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How to Make Coca Cola

Drink of the Week: Cuba Libre

I am just going to come right out and say it: This week's DOTW is getting hijacked. Anyone who recognizes the Cuba Libre also knows that it's just a fancy name for the popular Rum and Coke. Sure, there's a squeeze of lime, and we'll get to the drink itself.

Coca Leaf TeaMost of you are probably thinking, "But isn't the formula for Coke one of the most guarded secrets on earth?" Well, yes and no. Many aspects of the recipe are known (the ingredients are written right on the can), but there is some truth to the story that only a select few individuals know the formula of the primary flavoring component. However, some very convincing evidence exists that the Original Recipe—the one first created by Coca Cola inventor John Pemberton back in 1886—may have been revealed in a newspaper photograph, hiding in plain sight since 1979.

Original Recipe
Sharing the details of this evidence isn't actually my story. It comes by way of the radio program, This American Life. Back on February 11th, 2011, Ira Glass aired a story in which he describes a photograph of an old pharmacy journal. The photo was published in a Georgia newspaper in 1979 and shows a leather-bound recipe book opened to a page with the title, "Coco-Cola Improved" listing every ingredient, quantity and procedure. It is widely known that back in 1886 when John Pemberton invented Coca Cola in reaction to the temperance movement in Atlanta, Georgia, he sold the recipe to several of his colleagues. This book happened to belong to one such associate and many years later it was re-discovered which led to the newspaper article in 1979.

Percolating

A dusty old recipe journal that belonged to someone nobody remembers would hardly convince most people of the recipe's authenticity, but Coke historian Mark Pendergrast, author of For God, Country, and Coca-Cola, confirmed that while researching his book in the Coca Cola Company archives, he was allowed to review Pemberton's notebook. There in the notebook, in Pemberton's own hand, is the exact same recipe, item-for-item in matching quantities. I would encourage you to check out the radio program yourself to hear how it all unfolds. It's a fascinating story that includes the help of Jones Soda to whip up a batch along with taste tests and some interesting reactions from flavor experts and regular consumers. You'll have to draw your own conclusions because the Coca Cola Company will never confirm that this recipe is correct. Nor will they file a lawsuit because doing so would require them to produce the actual formula.
It's also important to recognize that this is a recipe for the original Coca Cola, not the Coke that is made today. The differences may be subtle, but there is certainly no claim that this is exactly what is sold in stores right now. We know for example that Coke made in the United States no longer uses cane sugar, (although you can buy Mexican Coke that does). We also know that they no longer use fresh lime juice, opting instead for the more stable lime oil. Citric Acid has been replaced with phosphoric acid. You get the idea.

What about the cocaine?
"Coca" isn't just a playful reference. It's true that cocaine was part of the original Coke recipe. In fact, the ingredients below include an item called FE Coca, or fluid extract of coca, but by 1903 the cocaine was removed leaving this extract as just another flavor component. Coke still uses it, but the coca leaves used to make the extract have had the cocaine taken out by the Stepan Chemical Company in Maywood, New Jersey. Stepan is the only company in the US that is licensed by the DEA to legally import Peruvian coca leaves. Cocaine-free coca leaves are perfectly legal and available as an herbal tea. Using them to make your own drug-free FE Coca is simple.

Merchandise 7XAnd the Caffeine?
The word cola is a reference to the kola nut, which is a natural source of caffeine. Eventually, caffeine citrate took its place making the nut unnecessary. This is probably one of the "improvements". I chose to leave out the caffeine which might affect the flavor somewhat. I have read that caffeine imparts some bitterness, but to use the amount specified would result in a beverage five times more potent than what is typically used in soda today! I think I made the right decision to leave it out, but if anyone knows of a proper source for it, I might try another batch reducing the quantity to one-fifth.

Merchandise 7X
That's the fancy name Coke gives their secret flavoring. Cola is a complex beverage, but the key to building the right combination of natural flavors is to use essential oils. Oil and water don't mix, and since the majority of the final product is water, you need the oils to emulsify. By mixing tiny amounts of the incredibly potent essential oils with pure alcohol, you stretch the oil drops into a flavoring solution that will more readily mix with the water-based ingredients. I have read that modern soft drinks take advantage of highly specialized emulsifying equipment capable of generating microscopic droplets at practically a molecular level. This results in a mixture that can remain stable in a can or bottle without separating for years. When it was first invented, bottling the product wasn't a consideration. Like our version here, it was meant to be mixed up and consumed immediately.

