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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Soda Making > Serving Strawberry Soda at a Bar
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Old 03-21-2013, 05:58 PM   #1
amydot
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Default Serving Strawberry Soda at a Bar

Hi guys,

My husband's the head brewer at a new micro here in lower Alabama, and on top of being a kid-friendly taproom, we've got a lot of folks who come in looking for something beyond beer. As a result, we're hoping to add a soda or two to our repertoire, preferably rotating seasonally using locally-sourced ingredients. We've got an abundance of berry farms around us and strawberries are just coming in season, so I naturally gravitated to that first.

So far I've just been experimenting at home and adding club soda or seltzer on a per-glass basis, but we've got all the necessary equipment to keg the beer with no issue. However, I'm hesitant for a few reasons.

(1) I've read that the lines/o-rings continue tasting like root beer when you run it through them. Does that mean that every time I switch the flavor of a soda, I'll need to switch the o-rings and tubing as well?

(2) I'm using fresh strawberries juiced with my Breville juicer. Has anyone else juiced fresh strawberries for a soda? Do you have any issues with the color fading over time? I'm not expecting this to last a huge time period, but I also have no way of knowing if it will last one day or 5 months. I'm guessing it will last about a month, but I could be way off either direction.

(3) Do you have better, worse, or the exact same results keeping syrup separate from a keg? I have been considering getting a few cute syrup bottles, either pourable or pumpable, and just keeping a keg of carbonated water behind the bar. Hmmm... in fact, if I do it that way, I guess I could then actually hook that carbonated water directly to our keg system and not have to worry about the flavors in the hoses. Anyway, would it ruin the experience of it being a homemade soda if you see it's just a simple syrup and carbonated water, or would it be more like a soda jerk experience? Have you had any issues with getting the syrup and water to stay mixed in either scenario?

Any tips are appreciated. I'm wanting this process to go as smoothly as possible so the partners are enthusiastic about it working easily in our taproom in the future.

Thanks!
Amy Murphy

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Old 03-21-2013, 06:07 PM   #2
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Also, concerning #2, I have been using a small amount of citric acid and I use lemons in the simple syrup, if that effects things. I was hoping it might help preserve and retain color.

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Old 03-22-2013, 08:31 PM   #3
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Mixing the syrup and carbonated water right in the glass is fine, it will mix instantly with cold carbonated water, and requires no shaking or stirring. They use syrups at Starbucks and no one ever says, "hey, that's just syrup and water". The syrup pumps are carried by most restaurant supply stores. For sodas you usually want a 5:1 water/syrup ratio using a 1:1 water+flavorings/sugar syrup (fill the glass 1/6th with syrup and the rest with water). At least that's what I do, it works out to 2 pumps per 8 oz glass. I also use stevia for a non-diet tasting low sugar alternative. I simply make my syrup with 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon pure stevia extract (the white powder type), and 1 cup water+flavorings. It tastes almost identical (except for a little residual sweetness that stays in your mouth), and 75% less sugar. Really great for kids; my kids love my homemade stevia soda and it doesn't make them too hyper when they drink a lot of it. As for preserving your syrup, my recommendation would be a little citric acid and a drop of grape-seed extract, and don't forget to refrigerate it. That will help preserve your syrup, though mine never lasts long enough to worry about it.

As for the recipes, you'll have to do some experimenting. Regarding strawberry syrup, I'd say fresh strained juice and no water. Just boil the juice with the sugar (1:1) and you'll have your syrup, add a couple drops of red food coloring so your not serving pink soda and it has that deep red color people expect to see. My friends get freaked out when I pour out some orange soda and it's perfectly clear, lol. Make sure you get a good boil on any syrup you make and it goes clear or else it will separate later. I usually get a rolling boil for 45 seconds or so and haven't had any issues, even with stevia. That also sanitizes it so I don't have to worry about it going bad as quick.

Oh, one more thing, if your using real sugar; get a bottle of cream of tartar from your local grocery store; it will be where they have the spices or possibly near baking goods. Add a very small amount to the syrup before it starts boiling. I add a 1/2 pinch per 1 cup of sugar. It works by hydrolyzing the sugar, making it taste sweeter for that syrupy and sugary soda taste. And if you really get into it, the same amount of gum arabic powder will give the soda the increased mouth-feel and head of many store bought sodas. You'd notice the difference immediately; it's basically the difference in texture and thickness between sierra mist natural and mountain dew, and it'll have froth at the top like soda normally does. Oh, and I force carb my soda water @ 40 psi which makes it really fizzy, but others seem to like 30 psi more.

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Old 03-22-2013, 10:08 PM   #4
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Interesting, thanks so much Blazie. How long does it take your soda to carbonate at 40psi? Do you use both cream of tartar and gum arabic powder?

