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ROOT BEER

bottle brush
bottle washer
5-gallon container for mixing (not aluminum)
bottle capper
siphon tube (at least 3 feet long)
siphon clamp
at least 4 dozen 12-oz bottles (be sure to use the kind which requires
a bottle opener, because the threaded necks of the twist-off variety
are too easily broken)


1 packet champaign yeast (I get two, in case the first one doesn't proof)
5 lbs of table sugar
1 bottle root beer extract (regular size)
at least 5 dozen bottle caps

Carefully & thoroughly wash the bottles. It is best as well as
convenient to first wash them in the dishwasher to loosen up and
remove the primary dirt particles; then, scrub the inside of each
one with the bottle brush followed by several blasts on the bottle
washer to rinse it out. Inspect each bottle by holding it up to
a light -- If you still see any dirt or debris stuck to it, either
throw it away or attempt to clean it again (this choice is usually
driven by supply versus patience). Yes, this is the biggest
pain-in-the-ass part of the whole operation, but it is important
to ensure each bottle is clean.


Dissolve a couple tablespoons of the sugar in a cup of barely
luke-warm water, and stir in the packet of yeast. After 10 minutes
or so, it should start to foam up a little. This is called "proofing"
the yeast. If it doesn't foam, throw it away and try again with
a fresh packet.

Using your 5-gallon container, thoroughly dissolve the remaining
bag of sugar in 4 1/2 gallons of luke-warm water. Mix in the bottle
of root beer extract. When the yeast has proofed, add it to the
mixture and let it stand for at least 5 minutes.

Thoroughly clean the siphon tube and affix the siphon clamp to one
end. Affix a small weight (a spoon works well) to the other end
of the tube and drop it into the root beer mix. Tilt the bucket
by propping it up on one side with an old book or something (about
1 or 2 inches thick), and reposition the weighted-end of the tube
such that it rests on the bottom-most corner of the bucket. A few
clothespins strategically placed around the rim can help ensure
the tube stays in place.


To leave about 1 inch of head room in each bottle. Affix a bottle
cap to each with the bottle capper. Any bottle that should become
even slightly cracked by the capper should be discarded along with
its contents.

Keep the root beer in a dark place at room temperature for 2 to 4
weeks. During this period the yeast will consume sugar and produce
CO2, thus carbonating the beverage (this phase is known as
"conditioning"). Be careful: If it is kept too warm or left out
too long, the yeast will create more pressure than the bottles can
handle, resulting in a major mess when they all blow up -- it only
takes one to start the chain reaction.


For the root beer to achieve an acceptable level of carbonation.
The actual time will vary from batch to batch due to many unknown
and/or uncontrollable factors (e.g., mixing temperature, conditioning
temperature, freshness/type of yeast, sugar structure). In order
to monitor the progression of carbonation in the batch, you'll have
to periodically sacrifice a bottle for sampling. Open the first
one about 10 days after bottling, then check another one every few
days after that, until the desired level of carbonation is reached
-- then refrigerate the entire batch.

When the root beer has achieved the desired carbonation, you You
must refrigerate it, else you'll have your own Mutiny requiring
Bounty. Refrigeration causes the yeast to slow down to an almost
inactive level; any subsequent raise in room temperature will speed
it back up again. If you continue to keep the bottles at room
temperature, they'll progressively become more and more carbonated
and, eventually, explode.

Root beer which has been allowed to get just a bit more carbonated
than intended is still quite drinkable -- you just need to be more
careful when uncapping in order to avoid unintentionally decorating
your ceiling (or yourself) with twelve ounces of sticky brown liquid
seeking its first flying lesson. When opening a potentially fiesty
bottle, you'll want to "sneak" off the pressure a little at a time
by slowly raising the bottle opener until you just hear the hiss
of escaping gas, then hold that position until you see foam starting
to rise up above the surface of the liquid, then immediately lower
the opener again -- the bottle will then reseal itself, allowing
the foam to subside. Keep doing this until you sense that enough
excess pressure has been bled off.

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