After relating my horrible first experience, I feel it's now time to share my first successful homemade soda.
I made a really delicious grape soda, and it's a very easy recipe. Most importantly, though, is that I learned my lesson about using baker's yeast. It will get the job done, but it produces too much of it's own (bread-like) flavor, and way too much sediment. After doing some quick research online, I discovered that Champagne Yeast was the way too go. It provides a good amount of carbonation, very light flavor, and was readily available from a local shop catering to those who wish to brew their own beers and/or wines at home(although I have included a link for your convenience). Anyways, on to the recipe.
The prep-get a gallon or two of water in your sink, pour a little bleach in there(one tbsp/gallon), and thoroughly rinse out an empty 1 liter/1 qt container(and it's lid), and a small funnel. This kills all the bacteria in the bottle and funnel and cuts down on the likelihood of any bacteria remaining in your bottle and spoiling the batch. It is always of the utmost importance to make sure the bottles you are working with are cleaned properly to ensure the best possible homemade soda you can make.
2 cups of water
2 cups of grape juice
1/4 cup of sugar
1/8 tsp of champagne yeast
Combine water and grape juice in a pot (sauce pan that is at least 1.5 quarts), bring to a low boil.
Stir in your sugar and remove from heat.
The grape juice/water will get incredibly foamy and sticky, which is why I recommended using a pot that is bigger than a quart, otherwise your concoction is going to creep over the sides and all over your stove.
Pour your ingredients into the bottle and cap them, allow the contents to cool. While the bottle is cooling(you can put it in the refrigerator, or submerge in cold water), you want to get a coffee cup and put about a 1/4 cup of water in the bottom(and a pinch of sugar if you like), and add your yeast. This will activate your yeast and allow it to carbonate your drink a little quicker.
After the grape juice/water solution has cooled to about 100 degrees, you can go ahead and add your yeast. Cap the bottle, shake a few times, making sure to distribute the yeast as evenly as possible(tip the bottle upside down, slosh it from side to side), and then place the bottle somewhere out of direct sunlight where it can stay at a more or less constant room temperature(68-72 degrees). If it's colder than that, it will take longer for your drink to carbonate(too cold, the yeast will go inactive and you'll have to start over), if it's slightly warmer it will carbonate a little more quickly. If it gets too hot, it could make the yeast overactive and cause enough pressure to explode your bottle.
I let my bottle sit for 2 days before the bottle was firm enough(as the yeast eats the sugar, it will produce co2, which in addition to carbonating your beverage will also create pressure buildup in the space at the top of the bottle). You know it's ready when you can't squeeze the bottle anymore. Place the bottle in the refrigerator(to arrest the yeast's development), wait a few days and you have yourself a tasty, homemade soda that you made all by yourself-and it's even healthy too!
In addition to the nutrients from the grape juice, yeast produces B vitamins of it's own-something you'll never get in a store-bought soda.
Impressions of my homemade grape soda.
I cracked it open, and was hit by a sicky sweet waft of a rich red wine. I was a little worried by this, as I HATE wine. Anyways, I brought the bottle to my lips, tipped back and let the nectar envelop my tongue. This was fucking delicious! It tasted exactly like Welch's grape soda, but with the tang of real grape juice. There is a slight, tart aftertaste(as with wine), and a feeling of dryness in the throat(again, like wine), but it's absolutely delicious. It makes sense that it has a wine-like flavor profile though, as this recipe is essentially making wine and then stopping the fermentation process before it gains a significant amount of alcohol.
Homemade soda will contain a very small percentage of alcohol (0.5%, I believe), but it's not significant enough to affect you in any manner. It'll just provide a bit of a "sting" to the drink, if you will.
Overall I was very satisfied with my first successful batch of homemade soda, and it motivated me to carry on. My wife was quite pleased with my excitement too, and showed her gratitude by ordering me some supplies- Bottle Capper, bottle caps, Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop, Cola soda extract and Cream Soda Extract. I bought a case of Thomas Kemper Root Beer, drank it down and sterilized the bottles. I was stocked up with supplies, a recipe book, and ready for some real soda brewing(with some cheater liquid to get me going).