Covering with alcoholBasic Syrup
Besides cocaine, the other controversial ingredient in Coke is all of that sugar. The final product has a pound of sugar per gallon of soda. The syrup also contains a fair amount of lime juice. If anything in this recipe took me by surprise it was the amount of lime juice. I had no idea there was so much. There's also some vanilla and caramel coloring.

So, that's the basic idea. It doesn't sound too difficult, right? To make your own, you really have five basic steps:

1. Make FE Coca
2. Make Merchandise 7X
3. Make the basic syrup (using some of your FE Coca)
4. Add some 7X flavoring to your basic syrup
5. Combine the syrup with carbonated water

Actually, you are done with the recipe at step 4. Once you have the syrup, you can make Coke whenever you want by mixing it on the spot. This is similar to how we make ginger beer, so get that siphon ready or grab some club soda. The mixing in step 5 is exactly what happens every time you get Coke from a soda dispenser. You hold your glass under the spout and carbonated water mixes with syrup at a five-to-one ratio. Fascinating!

Making FE Coca
Get yourself some coca tea. I bought mine on Amazon. It arrived in little tea bags, so I had to cut them all open. The next thing I did was reduce the leaf particles in a blender to a powder, but this may not even be necessary. Using a food processor on dry ingredients doesn't always work, but my coca tea had some pretty big pieces in it, so I figured a finer powder would lead to better extraction. To make the extract, you need a percolator or some vessel that can serve the same purpose. A percolator is a piece of lab equipment that is basically an open cylinder with a screen filter at the bottom where it then constricts like a funnel with a spigot. I don't have a percolator, but I do have a Clever Coffee Dripper!

Drips of FE CocaFE Coca
1 pound powdered coca leaf
6 oz diluted alcohol (60% abv)
Plus plenty more alcohol to saturate and rinse when straining

You could probably just use a mason jar and filter the result, but the idea is that you need to totally saturate the leaf matter with dilute alcohol and let it sit covered for 48 hours. According to the book A Treatise On Beverages or The Complete Practical Bottler by Charles Herman Sulz, you want to use ethyl alcohol at 60% strength. That's 120 proof vodka, if you can find it, and if not, figure out the proportions and add water to some Everclear to get you to 60%. According to the book, a proper fluid extract of coca requires a pound of the leaf and 6 ounces of alcohol, plus more alcohol to saturate the leaf matter and even more to rinse when you strain the results. I'll admit, there's some ambiguity here, and since I had about 4 ounces of coca tea, I knew I would probably only end up with some fraction of a cup of extract. This would still be more than enough FE Coca to make so much cola it could rot the teeth of everyone I know.

Once I had a layer of alcohol covering the saturated coca tea, I stretched plastic over the top of the Clever Coffee Dripper and waited two days. In the end, it was the perfect tool to pull this off. I removed the plastic wrap and set the contraption over a glass jar and watched as my FE Coca came out deep olive green. Rinsing the leaves with more alcohol produced even more extract, but at some point I realized I would be diluting the flavor. However, the color continued to be a deep green, and in the end, using 100 coca tea bags, I produced about 6 ounces of finished coca extract.

Making Merchandise 7X with essential oils

Making Merchandise 7X with essential oils

I wondered if I could have saved some trouble and simply left all of that coca in the tea bags. That's probably the best shortcut if you don't have a percolator. The extract itself smells like green tea, and the pungent flavor is strong. Not much of this will go into the syrup, and before I started I wondered if it would be worth the effort or expense. But, after making the extract, it really wasn't that hard after all, and when it came time to mix everything together, I was surprised how much aroma carried into the syrup from the tiny amount used.

Making 7X (the secret formula)
This part requires Everclear at full-strength. You really should have the 95% (190 proof) stuff. The 151 might work too, but I think it's expected that you are mixing your essential oils with pure alcohol. Although it can be a challenge getting all of the essential oils (and they tend to be somewhat pricey), this was probably the easiest part of the whole operation. It's ironic that the secret formula is actually the simplest part to execute.

7X Flavor
8 oz alcohol
20 drops orange oil
30 drops lemon oil
10 drops nutmeg oil
5 drops coriander oil
10 drops neroli oil
10 drops cassia cinnamon oil

I used mostly Young Living essential oils which are food-safe and 100% pure organic. Neroli was a harder one to come by. You want everything you use in this whole process to be food-grade otherwise it can make you sick, and don't use anything that has been cut with neutral oil. You need full-strength, 100% pure. Once you have the FE Coca and the 7X flavoring components, you can start making the syrup. You probably won't need to make another batch of either ingredient for a long time. An eight-ounce bottle of 7X will probably last the rest of your life.

