May 11, 2021

Bottle Cap Collecting

 So as I get older and the more my kids want to do extra curricular activities. The less time I have for making homemade soda.

I've filled my time with other projects that can be dropped at a moment's notice, rather than things that have to be finished once they are started. Because of that, I have a not-yet-wet bar in my basement that is now in it's fifth year of construction. 

One of the pieces of the bar that I've put in is a booth table the space is a few inches narrower than a typical restaurant booth, and the table I have is from a closed TGI Fridays, so it's a bit beat up. 

So I've started a new table. I've collected various bottle caps for the project over the years and now that the project is in full swing, I've discovered that I need a lot more caps.

My impetus for collecting caps.

Thanks to the Reddit (r/BottleCapCollecting) I've been able to make some trades, so I've created a page to as a central place to list available caps for trade. 

September 17, 2020

The Root Beer Lady

This popped up in my Google news feed and I was intrigued.

I never knew Dorothy Molter, but I wish I could have.  I would think that an ice cold home brewed root beer at the end of a 15 mile canoe trip would be quite a nice treat. One of my favorite trips I took as a boy scout was a 50 mile canoe trip on Yellowstone lake. Sure, it was only sunny the day we arrived and the day we left with every day in between being rainy, windy, and generally miserable, but the serenity of propelling yourself over a glassy lake in the middle of a national park wilderness even just for one day, made enduring the rest of the trip worth the effort. 
It's memories of that trip that fuel my crazy desire to build my own cedar strip canoe someday, even though I've rarely been on the water since and my woodworking skills are mediocre at best.

So that's what makes this story all the more intriguing to me. I envy those canoers of four decades ago who had the pleasure of making this stop to take a breather and enjoy a root beer in the expansive lakeland wilderness of Minnesota.

And while you can still visit the Dorothy Molter museum ( and get yourself a root beer there, it seems like it wouldn't be quite the same. 

The world needs more Dorothy Molters. I remember as a kid there was an older gentleman in our neighborhood that the kids ask knew as "the cookie man". He was a grandfatherly type that would always bring his cookie jar to the door when kids stopped by and knocked. With the world we live in, that would terrify parents today. It's sad to see what direction the world has gone. Would there be rooting in the streets if there were more of these type of people in the world? Would we be bitterly divided if this type of honest charitable giving were acceptable and not considered creepy? I don't mean to wax political over homemade root beer, but how do we get this back?

August 7, 2017

Guest Post: Apple Pie Sodas by Andrew Lepper

I regularly get emails about the book and questions from fellow soda makers and try to get answers to people as often as I can.
Along with this, I always welcome guest posts and today's post comes from Andrew Lepper.

An up-and-coming soda maker, Andrew has made syrups for his Sodastream and has moved on to bigger and better things.  Andrew was kind enough to share his recipe for all to follow.  I have not personally tried this recipe, but it looks like a pretty solid recipe to me for Apple Pie Flavored Soda, albeit a little on the sweeter side, but you never can tell when starting a new recipe using yeast.  This deviates significantly from my Apple Pie Soda recipe, but there's more than one way to get the job done.  If you have any questions for Andy, let me know and I will send them your way.

From Andy:

This is my first run at making my own homemade soda! I have dabbled in making syrups before simply for the soda stream, but I decided to take up the hobby of self-carbonating my own bottles using yeast. Here's the first recipe, summer-inspired. 

After brainstorming ideas on what my first trial should be, I landed on Apple Pie. I have tried a couple different Apple Pie sodas before and they were delicious! Here I will post two slightly-different recipes and give my reviews:

First of all, I made my own apple cider using this recipe.

Recipe 1: Apple Pie (Extra sweet) - Makes 4 liters

  • 2 cups pure cane sugar
  • 3.25 cups water (divided)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/8 tsp champagne yeast
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Dissolve sugar with 1/4 cup of water, bringing to a boil.
2. Add 2 more cups of water, the vanilla, and the cider. Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes.
3. While simmering, mix the yeast with 1 cup warm water. (Not too hot or you'll kill the yeast). Let that sit for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
​4. After the syrup mixture cools, pour the yeast mix in. Stir and separate into two 2-Liter bottles.
5. Add room-temperature water, give the bottles a good shake, then let sit for 1-2 days or until the bottle is firm from carbonation.
After the soda is well-carbonated, store in the fridge to keep yeast dormant.

