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Crazy8
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Joined: Aug 13, 2012
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:48 am    Post subject: Complete Noob Reply with quote

Ok, so I have never brewed anything in my life and to be honest I think I can handle this. I have a great interest in making my own root beer. As we speak I have 2 2L pop bottles with...

1cp sugar
1Tbls McCormics Root Beer concentrate
(one of the bottles has 1/2 Tbls vanilla extract in addition to everything else)
1/4tsp active yeast
filtered water

My plan is to let them sit for about 3-4 days (until firm) then put in fridge to chill and enjoy after in the fridge for 1-2 days. Now this whole thing is fine and all and to be honest I hope it turns out well and tastes good, but I would like to really make some stuff from the ground up. I did find one recipe (non-extract) online that is rather extensive and sounds good. I figure its at least a starting point. But I am wondering if any of you pros might have any advice for someone just starting this. Its not something i want to put a ton of money into and buy all sorts of stuff and build a micro brewery under my stairs or anything. Just something small, basic, and fun. i guess I dont know exactly what advice I am looking for but any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

I hope to spend a lot more time in here and thank you all for the help.
  
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Crazy8
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Joined: Aug 13, 2012
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 4:38 pm    Post subject: Re: Complete Noob Reply with quote

Wow almost 24 hours, 63 views and no advice, suggestions or anything for someone just starting off? That's a little discerning for a forum and the community as a whole. I think this is also the first forum and I am a member of many, that I have been to and not even a single "hello", or "welcome to the forum", or even "welcome to the hobby". There is literally nothing for feedback. Well I hate to say it and considering my forum experiences over the years, this is already by far the worst. I think im moving on to look for a bigger, more active, more open, more welcoming, forum. I would hope and suggest that this not be a regular practice.

Thanks for nothing RBW
  
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iolar
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Joined: Aug 19, 2012
Posts: 15
Location: Pacific Northwest

PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:20 am    Post subject: Re: Complete Noob Reply with quote

Firstly, Hello there!

Next, dude, chill. If you actually LOOK at the stats for page views, you'll see that almost ALL of those views are NOT from registered users (and only registered users can post -- most of those views were probably web-spiders if they don't have a robots.txt file setup to block them), and that this forum is a VERY low traffic one. You cannot expect a bunch of people to respond to your post in under 24 hours in that sort of situation. Also, the last time that anyone posted in the Home Brewing sub-forum was May 21st. That should be a clue. I only just found this site a couple days ago myself. If you need quicker responses to your questions, then you need to find a forum that is WAY more active than this one. Considering that it looks like months go by between posts. I'm probably mostly going to mine this forum for recipes myself.

So, onto helpful information. If you are serious about home-brewing root beer and sodas, there is one, pretty much definitive book you absolutely need to get. It is "Homemade Root Beer, Soda, & Pop" by Stephen Cresswell. It retails for $14.95 USD, and focuses only on recipes for brewing that use raw ingredients, not extracts. It is my go-to source for making home-made sodas, and to get ideas from. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Another personal recommendation is to ditch the plastic soda bottles and go with bail-top bottles - also called Grolsch or Beugel bottles or wire-top bottles. You can find lots of pictures of ones on Google. They are a little pricey, but, believe me, they make bottling SO much easier (and safer). They cost me around $25 for a box of 12 (and I've picked up a couple of boxes now), and you'll need to periodically replace the rubber gaskets (those are dirt cheap). The cost is the only disadvantage. Some advantages to using them no need to replace the plactic bottle caps (those fail fairly quickly - they are not really meant for re-use), no need to use a bottler (which sometimes results in broken bottles), no exploded plastic bottles (fermentation pressures can get quite high, and re-used plastic soda bottles weaken quickly) because every Grolsch-style bottle I've ever seen has a VERY thick glass wall, they are very easy to open and then close back up, and still get a perfect seal to the bottle, and they just look friggin' cool Smile.

