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Well, I tried to follow a very simple recipe from "Cooking for Geeks" for Ginger Lemon Soda.

I made a simple ginger syrup by cooking ~200g of chopped ginger together with 2 cups of sugar, then I used half of that syrup together with 1/2 a teaspoon of yeast (from the local home-brew store), and topped off with 900 ml of water.

The recipe says: Let rest at room temperature for two days, then refrigerate and drink.

Well, for the first batch, I had so much pressure that when I opened it, it came out like champagne and I lost half of the soda.

For the second batch, I put it in the fridge after one day. Now the level of carbonation is just right, but it's still a bit alcoholic. I had half a glass and I can definitely tell that there was some alcohol involved.

I wonder: What is the way to go to get nice sparkling soda that isn't also high in alcohol?

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That recipe sounds fairly faulty to me. Sugar + Yeast = alcohol, 100% of the time. What did they tell you were doing? –  FuzzyChef Apr 24 '12 at 5:32
    
Well, the official name of the recipe is "Ginger Lemon Soda" and it doesn't say anything about alcohol. –  Lagerbaer Apr 24 '12 at 14:07
    
@FuzzyChef Sugar + Yeast = vinegar if you let too much air get to the mash. That's usually an unhappy outcome. –  Wayfaring Stranger Jun 29 '13 at 18:36
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6 Answers 6

up vote 16 down vote accepted

This recipe is listed under the section for fermentation, together with beer, wine and mead. The section starts with the sentence "Wine, beer and traditional sodas all depend on yeast to ferment sugar into alcohol and generate carbonation".

I don't know enough about the history of soda to know if early sodas were alcoholic. Or rather, I am quite sure that there were alcoholic, fermented, carbonated drinks long before what we call "soda" today existed, but I don't know if they were called soda.

Whatever the language problem is, this recipe is definitely intended to produce a low-alcohol beverage, comparable to beer. If you want carbonated syrup, you should buy a carbonating machine. These take a bullet full of CO2 and press it into the drink base you have selected.

As for the too-strong carbonation, this is probably due to the vague term "room temperature". Yeast growth speed depends on temperature. Because it is an exponential growth, even small changes in temperature can lead to vastly different results. If you want to repeat the experiment despite the alcohol production, try better controlling for the temperature. As I don't brew, I can't tell you the temperature for optimal carbonation after two days, you will have to find it out by yourself.

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Based on etymonline.com/?term=soda and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonated_water#History it seems likely that "soda" came into use for non-alcoholic sparkling drinks. –  Peter Taylor Apr 24 '12 at 14:43
    
Maybe the book author was mistaken about the origin of soda. I have the book and he does indeed call the recipe "soda", but it is a recipe for a fermented drink, which automatically means alcohol - I haven't seen a fermented drink below 1.5% alcohol, and this is for drinks with low sugar availability (boza, kvas, must). Actually, even bread contains alcohol (although less so than carbonated drinks, because it ferments for a shorter time and contains less yeast, and then part of it evaporates in baking). There is no yeast fermentation without alcohol. –  rumtscho Apr 24 '12 at 15:07
    
Okay, so it just was a misconception of my part. Well, I don't mind, it's still very tasty. :) –  Lagerbaer Apr 24 '12 at 18:36
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"Early Sodas" include root BEER and ginger ALE... I'm thinking that says something. –  Cos Callis Apr 24 '12 at 20:04
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I think @CosCallis has hit the nail on its head: traditional root beer and ginger ale were, indeed, brewed drinks, and thus contained alcohol. Nowadays, both are made the same way sodas are, i.e. by adding carbon dioxide directly, no yeast involved. Thus, modern ginger ale/root beer can be properly called "soda". But this doesn't mean that something brewed the traditional way automagically becomes "soda" just because ginger is involved. –  Marti Apr 24 '12 at 20:29
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Pick up a Carbonater and a CO2 setup (CO2 tank, Regulator, Hose, Ball lock connector. This will let you force carbonate a 2 liter bottle. You will also have to add a preservative of some sort to prevent fermentation.

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As others have said- anything with yeast contains alcohol.

However, the alcohol content should be negligible at 0.25%-0.5%.

Refrigeration is necessary for stopping the fermentation. The bottles should only be fermented until they are firm or else you risk explosion as you discovered. I would say that your second batch was handled correctly.

Another common alternative to the yeast carbonation approach is to add some dry ice to a partially sealed cooler.

