I would like to relate my first real attempt at making soda with everyone, and so decided to make this post before putting up my next review. Also, stay tuned for the question at the end.
I started off reading about Soda Siphons and different flavor concentrates, but at the time I didn't have the money to purchase the siphon(still haven't bought one). I wasn't going to let that get in the way of me making my own soda, and then it dawned on me-people have been making carbonated beverages for a long time before we had co2 canisters. So how did they do it? So I did a search, and very quickly discovered the mysterious secret-combining yeast, sugar and a closed container in a warm place. Really simple chemistry, and something I thought I should have learned at some point already.
So, I ran to my kitchen, looked for yeast and sugar. baking yeast was there, and we always had sugar. So now I needed a container I could seal- obvious answer! So I drank the rest of the 2 liter in the fridge and rinsed it thoroughly. I was rearing to go, and realized I had no idea what kind of soda I wanted to make.
I spent the rest of the night reading up on cola recipes, already knowing that cinnamon and vanilla was the "generic" cola flavor we associate with most store-brands. I knew we had those two ingredients, but I had to find out what the rest of the ingredients were. Most formulas call for lemon/lime/orange oil and some various spices. So, I collected what we had(I'll go into an ingredient list in a moment), and prepared myself for the task at hand.
I got out a stock pot, dumped a two liter bottle full of water into it(and added a little extra for boil off), and turned on the heat. I got it up to below boiling and turned the heat down, and proceeded to put in about a cup of sugar. Stirred in the sugar until it dissolved(creating an off-brown colored watery syrup), and sparingly added cinnamon and vanilla until I could taste them along with the sugar. I was just pinching and dropping, so I don't have any accurate measurements(nor would they be relevant by the end of this), but future recipes will include amounts so you can try it out yourself if you'd like.
After getting a satisfactory amount, I proceeded to add my other ingredients. A 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, a pinch of cardamom, a tablespoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of lime. The lemon and lime juices provided me my citrus bouqet and slight acid bite(as I was working from my wife's spice rack instead of a grocery list specifically for my purposes), and overall the mixture turned out smelling and tasting quite flavorful.
So I grabbed a ladle and funnel and filled my two liter bottle with my concoction. I then took 1/4 teaspoon of the baker's yeast, dropped it in a coffee cup with a little bit of warm water in it, and let it proof with a paper towel covering it for about 5-10 minutes while the 2-liter cooled in the fridge. It's very important to allow your pre-soda to cool a little before putting in the yeast, as letting it stay too hot will kill the yeast, but letting it cool too much won't allow the yeast to activate or continue to culture. 98-105 f is the recommended temperature.
My pre-soda was cooled and my yeast was ready. What could I do to make my cola stand out? I put a drop of green food coloring in the bottle to make it look fun and made sure it didn't alter the taste any(it didn't).
So I capped the bottle(having left about an inch of head space to allow a little gas buildup from the carbonation process), and set it on the counter.
Then, one of the longest waits of my life started. For three days I continued to return to my bottle(a few times a day) to squeeze and check for levels of carbonation. It started off very squishy and continued to get more firm. After the third day I decided it had gotten firm enough and placed the bottle(very, very carefully) into the refrigerator so it could cool and arrest the yeast.
It is of note to bring up the fact that yeast will create a kind of dirty-looking sediment at the bottom of your mixture, and it is very unappetizing to look at, so try to avoid doing that and focus on how delicious your soda is going to be.
After what felt like another eternity(which was about 2 days), I cracked open by bottle, received a very satisfying "pop" and fizz. I was super excited, until I caught a whiff of the odor that emanated from the bottle. It was something akin to risen bread before going into the oven to be cooked(as to be expected from the yeast), and a faint chemically smell. Uh-oh. I soldiered on.
I poured a small glass of my concoction to try it out. I took a sip. Very sweet, amazing carbonation. Those are the only good things I can say about my first batch of homemade soda. The mixture seemed to have taken on a bit of the plastic as part of it's flavor, but more pressing then that was the huge clumps of yeast floating around the glass...it wouldn't have been too bad, but it left a hairy feeling in your mouth. Bleh! My attempted cola ended up tasting like non-alcoholic, stale beer that someone had spilled sugar into. I really want to equate the taste to formaldehyde, but outside of passing puffs of it on a cigarette, I honestly had no reason to believe I actually knew what the stuff tasted or smelled like. In short, it was awful.
I then began to wonder if it was the added food coloring that gave it the awful chemical-like taste and smell. So I recreated the experiment without green food coloring and less yeast(to cut down on the floating hairy strings of yeast). It took slightly longer to carbonate, but produced an almost identical flavor with the same carbonation.
I decided to not get too discouraged and just shelved the cola idea for the time being and looked up other ideas and recipes. My next experiment, and first successful soda, will be the subject of an upcoming blog post.
What was your favorite off-brand or generic soda growing up?