Root beer is one of the most commonly made (non) alcoholic beverages these days, probably because of the word beer in the name. Root beer was a traditional beverage and herbal medicine. Throughout history, the beverage was often mildly alcoholic. Making home made root beer as a medicine was used for treating cough and mouth sores. There is a mild alcoholic version that is made by fermenting a solution of extract and sugar with yeast. You will end up with a beverage with about 0.4% alcohol, compared to more than 4% for most regular beers.
Making home made root beer is relatively easy, especially for those that begin the process using root beer extract instead of mixing their own flavors. Root beer was flavored with bark from the roots of the Sassafras tree, which was outlawed in 1960 once it was deemed to cause cancer.
Today making home made root beer is flavored primarily with wintergreen with vanilla, ginger, licorice and sarsaparilla mixed in for good measure. However, the simplest way in making home made root beer is to use a root beer extract, preferable the kind sold in a brewing supply outlet instead of what is available in most grocery stores. To make the first batch, you will need a container large enough in which to boil five gallons of water and still have room left over for four pounds of sugar.
If you buy the root beer extract from a supplier, it will usually have a recipe to tell you how much to add to the boiling sugar water, but as you are making home made root beer yourself your free to taste it and adjust the amount of extract added to your home made root beer.
Adding Bubbles To Your Root Beer
To add some bubbles to your root beer your supposed to carbonated it, you will need to add yeast to the mixture. Some recipes call for adding champaign yeast, but those experienced in making home made root beer recommend using ale yeast. Champaign yeast lives longer under pressure when it is bottled and can sometimes cause the bottles of home made root beer to burst under the pressure.
As the yeast is added to the flavored mixture it begins to react with the sugar, creating the fizz. It will take at least 12 hours to add the proper carbonation and when making home made root beer if it does not seem to have the kick of the fizz, an additional 12 hours of fermentation probably will not hurt it any. Once fermentation is completed, the home made root beer is ready to be bottled.
To prevent bacteria getting in, you should sterilize the bottles. Store the bottles in a chilled place. Making home made root beer is really fun to make and you end up with a nice refreshing beverage.