Making The Basic Syrup
Since I only made a gallon, I reduced everything by a factor of 5. First, dissolve the sugar in water. Have patience. It can take a while to get that much sugar to dissolve, but keep stirring! Then, add the caramel coloring. I used class IV caramel 050 coloring from DDWilliamson which is designed for acidic beverages, but I found I needed twice the amount indicated to match the color of modern Coke. Next, add your FE Coca. It's amazing how little you add and how the smell fills the room. Add the vanilla extract, caffeine if you use any, lime juice and citric acid in that order.

Cola SyrupBasic Syrup
.375 oz FE Coca (3/8 oz) or 180 drops
30 pounds sugar
3 oz citric acid
1 oz citrate caffeine
2.5 gal water
1 quart lime juice
1 oz vanilla
1.5 oz caramel coloring

Add 7X
The final step is to add your 7X flavoring to the basic syrup. It feels really exciting at this point, like you are participating in a time-honored ritual or building a magic potion. You need to add only .5 oz of 7X per 5 gallons of basic syrup. My fractional reduction in quantity had me adding 7X by the drop. If you do a little research you find that most people calculate that there are 480 drops of liquid in one US fluid ounce, but drops per ounce will always depend on how thick the liquid is, or how much surface tension exists. I went with this common measurement and added 48 drops. If you are making the full 5 gallons of syrup you can measure a half ounce, but if you want to make less, do the math and add 7X with a clean eye dropper.

Make Cola
Mix up some cola using 1 part finished syrup to 5 parts carbonated water. I presented my homemade Coke the other day at an office pot luck and it was a big hit. Everyone loved it. Some said it was actually better than regular Coke. After first mixing the syrup, I detected a strong lime flavor in the finished soda, but over the course of several days refrigerated, I think it has mellowed quite a bit. After six days, the fresh citrus flavors have less impact in the final soda, and it's getting very hard to distinguish it from the commercial product. If you decide to make this yourself, I'd be curious how yours turns out. And now, at long last, we come to our Drink of the Week. Of course, you can avoid all the hassle above and just buy some Coke to mix with Rum and a squeeze of lime, but what fun would that be?

Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke)Cuba Libre
2 oz white rum
.75 oz homemade cola syrup
3.75 oz carbonated water
squeeze of lime juice

Build in a glass with ice and give a stir to make sure the syrup mixes completely. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Update:
Lynden's Soda Fountain is now serving this 1886 Cola recipe in their shop in St. Paul. Here's a short video of our morning making the cola syrup described above:

1886 Cola at Lynden's Soda Shop

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58 comments to How to Make Coca Cola

  • Nathan

    You are a machine, sir. An impressive amount of effort for a rum and coke.

  • Thanks. I have so much syrup now, I'm not sure what to do with all of it!

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  • Ann Ruud

    FYI, Young Living now sells Neroli.

  • Update: We just made another batch at Lynden's Soda Fountain, and added a video to this post! If you ever wanted to taste a homemade cola as it was intended back in 1886, save yourself the trouble of following the above steps and head down to Lynden's.

  • Rory

    Could you tell me where I can get the DD Williamson Caramel Coloring? Or what you used for caramel color when you made your syrup. Thanks.

    • Rory,

      You should be using class IV d150 caramel color designed for stability in acidic beverages. I obtained a small sample from DD Williamson working directly with them, but knowing others might be interested in buying small quantities, I asked their sales rep the same question. They suggested contacting their partner, colorMaker in Anaheim California who will sell as little as a quart. That's much more than you will need. I have not worked with them, but their phone # is 714-572-0444, or was when this was first written.

      I have also seen caramel coloring for sale by baking retailers, although it may not be the same formulation. In the end, stability might not be as crucial because this is for a syrup mixed as needed with carbonated water.

      Finally, it is possible to use burnt sugar to color your syrup, though I don't know if there would be off flavors. It's certainly the more historc way to go!

      I am interested to find out how your project turns out. It's rare that I have found anyone willing to try this. I just made another batch and it's fantastic, though my FE Coca had gone bad and needed to be made again. Good luck, and post again when you have results!