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But how do I get it to stay that low? I definitely had more than 0.5% in my brew... –  Lagerbaer Apr 24 '12 at 23:13
    
@Lagerbaer- You get it to stay low by stopping the fermentation early by refrigeration. As soon as the bottles are firm it is done and can be chilled and consumed. –  Sobachatina Apr 25 '12 at 13:24
    
Okay... that was after, like, one night at "room" temperature. The exploding bottle had two days, the non-exploding yet alcoholic bottle had one day. Makes sense :) –  Lagerbaer Apr 25 '12 at 14:56
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Typically, beer is brewed in several stages. All but the last stage produce a flat alcoholic barley wine, and the final stage is carbonation and fermentation.

For a home brewer, two teaspoons of sugar is added to each bottle (350 - 500 ml) so for your purposes, I'd add 4 teaspoons for the 900 ml bottle. (It may take a bit longer for it to reach the drinking stage.) There will be some alcohol, but well below 1%.

This means that you've now got an unsweetened ginger beer, with low alcohol. Now you need to figure out a way to sweeten it up. Obviously, one way would be to add some syrup at serving time. Another way would be to add a non-fermentable sugar such as sucralose (Splenda) at the syrup making stage.

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I believe lactose is standard to use as a non-fermenting sugar. Sucralose is an artificial sweetener, not a form of sugar. –  sourd'oh Jul 13 '13 at 19:39
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It sounds to me like you may want to try using less yeast and possibly less sugar. I recently made my own Root Beer and the portions I went with were 1-liter water : 1/2-tablespoon Rootbeer flavoring : 1/2-Cup of Sugar : 1/8 teaspoon of yeast. I'm not sure of the alcohol content (mostly because I was already tired when I finally sat down to try the 1st batch), but by the numbers I have read of what to expect this recipe should but you at about 0.1% to 0.05% abv. Alcoholic beer is generally 6% to 8%, and as low as 3%. Near-beer is generally 1%, I think.

It seems like yeast is the wild beast to reign in on carbonation: For instance, I saw two recipes that were only supposed to take 1-4 days to carbonate, one was for 2-liters (1/2 gallon) of liquid and 1-cup of sugar, the other was for 1 gallon (4-liters) and used 2 cups of sugar, but both recipes called for 1/4 teaspoon of yeast and 1-4 days for carbonation. I saw a 3rd recipe that used only 7-grains of yeast per 20oz[US] (about 1/2 liter), however it took nearly a full week to carbonate.

So, yeast is not a direct proportion and I would say that 1/2 teaspoon for just under 1-liter is why you are getting so much alcohol (and CO2) production. I would scale it back. Sugar, maybe yes, maybe no....ginger is spicy enough, it may actually require the 2 cups of sugar you are using in order to be palatable. But even then, you would be trying to retain more sugar and use less yeast to process less of it.

I'd like to use natural ingredients instead of flavoring, but I'm trying to do my homework on the possibility of Methanol production from roots. Methanol can make you blind. Ethanol can make you drunk. Ethanol can counter Methanol poisoning (if caught soon enough!)

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forgot to mention, 1-liter H2O : 1/2-Cup sugar : 1/8 tsp yeast carbonated anywhere for 1 to 2 days for me on all bottles prepared, however the yeast was only a week old from being bought and I used Dry, Active Yeast. –  Matt Aug 19 '13 at 18:18
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Use yogurt way instead about 2 tsp to 2 liters , or half a assiduous tablet. Presto None alcoholic bubbles.

Now what I do is only foment with half as much water so bottles half empty. Chill it then open let out some gas careful. Then add water rechill. If you want it more fizzy leave it out a bit. The idea that they used Yeast in the ye old days is not true.

They used Kefir, Ginger Plant or Yogurt Way. These yeast soda recipes are written by idiots. Bc it will Ruin the Flavor and produce a alcoholic beverage unfit for children,that turns to vinegar left open. Using Kefir, Ginger Plant or Yogurt Way you get a probiotic that got good flavor very healthy.. to get yogurt Way just strain yogurt from the curt with clean cloth the liquids Way, last 6 month in fridge!

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add more flavor or sweetener before second chilling as you like. –  Jonathan wint Jun 29 '13 at 14:31
    
They have definitely had yeast since the old days. Ancient Egyptians were even making beer! What you are describing is a totally different form of fermentation. –  sourd'oh Jul 13 '13 at 19:40
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