Kegging Soda Pop: The Right Way
OK, this sheet assumes that you have - or are going to have - a Cornelius-style beer and soda-pop dispensing system when you do this. For Mainbrew's prices on this most-excellent set-up, please see the "Kegging" section of the store.
Ready to go: Take 6 to 8 cups of household cane sugar. If you are making this for kids, use 8 cups - kids love it very sweet. At 6 cups, it will have some old-fashioned bitterness - children will hate it. I usually make it using between 7 and 7.5 cups when I am serving it to adults. (Another great thing about kegs is that if it is not sweet enough, you can open the keg and add more sugar at any time....So feel free to start on the lower end and add more sugar a day or two later if you think it needs it...)
Mix the sugar with about a gallon of water in a pot; heat gently until all the sugar is dissolved. You do not need to boil this - gentle warmth will dissolve the sugar into a simple syrup.
Remember, you can always add more dissolved sugar into your keg a day or two later to make it sweeter, but you cannot take the sugar out and make it less sweet.
(Side note: These soda pops also come out great using honey in place of sugar - or a 50-50 blend of white sugar and honey. Instructions come with each of the soda extracts as to how to do this, but typically it is a pound for pound substitution....)
Add the sugar/water syrup solution into your sterilized keg. Add the vial of soda extract (Homebrew Brand) that you have chosen. Rinse out the vial with some water (to get out all the flavor) and then add about 2.75 more gallons of cold water into the keg. You should have 4 gallons total. (If using Zatarains or Gnome, go up to 5 full gallons of water.)
Put the lid on the keg and hook up your CO2 bottle. Put 30 psi into the keg, and then bleed it out the pressure release. Put in another 30 psi, bleed it out, and then, once more, another 30 psi - bleed it out. (You are purging the oxygen from your keg, replacing it with a pure carbon dioxide environment.)
Now, add another 30 psi into your keg. With the airline hooked on and the regulator set to 30, gently rock your keg back and forth, holding it horizontally (like a see-saw) on your knee. You will hear the gas churning into the keg. Do this for about five to seven minutes, depending on how vigorously you are rocking it.
Now put your keg in a refrigerator, and let cool down for a few hours - you can keep the gas bottle hooked up at 30 psi, or disconnect it - either way works. But here is the crux of this whole kegging thing: the laws of physics regarding carbonation, liquids and gas solubility make it so that a warm liquid will gush when properly carbonated. The same liquid will NOT gush when chilled down. Cold liquids can "HOLD" CO2 more tightly, and thus can be served carbonated more easily. All this means is that you CANNOT test the carbonation level of your pop until the liquid is close to serving temperature - usually less than 40 degrees F. If you tap off warm soda pop - even if it is properly carbonated - it will foam on you.
After your soda is chilled, tap off a glass - dispensing it at 8 to 12 psi. If it doesn't have that zingly fizzy spritzy burn we want and expect from soda, pull out the keg, crank up the gas level to 30 psi again, and shake a few more minutes, airline hooked up gas feeding in. Let settle and then tap off another glass - it will appear more carbonated than before. Since the liquid is already cold, you can now carbonate and test within minutes. Keep shaking and testing until the carbonation is how you want it.
Dispense the remainder of the keg at 8 to 12 psi and it will be fine forever.
If you accidentally OVER-CARBONATE your pop, disconnect the gas line, bleed out the air from the pressure release of the keg, and continue to do so 6 to 10 times over the course of a day or so. It will slowly de-carbonate your beer. When it appears to be back to normal, hook your gas back on at 8 to 12 psi and dispense as normal.
OPTION #2 - This is actually a better way to carbonate your keg of soda pop, but you'll need to purchase a bag of ice. Add in 5 pounds of ice into your keg at the very beginning, then add cold water and then the dissolved sugar syrup from the stove. Then add the soda extract. Seal up the keg, hook up the CO2, purge the oxygen 2-3 times, and THEN shake the keg (like a giant cocktail mixer) at 30 psi. The ice will melt and super-cool your keg down to 35 degrees (just like a cocktail). After ten minutes or so, lower the pressure down to 8 or 12 psi and try your cold soda pop. Shake more if necessary. Your pop will be ready to drink much faster.
Thanks to Customer XX for figuring out the low-calorie option for making pop. This will only work with a kegging setup -- you cannot bottle your pop with this option and get carbonation. Replace the amount of sugar called for with equal amounts of Splenda. Mix well and bottle. Easy as pie.
Call me with any questions...