Bottling Soda Pop: Do It Right!

OK, here is soda-pop making in a nutshell. First off, realize this: there is no "A equals B" in pop-making UNLESS you are doing in a kegging setup. More on that at the end of this sheet.

If you are going to bottle your soda in bottles, using yeast to produce natural carbonation, here are the best guidelines which give you the best chances of producing a perfect pop. First, ignore the amounts of yeast that the instructions call for; you will need one-and-a-half packs of Pasteur Champagne yeast for each four gallons of pop. That's the amount that one vial of extract will produce.

I recommend bottling in plastic 1 or 2-litre pop bottles - the kind you buy soda in when you get it at the store. DO NOT USE GLASS BOTTLES!!  Plastic bottles are safer than glass in the off-chance that your carbonation levels get excessive, and it is very easy to tell (they will become "rock-hard") when the pop inside of them is carbonated. If you want to use glass for the aesthetics - and most people do - be sure to check them periodically to make sure they are not becoming "explosive." Glass bottles can and will become explosive hand grenades if this process is not continually monitored....

You will need approx. (44) 12-ounce beer bottles, (25) 22-ounce beer bottles, (20) champagne bottles,sixteen (16) 1-lire plastic bottles or (eight) 2-litre plastic bottles. Or any combination thereof. First sterilize your bottles in the dishwasher using NO SOAP OR DETERGENTS IN THE WASH, but running them through the "heat-dry" cycle at the end of the rinse process. This will pasteurize them and can be done - if you have a timer on your dishwasher - during the night to allow them to be cool by morning.

Sterilize your bottle caps by heating them in a pot of water that you bring to a boil, then immediately take off the heat and cover. Allow the caps to steep in this hot water under a lid for at least ten to fifteen minutes.

You can also use Iodophor or StarSan to sterilize your bottles and caps. Please follow proper dilution rates and rinsing procedures if you use chemical sterilizers such as these.

Meanwhile, hydrate the one-and-a-half packs of yeast in about a cup of water that you have boiled and allowed to cool in a coffee mug (UNDER a layer of Saran Wrap) to 90 - 100 degrees F. Do not add the yeast to the water until it has cooled beneath 100 degrees. Stir gently with a sterilized spoon, and let it all sit for about ten minutes. Leave the spoon in the water so you do not need to re-sterilize it later. The yeast solution should begin to look slightly foamy.

Next, in a stainless steel pot, or food-grade plastic bucket, that you have sterilized (remember: never use chlorine on stainless!) add three and a half gallons of good-tasting water, the entire vial of pop extract and six to eight cups of sugar. Kids will like it at about eight cups, adults may want less sweetness (8 cups is approx. equal to just under five pounds). I prefer the sodapop I make to have about seven to seven-and-a-half cups of sugar. Eight cups is very sweet. In any case, stir well, until there is no more granulated sugar at the bottom of the container. It helps, sometimes, if you heat the sugar and water slightly to allow the sugar to more easily dissolve.

Another option is to substitute equal amounts of sugar for honey. This gives the pop a more "natural," richer, fuller flavor. Instructions come with the boxes of extract, but feel free to substitute honey for sugar on a pound for pound basis.

Now stir up the yeast solution to get all of the caked sediment off of the bottom of the mug, and add that frothy mixture to the soda mixture. Stir well until the yeast is well-mixed in the four gallons of pop.

Using sterilized siphon tubing or a sterilized funnel, either siphon or pour your pop into the bottles, capping them after they are filled. Keep the bottles in a very warm spot (if it is winter) or a semi-warm spot (if it is summer) until they are carbonated. This may take one to two days, or up to two months depending on lots of factors. Plan on two to three weeks, but YOU WILL NEED TO TEST THEM FREQUENTLY. If you bottle in glass, it might be wise to bottle one plastic bottle to use as a gauge - that way you are not popping open and dumping out non-carbonated pop for the first few tries. If you bottle exclusively in glass, you will need to open a bottle every day to make sure they are not overcarbonating. Do not ignore glass bottles for long periods of time, they can become explosive and cause lots of damage!!

Sometimes - and as of now this is a big unknown "x" factor - soda does not carbonate at all. Try to follow the instructions above for your best chance of success, but there is always a chance of it not working, unless you go to kegging - more on that below.

When the pop is fully carbonated, put all the bottles in a very cold spot. A garage or unheated porch works great in the winter, a fridge works best in the summer. You want to keep them below 40 degrees continually. This will shut off the carbonation process and keep the bottles from becoming gushers. They will taste best after a little more time in the bottles.

I make this slightly more complicated than it needs to be, but this will prevent accidents and mishaps, and give you the best chances to consistently produce tasty soda. Good luck and call me with questions.

The very BEST way to make soda-pop is to keg it in 5-gallon Cornelius kegs. This will enable you to make and drink soda-pop on the very same day, with no hassles and no waiting. Please go here for full instructions on kegging soda pop...