My next recommendation - keep a brewing journal. Every time you make a batch, record the recipe you used and a time-table of how you handled the whole process (how long it took to prep, how long you left it in a warm area for fermentation, what the approx. ambient temp was, how long in frig before popping the cap, etc.). Every batch you make will depend on many factors, and some of those are environmental. Making home-made root beer in the winter is very different from doing the same thing in the summer (depending on the yeast you use). The information will prove valuable to you for zeroing in on exactly how to modify the recipe and times to craft exactly the brew you are looking for.

Another thing to consider -- choose a good yeast. I personally really like Windsor Ale yeast. It gives a full-bodied flavor, generates a decent about of carbonation, and I've found that it doesn't go completely dormant at refrigeration temperatures - it will keep fermenting and generating carbonation even in the frig -- just MUCH more slowly. Research your yeasts, and choose one that matches your brewing preferences and style. A LOT of people go with champagne yeast for the increased carbonation. YMMV.

Hope the information proves useful. There is a local home brew store in my area that also has an extensive online presence. It is called Homebrew Heaven (http://www.homebrewheaven.com). The book I recommended, and all of the other supplies are available there, and they ship all over the world. And if you're local to the Everett, WA, USA area, they do have a Brick-n-Mortar location. The people there are very helpful.

Enjoy your brew.
  
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kguske
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Joined: Jun 27, 2003
Posts: 341
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL

PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Crazy8,

Please forgive my tardy, but hardy, welcome to the Root Beer World forums! Really busy in my world, but I do hope you'll give the site a chance. The patrons are generally great, helpful, friendly, and wise.

There are great fans of root beer here, but many of them only come around once in a while. There are a few who are quite passionate about home brewing, and they usually participate in these discussions.

I hope you enjoy learning about home brewing - I'm unfortunately not good enough to provide much in the way of advice on that as I'm more of a collector. But parsa is quite knowledgeable about home brewing and can provide excellent advice, especially about ingredients and process. If he doesn't notice this, you might send him a private message and request that he take a look.

Welcome also to iolar, who on only your second post are showing the true spirit of public forums like this! We could use that and some of parsa's posts to create an online guide for home brewers.

Since my experience with home brewing with yeast was, shall we say, less lively than I'd hoped, my next attempt (assuming there IS a next attempt), would likely use artificial carbonation. Many people aren't used to natural carbonation (i.e. yeast) in a soft drink, so artificial carbonation can be a fast, safe, more accepted approach for home brewing.
_________________
Bottoms up!
Kevin Guske

“So here’s a tribute toast with root beer in hand to you and the many mugs of suds along your happy trails.” --Charles Wysocki, artist and root beer fan, 1928-2002
  
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iolar
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Joined: Aug 19, 2012
Posts: 15
Location: Pacific Northwest

PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 4:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Complete Noob Reply with quote

Hi kguske!

Thanks for the kind welcome.

I would give one caveat about artificial carbonation. It's NOT safer than natural carbonation. Be VERY careful with CO2 regulators, and fittings. I purchased one of the simple CO2 cartridge carbonators, and had the fitting to the plastic pop-bottle adapter blow up in my hand. My hand was numb from the blast for over a week, and I was VERY lucky not to get a gash in my hand or my face. I was seriously thinking I might have to go to the doctor at one point.

