Soft Root Beer Soda Recipe
By Chris Colby
Yeast-carbonated sodas were among the first soft drinks, and they’re easy to make with simple ingredients and few tools.
- 2 pounds cane sugar
- 1 pound brown sugar
- 1 ounce sassafras root bark (about 6 tablespoons)
- 0.8 ounce sarsaparilla root bark (about 6 tablespoons)
- 0.4 ounce licorice root (about 2 tablespoons)
- 3 star anise pods
- 2 vanilla beans, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 11-gram sachet of Fermentis US-05 dried ale yeast
- To a 2-gallon or larger pot, add 1 3/4 gallons of water and begin heating. Stir in the sugars, and then add the sassafras, sarsaparilla, and licorice root.
- Bring the mixture to boil, boil for 8 minutes, and then add the star anise and vanilla, and boil for an additional 2 minutes. You should have 1 1/2 gallons of root extract.
- Place the lid on the pot and lower it into a sink full of cold water. Change the water every 5 minutes, until the pot is cool to the touch. Then, change the water one last time, and add 6 to 9 pounds of ice to the sink. Let the pot cool in the ice bath for at least 10 minutes.
- Clean and sanitize your bottles. Fill each halfway with cold water, and then siphon or funnel your root extract into the bottles, leaving 1 to 2 inches of headspace. (If you’re using a funnel, pour the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the solids.) Add about 1/8 teaspoon yeast to each bottle. Seal the bottles.
- Allow the root beer to carbonate at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. After the first day, squeeze the bottles every 12 hours; when they feel hard, refrigerate them. Cool for at least 3 days before drinking.
The dominant flavor in this 1800s-style root beer is sassafras. This carbonated, nonalcoholic root beer tastes as sweet as modern commercial soda, but you can cut back on the sugar, if desired. For a more intense flavor, increase the amounts of roots and spices. The easiest way to package this volume of root beer is in three 3-liter plastic bottles and one 2-liter plastic bottle.
Fermentation Type: Alcoholic
Primary Fermentation: 2 to 3 days
Total Time: 2 to 3 days
Shelf Life: 1 month
Yield: 3 gallons.