  • Rory

    Thanks for the help Randy! I will let you know how it turns out. I love your site. I am always interested in cocktails and making as much as I can from scratch. I run a bar in a small French restaurant in Boston.

    • Wow, Rory! Thanks for kind words. It truly makes the process of writing and sharing my own explorations worthwhile when someone else benefits. I am looking forward to hearing about your cola!

  • Nathan

    For what it's worth, I'm adapting this recipe for the phosphate soda program at my bar as well. Rory, I'd be interested to know if you're able to obtain the caramel coloring from Color Maker and what their price is.

  • Rory

    Nathan, I wanted to let you know that I ordered se caramel coloring from Color Mark. Class IV d150. And they are sending me 2 lbs (which is the smallest quantity you can buy from them) for only around $3. They also told me it has a 3 yr shelf life in case you only need a small amount. Good Luck with your phosphate soda experiments.

  • Rory

    Sorry. Color Maker. Not Color Mark. Lol.

  • Rory

    I finally have everything I need for my soda. Starting the process this week!

    • Fantastic! Thanks for the update. I am looking forward to hearing how everything turns out.

      By the way, the last few batches I made have allowed me to experiment and draw some interesting conclusions. First, the vanilla extract is important. Cheap, bottom shelf grocery store vanilla definely tastes different in the cola than a high quality vanilla extract. My best results have come from vanilla I make myself using vanilla beans, high proof rum, bourbon or vodka.

      Second, I have noticed that white granulated sugar works best. Natural, or "raw" sugar that is light brown in color contributes flavor. It's not necessarily bad, but with so much sugar in the recipe, you can taste the difference. White sugar hangs back and doesn't distract from the actual flavoring elements while the raw has a slight molasses effect.

  • Simple Man

    For the 3 oz of citric acid, is that citric acid (liquid) or citric acid (powder)?

    If the former, what is your dilution rate? I usually do 2.5:1.

    • It's citric acid powder and the measurement is by weight. It is easy to over do it for this item. It will taste metallic.

      • Simple Man

        Thanks, Randy. I usually go easy on the citric acid until I have a finished product.

        In the past, I've forgone the acid entirely and waited to make the soda to dash in citric and phosphate acid (2-3 dashes each)

        • That's an interesting approach. For this, we were trying to accurately reproduce a historic recipe. Actually, if measured properly, the acid is right where it needs to be.

  • Rory

    Randy, I just finished my first batch of the 1886 cola today. It's actually very good! Finding some of the ingredients was a bit tricky, and I felt like a drug dealer while I was making the Coca Extract....but it was a lot of fun. And the taste came out very balanced. Thanks for help on everything! I'm featuring the home made cola in the form of a Cuba Libre on my Spring Cocktail menu. If you are ever in Boston, you should definitely stop by the bar. La Voile. 261 Newbury St. Thanks again!!!!

    • Rory, thanks for reporting back! I am so excited that your cola turned out. I honestly think we are among a very small group of people who have bothered to try this. You are right about some of the steps--it feels like you are takng part in a secret apothecary ritual. It's one of those experiences that seems a little crazy when you are collecting all the stuff but when you are actually doing it the results are so worth it. For instance, after making FE Coca, I wondered if it was worth the effort and expense given how little goes into the syrup, but when the drops hit the surface releasing the intense aromatics you know something interesting is going on.

      I think it's fantastic that you are featuring your cola in the Cuba Libre. Be sure to try the Zarzamora when you get the chance. I would love to visit your bar in Boston. It's been decades since I visited.

      Do you have any advice for others thinking about trying this?

  • Rory

    There are only a few tips I could give. The essential oils may be difficult to find on amazon and a little expensive but they will last a very long time once you create the 7X formula. For the oils, just make sure everything you purchase is organic and food safe. Also, the home made vanilla extract is much better than using some from the store. You are right. I used vanilla bean and a 151 Demerara Rum called LemonHart. This high proof rum has a lot of flavor and is very complex for being an ovenproof rum. You could use a high proof Rye or Bourbon as well. It would be just as good. The only other tip is that when combining the sugar and water to make the syrup, I heated water in an electric tea pot and used boiling water. Then I slowly added the sugar to it while stirring constantly. This method worked very well.