I used to have problems with the yeasty taste at one point also. It's something that grows on you (and I'm a big fan of active-yeast yogurt). But, there are a few ways to reduce or almost eliminate the yeasty taste. Firstly, choose your yeast wisely. Ale yeasts, in my experience, when used correctly, tend to have a less yeasty taste. Also, don't use lager yeasts. They thrive in a cold environment and pretty much never shutdown (thereby significantly increasing the yeast taste in the brew). Always use yeasts specifically designed for brewing - common yeast you buy in the store has a very powerful yeast taste that you CAN NOT get rid of (personal experience). Secondly, always refrigerate your brew for at least 4 days in the fridge after bottling. More is better. I usually shoot for an even week before I pop the first one open. In the case of ale yeast, this gives you enough time to have almost all of the yeast fully deactivate and sediment out to the bottom. This is important for the next point. Finally, always bottle in long-neck glass bottles. Glass, because it's much easier to sterilize and clean them, and long neck for this reason quoted from "Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop":

"Long-Necked Bottles:

Ever wonder why bottles are shaped the way they are, with wide shoulders and a narrow neck? The answer is that this design allows you to pour a beverage without getting the sediment into the glass. Hold the bottle up to the light the first time you pour a homemade root beer, and you can see what's happening. (You'll find it easiest to see into a clear or green bottle.) The sediment will gradually make its way to the shoulder but won't go into the glass if you are careful. To avoid a strong yeast taste, pour your homemade beverages slowly, leaving about half an inch in the bottle, and most of the yeast will stay in the bottle -- together with any stray bits of bark or twig. The yeast taste is less strong starting about two days after the bottles are moved to the refrigerator. Use of ale yeast instead of bread yeast will result in a beverage in which most of the yeast has settled out and thus won't be tasted. If you relish the taste of yeast, simply drink from the bottle and don't worry about it!"

And, I've found that the author has been dead-on accurate. After about 4 days, and especially after a week, the yeast taste is almost completely gone (using ale yeast). Besides, you get to make a big production out of showing guests the PROPER way to pour a good, homemade brew Smile.
  
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Crazy8
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Joined: Aug 13, 2012
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you guys for the welcomes and all the great info. i know its no excuse but things have been rough on my side and it has been getting rough with losing my job and all. I would love nothing more than to give this forum a shot if you guys will except my apology for my behavior and the things I have said. That all aside I did take Iolar's very on the book which showed up today. I have had a chance to read through everything after your first post Iolar, but if all the other stuff is like the reply I got back, Im looking forward to the read. Very Happy I also am very much looking forward to reading the book so thank you very much for the recommendation on that. Thank you guys once again and I do plan to spend more time here and learn all about brewing my own root beer.
  
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kguske
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Joined: Jun 27, 2003
Posts: 341
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL

PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No worries, Crazy8! All fans of root beer are welcome here. Many members of sites like this start out learning and over time provide much more info and knowledge from their experiences.

Cheers and good luck!
_________________
Bottoms up!
Kevin Guske

“So here’s a tribute toast with root beer in hand to you and the many mugs of suds along your happy trails.” --Charles Wysocki, artist and root beer fan, 1928-2002
  
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Crazy8
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Joined: Aug 13, 2012
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2012 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So as I do my reading, studying, researching, etc. I have one question that still lingers in my mind. I want to use glass and im thinking I will use the bail-top bottles. So here is my question. Once I brew the stew and poor it into glass bottles or even a carboy, how do I know/check the pressure without exploding? More so, how do I know when the carbonation is spot on and needs to be chilled? I would love to use glass but would love it more with fewer explosions as possible and to know when everything is perfect.Very Happy
  
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iolar
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Joined: Aug 19, 2012
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Location: Pacific Northwest

PostPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2012 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crazy8 wrote:
So as I do my reading, studying, researching, etc. I have one question that still lingers in my mind. I want to use glass and im thinking I will use the bail-top bottles. So here is my question. Once I brew the stew and poor it into glass bottles or even a carboy, how do I know/check the pressure without exploding? More so, how do I know when the carbonation is spot on and needs to be chilled? I would love to use glass but would love it more with fewer explosions as possible and to know when everything is perfect.Very Happy


