Last step in the project of building a home soda machine for flavoring cola

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I can't find the right group so the two groups this is being sent to are actually each half-way related to the question below.
I made a home-built C02 carbonation machine using a 20 pound carbon dioxide tank and some pneumatic hoses & couplings, which, along with a tire valve inserted into a soda-bottle cap, allows me to easily carbonate water at home, three liters at a time (as shown in this photo below):

My question is related to that machine, but it's related more to the food flavoring - in that the entire endeavor is a waste unless/until I can find an economical alternative to the desired cola flavoring.
Here is a picture of the cola flavoring I'm currently using:

The 'problem' is that it cost me $5 for the cola syrup, which makes 12 liters, or, roughly about 50 cents a liter. Compared to the C02 which costs perhaps a penny or two per liter, and the water which is also something on the order of a penny a liter, the whole home soda machine project is a failure unless I can get the cola flavoring costs down.
Any ideas on how to relatively closely duplicate the cola flavor at a substantially reduced cost than what I'm currently paying?
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"Danny D." wrote:

Do you have a certificate of analysis on the CO2? I worked at a company that hadn't paid much attention to safety until we had an accident. We then searched every area for possible hazards, and found dozens of them. One was the CO2 gas for our laser. I was thinking that in the course of operation, some of the CO2 might be converted to carbon monoxide. It turned out the CO2 as purchased contained a significant amount of CO. If the valve on the tank failed, the room where it was used could quickly fill up with a hazardous level.
I don't know what grades of CO2 are offered, but I doubt if the grade we were buying would be safe for consumer use.
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wrote:

If you are buying the CO2 in a Bevco 20 pound bottle, most of these will end up attached to soda machines and the gas is food safe. They still consider it a dirty gas compared to medical grade oxygen or nitrous
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On Mon, 28 Jan 2013 20:01:10 -0500, gfretwell wrote:

Thanks for the warnings - but I'm not the least bit worried about contaminants in the C02. As gfretwell stated, these tanks are used every single day in millions of beer kegs and soda dispensing machines.
The problem I'm having is that the C02 and water are only a couple pennies a liter, but the Soda Stream cola syrup (at $5.00 + 10% tax for a bottle that makes only 12 liters) is hugely expensive.
Wikipedia lists the "Merchandise 7X" formula for Coca Cola syrup (the supposed secrecy of which is a carefully orchestrated MARKETING coup), but almost NONE of the ingredients were easily obtainable at any of my local grocery stores. :(
Do you know where I can get these ingredients, at a reasonable price?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola_formula Ingredients: 1 oz (28 g) caffeine citrate 3 oz (85 g) citric acid 1 fl oz (30 ml) vanilla extract 1 qt (946 ml) lime juice 2.5 oz (71 g) "flavoring," i.e., "Merchandise 7X" 30 lb (14 kg) sugar 4 fl oz (118.3 ml) cocoa leaf fluid extract <--isn't gonna happen 2.5 gal (9.5 l; 2.1 imp gal) water Plus caramel sufficient to give color
Where the "Flavoring (Merchandise 7X)" is as follows: 1 qrt alcohol 80 oil orange 40 oil cinnamon 120 oil lemon 20 oil coriander 40 oil nutmeg 40 oil neroli
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On 1/29/2013 1:05 AM, Danny D. wrote:

First suggestion would be to contact any local restaurant/bar supply stores in your area and find out if they carry soda syrups. The commercial syrups are a 5-to-1 concentration, so a 5 gallon container will make roughly 30 gallons of soda. The shipping cost would make it uneconomical, which is why I suggest you phone your local stores and get quotes.
Second - if you wish to mix your own recipe, the ingredients are easily obtainable from several sources. The caffeine citrate you can probably special order from a drugstore. The citric acid can also be gotten from a drugstore, as well as from beer/winemaking shops and also candy/baking suppliers. You can just compare sizes and prices and go for what works for you.
Vanilla extract - obviously, candy/baking suppliers again, but it's also commonly available in up to pint or quart containers at many grocery stores and bulk suppliers like Costco or Sams Club. You can buy either the artificial flavoring, which is considerably cheaper, or the pure vanilla extract.
Now, as for all the essential oils - again, multiple options. These are usually sold in small bottles, generally 1 dram or 1 ounce. You can buy most of them at candy/baking supply stores. They are very frequently sold at health food/organic grocery stores, or food coops. And again, you can often have a drugstore special order them for you. The common food oils (orange, cinnamon, lemon) are very inexpensive and easy to find. Essential oils of coriander and nutmeg will be harder to find. If necessary, you can do a work-around by steeping some nutmeg and coriander seed in some water. Neroli oil is extremely expensive; you'll probably give up on using that one.
Caramel coloring is also very available; again, candy/baking suppliers will have it in various quantities. You can make your own easily enough - it's just burnt sugar dissolved in water.
But first - call your local restaurant supplier. If you have a bottler in town (Pepsi or Coke or whoever) you might also phone them and see if they'll sell their syrups to you, and if so what the minimum quantity is they'll sell to you.
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GFS (Gorden Food Service) carry's coke-cola in bag in box.
Robert
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On Tue, 29 Jan 2013 09:44:05 -0500, Robert wrote:

