Cola without any extracts

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-Known Member
Sep 21, 2014
Reaction score
My son is interested in making soda. And we've done a few, but he's interested in the cola.

Only thing is, we're avoiding extracts and syrups.

We have recipes for most. Ginger-Ale, Cream-Soda, lemon-lime, root-beer, etc. and some ones he's created, such as Cherry Vanilla.

All made with whole ingredients we can grow, forage, or buy.

But cola remains an elusive unknown.

We can buy an extract to add water and sugar to of course. But that's like heating a can of Campbell's Soup and say you made homemade chicken noodle.

Does anyone have a from scratch cola recipe? Does anyone know what goes into cola to give it a cola taste?

Any recipe or even flavor ideas to create our own would be helpful.
Cola seems to be ridiculously laborious to emulate. Even the extracts seem to be pale imitations at steep cost. I'm next gonna try mixing one extract that is too little "this" with another extract which is too much "this".

But it depends on what you consider cola and whether pretenders like pepsi or RC really are colas. Coca cola is what the human body yearns for, and this requires mostly-de-cocainized coca leaf extract, which can be mail ordered from a store in Boston. You can retrieve a thread or two where I experimented with that.
The primary taste of Coca-Cola comes from vanilla and cinnamon with trace amounts of orange, lime and lemon and spices such as nutmeg.

I'm gonna experiment with this from the provided links.

Also going to skip on the artificial colors.
The primary taste of Coca-Cola comes from vanilla and cinnamon with trace amounts of orange, lime and lemon and spices such as nutmeg.
To me the primary taste of "Classic" coca cola is from the brutal alkaloids from coca leaves, which Coke imports 100 tons of yearly from Peru. I can vouch for this from tasting the (legal) coca extract from the mysteriousperu(sp?) company, which numbs the tongue while giving that exact familiar adult kick that is so lacking in Pepsi, etc. That company is more forthcoming in admitting all of the cocaine cannot be removed from their or Cokes process (just brought down to a legal level) but that isn't what you are tasting.

Caffeine counts, but I note that no-caffeine Pepsi seems to have more backbone than regular Pepsi for some reason. There is a danger in excluding essentials in a witch-hunt against supposed unnaturalness. Amoretti makes a cola syrup which seems to be on the cuddly cinnamon/vanilla/nutmeg bandwagon but it is revolting, almost vomit inducing. I've rarely seen anything so reviled in Amazon feedback.

I am using Amoretti in tiny amounts to take the timid blandness out of natural sodastream cola syrup (admittedly the non or partly natural sodastream syrups stink). That is cheaper than the alkaloid cocktail. Hurray for edgy colas with kick... boo to bland pretenders :)

P.S. The coca details can be found in above wiki article as well as NYTimes and other sources. There is speculation that the failed "new" coke was not just sweeter, but an attempt to remove the awkward process of fencing off part of Peru and jumping regulatory hurdles to ship and process cocaine hydrochloride in the US just for classic coke.

Sometimes unvarnished truth is a better lesson for kids. As a college student I sometimes rode lobster boats for university research. The professor and I speculated that the distinctive classy taste of lobster really came from the trace of revolting rancid bait that the lobster feasted on at length when stuck in the trap. We could sense that lobster was a bland tasteless thing with just this faint edgy kick (kind of like the ubiquitous Thai seasoning which comes from rotten fermented fish). Maybe this is what turned me vegetarian!
To that I say, I'm not trying to recreate coke. If I wanted coke, I'd buy a dang coke.

I'm trying to create a cola.

Nor am I trying to raise a "witch-hunt against supposed unnaturalness"

But I'm not going to set up a chemistry lab in my basement for what might be a fleeting interest my son has in me making beer and wanting to share the homebrew experience with something he can enjoy.

So if I can skip a food dye and teach him that you can get the same color by caramelizing your sugar. I will, because he'll get more understanding of how things can be made that way.
On that note, for people who actually want to provide and share in productive feedback.

First attempt was interesting. I got a concentrate that tasted and looked similar to cola. But when diluted for bottling, more of the fruity flavors came out.

Also, two tablespoons of caramelized sugar made it brown slightly darker than cream soda. I'll need to carmalize a lot more sugar to get the right color.
I don't know if this has been posted elsewhere on the forum, but there is an interesting blog post about getting the different colors and flavors while making belgian candy sugar. That might be a something for you to check out. Though I will say, it's very similar in concept to the industrial process of making caramel color.

I also have had pretty good luck getting a nice dark brown for a sarsaparilla by using all dark brown sugar in my recipe. Alternatively, you could just add molasses.
That will be useful for making natural blue colors on other experiments as well. (Natural blue is very tricky)

Thank you.
Not sure where you're seeing blue on that, those are all caramel colors. If you're looking for natural blue, spirulina was recently approved as a natural, acid stable, blue color. I'm not sure where you might find it though.
I actually made a batch of the open cola recipe. It was so cinnamon my kids dubbed it cinnamon soda and wouldn't drink it. I've attempted a couple variations but that cola flavor is so elusive I've all but given up.
Attention span of a six year old.

Ran a couple more batches. Caramelizing all your sugars and then only using enough simple syrup to carbonate will get color. The flavor is a tricky combination that really requires precise control in amounts.

As Jay mentioned, because there it's a combination of flavors, it's very easy to have one flavor over power all others.

