What is better than enjoying a tasty treat? Not feeling guilty about it! This recipe gives you a guilt-free version of cream soda that you can reach for whenever you want to reminisce on the good ol’ days.
With just a few ingredients (ones you likely already have in your pantry), you can turn your homemade kombucha into a healthy craft soda.
Despite the name, there is no actual cream in cream soda. So, what is it that gives cream soda its unique flavor? Turns out, it is vanilla, caramelized sugar, and lemon! Cream soda flavors vary a bit by culture, but the famous brands we all know and love in the United States focus on vanilla.
The easiest way to achieve a caramel flavor without caramelizing anything is to use dark brown sugar. Molasses works great, too, and you can substitute it in for a 1:1 ratio. Take about 2 tsp of dark brown sugar and add it into a clean, 16 fl oz bottle. Remember that the yeast will eat some of the sugar during the secondary fermentation, which helps you get strong carbonation.
Next, add in vanilla extract. Use about ½-1 tsp of a good quality vanilla extract per 16 fl oz bottle. You can experiment with different bottles to see how much vanilla you prefer. I will typically eyeball about ¾ of a tsp using the vanilla extract cap to measure (the cap is 1 tsp).
The final ingredient besides kombucha is just a little squeeze of lemon juice. If you don’t have fresh lemons on hand, it can be left out because the kombucha itself will add acidity. The lemon juice gives it that extra edge and marries all the flavors together.
Now that all the flavorings are in the bottle, fill it about halfway with kombucha. Cap it and gently shake to incorporate the ingredients, then fill the bottle the rest of the way up minus about 1-2″ for headspace.
Cap the bottles tightly and allow them to sit at room temperature (Ideally above 75°F) for 2-10 days. Check on the bottles every day or so to assess the carbonation levels. Once you’re happy with the level of carbonation, chill bottles in the refrigerator. If you’re struggling to get carbonation, don’t worry. Carbonation naturally varies between batches depending on the pH of your kombucha and other environmental factors.
PRIMARY VS SECONDARY FERMENTATION
It’s important to note that brewing homemade kombucha is almost always a two-step fermentation process. Brewing kombucha is only a one-step process for those who prefer an unflavored flat kombucha. Otherwise, the steps consist of a primary fermentation and secondary fermentation.
- Primary Fermentation: The primary fermentation is the first step of the kombucha brewing process. This is where your SCOBY transforms regular sweet tea into the tart and slightly sweet kombucha we love. At the end of this stage, you will have finished kombucha, but it will be flat and unflavored. Have you skipped this step? Then check out our guide on making kombucha at home or our guide on making jun kombucha at home. Traditional kombucha is going to yield a bolder brew, while jun kombucha is milder and a bit more tart.
- Secondary Fermentation: The secondary fermentation is the step where you bottle, carbonate, and flavor your kombucha by the addition of sugar and flavors. This step is essentially adding a bit of sugar/flavor to each airtight bottle and letting it ferment a little longer, allowing the yeast to carbonate the beverage in an airtight environment naturally. How exactly does this happen? See our post on kombucha secondary fermentation here.
Since this recipe is for the secondary fermentation, to make this recipe, you’ll need to have kombucha that has finished the primary fermentation and ready to bottle.
- Kombucha: You need kombucha that has completed primary fermentation and is ready to bottle and flavor.
Dark Brown Sugar: Using dark brown sugar is a great way to achieve caramel-like flavor without going through the motions of caramelizing anything. The sugar also provides food for the yeast, resulting in more robust carbonation.
Vanilla Extract: This is what gives cream soda its characteristic flavor. A high-quality vanilla extract yields a fresher end product but feel free to use what you have on hand to experiment.
Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice is optional but recommended. A little bit goes a long way to help the flavors come together.
SECONDARY FERMENTATION PREPARATION
This recipe makes one 16 fluid ounce bottle. For a 1-gallon batch, make 7 16 ounce bottles of kombucha or times the ingredients by 7. Before beginning this recipe, you will want to:
- Reserve 12 – 16 fluid ounces of kombucha and your pellicle from your completed primary fermentation and set aside. It’s best to pour from the top of the brew jar as the bottom will have a much higher yeast concentration. You will use this as your starter for your next gallon batch of kombucha.
- With your kombucha starter tea and SCOBY placed aside, you will now have enough kombucha left to make seven 16 oz bottles. These bottles are the most popular as they are considered the best bottles for kombucha secondary fermentation, but any other airtight bottles made for carbonation will work.