Books on Making Soda Pop

July 15, 2011

For as much as there is a food revolution and books popping up all over on topics like cheesemaking or wine making, making homemade soda pop is widely ignored by the book industry.

Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop by Stephen Cresswell, 1998

This is the book you see at all the homebrew stores, and I think it was because it was the only one on making soda pop for so long. It goes through the history before getting on to equipment, then moving on to first batches: root beer and ginger ale. Chapter 4 is on basic modern recipes, which goes more in depth on technique such as using extracts. It spends a lot of time on more root beer and ginger ale recipes before getting on to other things like lemon-lime soda pop. It also includes a chapter on switchels, shrubs, vinegar drinks, and mulled beverages, and another chapter on ingredients for devising your own recipes. Though out the entire book, there are historical excerpts for you to interpret as you will. There is even and appendix on how to tap a tree.

This is a good book, or else the homebrew stores wouldn’t sell it and it would have gone out of print. It is definitely still a good book, though I admit the publishing on cheap paper with drawings make it seem tired.


Homemade Soda by Andrew Schloss, 2011

Schloss recently published a one page blurb on making soda pop along with three techniques for making root beer, sour cherry cola, and ginger ginger ale in the July-August 2011 issue of Brew Your Own magazine (print only). Schloss does things differently in that he offers up alternative techniques for making soda pop, some of which would really be alcohol free. These include mixing a stronger syrup with carbonated water and drinking it fresh, force carbonation using a keg and drinking it fresh, and the traditional bottle conditioning. The other two methods use less sugar, though after the yeast eats the sugar for bottle conditioning, they still have about the same amount of calories. However, adding carbonated water would need a stronger solution due to the dilution (think Italian soda here), for which he adjusts for. This carries over to his book, making it much fatter than the other books on the topic.

The intro of the book book goes through a history, talks about flavoring, and sweeteners. Part 1, Getting Started, talks about ingredients, equipment (including how to work a soda siphon), how many bottles of various sizes per gallon, and storage. This ends on page 26, launching in to Part 2, Recipes of Soda Drinks, which starts off with various recipes for soda water and flavored soda waters, fruit sodas, root beers and colas, herbal sodas and healing waters, fizzy juices, sparkling teas, coffees, and chocolates, cream sodas, egg creams, and floats, and shrubs, switches, and other vinegar drinks. Part 3 is Recipes for Soda Food, some of which call for soda pop in the recipe like cola glazed ham or vanilla cream soda bread. This 318 page book thankfully has an index.

I haven’t really seen this book in the homebrew shops, but given the choice, this is the book I would pick up. It has more recipes than the other books (over 200, it claims), alternative methods, good antidotes, great color pictures, and food recipes. However, one may opt for the tried and true Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop, partly because it is $4 cheaper from the same publisher.

The Root Beer Book by Laura E. Quarantiello, 1997

This book is dedicated completely to root beer, calling it “America’s Best-Loved Soft Drink” (some would disagree and say that title belongs to the colas). Quarantiello even tries to list all the commercially produced root beers there are, which is tricky because so many breweries make fresh root beer. She includes a history, which probably includes too much human history and not enough of “how does this relate to root beer” history. There is also a chapter on ingredients, including history of use and places found, as several different plants or combination of plants are used for root beer. The next chapter is on taste tests, asking which root beer is best, and she gives a review of 13 root beers listed alphabetically. Finally, Quaranteillo gets to making root beer using extract. This is followed by a few short miscellaneous chapters before coming back to additional root beer recipes with the first three still calling for extract. Strangely, I get the feeling that she didn’t try every recipe, as each one makes different quantities, from one cup to 13 gallons. The 13 gallon batch has some commentary that also makes me think she never made it, only researched it. Some recipes are alcoholic, as a few are even mixed cocktails. There are also a few cooking recipes using root beer, such as jello, baked beans, cake, frosting, ham, caramels, and cookies. The end of the book has some interesting facts, brands, websites, root beer organizations, supply outlets, and suggested books. There is no index.       

Additional nutritional and/or alternative diet books which have a few pages regarding making and consuming soda pop:

  • Fresh Food from Small Spaces by RJ Ruppenthal, 2008. He wasn’t really talking about soda pop in the traditional sense, but he did suggest making a soda pop from water based kefir grains “using a tablespoon of kefir grains in sixteen ounces of filtered (chlorine-free) water in a jar. As a general rule, use about the same amount of sweetener as kefir grains, so a tablespoon or so of sugar, maple syrup, or molasses will suffice. Adding a pinch each of sea salt and baking soda will ensure that the organisms also have some mineralization. Finally, I cut in some fresh, peeled ginger slices and/or a little fruit for flavor. A slice of apricot, peach, fig, lemon, cucumber, or a couple of berries add a great flavor twist. To keep the kefir grains pure, you can suspend your fruit or ginger in the water using a cloth bag or unbleached coffee filter. Before setting your jar to ferment, lightly shake it so that a few oxygen bubbles get into the water. For a naturally carbonated, champagne-like beverage, close the lid tightly. For no carbonation, cover the jar loosely. Let it sit for 24 hours, or up to 48 hours for a sour version. For a slightly (1 to 3 percent) alcoholic drink, use extra sugar, keep the lid on tightly, let it ferment for about 48 hours in a warm dark place, and lightly shake it a few times during this period. If the taste is too sour for you, add a little sugar before you drink it. To reduce the alcohol content of kefir, keep the lid covered very loosely and do not shake during fermentation. The regular alcohol content of water kefir is less than 0.5 percent (milk kefir is lower still)…”
  • Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, 2001. She makes a fresh ginger ale using rapadura (AKA sugar cane juice) and some sea salt, and she recommends mixing it with carbonated water and sipping it warm. Next is a root beer with sassafras root shavings, rapadura, molasses, coriander seeds, and allspice, but nothing is ever mentioned about carbonation. She also has a Sweet Potato Soda (fly) from Guyana that has whey, mace, sweet potatoes, sugar, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, egg whites, and an eggshell. Then there is a ginger beer recipe, using the ginger to create the yeast for the soda pop, and taking two weeks total to become drinkable. She also includes a small beer made with barley or ryre, sourdough bread culture, freshly ground flour, and dried hops that she says are “available in the herb department of health food stores.” (I personally find her book lacking in directions, making me wonder if she copied them from somewhere else, and she is a little bit batty with the ingredients).
  • Truly Cultured by Nancy Lee Bentley, 2007. This included a one gallon recipe for ginger ale made with fresh ginger and lemon and orange juice, asking you to compost the plant material when done. This recipe is supposedly done in 10 hours and has almost 50 calories. There is a second recipe for naturally fermented sodas using roots, taking 2-10 days, about 80 calories, and reprinted from a newsletter. The book talks about diet and what not, but there is no index, and the book is to help promote products they sell to make stuff like kombucha and kefir starters.
  • Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, 2002. This book has a recipe for a fresh ginger beer using natural yeasts on the ginger. In addition, inspired by Nourishing Traditions, he adapted Sweet Potato Soda, leaving out her cloves and the egg whites. He claims the eggshell keep things stable. He recommends Cresswell’s book for making soda pop.

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