBEER IN YOUR HOME
THINGS YOU WILL NEED:
BOTTLES: Once you have decided that you want to make root
beer, start accumulating bottles which will accept a Acrimp
on@ cap. The best sources
for these bottles are motels, service stations, government offices
or large private offices where soft drinks are available through
dispensing machines. These are usually disposable bottles requiring
no deposit, and free for the taking! Martinelli Sparkling Cider
comes in smaller bottles which you can use. Some beers, particularly
foreign beers, also come with the Acrimp
cap.@ A bartender friend
might save them for you. For five gallons you will need 60 (more
or less) 10 ounce bottles. You can mathematically calculate the
number of bottles that you need when you understand that five
gallons of root beer including the sugar and extract, will make
about 600 ounces of the drink. SUGGESTION: Try to accumulate
bottles which are all of the same size so that you will not have
to adjust and re-adjust the bottle capper as you bottle the beverage.
CAPS: You can purchase caps at shops which specialize in
merchandise for making beverages, particularly wine shops. They
are usually sold by the pound, approximately 190 making up that
weight. Some caps come packaged by the gross (144). At one time,
all caps were lined with cork. This is no longer true. They are
now plastic lined. If you buy from a supplier who purchases caps
in bulk, you may have Orange Crush caps, Pepsi caps, R.C. Cola
caps, or caps designed for any of a number of beverages. If you
plan to make rootbeer often, dealers sometimes give better prices
for quantity buying. Ask your supplier before you buy. If you
cannot find any caps, I bought 36 gross recently from Crown Cork
& Seal Company, Inc. so that I would never run out and would
be glad to send you some at my cost ($2.00/gross) plus postage.
Please understand that I am not in the business of selling caps.
CAPPER: A capper is obviously essential. This device crimps
the caps onto the beading at the top of the bottle providing a
firm, air tight seal. Flea markets, antique shops, second hand
stores might be explored as possible sources for a capper. If
you find yourself having to buy a new one, wine shops sell them
in prices ranging from a few dollars to over $20. Needless to
say, an inexpensive capper is going to be worth just what you
pay for it as compared to a more expensive one. If you buy a more
expensive capper, be sure that it is ADJUSTABLE in the height
of the bottle it will accept, and ask the vendor for some assurance
as to the durability of the capper. I know of a case where the
handle of an expensive capper broke in capping the first bottle.
EXTRACT: There are several brands of extract including
more popular names such as McCormick/Schilling. Specialty shops
often carry other brands such as Zatarain. Mail order shops sell
one put out by Rainbow Flavors, Incorporated, known as Homebrew.
A lady who came to one of my Arootbeer
making classes@ and
who could not find McCormick/Schilling, advised me that the batch
she made using one of these other brands, tasted Awatery.@
In some areas of the country, the name Schilling can be found
on the extract. In other areas, it is the McCormick name. The
product is the same regardless. I suggest you use a brand that
gives you the strength of flavor you prefer and then stick to
it. Extract for making a batch is now almost $3.00 a bottle. Once
in a while we find it for less in a store that has had in on the
shelves for a while. There is no Hires Rootbeer Extract available
YEAST: I prefer fresh cake yeast but now find myself using
the dry because fresh is difficult to find. If you use fresh yeast,
use only HALF A CAKE for a batch of five gallons. Fresh yeast,
where available, is usually found in the deli section of most
grocery stores but it may be necessary to ask a clerk to help
you locate it because I have found that it may not be kept in
the same place twice. BE SURE TO PEEK AT THE FRESH YEAST BY LIFTING
AN EDGE OF THE WRAPPER. It should be a very pleasant light grey
in color. If it seems irregular in any way, don't
buy it. If you use dry yeast the recommended quantity is a
level bottle capful.
Read that last sentence again! The word is capful
not a cupful.
SUGGESTION: If you plan to make root beer, locate your
yeast first. It is always irritating to have all things in readiness
and then not be able to find the yeast!
SUGAR: A batch of five gallons requires five pounds of
granulated sugar. Some people prefer a taste that is not so sweet.
If that is your case, drop back to four and one half pounds of
sugar. If you are price conscious, generic sugar may be used but
takes a little more stirring to dissolve. A Alow
calorie@ rootbeer is
also possible. Add artificial sweetener, measuring to equal the
sweetness that pleases you then aded 20 to 25 tablespoons of sugar.
