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Help with Root Beer

My daughter wants us to make root beer for the family x-mas party and surprisingly I can’t seem to find a lot of information online about the actual process so I have a few questions. I’ll list out first what I intend to do (unless you guys tell me it’s wrong) then ask my questions.

Here is my intended recipe for 5 gallons:

4 oz Fermentap Extract #1
4 pounds corn sugar
1 pound honey
8 ounces malto dextrine

I intend to force carbonate at 30 PSI and serve through 15 feet of 3/16" ID line.

Questions:

  1. Do I need to heat or boil all the water?
  2. Can I just boil enough water to dissolve the sugar, let that cool a bit then add the honey, and let it sit for a while and finally add the rest of the water and then transfer it into the keg?
  3. If #2 - how much water do I need to boil to dissolve 4.5 pounds of sugar and at what temp should I add the honey?
  4. Does the recipe look ok?

I think your on the right track on some of these things. The recipe itself looks fine but I will give you two heads up right away.

Bacteria loves sugar, and this is why you are wondering about boiling or flavor maybe? Will you lose some of the “goodness” of the honey or etc…? With the extract for root beer you have tons of spearmint or etc that trounces any delicate honey flavor such as in a mead and with root beer it will add a creamy factor. So if you plan on just dissolving the sugars and cooling down I really suggest using campden/ Meta if not boiling. Some mead makers say just dissolve in low temp/ no temp and then pitch yeast, But I’m on the side of the fence to simply render a mead/ wine/ soda as free of contaminants as possible either by boiling a soda “recipe” for 10-15 minutes or just dissolve and add meta or meta a mead or wine must prior to inoculation. That’s all I will say on this topic.

Now the following method takes the “fun” out of crafting the root beer with your kids. But it is THE most foolproof way of getting a soda up and running with minimal fuss. Here’s the first challenge that you face with making up the entire recipe and set a regulator to 30 PSI and let charge------It will take over a month depending on SG to carb over 3 volumes at 35-40f and you would really like 3.5-4 volumes in a soda. I found the easy method here is using Sprecher Root beer, cream soda, red soda, cherry cola etc… one gallon jugs of prepared syrup. #1 its quality product from a quality brewery. #2 look at their website they are using honey, real “roots” etc… all the sodas are groovy trust me. #3 it is pretty much sanitary and FDA approved from all the boiling etc done to package a high sugar product like this.

What I would do is fill my keg with 4 gallons of city water, add the correct dose of meta to remove chloramines and kill any nasties that come through the pipes( alternatively you could use RO/ Distilled if any of this concerns you). Set the regulator to 30 PSI and typically leave for a week. It is probably carbed in a day-two but I was in no rush. Then I would release the pressure to the keg and add the gallon of syrup, hit it with CO2 and roll on the floor a little to “mix” the concoction into finished root beer. Typically I would then leave it on the 30 PSI for 3-7 days more and have root beer tapping with no problems and right in my taste at 4 volumes. Now one more thing. 15 ft of 3/16th tubing will not work. I did the trials when I first went through all of this to get a perfect soda pour and used up to 25ft and called it a day as it did not work even then and I’m using 4.75" shanks with perlick taps and I found the answer to the problem they are called epoxy helixes I used two of these in the out dip tube along with 20ft of 3/16th line and found I was able to then cut the tubing back to 10ft at the end of all these trials. But I would suggest starting with 2 helix in the diptube and 20ft of line, then you can remove a helix or cut back line if the pour is then too slow.

Hope this helps a bit. And maybe make the syrup on the day you will add to the super carbonated 4 gallons of water, then drop it right in if looking for the “fun” aspect still. Although with products like Sprecher I think you’ll agree the “fun” is actually sitting back and enjoying a fresh soda. The gallons of syrup are available at LHBS and cost a few bucks but think about the time you save in not making the syrup every time you need to fill a keg.

Here is a link to photos of the epoxy helixes I used for soda in a post regarding using picnic taps for beer dispense:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=106276#p938913

Link to Sprecher brewery soda page:

http://www.sprecherbrewery.com/soda.php

Other good info about ingredients used:

http://www.sprecherbrewery.com/soda_menu.php

You typically have to buy these soda concentrates in gallon form from LHBS as they are 4-6 gallons per case but maybe they will ship you a mix case if you wanted to spend the coin and have a few around. Otherwise you can buy only what they list on the first link (IE: bottled 16oz 4pks) If in question maybe call them direct and they can tell you what shop close to you ordered some recently.