My recipe has been super simple so far, but I kind of like that about it.

To start, I make a simple syrup using fresh lemon juice in place of water. (I know this takes away from some of the citrus zing but I really like the flavor this gives it; it reminds me of Lemon Drops, one of my favorite candies as a kid.) I add about a teaspoon of citric acid.

Then I juice a couple of pounds of strawberries, which gives me about 2.5 cups of juice.

I mix the simple syrup and the strawberry juice together, and that's that. I usually make it through 2 to 3L of seltzer before it's gone. Really scientific, I know, but I'm pretty sure that comes to a similar ratio as you, if my math isn't too shaky.

I'm wondering now, though, if perhaps I should also cook the strawberries to help preserve them.

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Old 03-22-2013, 10:14 PM   #5
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I have nothing to add, other than I want to visit your taproom...sounds great!!

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Old 03-22-2013, 10:19 PM   #6
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I've heard a lot of stories of lingering flavors from root/birch beers, but not other sodas. No personal experience to add, sorry.

But I think it would be even better if you made/served sodas on a per order basis with different syrup options.
Reminds me of the old soda counter at the corner drug store when I was a kid.

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Old 03-22-2013, 11:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amydot View Post
Interesting, thanks so much Blazie. How long does it take your soda to carbonate at 40psi? Do you use both cream of tartar and gum arabic powder?

My recipe has been super simple so far, but I kind of like that about it.

To start, I make a simple syrup using fresh lemon juice in place of water. (I know this takes away from some of the citrus zing but I really like the flavor this gives it; it reminds me of Lemon Drops, one of my favorite candies as a kid.) I add about a teaspoon of citric acid.

Then I juice a couple of pounds of strawberries, which gives me about 2.5 cups of juice.

I mix the simple syrup and the strawberry juice together, and that's that. I usually make it through 2 to 3L of seltzer before it's gone. Really scientific, I know, but I'm pretty sure that comes to a similar ratio as you, if my math isn't too shaky.

I'm wondering now, though, if perhaps I should also cook the strawberries to help preserve them.
I carb cold water in 2L bottles with a carbonator cap and a 20# tank, so only a couple minutes of shaking and I'm good to go. If your using a chilled keg just leave it on the gas and you should be fine. The most important thing to remember when speedily carbing water is the colder it is the better. And you need a cold keg anyway as serving warm soda on ice is wrong; it should always be cold before ice is added or else it rapidly loses carbonation. I use cream of tartar with every batch of syrup that uses real sugar, but only a tiny bit. It really changes the sugar profile and makes it sweeter without needing more sugar. For measuring it out I took a spare pair of stainless steel fine tip tweezers and broke them in half, then use the amount that fits on the tip of them per batch of syrup I make (usually a cup). A toothpick works well too. Again, you don't need much of either the cream of tartar or the gum Arabic powder. Personally, I don't use the gum arabic because I don't like the increased viscosity (mouth-feel) of soda like most people do, but I use it for soda I make my wife because she's used to HFCS and store bought sodas still.

As for the recipe, you could tweak it a little to make it more concentrated, which would make it easier to serve. At 2.5 cups of juice per 3L I'm thinking your ratio is closer to 4:1 than 5:1, because 1.5 cups of syrup should make 2L of soda. Since you need to boil it anyway for the citric acid preservative to be effective for longer than a couple weeks, try this recipe: put 1.5 cups of strawberry juice on a low boil for 15-20 minutes, then add in a teaspoon of citric acid, a pinch of cream of tartar, and 1 cup sugar. Let boil for another 45 seconds and remove from heat. That should be just about perfect for a 2L (alter slightly depending on taste), and scales very well to larger sizes. If you want to make a big batch and be sure everything will last for while before going bad, bottle the syrup in sterilized mason jars with caps while it's still boiling and pasteurize it on the stove top same as you would for tomato sauce. It should last for at least 6 months like that, and if it goes bad you'll know cause the top will pop.

Pasteurizing the juice by boiling it is definitely something I'd call required if your serving it at a bar/brewery as you don't want stray farm waste water finding it's way into your fresh strawberries and getting your customers sick because it wasn't pasteurized. It's low risk, but I wouldn't take it in a business setting when preventing it by boiling the juice is so easy. You don't know the farm's water issues, potential floods (which can cause waste water to mix with crops), and area specific concerns, so pasteurizing it means it will be safe no matter what.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chumprock View Post
I've heard a lot of stories of lingering flavors from root/birch beers, but not other sodas. No personal experience to add, sorry.