This soda turned out very well, yet very sweet! I forgot to add a teaspoon of lemon juice so when I drink it, I would usually add a couple drops to my cup, though this wasn't an issue for anyone else who tried it. The soda itself makes for an amazing ice cream float!

For the second recipe, I did not change much. Therefore, instead of typing up the recipe over again, I'll just list the differences:

Apple Pie # 2
Instead of using 2 cups white sugar I used:

  • 1 cup pure cane sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
I think this helped add a fuller flavor to the syrup.
And of course, I added 1 tsp lemon juice for the second boil.

Changing the ingredients didn't make too drastic of a change to the final product. The lemon made the drink slightly less sweet, however still pretty sweet. The change of sugar also added a nice hint of fuller, darker flavor.
These recipes are very similar. If you want to try it, just choose which one is easier and more appealing to you.

September 27, 2016

DrinkMate Home Soda Maker Review

I recently had an opportunity to review a product from iDrink Products, the DrinkMate.

At first I thought it was just a SodaStream knock-off.  But the DrinkMate plays off of what is sometimes considered the SodaStream's biggest downside.  The DrinkMate is designed to carbonate virtually anything you can put in it while the SodaStream is designed for carbonating just water.  "What will you sparkle next?" it says.

Notice the kiwi smoothie shown on the box.  Yeah, that's a challenge that I'll accept!  Unfortunately, I didn't have any kiwis on hand at the moment.

Granted the fundamental operation is the same between the DrinkMate and the SodaStream.  You could theoretically carbonate anything in the SodaStream, too, but then you've shot your warranty and you risk blasting carbonated *whatever* all over your kitchen.

What makes the DrinkMate different is that it has a removable injector with a slow release valve integrated into the top so that the pressure change is gradual instead of immediate, thus maintaining the carbonation level in your drink.  I was pretty impressed with that.
One of the downsides, though is that it comes with this teeny CO2 tank.  Now I've been told that you can use the SodaStream carbonators with this, but I haven't tried that yet.  Still a burden, but makes it easier to get your hands on more CO2.

So how well does it work? I decided to start off basic and just carbonate cold water.  The best I was hoping for was that it would carbonate as well as my kegging setup.  Boy was I wrong.  It actually carbonated better than my kegging setup.  All this time I've been telling people the keg was the best carbonation they can get because you can dial it in to where you want it to be, but it turns out that an ice cold bottle of water in the DrinkMate will get you comparable to a bottle of commercial seltzer.  So I decided to give it a more scientific test.  Get ready for some numbers.

In the US, carbonation is typically measured in volumes.  Something carbonated to 1 volume means that a certain quantity of liquid has an equal volume of CO2 (at standard temperature and pressure) dissolved into it.  Most commercial sodas are carbonated to around 3 or 4 volumes.  Across the pond, they have a more straight forward way of measuring carbonation and that's g/L.  1 volume is a pretty close equivalent to 2g/L.  So if this were to carbonate as well as a commercial seltzer, it should add about 3 or 4 g to my bottle 1/2 L bottle.  Let's see how that goes:

I took the tare weight of the bottle.  Then I carbonated it as much as possible as per the instructions.  After carbonating, I weighed the full bottle.  Then I shook and released pressure repeatedly until nothing more would bubble out and took the final weight.  The difference would be how much CO2 was dissolved.
Test 1:
Tare Weight 12.3g
Full Weight 514.7g
Shaken Weight 511.2g
Difference = 3.5 g CO2 in 498.9g water = 7.02g/L or about 3.5 vol CO2.  Not bad!