This is where the journal comes in. And another reason why I use bail-top bottles. There is no way to "test" the carbonation level in a bottle without releasing the gas. So, I did a number of test runs (using cheap root-beer extracts - no reason to waste good ingredients on tests now, is there Smile ). So, at 2 days of fermentation in-bottle, I carefully open one of the bottles (in a sink) and listen for how much of a "pop" it makes when the seal is released. If I get a hearty "POP", I know that there's plenty of carbonation and it's time to go into the fridge. If it gives a light "sigh", then it's back into the box (I keep my active bottles in a box under a table wrapped in a plastic garbage bag) for another 24 hrs. Make sure you mark the bottle you opened in some way so you know which one will have less carbonation. After you've made a number of batches, you'll know according to your journal entries how long will be enough time without even needing to test a bottle (I still test at least one bottle to this day - I usually have a "short" bottle - one where there wasn't enough brew to fill it completely -- I test this one).

If you use quality bail-top bottles, you should never have any exploded bottles. People only have exploded bottles because, from what I've been able to tell, when they use lower-quality, thin-walled bottles. And, almost ALL bottles used in commercially sold sodas/beers are low-quality (three beer companies that usually use quality bottles are Samuel Adams, Beck's, and St. Pauli Girl - YMMV). I've over fermented to the point where, when I opened a test bottle, the brew sprayed up almost to the ceiling in a fountain like a well-shook bottle of champagne. The key to no explosions is using quality bottles. Accept no substitutes. That being said, I've been saving up my Virgil's and Reed's bottles for reuse, because I've had a number of people want samples of my home-made root beer. And I'm NOT going to be lending out my bail-top bottles -- NO WAY!!! A friend of mine had a nice bottle capper he picked up at a garage sale for cheap that he gave me, and I picked up a bunch of bottle caps from a locale home brew store (www.homebrewheaven.com - I highly recommend them. Great people). So far, even though they are your standard, thin-walled bottles, I've not broken a bottle yet in my test cappings, and the non-threaded caps I've got still produce a good seal on the threaded bottles. Those will be my "give away" samples.

Some other refinements to think about in the brew. That nice head that commercial root beers get - that's a result of additives. So, after a bit of research, I found that one of the natural additives used to get that nice, foamy head is cassava root extract. And, guess what cassava is used to make ... tapioca Smile So, I've picked up some finely granulated tapioca crystals to try out. I'll have to let you all know how that goes. Also, I usually use turbinado sugar (evaporated cane juice) instead of white sugar (you can usually find that in the natural foods section in the store), and one of the recommendations I've found is to add a bit of molasses in addition or in place of regular sugar. The molasses is supposed to give you that deep brown color people have come to expect from root beer (a completely natural brew isn't very brown), and also supposedly gives a full-bodied, lightly buttery taste.
  
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Crazy8
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:38 pm    Post subject: Re: Complete Noob Reply with quote

Thank you very much for all that info. I do have a few other questions now that have sparked from all of that. Thank God for forums...lol Now im not a drinker and I never did drink beer, it just never agreed with my stomach, but if I were to use or get some Sam Adams bottles, or other ones, could I just attach the bail-top setup onto them?

This is a little off the subject maybe but my wife and I love 1912, A&W, and Frost Top root beers. Any ideas of similar recipes for making those?
  
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iolar
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 7:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Complete Noob Reply with quote

Crazy8 wrote:
Thank you very much for all that info. I do have a few other questions now that have sparked from all of that. Thank God for forums...lol Now im not a drinker and I never did drink beer, it just never agreed with my stomach, but if I were to use or get some Sam Adams bottles, or other ones, could I just attach the bail-top setup onto them?


Nope. Bail-top bottles are specially designed to take the wire-frame that the ceramic plug is attached to. To re-use regular, commercial bottles, you will need to get a capper and a supply of bottle caps.

Crazy8 wrote:
This is a little off the subject maybe but my wife and I love 1912, A&W, and Frost Top root beers. Any ideas of similar recipes for making those?