But I think it would be even better if you made/served sodas on a per order basis with different syrup options.
Reminds me of the old soda counter at the corner drug store when I was a kid.
Anything with sassafras root will leave behind an odor and flavor in any type of plastic I've ever used, including #1 PET, #2 HDPE, and #5 PP plastics, which are some of the most resilient to lingering flavors. Most other juices and syrups will clean well, but I've had issues with orange flavorings I've created that use the oils too (sort of a European flair on soda, just use 1/2 the white pith and zest in your recipe during boiling). I recommend using syrup mixed in the glass if your flavors are going to change often, because it won't affect your consumers on a per glass basis and prevents tedious replacements of lines and O-rings.
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Old 03-23-2013, 02:40 AM   #8
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FWIW, citric acid or cream of tartar are used when making simple syrup because it is necessary to make an invert syrup. Without it the syrup will start to crystallize. If you are going to add food coloring to maintain the color please use a natural additive. Gum arabic is almost always used when oils are involved, but gomme will also prevent simple syrups from crystallizing; I make a gomme syrup from this recipe, but save it for cocktails, http://mobile.seriouseats.com/recipe...cocktails.html

Have you considered using a steam juicer, this will address the 'pasteurizing' of the juice and I have had no issues with color retention...though all strawberries are not created equally on the color forefront.

I also think soda by the glass is a better option because this will allow the customer to create their own soda if you offer more than one syrup. I am imagining a strawberry sparkling soda or strawberry creme soda with the glass rimmed with freeze dried strawberry powder.

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Old 03-23-2013, 05:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saramc View Post
FWIW, citric acid or cream of tartar are used when making simple syrup because it is necessary to make an invert syrup. Without it the syrup will start to crystallize. If you are going to add food coloring to maintain the color please use a natural additive. Gum arabic is almost always used when oils are involved, but gomme will also prevent simple syrups from crystallizing; I make a gomme syrup from this recipe, but save it for cocktails, http://mobile.seriouseats.com/recipe...cocktails.html

Have you considered using a steam juicer, this will address the 'pasteurizing' of the juice and I have had no issues with color retention...though all strawberries are not created equally on the color forefront.

I also think soda by the glass is a better option because this will allow the customer to create their own soda if you offer more than one syrup. I am imagining a strawberry sparkling soda or strawberry creme soda with the glass rimmed with freeze dried strawberry powder.
Citric acid is also a natural and very powerful preservative, even diluted down to 1:512; so that teaspoon worth the OP likes using will make it keep for a long time, especially if the syrup is stored properly. I've never had an issue with syrups crystalizing but I always use cream of tartar when using real sugar, so I guess that's why. I did a taste test with and without cream of tartar and preferred the flavor, so I always use it now. I did completely forget to mention the gum arabic's effect of mixing the oils of fruits like oranges into the water when it would usually separate. I always use it when I boil with the pith of the fruit (which is rare, I usually just use the juice and zest). The concentrations I use are A LOT less than that gomme syrup, but they work. I don't like the increased mouth-feel gum arabic adds to my sodas; though most people would probably enjoy that quite a bit. Love the steam juicer idea, I'm looking at them on Amazon now.

Mixing syrup flavors is something I know a lot of people do even at soda fountains in restaurants; I mix fruit punch and lemon-lime soda like Hi-C and 7-UP. I love the rimmed glass idea too; it would really create a full experience that ties it all together and makes it an attraction. A shot of vodka or similar might be extremely good in that too.
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Old 03-24-2013, 04:29 PM   #10
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Really great insights from everyone. I'd never even heard of a steam juicer but it certainly looks like a good idea... though I'm not sure the added expense is doable until the soda proves itself.

So, because right now we're technically the tasting room of a brewery, not a bar, my husband is not convinced the partners who usually work the bar (I just work Saturdays) are going to be willing to go to the extra step of pouring syrup. As such, we've decided to keg this first batch straight. I've currently got some water carbonating and a BUNCH of strawberry syrup ready to add to it. I went with a suggestion I read on the Homemade Soda Expert's site of a 1 cup of sugar to 1 gallon of water ratio (I think that's what I read), so we'll see how it turns out!

I decided to integrate the strawberry juice directly into the simple syrup this time. I started with about 4 cups of strawberry juice, 2 cups of lemon juice, 6 cups of sugar, and a teaspoon and a half of citric acid. (I put some of the syrup to the side for tasting purposes.) I boiled for about 20 minutes. The flavor is good, but boiling the strawberry juice definitely changed the flavor: it tastes more like a strawberry jam rather than freshly juiced strawberries. It's still really really good, but not AS good. I wonder if a steam juicer would yield the same results? I also wonder about getting some of that tartness it lost back with fresh lemon juice.

I love the idea of a rimmed glass -- that may be a special option just for Saturdays when I'm working.

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