Let me start with a confession: I really don't like orange soda. It's always tasted too artificial to me. I love orange juice, however, and after my recent post about making your own grape soda I figured there had to be a similar way to make orange soda.
I tried a few different recipes, each giving their own unique taste. Some are closer to a sort of "fizzy orange juice", while others taste more like a sparkling water with just a hint of orange.
How To Make Orange Soda At Home
If you want a quick, easy to make orange soda that's as close as possible to the canned variety, then you can't get much easier than Homebrew Orange Soda Pop Base. This concentrated extract can be made into a non-carbonated drink by just mixing with some sweetener and water, or you can use champagne yeast for natural carbonation (check out our post on How To Make Homemade Soda for more information on carbonating naturally with yeast). The drawback is the ingredients: artificial flavors, propylene glycol, artificial color and sodium benzoate. You'll have to decide for yourself how you feel about using those.
What I really was interested in trying was soda using fresh-squeezed orange juice. You can tweak this until you get the exact flavor you like; if you'll notice below I'm not even giving exact measurements of many of the ingredients (you'll see why in a minute).
- Fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1/8 t champagne yeast
You'll need to decide how "orange-y" you want your soda in order to determine how much juice, water and sugar you'll need. You may even want to make several batches with different proportions until you find the perfect amounts.
The first step will be to sanitize all your bottles and utensils to eliminate the chance of any bacteria spoiling the taste of your soda. You can buy a commercial sanitizer like StarSan, or give everything a 20 minute soak in a solution of water and chlorine bleach (1 tablespoon bleach per 1 gallon of water). After the soak, be sure to thoroughly wash and rinse everything; you don’t want any traces of bleach killing off your yeast! You can use a baby bottle brush to scrub inside the soda bottles. Be sure to allow everything to air dry–you just killed off any germs, why risk putting them back with a slightly dirty towel?
Next you'll need to proof your yeast. Fill a cup or mug with some water, and heat it to about 100 degrees (not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast).
Stir in your yeast and let sit for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. This gives your yeast the opportunity to wake up and get moving.
Start with fresh oranges--make sure to wash them with a fruit and veggie wash.
Go ahead and zest a few of the oranges before you juice them--you'll use the zest in a couple of the later recipes.
Juice your oranges. Our electric juicer broke recently, and I wasn't going to bother replacing it, but I found this Black & Decker juicer on Amazon for only about 5 bucks more than a non-electric model!
Mix up your sugar and water. Like I said, the exact proportions are going to be up to you--to start with try 1/2 cup of sugar for every 1/2 gallon of water. Stir the sugar into hot water until it is dissolved.
Next, add the orange juice to the sugar water. If you want a really strong orange juice taste, try a ratio of 2 cups juice to 1 cup water--this makes a drink that tastes almost like a non-alcoholic Mimosa. If you want more of an orange-flavored sparkling water, use a ratio of 2 cups water to 1 cup juice. You can taste your mixture to get it just right--after this you're just going to be adding the yeast to carbonate it, you won't be changing the flavor.
After you've gotten the taste just right, add the yeast/water mixture.
Now it’s time to bottle. You can use a clean 2-liter soda bottle, but we like to use these nice glass swing-top bottles. If you use the 2-liter bottle, just fill it full, leaving about 1″ of air at the top to allow room for it to pressurize. Fill the glass bottles the same way, but if you’re using glass then you’ll also want to fill a small 16 ounce water bottle as well to test for carbonation (keep reading).
Let the bottle sit in a dim area (as long as they’re out of the sun, it’s fine) at room temperature. They should carbonate in anywhere from 12 to 48 hours. Just keep giving the plastic bottle a squeeze every now and then (that’s why you used the small bottle in addition to the glass bottles); when it’s rock hard the carbonation process is complete and the bottles are ready to go into the refrigerator. They should keep in your fridge for about as long as juice will stay fresh.
Now, have you ever wondered what would happen if you left the bottles out at room temperature too long? Well, let me show you! I could say that I did this on purpose in order to educate my readers, but the truth is I simply forgot to move the bottles to the refrigerator. My plastic bottle was completely firm after only about 12 hours, so all the bottles should have been chilled at that point. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked, and remembered them after about another 16 hours. I got them into the refrigerator, but I wasn't going to take any chances on opening them.
As you can see, when in doubt, be sure to open your bottles outside, or at least in the sink! Not only did I run the risk of breaking a bottle, I wound up losing at least 1/3 of every bottle this way.
Homemade Orange Cream Soda
Remember that orange zest you set aside earlier? We're going to use it to make an orange cream soda! The creamy part of a cream soda actually comes from vanilla, and you'll get the best flavor by starting with a real vanilla bean rather than vanilla extract.
- 8 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- Zest from 2-3 oranges
- 1 split vanilla bean
- Juice from one lemon, freshly squeezed
- 1/8 t champagne yeast
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil , remove from heat, and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Add the orange zest and vanilla bean and let stand until cool. Go ahead and proof your yeast (as described above) in one cup of water.
When the mixture has cooled, add the yeast/water mixture and stir. Remove the vanilla bean.
If you're using a 2-liter bottle, pour the entire mixture in. If you're using the swing-top bottles, evenly divide the mixture between two bottles. Either way, you can then top off the bottle(s) with water, leaving about an inch of room at the top. The carbonation process is the same as before--place them in a dim area for 12 to 48 hours, then refrigerate them.
Orange Soda Without Natural Carbonation
If you don't want to make naturally carbonated soda, you can make your own orange syrup and combine it with seltzer water.
- Zest from 4 oranges
- Zest from 1 lime
- 2 cups orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 cup sugar
- Lemon-lime flavored seltzer water
Combine the orange and lime zest, sugar and orange juice in a pot and bring to a boil. Once it has come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced by about a third. Remove from heat.
Let the mixture cool a bit, and strain it through a fine mesh strainer. Chill your syrup mixture.
When you're ready to make a glass of soda, use about 3 parts seltzer to 1 part syrup, over ice.
These three recipes should keep you busy for a while; if you make orange soda at home let us know in the comments what your perfect recipe is!