That's the kind of Internet-supplier advice I was hoping for!
Googling, I find this GFS web site: http://www.gfs.com/en/products/product-categories/beverages.page
But they seem to sell through "channels".
Plugging my zip code into their store-locator comes up with a hotel and a health club in my town - which I find strange - so I need to dig deeper on how this GFS company sells its product to the consumer.
They don't have a phone number on their web site so I filled out the contact form on the web but the fields are clearly geared to commercial suppliers.
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On Tue, 29 Jan 2013 07:44:44 -0600, Moe DeLoughan wrote:

Looks like I have a bunch of suppliers to look up! Thanks for the comprehensive suggestion.
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All those are readily available, including neroli oil. And you don't have to search by supplier, just googling for "buy X" works. Ebay and Amazon probably have it too.
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It seems the starting point for either buying a SodaStream or building your own equivalent would be what it's going to cost so you could compare it to soda from other sources. You say Coke is available on sale for 50 cents a liter. Here in the NY area it's also available regularly at one supermarket or another for about that price. It's not at all unusual to find the 2 liter bottles going for around $1. There are also house brand colas and soft drinks with that as the every day price.
I've seen 5 gallon bags of syrup like a fountain would use for sale once in a while. Sams Club has them. I just checked there and it's $77 for RC cola. That works out to about 64 cents for that 2 liter bottle. Not enough to entice me into making my own. A quick search for Coke showed that it's available on Ebay, but it's $110 - $140. If you search for "bag in box syrup" there are a lot of vendors that come up with a variety of products. Some less than $40, but then you have to pay for shipping and it isn't light. But another obvious problem is that unless it's a known brand, you're shelling out $50+ for something of unknown taste. All of the above is why it doesn't make sense for me.
As for the list of coca cola ingredients, there isn't anything there other than the coca extract that isn't available either locally or online. And I think they stopped adding the actual coca extract 75+ years ago, no? The problem isn't the ingredients. It's how exactly to prepare it, the quantities to use, and again the cost of what you get. I think trying to make your own from that recipe is going to be far harder than obtaining the ingredients. You have billion dollar companies trying to make cola taste like coke or pepsi and they haven trouble making one that's in that league.
And if you have a family consuming so much soda that all this is worthwhile, I'd suggest that you consider weaning them off some of it or at least to diet soda. There is a huge amount of sugar in that soda, we have an obesity and diabetes epidemic. Even if kids are not fat today, getting them set in bad eating habits for life can lead to big problems later.
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On Tue, 29 Jan 2013 06:09:45 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

The only consumables for making soda are: - Water (so cheap that let's forget about pricing it) - Carbon dioxide (again, so cheap that we can forget about the price) - Flavoring (need a cheaper supplier of cola flavoring)

That seems reasonable. If it matters, I'd add the roughly 10% sales tax and the mandatory 10 cent recycling tax, so it boils down to about $1.20 is the price to compare with for a two-liter bottle of cola.

Interesting! I have a Costco membership - but not Sams Club. I wonder if Costco sells it (I've never seen it - but then they only recently started selling coke bottles at about the prices we listed above for colas).

This seems to be a good approach.

Actually, almost none of the components are available at the local grocery stores I checked. I'm pretty surprised there isn't an online supplier of the various chemicals as a kit though ...

I'm not worried about the ratios to use (I can experiment to taste) but you're right that the cost for the desired quantity is the final problem, which, if not overcome, makes home cola creation costs prohibitive.

I agree. An inexpensive source for cola syrup is probably best.
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1 oz (28 g) caffeine citrate 3 oz (85 g) citric acid 1 fl oz (30 ml) vanilla extract 1 qt (946 ml) lime juice 2.5 oz (71 g) "flavoring," i.e., "Merchandise 7X" 30 lb (14 kg) sugar 4 fl oz (118.3 ml) cocoa leaf fluid extract <--isn't gonna happen 2.5 gal (9.5 l; 2.1 imp gal) water Plus caramel sufficient to give color
Where the "Flavoring (Merchandise 7X)" is as follows: 1 qrt alcohol 80 oil orange 40 oil cinnamon 120 oil lemon 20 oil coriander 40 oil nutmeg 40 oil neroli
The vanilla extract, lime juice, and alcohol will be in any supermarket/ liquor store. Better supermarkets will have at least some of the various oils. If not, most of them are typically found in health food stores. The neroli oil and carmel coloring may be harder to find, but it's available online. You could also substitute. If you can't find coriander oil, for example, you could buy coriander seed in a supermarket, crush it, put in in some of the alcohol for a week. And then try adding it in few drops at a time.
I would also think googling you'd find people who have actually done it, which is going to be a lot more valuable than just the list of ingredients.
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Danny D. wrote:

I have something similar, although I haven't used it in a while. I put a stainless steel truck valve stem (or you can use a snifter valve) in a 2-liter bottle cap, then use a tire chuck on a CO2 tank to carbonate it.
What pressure are you using? (try 55 to 60 psi with cold water) You do have a pressure regulator, right?
A guy at work with a new Sodastream machine bought 3 gallons of bulk Diet Mt. Dew syrup someplace, and that's what he uses. It's a lot cheaper than buying Sodastream syrup.
You might can mix your own cola syrup. Recipes abound. The main flavorings are citrus peel, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The caramel and caffeine also might be significant, and who knows what other flavor notes are in the premium cola brands like Coke (lavender oil? That's a guess)
HTH, Bob
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On Mon, 28 Jan 2013 18:27:55 -0600, zxcvbob wrote:

Likewise, I use a steel car tire valve with the Schrader valve removed so that the carbon dioxide is free flowing into the ice-cold water in 3 liter bottles.
I use a standard pneumatic hose quick connect to attach the gas line to the soda bottle cap. It's trivial to use and takes two seconds to assemble and disassemble.

Of course. I have the standard dual gauge regulator everyone else has.
The carbon dioxide tank keeps a steady 800 psi or so on the primary gauge. I regulate the secondary pressure to anything between 30 and 50 PSI depending on how much of a rush I'm in.
IIRC, we only need about 22 PSI for ice-cold water, but the carbon dioxide is almost free, so it doesn't really matter as long as we keep below the 150 PSI test burst strength of the typical polycarbonate soda bottles.

A bulk deal for 'any' decent cola would be fantastic to find!

The actual recipe for Coca Cola was what I first tried (it's on Wikipedia, and elsewhere); but the problem is that I don't have a source for the ingredients. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola_formula
If anyone has a source for those ingredients, that would be fantastic!
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On 1/28/2013 6:44 PM, Danny D. wrote:

No, but I heard about Soda Stream machine and wondered what flavoring cost. That is expensive and I'm sure does not duplicate Pepsi or Coke in taste.
I'd google around for other brands. I think root beer extract is cheaper. I once made it via the fermentation route where you bottle with yeast for a day or two, enough to carbonate, and chill so it won't explode.
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Frank wrote:

Homebrew shops have other flavors of soda mix, but they only make 3 or 4 gallons instead of 5 like the McCormick's root beer. I bet they do have cola, and you could mix it into a syrup and store it in the fridge instead of bottling and fermenting it...
Bob
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Some homebrew shop sell Gnome extracts which make 10 gallons of soda.
For rootbeer the cheapest is Zatarains.
http://zatarains.elsstore.com/view/product/?id85181&cid '121
Robert
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On Mon, 28 Jan 2013 19:34:06 -0500, Frank wrote:

I bought the Soda Stream flavoring you see in the picture for $5.00 plus about 10% tax (makes 12 liters) at Bed Bath & Beyond.
That's roughly about 50 cents a liter (roundabout numbers) which is crazy considering Coca Cola is only about a buck a liter on sale.
I ran a single-blind taste test with the wife and kids, with the result that they 'could' consistently tell "a" difference between the three 'colas' I gave them (Coke, store brand, and Soda Stream), but they did not correctly guess with any reliability which one was the Coke versus the store-brand and the Soda Stream brand colas.
So, my tentative conclusion is that the cola taste is actually close enough for government work.
The problem isn't the taste - it's finding a supplier for the syrup (or for the syrup ingredients) that is reasonable on cost.
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On Mon, 28 Jan 2013 19:34:06 -0500, Frank wrote:

At about 50 cents a liter, that Soda Stream flavoring is prohibitively expensive!
I can't imagine what it costs for people who also buy the carbon dioxide cartridges from Soda Stream.
It must approach a dollar a liter, which is not even close to worth it.
I can't imagine the company can sell the stuff at these prices, so, maybe there is a much cheaper supplier for the cola flavor out there?
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On 1/29/2013 2:35 AM, Danny D. wrote:

Easy, good marketing telling people that it works. I always laugh when I see that commercial "did you you know you could make soda at home from TAP WATER? (just like they do where you buy fountain soda)"
BTW we solved the "soda problem" by simply not drinking it. You get used to sweet stuff and a glass of water is just as refreshing.
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