    • Rory,
      Thanks for the additional notes. Regarding heating the mixture to dissolve the sugar--that's a step I haven't done. There is differing opinions about using a cold process versus a hot process for making syrup. Some claim the heating creates invert sugar which is complex chemistry stuff that basically results in sucrose splitting and forming gluose and fructose. Fructose is supposedly sweeter and the inversion of the chemical makeup is said to improve stability by reducing crystallization, but fruit acid has similar effects by inducing the inversion.

      I have had better luck with clean bottles and no heating. With ginger syrup, I find that a hot process loses flavor as it ages while cold process ginger syrup stays potent over time. To each their own, but I prefer cold process.

  • Drew

    Using the amount of 60% alcohol suggested I couldn't even moisten half of the coca leaf, never mind get any sort of extract. How could 6oz of fluid be anywhere near enough for 16oz of powder? When I mixed them together, the alcohol didn't even penetrate halfway down. Most of the coca leaf was still completely dry. I used an ounce of fine powder coca leaf and needed to use about 3.5oz of alcohol. I have no clue how much of this to use in my syrup. Should I just multiply it by a factor of how much more liquid I used?

    Also my 7X smells sort of like coke but awfully strong of Cinnamon. Is this normal?

    • Drew

      Also, what unit is the sugar? It says 30#. Thanks

    • Nathan

      Yeah, the listed solvent quantity isn't right at all, but as Randy pointed out, the Sulz recipe basically says to keep adding solvent until you're satisfied with your yield.

      The procedure I used for my FE coca was to steep 1 oz of powdered coca leaf in 3 fl. oz. of 60% ethanol for 48 hours, then pour the whole mess into a coffee filter, add another 1.5 fl. oz. of solvent over the top, and allow it to percolate for 2 hours. The yield was about 2 fl. oz, and it's some pretty intense stuff. I added it to the syrup in the quantity indicated in the blog post.

      • Drew

        Thanks for the response. So even though you had more, you used the same volume of liquid (0.375oz)? I was thinking that if 16oz of liquid was the final output for 16oz of leaf, then with a 2oz of liquid final output for 1oz of leaf you should use double, 0.75oz. Know what I mean? Maybe the relevant solutes in the coca leaf form a saturated solution even with double the solvent.

    • Drew,
      You are right. The recipe for making FE Coca is pretty ambiguous. According to the old book, you should be using a lab percolator. I can only imagine that the proper pharmacy equipment somehow allows you to saturate powdered coca leaf as described, but I too found the amount of alcohol nowhere near enough to do the job. I added enough to saturate and barely submerge the leaf as the book also describes. To me, that seemed to be the point. 48 hours later, the drained extract was dark olive green, aromatic, and according to the old book, I needed to rinse the leaf matter with more alcohol. Eventually, I just had to stop rinsing, even though it continued to look dark and concentrated. At 6 ounces of extract, I stopped since that was the goal, but I am certain I could have gone for more.

      Give it your best effort, and you will have FE Coca. It's science, certainly, but it feels more like culinary science than chemistry in this case.

      • Drew

        So you had a total extract of 6oz? Doesn't it say to keep running more solution through the leaf and filter until it reached 16oz?

        • The old book does say that, but it's based on starting with a pound of coca leaf. I had only 4 ounces by weight of coca leaf tea, so I assumed my FE yield would be a similar fraction less than 16 ounces of liquid described in the book. This makes the amount of saturating alcohol even less logical since I had to use more than the book specifies with less leaf matter.

          I suppose if I was going to rewrite the book, given my experience with this, I'd say: Using an appropriate apparatus for the maceration, saturate and submerge your quantity of leaf matter with 60% alcohol for 48 hours. Drain the extract and rinse to obtain a quantity double (or so) what drains from the apparatus prior to rinsing.

          The leaf tends to soak up some of the solvent which is why you need to add more to rinse to get a reasonable result. If the ambiguity is troubling, you could ignore rinsing and just get what you get by draining. At least then you know you have a fully concentrated extract.

    • Regarding the heavy cinnamon, that may be ok. It's one of the more potent flavors, but I can certainly detect the mixture of other flavors too. Are you using 100% pure essential oils?

      • Drew

        Thanks for responding. Yes I used pure oils. I mixed a few drops of 7X with a glass of carbonated water and noticed it only contributed a subtle flavor. I guess it's not as significant as I thought.

    • You might try making a fraction of the recipe to test your 7x. I have been making 1/2 gallons of syrup successfully reducing everything by a factor of ten. A least that way you are only using 3 pounds of sugar. This is enough syrup to last a good long while for me. If you decide your 7x is totally off, send me a message using the contact form.