Actually think it would be easier to work in larger batches than the one gallon I was attempting.
I have been working on a bourbon oaked porter and I want a "bourbon and coke" taste finish...getting closer. Cardamon spice I read was a big part of the cola flavor and my two small batch experiments seem to bear that out....but it is powerful stuff, a little bit too much is a lot more than you wanted!

Might actually be easier to work with a homemade extract added to taste at the end of your process.
Jeremy Butler ( has a good recipe for a Cola soda using raw ingredients.

I plowed thru screenfulls of that page's text with no cola except for a dead opencola link. I try top recipe link then find cola recipe link is mistakenly pointed to cherry fresca recipe page. Somewhere out of the sprawling abyss of text I notice another, non borked, cola link by that author . Looks like yet another disappointing cola result for extreme inconvenience in the kitchen.
Thanks for the shout out sodandbeer. I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe.

Daft, I know you've never been a fan of my work. Thanks for letting me know that there's a problem with my blog, though. The link is fixed now, so anyone looking for the cola recipe from this page will actually get there instead of ending up at a cherry fresca recipe.

Also maybe I'm dating myself, but not sure I'm familiar with the term "non borked", anyway according to google, I think you're using it wrong. If you want a dead on cola recipe, you definitely need to add in some phosphoric acid. Did you try the recipe before you dubbed it "disappointing"? Haters gonna hate, I guess.

One thing to keep in mind is that when coke was originally developed, there's a pretty good chance all of the flavors came from flavor oils, essentially some form of extracts, so trying to mimic that with herbs and spices is going to be inherently different.
Mr Food, I was being exasperated at sodandbeer for posting an unspecific virtually unuseable link for cola purposes. It's better than none, but I bet virtually nobody did the footwork as I did to find and furthermore post a specific useable link. My posts often have specific links after much footwork in this forum.

Second I was exasperated about the endless wishful thinking about being able to make acceptable cola. Cola is a supremely important accomplishment of civilization and virtually no extract seems faithful, and homemade reports always seem to fall short. Did you actually try the phosphate that you said your recipe may need? Why not coca which I went to a lot of trouble to legally obtain and report here? It's always something, or else the cook thinks it was great but taste testers turn thumbs down.

I didn't realize those were your web pages since they have changed their look since I last explored them. I also thought I saw a phosphate supply link fly by on your pages that may have updated info from your cola section.

Cola is super important, and it should not lightly be claimed that homemaking is feasible... I have chased too many threads of folks either deluding themselves or have too much idle time where they enjoy the process rather than actual clear-eyed success. Please let us admit failure... don't give false hopes to folks who appreciate cola and would never confuse coke/pepsi/rc cola etc.

P.S. Update... borked is a term for something broken such as a link. The mr bork reference has nothing to do with current usage. I had found you web pages about that computer-slang definition and the way CNET publisher uses that term when arriving at their expired links, but logged out and lost them due to something urgent arising. I am now late for something else, but want to add that my criticisms are in a context of gratitude for your web and forum contributions.
I thought the blog was generally interesting.

And was thinking it might be fun to try and make soda again if I can get my kids interested again.

I suppose I could have said something sooner to thank Sodaandbeer
I would have thought the salient flavor in a cola wouldbe kola nut, not the coca part. I'd give that a try. You can get kola nuts whole, powdered, or extract on Amazon.
I would have thought the salient flavor in a cola wouldbe kola nut, not the coca part. I'd give that a try.
Kola nut has been widely replaced by pure caffeine, which it supposedly tastes like. If you want to taste one of the rare commercial colas that use Kola nut, try "1893" which is a retro natural cola from Pepsi. The cola component is the usual bland taste you get from non-Coke, like RC, Pepsi, etc. It has phosphoric acid and real sugar, which seem no magic bullet

But the only variant I have tried is the ginger cola version of 1893 in which they substitute a whopping amount of ginger for the Coke's coca leaf extract. I really like it with that edgy zing restored, and would think folks here might want to try DIY versions with their simple natural ingredients. I don't like the grassy taste of real sugar, but it gives it a healthier feel than corn syrup.

Here is a 2005 post from a Dr. Van Thorp that puts cola making in a perspective I sympathize with. He/she implies that all the cutsie "gourmet" ingredients that are so difficult for us nowdays to source or make were simply used because they were handy on the medicinal shelf in the old days. And their main function was to mask the bitter taste of Kola = caffeine.

QUOTE: "Most cola's don't actually contain cola-nut extract. Cola-nut was once a source for pharmecutical cafeen, and pure caffeine tastes pretty much the same as the cola-nut extract that was once used in cola's. So now they usually use regular chemical-grade caffeine in cola.

And Coca Cola may be the only cola that uses coca-leaf extracts.

This web site has a cola recipe:

It contians:
caffeine, orange oil, lemon oil, nutmeg oil, cassia oil, coriander oil, neroli oil, lime oil, lavender oil, and gum arabic. Mix with sugar, then mix with carbonated water.

So cola is really just a mixture of flavorings that were available in 19th century drug stores. I know that cola was once a patent medicine, so I'm guessing that most of the ingredients were added to make the bitter active ingreedient (caffeine) more palletable. Coca leaf exctract would have been a by-product of the purification of cocaine, which was once commonly sold in drug stores." ENDQUOTE
Man, why'd you have to go ruin a great thread of wild speculation and baseless supposition with your so-called "facts" and "research"?!

But seriously, that's some good info, thanks.