But we have to be sure these results are repeatable.  This time I let it sit and dissolve overnight in the fridge after carbonating and added more if possible.
Test 2:
Tare Weight 11.9g
Full Weight 505.1g
Shaken Weight 500.8g
Difference = 4.3 g CO2 in 488.9g water = 8.79g CO2/L or about 4.4 vol CO2. Even Better!

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the DrinkMate and it's resultant beverages.  I wasn't as happy with the carbonated chocolate milk, though.  I thought it would taste better than that.  So while you have the freedom to carbonate anything that will fit in the bottle, it's not advisable

To recap, here are the pros and cons of the DrinkMate.
-Carbonate anything you want
-Slow release pressure valve to maintain the best carbonation
-Possible 4 vol of CO2 carbonation level in plain tap water, other beverages will vary.

-Still requires proprietary CO2 refills.
-Limited availability.
-Limited to about 1/2 L at a time.

I'd say this is a buy for anyone that's looking for a good countertop carbonator.  For someone making larger volumes of homemade soda, this would be great for test batches, but wouldn't work well for serving a crowd.

December 11, 2015

Return of Crystal Pepsi?

Knowing that the 90’s are “retro” makes me feel old. 

While I do remember the 90’s fondly in some respects, there are probably some things that shouldn’t come back.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Pepsi thinks its own Crystal Pepsi is one of them.  Based on their method of “reintroduction” I believe that Pepsi is certainly playing it as safe as possible with some subtle hints that it may be a reluctant relaunch.

In their teasers leading up to it, Pepsi tweeted a photo of a can of original Pepsi being imbibed by someone named Crystal, (wearing a cheap necklace with bearing her name) with the caption “Is this what you meant?” and later a photo of a can of original Pepsi laying on a bed of crystals with the caption, “So, not this.”  I tease my kids the same way when I’m mildly reluctant to give them something they’re asking for.  Kind of a, “Are you sure you want this?  How about this, instead?”  Say what you will about my parenting, I’ll bet I’m not the only one who does this. 

Even compared to Coca Cola’s “online only” Surge comeback, the Crystal Pepsi initial offering is extremely limited.  As announced, Crystal Pepsi is available as part of a sweepstakes wherein the entry period is 48 hours (ending today).  Initially I thought the entries were only limited to Pepsi loyalists who had points in their PepsiPass accounts.  Each entry will cost you 1000 points for a chance to win one of 13,000 six-packs of 16oz bottles.  It turns out that even if you don’t have the PepsiPass app, you can enter online and you get 5000 points just for signing up.  So really it is open to anybody.  The only people this weeds out are people who don’t have enough motivation to sign up for an account and people who have already signed up for an account, but have used their points and don’t have motivation to do what it takes to build their points back up in the short time period. 

From a marketing standpoint, this gives Pepsi a huge amount data on potential customers.  This allows them to really gauge how much interest there is in Crystal Pepsi rather than relying on the rallying cry of a handful vocal enthusiasts.  First off, it allows Pepsi to see who would be interested in getting their hands on at least a six pack.  I see this as Pepsi asking the question, “By raise of hands, who wants Crystal Pepsi?”  When you sign up for the PepsiPass account/app and put in an entry, you give your email address, mailing address, birth date, and phone number.  I expect marketing loves information like that.  Additionally, not only are they asking “Who wants some?” they can sort out the info by order of “How bad do you want it?”  During the two day period, you’re limited to 3 entries per day for a total of 6 entries.  So likely 1 entry falls into the “Sounds interesting.” category, 2 entries equates to “I’d try it.” 3 entries tells them “I’ll do everything I can for a single day to get some, but I’m not devoted enough to do this for two days.” 4 Entries means “I’m in, but I’m a bit short on points.”  5 entries shows them “I just signed up for Crystal Pepsi and nothing else.”  6 entries tells them, “I’m a Pepsi fan through and through.  I’ll do everything I can no matter what.”

