We’re a bit late to the party with this post (actually really late) since “White Claw Summer” has passed and we’re just about through winter and into spring. But, we’re always down to try something new and hard seltzer happened to be a request from the wife after a recent visit to a couple of our local breweries, so I figured we’d give it a shot.
Before we dive into how we went about making our hard seltzer, let’s briefly talk about the two different methods for making a hard seltzer.
Homebrewed Hard Seltzer
Those who have brewed beer will tell you that this is a long way from homebrewing, but it does involve heat, fermentable sugar, yeast and flavoring (optional, but recommended). To make your hard seltzer, you basically start out by creating sugar water by boiling water and corn sugar. Once the sugar water has been boiled for about 10 minutes, you cool it, put it into your fermentation vessel and pitch your yeast. From there, it’s just a matter of waiting a week, give or take a few days, while the yeast does its work and turns your sugar water into alcohol. Once fermentation is complete, you’ll rack your seltzer into bottles, or preferably into a keg and let it carbonate (more on that later). If you’re interested, you can view our different types of starter keg kits if you’re interested in learning how to keg your homemade beverages.
Blending Clear Spirits to Make Hard Seltzer
For those who don’t want to “brew their own” hard seltzer, there is a much easier way that just involves a clear, neutral spirit such as vodka or Everclear and a little bit of math. To do this, you’ll just take your alcohol and blend it with water until you reach the 3.5% – 6% ABV range. This is pretty easy math when you know the ABV of your base spirit. To be honest, this is more mixing or bartending your way to a seltzer rather than a homebrewed or homemade hard seltzer like we outlined above, but if you don’t have the equipment or desire to brew your own, then this method will suffice.
Flavoring Your Hard Seltzer
What’s a hard seltzer if it doesn’t have a wild or exotic fruity flavor? With canned seltzers that have flavors like blueberry acaí, raspberry rosé, lemon agave hibiscus, and so many others, I think its safe to say that you can take some liberties and have a little fun if you’re making your own seltzer at home. So how do you flavor your hard seltzer? You’ve got two options.
Flavor Hard Seltzer Using Extracts
Using a flavor extract is the simplest way to go. Simply pick the flavor(s) that you want and add them to your seltzer. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for ratio, or even start a bit lower than the suggested ratio – a little goes a long way, especially with certain flavors.
Flavor Hard Seltzer by Making Your Own Flavoring
If you go this route, you’ll be creating your own flavoring by infusing your choice of fruits or herbs in vodka. Infusing is an easy process, you’ll just soak your choice of fruit/herb in vodka for a couple days and add the resulting liquid to your seltzer. Whether you use an extract or make your own flavoring, we recommend adding some then tasting. You don’t want to go overboard.
Carbonating and Serving Your Hard Seltzer
You’re almost there. After the seltzer has been flavored, you’ll have 2 options for getting it carbonated and ready to serve. Bottle it or keg it. Actually, bottling likely won’t be an option if you choose to go with the blending method for making the seltzer. The reason being is that you’ll need to dose each bottle with priming sugar and yeast, whereas if you brewed your own seltzer, you’d just need to add some priming sugar before bottling since the seltzer would maintain some residual yeast. This residual yeast eats the priming sugar allowing the seltzer to naturally carbonate in the bottles.
The other (preferred) option is kegging and force carbonating your seltzer. This method is much quicker, easier and let’s face it… it’s cooler. Putting anything on draft, even seltzer, YES PLEASE! If you already have a kegging system, you know how to do this, if you don’t have a kegging system, check out these homebrew keg kits. When you’ve got your kegging system, you’ll add your flavored seltzer to the keg and set the pressure to about 35-45 psi for a few days to give it a nice, heavy carbonation. If you’re in a hurry, you can shake the keg while it’s under pressure and get it carbonated in a matter of hours rather than days.
Hard seltzers came on the scene hard this past year. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of them, but as a homebrewer, its a quick and easy beverage to make and a nice option to have on tap for friends and family who might not be fans of beer. So whether you’re a homebrewer or not, hard seltzer is a drink that easy to make and even easier to share.
Stay tuned for our next post where we try our hand at making hard seltzer.
Russel Yip, San Francisco Chronicle
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