NB link:

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/spre ... -soda.html

Wow - thanks for the detailed response. I wish I had posted my questions sooner as some things I’m going to have to roll forward with since I already bought the extract and sugars and honey and materials.

I think what I’ll do now is treat 4 gallons with one of the tablets you recommend and carbonate that to 30 PSI. Then in a few days I’ll boil 1 gallon with the sugar, honey, and extract - cool it off - then add to the carbonated water in the keg and mix.

Do you ever have problems when you add the sugar solution to the carbonated water? I read somewhere online that it might bubble up and over and make a mess doing it that way. Many people suggested just setting it at 30 PSI and shaking every day or so and that should do it within 2 weeks or so.

I also already bought 15’ of 3/16" line and the fittings (keg fitting and picnic faucet). From everything I researched online 15’ of 3/16" was supposed to be fine to dispense @ 30 PSI. :frowning: Maybe if it’s an issue I’ll have to turn it down to 20 PSI while dispensing and hope for the best.

I had a thought you may already have some ingredients, so exactly just make up the syrup the day you’ll add it to the carbed water. No, I have never had “gushing” or other when adding the syrup. you’ll just be losing carb from the water rapidly after opening the lid so add the syrup quickly and lid it up and hit it with gas.

Just FYI when using campden for this procedure you only need about .25 tablet per 4-5 gallons of water which eliminates chloramines/ chlorine from the city water and adds just enough sulfite to kill residuals which should be killed by the aforementioned CL/CL2 anyway, but the .25 tab will not add tons of sulfite that you need to be concerned about either.

Like said Johnny, use the 15ft you have and just look around for the epoxy tubes their $0.10 or something if you find them at a hardware store or etc… IF you live by chance live in/ around St. Paul/ Mpls, MN you can locate them at Axman surplus stores. I guarantee if you drop two helixes down the dip tube and use the 15ft you’ll have golden pours from day one!!

Glad the info helped, have a great one.

The tablets I bought today said “1 tablet in one gallon provides 30 ppm free SO2,” but I wasn’t sure how much to use for my purpose. I looked around online and some sources said concentrations of SO2 over 50 ppm become detectable in taste and odor, so I figured I was safe using 1 tablet per gallon and therefore put 4 tablets into my 4 gallons of spring water which should leave me at 30 ppm. Hopefully I didn’t screw up already!

I’ll look around for those epoxy tubes. I’ve read about them before when I devising a saison recipe (which I’ll probably do in the springtime) - so it will be cool to give them a try now.

Thanks again for your help.

If the tabs state the 30 ppm for (1 tab in 1 gal) then your good. But read paragraph #2 for the explanation on why this is usually too high if your not familiar with campden use.

I looked to a sulfite calculator I have and the typical tablets that weigh .44g will yield
70ppm if one tab is used per gallon. I have tabs from LD carlson that state each tab is 150ppm
per tab as these are “larger” than norm at .60g per tab and they will yield 90ppm if used (1 tab per gal)

Typically you would add around 1 tab per gallon if sterilizing must and then you let the must breathe for 24 hours and let some of the high ppm “blow off” and it settles around <50 ppm then you add yeast because the sulfite is not so high as to kill it off.

It is interesting that you bring this up because when dealing with wine/ mead/ cider etc… you will have some of the sulfite “bind” depending on PH and this then changes the equation entirely whereas the 90ppm might be total/ free 90ppm in 3.0 must. But in a must at 4.2 ( kinda throwing numbers around loosely) your total/ free might only be 10ppm and you therefore would need to use more to have the total/ free at or above 50ppm. SO If somebody with mad chemistry skills could tell me now will tap water with a PH of 8.7 "bind any of the ppm like a must would or does it not apply with water itself?

Sorry to take off from the OP Johnny but now I am curious about this.

OK kind of answered some of my question as you can see in the quote I copied from WIKI it states that the sulfur level will be greatly dimished as it reacts with chloramines/ chlorine which I did not even think about, but it makes sense as that is the function we are looking for in brewing/ soda water such as in your case. But the PH binding at the high PH is still a question in my mind.

“Typical use is one crushed Campden tablet per gallon of must or wort. This dosage contributes 67 ppm sulfur dioxide to the wort but the level of active sulfur dioxide diminishes rapidly as it reacts with chlorine and chloramine, and with aldehydes (particularly in wine). Therefore, the concentration of free sulfur dioxide is greatly diminished by the time the beer or wine is consumed. However, when used only for the purpose of dechlorinating tap water before brewing, one tablet will effectively treat 20 gallons of water.”

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