Once the 13,000 winners get their coveted 6-pack, you can bet a fair number of winners will brag about it via social media, showing Pepsi feedback and creating buzz. From here they can make the decision whether they want a wider launch.  While I haven’t seen anything official from Pepsi, there is speculation that Crystal Pepsi will hit stores in Summer 2016.  I would be very surprised if it lasts very long, given that it flopped the first time around and Pepsi’s penchant for Limited Time Offers, particularly under the Mountain Dew brand.  Even 23 years of pining nostalgia won’t keep it afloat if it isn’t any good.  Everyone who tasted it the first time around has undoubtedly experienced changing tastes/palettes and preferences over the years, so would people really exclaim “This tastes just like I remember!” after all this time?  However, Pepsi is touting it as improved. (Which begs the question, is it really a return if it’s been reformulated?)  Supposedly it has caffeine this time around, which I would guess they’re thinking adds to its appeal.  I’d imagine that came from focus group data because it kind of pulls it away from its original intent of being more simple and clean than regular colas.  But whatever, their Dewshine seems to be somewhat prolific, I wonder if that was a precursor to a Crystal Pepsi relaunch.

I think that the video ad Pepsi released was subtly tongue-in-cheek advertising, mocking their own product in a way.  The ad opens with the janitor cleaning the elevator when he finds a hidden button for the 92nd floor.  He’s swiftly transported up there where everything is apparently stuck in ’92/93.  Computers, hairstyles, glasses and everything visible seems to indicate it’s still 1992.  Everything is also festooned with Crystal Pepsi logos.  This does seem to feel like that’s where Crystal Pepsi belongs: in the past.  The employees there seem to know the janitor, almost as if he was part of their team at one point.  This to me suggests that some people involved with the original Crystal Pepsi didn’t make it very far in life.  It was a pretty well remembered failure, though not as epic as New Coke.  The employees there, dressed in garb not out of place in early 90’s offices, (though not out of place in some offices today) are celebrating the relaunch to Tag Team’s Whoomp There it is, opening with the line, “Tag Team, Back again…”  In review, was Tag Team ever back again?  As far as I know it wasn’t a household name.  The song, released in 1993 reached #2 on the Billboard charts, but that’s all that I can remember from them (I had to google who even performed the song).  The lyrics fit a relaunch, but being a #2 song suggests that while this may be a relaunch, it was never a #1, never really a win.  So the commercial opens with ‘92, when Crystal Pepsi was launched and flows to a musical reference to ’93, when Crystal Pepsi was pulled.  And that “Whoomp, there it is!” is almost like an in-your-face, “You really want this, FINE! Here it is.  Don’t complain later if you don’t like it.”  It’s obvious these are 16oz bottles, which were the norm at the time, but rarer in the two decades since.  It adds to the nostalgia, but also may be a suggestion that maybe you don’t want it in today’s standard 20oz bottle.  If I recall, it wasn’t that bad that you wouldn’t be able to finish a 20oz, but sometimes even something that’s mediocre loses its appeal after just so much.  The video ends with one of the employees saying, “Let’s get the word out!” and then you hear the dial up modem sound as they crowd around the computer – and wait.  Again, here’s something that suggests maybe Pepsi is a little reluctant to let this go, and maybe it really does belong in the past.

Regardless of their intentions, I’ve thrown my hat in the ring, and if I have a six-pack show up at my door sometime later this month, I’ll let you know and I’ll try my hardest to bring the world a recipe so that even if this is a limited time only coming this summer or worst case scenario a promotion only for the holidays, Crystal Pepsi will live on.

November 26, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide 2015

How is it the holidays already?  Life has been crazy and time just flies by.  While I'm not ready to post new recipes just yet, I've got a couple things up my sleeve, such as a tasty Hibiscus Ginger Ale and a possible Moxie clone.  I couldn't however leave everyone hanging for the holidays without a gift guide.  This gift guide, now in its fifth year, is a tradition I've started that I can't bear to let slip away. See previous gift guides from 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011

For The Nostalgic
Nostalgia is really what I love about homemade soda.  It hearkens back to a simpler time.  Even though I wasn't around to see the heyday of the soda fountain, or the dime glass bottle vending machines, that's what I associate with soda.

