Practical Applications in Chemistry

19 01 2007

This week I made my own Ginger Ale.  I’ve made lot’s of other home-made things before, such as my own hard cider, but this my first time making soda at home.    I’d have to say it was quite good.  Brighter and fresher than the stuff you buy in the store.  It’s perhaps not as spicy as your standard off the shelf number, but more delicious.  Plus, the natural carbonation makes for a smoother beverage.  It’s quite easy, here’s how you do it if you are interested.

Start with a clean 2 liter plastic soda bottle.  I must emphasize PLASTIC, do not use glass.  The fermentation process creates pressure which a glass bottle might not be able to handle. 

Using a funnel, put one cup of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon yeast into the bottle.  I used a granulated yeast that came with my home made hard cider kit.  The traditional yeast you can get in a grocery store will be fine.  Swirl the bottle to combine the ingredients. 

Grate 1.5 tablespoons of fresh ginger.  A finer grate will give you more flavor.  Combine the ginger with the juice of 1 lemon (you can omit the lemon if you like, but it’s a natural match for the ginger flavor and quite tasty).  Add the ginger and lemon juice to the bottle with the sugar/yeast combination.

Next, pour some water into the bottle and swirl to dissolve the sugar and combine the ingredients.  Top off with water leaving an inch or two of headway at the top.  Cap and swirl shakes just to make sure everything is well combined and distributed.

Let the bottle sit out for 24-48 hours.  It will tend towards the shorter length of time if it is warmer.  Be careful not to let the bottle sit out for too long, it will continue to build pressure and may burst if you don’t refrigerate it.  After 24-48, put it in the fridge and enjoy at your leisure.  Obviously, there will be sediment which you can enjoy much as you would pulp in orange juice, or just strain it out like I did.

For those of you who don’t know what’s going on in that bottle and don’t know where the carbonation is coming from, that’s what the yeast is for.  The yeast eats the sugar and expels carbon gas (as well as a little alcohol, the final soda will have an alcoholic content of about 0.5%) and the gas carbonate the soda naturally.

The nice thing about home made soda (or anything else for that matter) is that is not only better tasting, but healthier.  Of course, nothing with a cup of sugar in it is going to qualify as “healthy” exactly, it is still better.  Your homemade soda is not going to have the pernicious “high fructose corn syrup” in it, nor any artificial colors or preservatives.

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