Increase the yeast by one-fourth a cake, or a rounded capful.
Remember, there must be sugar in the batch for the yeast to grow.
If you are making Alow
calorie@ rootbeer, be
sure that you use SOME sugar as directed.
A CONTAINER LARGE ENOUGH TO HOLD SIX GALLONS: Because
you will be making five gallons you will need a container to hold
more than that quantity (sugar and extract increase the volume).
The container should NOT BE ALUMINUM. I bought a
plastic waste paper/utility basket WITH A COVER. This is kept
only for making rootbeer. After each batch it is washed and allowed
to thoroughly dry in the air and then the cover is replaced. It
is ready for use the next time. The first time you make rootbeer,
measure the quantity of water in your container and make a mark
with fingernail polish on the outside at the five gallon level.
Measuring the water for future batches will be unnecessary. Just
fill to the mark.
NOW FOR THE WORK:
You MUST USE TEPID WATER (LUKEWARM). If the water is too
hot, it will kill the yeast. If it is too cold, the yeast will
not work. I judge Atepid@
by inserting my little finger (clean of course). If I feel neither
hot nor cold, I consider that it is tepid.
When you are ready, measure five gallons of tepid water into the
large container. If using dry yeast, remove a cup of the tepid
water and sprinkle the dry yeast over the surface of the water
in the cup, while you continue. Later you will stir this and add
it to the batch. If you are using fresh yeast, place the yeast
in a cup, add 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir until the mixture liquifies.
Set it aside to add to the water and extract after the next step.
Put the sugar in a large bowl. Pour the extract over the sugar
and begin to stir. Add enough TEPID water from the MEASURED amount,
to convert this into a heavy, but grainy syrup. Do not expect
the sugar to dissolve completely. The idea is not to dissolve
but to mix thoroughly. When mixed well, add this sugar mixture
to the five gallons of water and stir until dissolved.
Now add the yeast and stir well. There should be no granulated
sugar at the bottom of the container when you are ready to cap.
Once the rootbeer is capped there will be a waiting period of
from seven to ten days for the beverage to ripen. The length of
time depends upon the temperature to which the bottles have been
exposed. While the rootbeer is ripening, it MUST BE KEPT at normal
room temperature. During the winter, we keep the ripening batch
in the part of the house which we keep at a comfortable temperature.
If it is kept in a place that is too cold, the batch will turn
out like a thick syrup and will not be usable, let alone palatable.
Start testing the beer in seven or eight days and when it has
reached a satisfactory level of effervescence, place in the refrigerator.
This immediately arrests the growth of the yeast and prevents
bottle explosions. If you wait too long to put the rootbeer in
the refrigerator there are two things which might happen: 1. You
may have bottles blow up on you. 2. The beverage may become too
sharp to the taste and can then ony be used in rootbeer floats
or rootbeer freezes.
WORD OF CAUTION: Refrigerate the entire batch when it has
reached the effervescence that you prefer.
CLEANING THE BOTTLES: A hint for cleaning the bottles the
FIRST TIME: Use a package of B-B shot, shaking the shot in each
bottle until the bottle is clean and then pouring the shot into
another bottle. CAUTION: DO NOT DROP B-B SHOT INTO THE
After this FIRST thorough cleaning, such extensive work on the
bottles will NEVER have to be done again IF you educate your family
members to immediately wash the bottles after use and turn them
upside down to dry. If it is not convenient to wash them when
they are finished drinking the beverage, educate them to put an
inch or so of water in the bottle so that any yeast settled to
the bottom will not become hard and cake there. You will discover
that as the rootbeer ripens, a thin film of yeast forms in the
bottoms of the bottles (or the sides, if stored on their sides).
If this film dries after emptying a bottle, you will have the
task of thoroughly cleaning the bottles again with B-B shot. If
you find yourself in a picnic situation where the bottles cannot
be immediately washed, be sure that a little water is added to
empty bottles to keep the yeast moist, pliable and soluble. Our
children and grandchildren all know that they must either wash
a bottle thoroughly when finished with it or put some water in
it as mentioned above. It is a matter of educating the family.
If bottles have been hard to obtain, always ask that bottles be
returned to you. We give a lot of rootbeer away but we always
give it away with the admonition: APlease
return the bottles.@
HAPPY ROOT BEER MAKING! Please feel free to call me if
you have any questions.