I've never seen any recipes for re-creating any type of commercial root beer. Usually, what you need to look for are extracts supplied by that company to get as close as possible to re-creating their flavor. Also, realize, that using yeast carbonation IS going to affect the taste -- it won't be exactly like the original. The only way to do that is to use artificial carbonation, and it is MUCH more expensive to use artificial carbonation than natural, yeast-based carbonation. I googled a bit, and people say that either Zatarain or Gnome extract get closest to A&W. You'll just need to google around some more, and try out various extracts/recipes to get as close as possible to your desired flavor.
  
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steveb
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Joined: Mar 19, 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Complete Noob Reply with quote

iolar - just curious as to how your tapioca crystals turned out. I've been trying to create more foam in my root beer, and just not having any luck. I know it doesn't really affect the flavor, but when you serve it to people it's lacking that needed head. At this point I don't mind if it's a natural additive or artificial. I read somewhere that yucca extract is used for foam as well, but I have no idea if the local health food store carries the right stuff or the amount to use.
  
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steveb
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any updates from Crazy8? I hadn't checked the site recently for activity, and sorry I missed out on the rest of the discussion.
  
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Crazy8
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:46 am    Post subject: Re: Complete Noob Reply with quote

Sorry I haven't been back on here lately but in the last few days I have been very busy getting things ready. So I was waiting for my roots and stuff to show up from Monterey Bay Spice Company. Here is what I ordered...
4oz Juniper Berries
4oz Star Anise
4oz Sarsaparilla Root
4 oz Sassafras Root
4oz Cinnamon Sticks 2 3/4"
4oz Nutmeg (Ground)

Went to my local (not that close really) Crate and Barrel an got a nice 12qt Stock Pot and a digital thermometer.

Then over the last few days I have made a couple trips to my local "Brew and Grow" and got these items...
12 - 16oz Bail Top Bottles
1 Gallon Carboy
#6 Rubber Stopper
Pack of Vanilla Beans
Ale Pale
4' Siphon Tubing
24" Straight Racking Cane (I think that's what it is)
Star-San Cleaner
Bottle Brush
Coopers Brewers Yeast
Ale Yeast
Champaign Yeast (This was recommended to me after I told the guy I was making root beer)


So, today I have been BUSY....My roots showed up this morning and I have been working all day. I have made one batch of the "Rich Root Beer" in the book (Page 47) mentioned earlier in this thread, and a batch of a recipe I found online. The first batch went into my bottle and the second recipe went into my 1 gallon carboy , one of my 16oz bottles (I had one left over that didn't get filled from the first batch), and a 2 liter bottle. I meant to buy a 2nd 1 gallon carboy but forgot to get it. Anyway to sum it all up, I have made 3.5 gallons of delicious smelling and tasting brew. 1.5 gallons on the recipe from the book and the other 2 gallons on the recipe I found online.

The house still smells of sassafras, anise, and sarsaparilla and I am loving it. I have used only the Champaign yeast since it was recommended , so i will see what results I get. I also have 2 liters of root beer (using extract) in the fridge that just went in today but have been fermenting for about a week. Carbonation wise I have some hope but taste wise I don't think I will like it. I have tested some other samples and did not like them much and had a weird, maybe alcohol-ish kind of taste. i know the percentage of alcohol is very little, but whatever the taste is, i'm not digging it much. Anyway, I am loving the taste of the "REAL" root beer I made today and I am looking forward to enjoying it by this weekend hopefully.
  
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steveb
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like your all set...lucky to have those supply stores nearby! One thing to keep in mind...I've never used Champagne yeast because I've heard Champagne yeast keeps working even at cold temperatures, so putting your bottles in the fridge may not kill it completely off. Not saying that's completely fact, but that's what I've heard. I used Ale yeast, but I'm not too keen on the yeasty taste, so I've been force carbonating. What I've read is to keep them in the fridge at least a week for the yeast to all settle and the yeast taste will dissipate some more. Good luck and keep us posted!
  
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