      • Drew

        I was thinking about trying a few glasses of soda before making a big mix. I have a 10ml graduated cylinder and mg scale at my disposal so I think I can scale down the recipe pretty low with good precision.

  • There's no reason to leave the details hard to follow, so I am updating the post with clarifying info about the measurements. Good feedback all around.

  • Rory

    Randy,
    That's a good point. I didn't think about that but you are right. I think my cola may have lost a little of the initial flavor it had when I first made it. It still tastes good but it was a but more complex at the beginning. It will stick with the cold process next time. After all, it's only my first batch. Practice makes perfect. Thanks again!

  • Stein

    Hi.
    What kind of Lime did you use, persian or Key Lime, or a different type?

    • Stein, they were definitely not key limes. These were just typical, medium-sized grocery store limes, (sometimes labeled "Product of Mexico"). I suppose they were Persian limes. Someone out there probably knows a lot more than I do about the different limes we have here in the US.

  • I came across your site in my search for a Coca-Cola recipe and I have to say that you have given me a lot of motivation to want to try this at home. I got a SodaStream for Christmas and while it is neat to be able to "make your own soda" at home, I still feel like I am not REALLY making my own soda since I'm using SodaStream's brand of flavorings. It's just not the same thing and plus I think a lot of their flavors don't actually taste all that great anyways.

    Of course, finding most of the ingredients to make your own Coca-Cola syrup are next to impossible to find locally. I tried at least though and I couldn't find anything at even the Honest Weight Food Co-op. They were at least helpful to point me in the right direction and gave me the name of a local supplier for the Young Living Essential Oils. They are PRICEY though, especially the Neroli Oil for some reason. That stuff is like $100 for a half-ounce bottle! Hardly seems worth it since it is just a lot cheaper to buy Coke from the store! But, like you said, this stuff tastes a LOT better (and is actually healthier for you) than the store-bought stuff anymore. Plus, it's the adventure of making your own that you can't put a price tag on!

    The other trickiest part is, of course, finding the Coca Leaves. It is hard to find (NO ONE carries them locally...) and I ended up purchasing a 250 gram box of loose powdered Coca leaves (to make your own tea) online from a site in another country (either Mexico or Spain, I think, since part of the site was in Spanish...) It ended up costing me around $40 for the brick of leaves that I bought. Here is the site I found them on: BuyCocaTea.com

    However, if anyone is interested, I decided NOT to buy the Young Living oils and instead I found a wholesale herbs, spices, and oils business online where I bought my Essential Oils. They do say they are 100% pure and food grade as well, just like the Young Living oils are. They seemed to be much cheaper though and you can even purchase them in "bulk" if you plan on making a ton of Cola at home - from .5 oz to 16oz bottles of these oils! I purchased 2oz bottles of the citrus oils (like Orange, Lemon, and Lime) so I can try using them to also make Orange and Lemon/Lime (Sprite) type sodas.

    If anyone would like to check them out, here is a link to their site: Starwest Botanicals - Essential Oils

    I also purchased a gallon (smallest size they had) of Glycerin to try to add to my cola syrup as an emulsifier to keep the syrup from separating from the carbonated water when I mix it up so I can make a few batches in bulk to use for a week or two. I'll let you know how it turns out. I'll keep you updated once I get all my ingredients in the mail and I get a chance to try this for the first time.

    • (Oops! My bad actually! The link I gave was incorrect. I didn't actually buy my Essential Oils from there. That was another site I was looking at, but I actually decided to buy the oils from THIS site: Bulk Apothecary - Essential Oils They are Therapeutic Grade and Food Grade 100% Pure Essential Oils and their prices are the dirt-cheap lowest I have seen anywhere.

      They are located in Ohio and I'm hoping they will ship fast. They also carry some homebrew equipment if you decide to brew your own beer at home... or just purchase some 12 fl oz glass bottles to bottle up your Coca-Cola to give to your friends!

      Sorry for the confusion with my original post though. I would have edited it if the site would let me so I wouldn't have had to post this follow-up, but oh well...

      • Kevin, also, check out our recipe for really easy fresh ginger syrup. A squeeze of lime juice and your Soda Stream will make you the most amazing ginger beer you've ever tasted! That syrup will be a regular addition to your TRULY homemade soda repertoire. Also, find the Mai Tai cocktail here and whip up some orgeat for a delicious almond soda. Finally, when you are feeling a bit more adventurous, follow our post for making Raspberry Shrub. Talk about a refreshing twist--tastes like raspberry sparkling lemonade without the lemon, if you can imagine such a thing.

