Brew Soda at Home

Follow this guide and you can brew soda at home.

| December 2004/January 2005

For a delicious and refreshing soda, it's hard to beat one you've brewed yourself. Generations of self-sufficient folks have been making their own beverages from local plants, often from the roots that give "root" beer and "ginger" ale their names. Today's home-brewers use many of the same soda ingredients as the old-fashioned recipes did, and the results are a delicious array of flavors with which artificial soft drinks just can't compete.

Homemade soda is simple and fun to make, and remarkably inexpensive. It's even cheaper to make most homemade soda recipes than it is to buy commercial colas. As an added benefit, many homemade sodas are healthier, too. When soda is made with all natural ingredients, you get all the flavor and healthful properties of the herbs and spices in the recipe, which might include ginger, anise, hops or licorice root. Natural sodas also contain yeast, which is a great source of B-complex vitamins. The most important health benefit of making your own soda, however, is that you can control the amount of sugar. Most commercial colas contain the equivalent of 7 to 9 teaspoons of sugar for a 12-ounce soda. When you make your own, you can add sweeteners to taste, and it's easy to brew great-tasting soda with 1/3 less sugar than commercial brands.

Brewing Basics

Store-bought soda is made with sugar — usually in the inexpensive form of corn syrup — water and artificial flavorings, and force-carbonated with carbon dioxide:

The gas is pumped directly into the beverage. In homemade soda, the main ingredients also are sugar and water, but in this mixture, the carbon dioxide is produced naturally through fermentation: Once the other soda ingredients have been mixed together, yeast is added to the beverage. Then, it's allowed to sit at room temperature for a day or two so the yeast cells can consume some of the sugar and form carbon dioxide bubbles as a byproduct. To retain this carbon dioxide, the soda must be stored in sturdy bottles.

A similar process is used to brew alcoholic beverages such as beer; the main difference is that soda isn't allowed to ferment for nearly as long. Instead, as soon as soda becomes carbonated, it must be refrigerated to slow the action of the yeast cells and prevent them from consuming all the sugar. Because the fermentation cycle is cut short, one glass of homemade soda usually contains less than 1 percent alcohol. If you started drinking your own soda by the gallon, the sugar would go to your head long before the alcohol would.

Necessary Equipment

To start brewing, you'll need to collect and sanitize a few plastic bottles, or the single-serving size. Many people prefer to use and reuse glass bottles as an eco-friendly option, but plastic bottles can be a good choice for beginning s soda makers because they're safer. If soda gets over-carbonated, the bottles could explode, and bursting plastic bottles are less dangerous than shattering glass containers. (Keep reading for more about how to avoid making overly fizzy soda.) If you decide to use glass bottles, make sure you choose those with thick glass and sturdy caps. Swing-top bottles, are a convenient choice for storing soda. Another good option is to buy glass bottles from a home-brew supply store because you can ask for containers strong enough to hold carbonated beverages.

1/19/2014 11:58:33 AM

I typically use 3/4 to 1 cup of granulated sugar for a 2 liter bottle of soda. I assume that the active yeast used for the carbination consumes part of this sugar thus creating the by product of the C02 that becomes the carbination. I am wondering how much sugar the yeast actually consumes in that 3 to 4 day period before I drink my soda. I'm sure there are variables at play here but it's an interesting question to ponder.

6/28/2012 1:50:37 PM

I am trying to find some aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla) but can't find any stores.

Sherrie Hall
12/24/2011 5:32:19 AM

Stella, you can get yeast nutrient at any beer and wine making supply store, and I've also heard some yeasts are worse about the sulfur smell than others so maybe try switching to a different yeast, too. It's typically less of a problem with beer because the longer fermentation time lets the smell dissipate, day two or so is usually when it's about the strongest!

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: September 14-16, 2018
Seven Springs, PA

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard