Saturday, January 10, 2009

2 Litter CO2 Nozzle

When testing out recipes, there's a need to do small batches. Sure I could put a small batch in one of my 5 gallon kegs and carbonate from there, but that almost seems like a waste. And also since I'm new to all of this especially carbonating, I don't know if a 1 gallon recipe in 5 gallon keg may not carbonate as well or at all.

At homebrewing supply shops as well as online, I've come across adapters that fit a quick connect for a CO2 cylinder and a 2 little plastic soda bottle. An adapter like this would certainly allow for making a small recipe. The supply shop that I've been going to sells this commercial product; it's plastic and I'm sure does a great job. I could, however, pay a few dollars more for some used keg parts and have something that will last me forever.

These are the parts that I bought (my supply guy has these parts already available to do this):

A CO2 cylinder adapter, ferret, spacer, two soft washers (for sealing), metal washer (for sturdiness on the plastic 2 litter bottle cap), and a back part that'll screw into the nozzle.

After putting it all together it looks like this:

I had to put it together back and forth a few times trying different orders for the washers but finally got it to seal properly without any leaks.

Cost: $25.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop

Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop by Stephen Cresswell

For anyone making soda pop, I'd suggest buying this book. I'll be using for multiple recipes in the future. I'll note what recipes use this book when I make them. Not only does this book have all sorts of recipes, it talks about ingredients and equipment too. I'll be using this book often.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Root Beer Recipe #3 - "CHOW"

This recipe is inspired from the one here. Their recipe is for a much smaller amount than I will make. Also, they are using sassafras which I'm not sure if I will use at this time; I'll try to make up for it by using extract and wintergreen.

My recipe for a 5 gallon batch is:
  • 2 vanilla beans (split lengthwise)
  • 1/2 oz licorice root (cut)
  • 3 oz Indian sarsaparilla root (cut)
  • 2 oz burdock root (cut)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks (cracked)
  • 1/2 oz star anise
  • 1/2 oz wintergreen
  • 8 strips of orange zest
  • 10 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 4 Tablespoons root beer extract
Boil everything except sugars and extract in 1 gallon of water for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer for a few minutes. Remove spices. Add sugars and extract, stir till dissolved. Turn off heat. Cool down mixture in pot in sink filled with cold water. Pour mixture in keg and top off with cold water. Force carbonate.

I don't know if it was the recipe or my (untested) keg but I had the hardest time getting this to carbonate. After about three weeks, it was had a slight amount of carbonation. Ultimately, I poured it out of my keg and into a couple of 2 liter bottles to try later. (More on that below.)

Color: This recipe has a very dark brown color to it.
Taste: WOW!! The star anise flavor of black licorice over powered everything. I couldn't taste anything but black licorice. This recipe should be renamed to Black Licorice Beer. The taste is just way too strong. I'll have to make blog posts of ingredients so I know what flavors are good and what will over power others.
Overall: Unfortunately, I couldn't tell what the root beer flavor would be. I did not like this at all. I do, however, have some hope for it. I tried some by diluting it in a little bit of water and it's much better. So I'll comment on that at another time.
Rating: 1 out of 10

Root Beer Recipe #2 - "Blackstrap"

This root beer recipe comes from Ted Danyluk, a homebrewer. I would have followed his recipe exactly but there was a couple of differences that I had to use. His recipe is for a 3 gallon keg and I have a 5 gallon keg. The other difference is that I couldn't find cassia buds anywhere except for 1 place online and I didn't have time to wait for it this time around. There may also be slight diffences in the brands that used.

Here's the ingredients for my 5 gallon recipe:
  • 4 cinnamon sticks (cracked)
  • 1/2 oz licorice root (cut)
  • 1 teaspoon grains of paradise (fresh ground)
  • 4 1/2 cups organic evaporated cane juice sugar
  • 3 1/3 cups organic light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 cup malto dextrin
  • 5 Tablespoons root beer extract (I used 4 1/2 T of birch root beer extract and 1/2 T of regular)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Boil 1 1/3 gallons of water with spices for 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Add sugars and extracts. Place pot in sink filled with cold water to cool down the mixture. Add to keg. Top off keg with cold water. Force carbonate.

It took longer to carbonate than I had anticipated. I'm sure I'll learn the techniques better as I do more.

Color: The color was much darker. A color that I would expect a root beer to be. I'm sure that the molasses and root beer extract helped in that.
Taste: This had a very good root beer taste to it. There is something to the taste, however, that makes me not want to drink a lot of it in one day. I'm thinking that it could be just a little too sweet, or something with the sugars, or it could be the birch root beer taste instead of just root beer.
Overall: This was a good recipe. I'll most likely come back to this with some slight modifications when I want a root beer from extract.
Rating: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kegging System

It's a bit early in this new hobby to be making some major purchases but I've bought a kegging system. There was a couple of reasons for the push to buy one.
  • Just with my first batch of root beer, I noticed that my wife and I were too worried about the yeast's fermentation making alcohol. Even though I was certain there wasn't enough to be worried about, it was still a concern. I couldn't smell or taste anything that would make us think that, it was just in our heads because of the fermentation process.
  • Since announcing my new hobby, I've been asked to make root beer for my sister-in-law's wedding. That's going to be a lot of root beer! And there'd be no way that I could make that much by bottling. I doubt that I could even find a suitable recipe in that time, 2 months.
There is also the wanted reasons to get one, mostly the coolness factor. It's kind of neat to have some bigger equipment.

I called around to the couple local brewing stores to find out what they sold. I decided to go with Art's Brewing Supplies. I went with him because he was selling a used system with 2 Cornelius 5 gallon kegs and a 20lb CO2 cylinder for just a little more than the other store who was selling just 1 keg and a 5lb cylinder. I was able spend some time with Art asking him all the questions I had using the kegging system. He is very knowledgeable and has been selling this stuff for a very long time.

I now just got to decide on my next recipe to use.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Root Beer Recipe #1 - "Sarsaparilla"

I got this root beer recipe at the brew store that I purchased my first pieces of equipment. It's a pretty simple recipe so it should be easy for a first timer.

The recipe creates 5 gallons and since my brewing pot isn't large enough to start, I'm halving the it, which I doubt should hurt anything. So what I'm listing here is the halved amount. Ingredients needed:
  • 1/2 oz Wintergreen Leaves
  • 1 oz Indian Sarsaparilla
  • 1/2 T Sarsaparilla extract
  • 4 cups cane sugar (I'm just using the normal white grocery store kind)
  • 1/4 t Coopers Ale yeast (This maybe will be silly to half but here goes nothing)
First bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Turn off heat. Add Wintergreen leaves and Indian Sarsaparilla (which I but in my straining grain bag), cover and let stand for 2 hours. I left the house so I actually let it soak for 6 hours, but who's counting. Remove grain bag. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add extract and re-hydrated yeast. Transfer to larger bucket (because my pot is too small) and add 1 1/2 gallons of water. Mix well. Siphon into bottles and cap. Leave set at 65° to 80° for 3 to 7 days. Check for carbonation. When carbonated, refrigerate to stop additional fermentation and bursting bottles. Chill and drink.

Beside using glass bottles, I siphoned into two plastic soda bottles so that I could squeeze the bottle to test for carbonation.

Day 3 - I got a little impatient to test how this worked. By squeezing the plastic bottles I could tell that carbonation was happening. They were getting quite firm so I thought that I would get one a test. Nope, not carbonated enough, it was a bit flat.
Day 5 - One more plastic soda bottle left and it's even more firm now. ... Almost there. It's much more carbonated than day 3 but still needs just a little more time.
Day 7 - Just right. The bottle are now carbonated. I now refrigerate the remaining bottles.

Color: The color seems a bit light. I don't think the picture really shows the color too well. I doubt that the color of my root beer really will be a factor of if I like it or not.
Taste: I didn't think it tasted strong enough. There is a root beer taste and smell but it just seems like it's missing more.
Overall: I just didn't like it. I ended up dumping all but a couple of bottles to keep for something just to sip on and taste.
Rating: 3 out of 10

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Initial Equipment Purchases

For my first equipment purchases I didn't want to go overboard, buy too much and spend a lot of money. Really, at this point I'm not sure if I'll even enjoy doing this. So I want to try and use anything that I already have at home and purchase only the minimal amount of equipment.

I already have a fairly decent sized stockpot (I can't remember the exact size but 8 quarts is at the brim) that I can use for my boiling pot. I was given about 30 24oz bottles. And I already have sugar and water.

The items that I did need to purchase are:
  • Obviously the ingredients. The list of ingredients will come on another post with the recipe that I used.
  • The last time I did any kind of siphoning, I siphoned gasoline out of a car and ended up swallowing some.. too much. So I purchased an auto siphon to make that a little easier. And, of course, the tubing. And at the other end I have a bottle filler to help easily fill the bottles.
  • Since I want to bottle right now, I bought a bottle capper and bottle caps.
  • A straining bag will also be helpful. The one I bought is a bit big but should still work just fine.
So really there wasn't too much for me to buy. That was good. It's nice to start a hobby with not a lot of investment.