There was something classy when it came to kitchen appliances in the 1940s and 1950s. Chrome and curves accentuated functionality. If you can't get your hands on a 1950s refrigerator to convert to a kegerator, or you don't want to trust your tasty beverages to something that old (though the fact that some of the 1950s fridges are still cranking should be a testament to the fact that they just don't make things like they used to.) A 1950s style kegerator is the next best thing. If you want to convert this for soda kegs, all it takes is swapping out the sanke disconnect for a Ball Lock Keg MFL Coupler Set or Pin-Lock MFL Disconnect Set.  When pouring soda instead of beer, it's always a good idea to swap out chrome faucets (even though this one is spring loaded to avoid unintended spillage) with a Stainless Steel Beer Faucet to avoid corrosion.

Anchor Hocking Classic Soda Fountain Glasses
Kick up the nostalgia a notch by serving up your own homemade ice cream soda, coke float, root beer float or ice cream sundae in these classic look glasses.  Pick up a Pack of 4 or a Set of 12 .

The Syrup-er
Like the soda fountains of yesteryear and the SodaStreams of today, adding syrup to carbonated water is really the easiest route to go in making homemade soda.  
The SodaStream has brought the popularity of homemade soda to new heights in the past 5 years, but one of the big complaints and probably one of the biggest reason for people to stop using them is the proprietary fill canisters and the expense of replacements.  For someone who wants the convenience and compact design of the SodaStream but the cost savings of a larger CO2 tank, this adapter screws onto a standard paintball tank that can be refilled for just $3 to $5 at your local sporting goods store. Refill the tank at the store without the adapter, then plug it into your SodaStream with it on, and you're ready to carbonate.  Now you don't have to feel bad about that third blast of CO2 to get more fizz.
LorAnn Flavoring Oils

There's a secret formula locked up in the vaults of the Coca Cola Co. that details the ingredients in their more than a century old classic formula.  It's been somewhat elusive to many, but some recipes have surfaced over time that seem to hit close to the mark. The Open Cola Project is one that has been kicking around for a few years now and uses flavor oils as the flavor base.  Cola is not the only one that can be made strictly from oils.  Crush and 7up also started their lives with flavor oils as well.  You can pick up flavors for syrup for all those and more using Lorann Oils.  These can sometimes be picked up at pharmacies for flavoring hard candies, they are super concentrated and some are straight up natural flavor oils.  A little goes a long way, so picking up a Pack of 10 or 12 1-dram vials should be plenty for a foray into syrup making. (The 12 and 24 pack links will let you pick the flavors.)

For the Connoisseur 
One of the appeals of homemade soda is the gourmet side.  The Connoisseur will try any new flavor (No matter how weird ) they can get their hands on and has a running list of the ones that are the best.  

Flavors are funny things.  If they lean one way or another towards something else, it can make the difference between something delectable and something horrific.  For anyone who wants to brush up on their flavor pairing skills, the Flavor Thesaurus is the go-to book for mixing up something new.  Want to know if a bacon chocolate soda would work well? Consult the thesaurus.

Rox Ice Ball Maker
Part of being a connoisseur is consuming things in style.  For someone looking to make homemade soda say classy, swanky and hip, there's the Rox ice ball maker.  This mold will swank up your soda party with perfectly round ice balls.  After all, if you're bold enough to serve up a hibiscus-ginger-cucumber-melon-turmeric soda, shouldn't it be served on the Rox?  

For The Budding Pro
One of the common questions I get is "How do I take my soda commercial?"  That's not a road that I've trod, but I've seen some of the people that have.  It's got a lot of road blocks and obstacles, but one way to have the confidence to face them head on is with custom branded items.

Bottle Cap Mount Starr X Bottle Opener

Build your brand the easy way by picking up a cap mount Starr X Bottle Opener.  These are available in many colors and are the classic wall mount openers that haven't changed in nearly a century.  Just get yourself a custom cap, and mount it on the top nub.  If a cap mount isn't your style, you can get a special order one with your own logo from the Cap Monger on Etsy.