        • Actually, what I would REALLY like a recipe for is Dr. Pepper! I found plenty of Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola recipes out there to mix up your favorite Colas, but I have literally spent weeks scouring the Internet trying to find a legitimate Dr. Pepper recipe only to fall short. Not sure what the deal is, but I guess the Dr Pepper/7-Up and/or Dr Pepper/Snapple Group have done a much better job of keeping their recipes a secret from the public still, even to this day. Sure, I found some "imposter" recipes out there like, "Oh, dude I mixed prune juice with cherry juice and it tastes JUST LIKE Dr. Pepper!" Yeah, sure it does, whackjob! None of the recipes I found actually sounds convincingly like the real recipe that was formulated back in 1885 (which actually pre-dates Coca-Cola, BTW...).

          Not sure if you ever tried mixing up your own Dr. Pepper yet, but I'd be very interested to know if you (or anyone else) has actually managed to crack the code of the Dr. Pepper formulae. To that end though, I did purchase a few extra Essential Oils from the Bulk Apothecary site than were needed to make Coca-Cola so I may attempt to experiment to make a convincing Dr. Pepper. I'll give you a hint of some of the flavors I bought and they include Almond Oil and Cherry Oil. I'm hoping maybe I can just mix in a few extra flavors into my base Coca-Cola flavorings to attempt to get something that mimics Dr. Pepper closely enough. Of course, in doing so I think I will leave out the F.E. Coca and JUST use the Essential Oils to flavor the Dr. Pepper. Think I'm on the right track here?

          • Kevin, great minds think alike. I too have been searching. In fact, I added another 45 minutes to the task after your comments yesterday! I haven't gone so far as to buy additional oils, hoping to find an "open" Dr. Pepper recipe first, but nothing has come close. In fact, your note here may be the first/best clues out there!

            I have seen mention of cherry, and a "Flaming Dr. Pepper" shot uses amaretto, so almond oil seems likely. I think it's a good experiment. I have a friend who owns a soda fountain and he serves a Dr. Pepper clone. I need to do some investigating about that.

            I was surprised at the amount of lime juice in cola. I know that's probably a relic from the early historic recipe, but do you think a Pepper will have a similar base?

      • You may be able to go back now and edit it. When you post comments with URLs, my site flags the comment for admin approval.

    • Kevin, it's great to hear from people actually trying to make this. Several of the items are hard to obtain without leveraging online resources. I notice that vendors change too. Some of the items I used are no longer available via Amazon, for example. Such is the way of things. Still, some stuff like anhydrous caffeine is still readily available through our Amazon recommendations here. I appreciate the additional options you listed. One of the harder items is the proper caramel color discussed in comments above.

      Neroli oil is extremely expensive, probably due to low demand or difficulty sourcing the blossoms to make it. In any case, I have been very satisfied with Young Living oils for this recipe, but they were not making Neroli when I first made cola, so I used Veriditas. Yes, essential oils are expensive, but it believe that like good spirits, sometimes, you get what you pay for. Other times, you are paying for a brand. The proof will be the final products you make.

      I will reiterate that the vanilla extract definitely makes a difference. Weak, low quality flavor here had a profoundly negative effect on the cola flavor. I have also learned by experience that the caffeine must impart at least some flavor. Try making a mildly caffeinated water and taste it. You will cringe at the bitterness, so this must assert some effect on the syrup, though it is still great without it.

      Your idea with the glycerine is interesting though not a consideration for me. I was attempting to re-create a century-old soft drink experience which is mixed a la minute. This is a soda fountain technique, so stability of the final carbonated beverage is not a concern since it will be consumed in a matter of minutes. I think it may be an issue for long term shelf stability, but that's not really why we are making this. Neither is price. Even at Soda Stream bottle volumes, there's no reason to make more than you need at any given time.

      However, syrup stability is definitely important, but I have twice now kept a quart or so of this syrup refrigerated for over a year without any problems. It's pretty stable as-is, which surprises me given all of the fresh lime juice.

      Please followup with your successes, failures and insight! Thanks for commenting!

  • Steve

    I'm really wanting to try this, but I'm having a little problem with the 7X formula. I'm living in a state where the 190 proof version of Everclear isn't available. Should I go across the state line (I believe there's a store about 30 minutes away), or should I look at gum arabic as an emulsifier?

