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Making Root Beer

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Making Root Beer 

 

 

 


            Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet are things that we associate with the American way of life. However before any of these things became part of American pastime, Root Beer was on the scene. Root Beer can be traced back to the time of the American Colonies.  A mug a root beer, on a hot summer day, with just a dab of foam getting stuck on your nose….what could be more American.

 

Root Beer has gone through some changes over the years. The original main ingredient, sassafras has been outlawed since 1960 by the FDA.  It has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats. Thus it is on the list of known carcinogens.  Root beer lives on in a restructured form. Modern day root beer uses wintergreen or a synthetic chemical which is similar to sassafras, called sassafrol. Other “secret” ingredients in various forms of Root Beer include ginger, birch bark, dog grass, licorice, hops, chiretta,  vanilla, and/or juniper berries.

 

The production of Root Beer then is part science, and part art. You can bet that formulas for Root Beer are guarded secrets, as import to their companies as the formula for secret rocket fuel might be to a government

 

All Root Beer must have a some similar ingredients. Of course sweetness is a vital quality of root beer. There must be some form of sugar used. This sugar can be simple sucrose (Table sugar) or other types of sugar such as fructose or even maltose. Corn Syrup can also be substituted for sugar. Sugar substitutes sugar as aspartame can also be used.  Although you can find a thousand recipes for making the “root” solution of root beer, the easiest way is to purchase root beer extract from a store. Root beer extract has many variations but contains some of the substances discussed above. This is what gives the drink it’s distinctive flavor. Of course you can make other flavor “pops” by substituting another flavor for the root beer extract. Maybe you would prefer to make a cherry or red pop.  The hardest part about making root beer is the carbonated water. How you make the bubbly, fizzy part is what really takes the most work. Once again there are several methods of doing this. I will include two ways of doing this for class, one we describe as the force carbonation method, the other as the natural carbonation method.  Both methods can be explosive if you are not careful.

 

FORCED CARBONATION METHOD

Materials:

One bottle of Root Beer Extract

Sugar (the amount defined on the extract bottle)

Chilled Ice Water (amount defined on the extract bottle)

3 pounds of Dry Ice (frozen Carbon Dioxide)

2 to 5 gallon container with lid

            First mix the sugar and the water in the bucket. After this, add the concentrate. You might want to taste the water at this point to determine if it is sweet enough (or too sweet). Make any changes that you would like at this point.

 

            At this point you must add the dry ice and put the cover on top. As the dry ice sublimates, pressure will build up in the container. It is a good idea to sit on the container so that the top doesn’t blow off. 

 

            It is strongly recommended that you slightly open and recover the top about every three or four minutes, to let some of the carbon dioxide to escape. If pressure gets too great, you could break the container and have a great big mess to clean up. We are trying to make root beer to drink, not a root beer bomb! Since room conditions vary greatly, you must be the judge of if pressure is building up so great as to cause too much of  a stress on the container.

 

            After about 15 minutes, you should have really fizzy root beer. Enjoy!

 

NATURAL CARBONATION METHOD :

 

            This method uses yeast as a natural factor, which consumes sugar and releases carbon dioxide. Although fermentation can produce alcohol, none will be produced in this experiment because of the short-term nature of the fermentation.

 

  1. Pour ½ a bottle of Root Beer Extract over 900 grams of sucrose in  a container. Mix well.
  2. Dissolve the mixture in 10 liters of lukewarm water.
  3. Mix 2.0 grams of dried yeast in 500 mL of lukewarm water. Let it stand for 5 minutes. When the temperature reaches 21 degrees Celsius, add another 2.5 grams of dry yeast.
  4. Add the yeast to the sugar-extract-water mixture, shake well, and pour into bottles immediately.
  5. Cork securely or seal with a screw on cap.
  6. Place the bottles at 21 to 27 degrees Celsius for 5 to 7 days. Place the bottle on their sides.
  7. Refrigerate before drinking.