For The Health Nut
While I'm not opposed to difficult to pronounce ingredients, there are those that have made dietary choices to avoid artificial ingredients and chemicals.  Some found homemade soda a great way to feel good about what they put into their body and still enjoy some tasty fizz.

SipWell Stainless Steel Straws
Sipping sodas brings back memories of a bygone era, but concerns about chemicals in plastics and filling landfills may be on the forefront of a sodamaker's mind.  For some piece of mind, pick up some reusable stainless steel straws that can be cleaned and sanitized at high temperatures and reused indefinitely.  Careful, though, they're likely to get pretty cold in an ice cold beverage.

Carbonator Cap
While there are health merits to making your own soda, there is still a likelihood of consuming simply too much sugar.  So while having kegs of soda on hand seems like a wonderful idea, it may be a bit much for most people not serving a crowd.  The carbonator cap brings all the benefits of owning a kegging system down to a more manageable scale by allowing the carbonation of 2 liters or less at a time.  The cap fits on most standard 2L bottles and some smaller and hooks up to a ball lock disconnect attached to a regulated CO2 supply.  Just chill, pressurize, shake, and enjoy your favorite beverage, and unlike a sodastream, you won't ruin any warranties by carbonating whatever you please. Water, apple juice, milk, pudding, jell-o; you're only limited by your imagination (and the laws of physics, and your ability to get it out of the bottle).

June 19, 2015

More recipes in the works… somewhere… eventually…

So there haven’t been a lot of posts from me lately.  I know I don’t have a huge readership, but I feel bad leaving everybody hanging. 
Just to let everyone know, I’m no longer in grape country.  I’ve taken a new job closer to family and made a move from Pennsylvania to Utah.  So I traded views like this…

For this views like this…

So what does this have to do with sodamaking?  Well, a lot actually as I’ve discovered.  There aren’t many beer or winemaking stores very close nearby, so getting my hands on caps and some different ingredients isn’t going to be as easy. 

Additionally I’ve discovered that I can’t fit my bottle washer on any of my sinks in my new home.  Not a huge issue, I just need to take a trip to the hardware store to figure things out, but it does put a damper on things. 

Instead of having my vintage fridge in a dedicated space in the basement where it sits somewhat out of the way, it’s now in the garage, typically with a minivan in front of it, not allowing me to open it up.  And there’s no way it’s going in the basement either.  Getting it out of where it was I thought we were going to smash someone.   

The cost of CO2 tank refills is going to be a challenge.  The two places I’ve called are around $18 per fill versus the $10 per fill in Erie.  Unfortunately, at the same time, funding is down.  While I took a better paying job, the cost of moving across the country, a longer commute, cost of living changes, and a few other things has shaken up my finances a bit, so it will probably take a while to sort things out.  In conjunction with that, I’ve put my ebay sales on hold (which usually finance my hobbies) with moving, and since I don’t seem to have a post office nearby which is a new experience for me, that will probably stay on hold until I can figure out a way to make it a bit more convenient.

Moving to a new place obviously means leaving good folks behind.  We had a lot of good friends back in Erie, and it hurt to make the move in a lot of ways.  It seemed like there were lots of get-togethers that warranted lots of tasty, bubbly beverage.  Being in a new area doesn’t seem to come with as many gatherings right off the bat.  And no one here is expecting me to provide a keg yet, so I haven’t had many requests.  Sure we have family close by, and our summer schedule is quickly filling up, but it seems a lot of family members are dieting, including myself.  (Which is definitely commendable, don’t get me wrong). 

So, although the summer is a perfect time to make and enjoy a cold homemade soda for family picnics or holiday BBQs, my soda projects are on hold for the moment, or at least toned down.  I have some great recipes planned to post, but they will unfortunately have to wait.  They are coming, so stay tuned.  I haven’t left the sodamaking hobby behind.

I will gladly accept guest posts for the time being, and I would love to hear from fellow sodamakers and their challenges that they've seen.
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