  • Get the 190. The emulsifier (if you use one at all) would be for mixing the 7x into the syrup, not for mixing the 7x itself.

    • Steve

      Any other sources for caramel coloring other than ColorMaker? I've exchanged a few emails with them and I've been trying to order, but they've stopped responding to me. I'd look elsewhere, but 2 lbs for $3 sounds like it will be hard to beat.

  • Octavio

    I can't seem to find coca leafs ANYWHERE, not even amazon. All I can find is guayusa tea instead. :(

    • Octavio,

      You are right, it's getting hard to find. Makes you wonder about the supply vs. demand. It has to be a difficult product to sell while avoiding misinformation and controversy. I expect folks like us trying to make historic coca cola reproductions are not exactly keeping these sellers in business with very many sales, and with the ease of product misrepresentation, who knows how Amazon deals with such things.

      In any case, I did see that LaTienda.com is selling 100 bags of organic coca tea. That's more than enough.

      As a last resort, you could try making cola without it. It is part of the mystique, and although the flavor and aroma is intense, I do wonder how much it would be missed in a final glass of soda. I think it may not be noticed unless doing a side-by-side comparison with the full recipe.

      Perhaps others who have tried making this recipe would care to comment if still subscribed.

    • Regarding LaTienda.com, they are a decent vendor. I purchased a wonderful classic steel paella pan and woven grass serving tray from them--both awesome. LaTienda ships fast and carries great products. I wouldn't hesitate getting the coca tea from them.

    • I had posted previously where you can get the Coca leaves as well. I bought mine from a site called BuyCocaTea.com. It was about $40 for a 200 gram brick of ground leaves. This site you are ordering them from is based in Peru, so you are getting them straight from the farmers, basically. It took a while to get them and, if I'm being honest, I was a bit worried that it would be confiscated by U.S. customs or something and I would never receive my Coca leaves! But, they finally came after a couple of weeks and I got to work making my Coca extract.

      So, I would recommend getting your Coca leaves from there if you plan on making a LOT of Coca-Cola. I only used HALF of the 200 grams that I purchased and ended up with about 8-10 oz of F.E. Coca. I have made about 10-15 GALLONS of Coca-Cola syrup so far and have barely scratched the surface of my F.E. Coca bottle. So, it will last a while. (So will your Merchandise 7x for that matter...)

      If you don't mind cutting apart tea bags, it sounds like that LaTienda.com is a good source as well. 100 tea bags should be more than enough to make your F.E. Coca with without having a ton left over.

      Personally, my problem is sourcing caramel colouring. I did find a site that sells it, but it is pretty expensive there! - AmericanSpice.com I paid about $12 for a 1 Lb bag of it, which it sounds like if I could get a 2 Lb bag for $3 from Color Mark, that is a hell of a deal! Not sure if they "sell to the public" though, if you know what I mean...

      The Caffeine Citrate was also kind of hard to find at first, but I actually found a very good deal on a 1 kg bag of Anhydrous Caffeine on eBay. I paid about $ for it. If you do a search for "Anhydrous Caffeine Powder" on eBay you will find a lot of listings.

      Hope some of this helps!

      • I also use anhydrous caffeine from Amazon. A small container is cheap, although one must take care to measure properly as this much caffeine is dangerous. In other words, buy a small precision scale and keep the caffeine out of reach of children.

        I would be very surprised if your coca was direct from a farm. It's far more likely that to sell as tea it undergoes the process to remove the cocaine alkaloids first. I would expect Peruvian imports to be highly screened and that customs/DEA checks would have to recognize this tea as safe and legal for it to get to you.

        I will be curious how your syrup turns out. Thanks for the info.

        • Well, you know what I mean... not DIRECTLY from the farmer, but the farmers are in Peru and my Coca leaves shipped right from Peru, so it is close to the source. That's all I was trying to say. (Not like it came from China where it was shipped to and re-packaged or something...)

          I DO need to get a scale myself to accurately measure the caffeine to be able to properly dose it. I tried looking up estimations based on how many milligrams might be in a teaspoon or something, but it is only a rough guess and depends on how packed your teaspoon is as the powder can compact a bit. Unfortunately, the ONLY 100% foolproof accurate way to measure it is by weight. No sense fooling around with large quantities of potent drugs, you know?

          Any ideas on the sourcing of the caramel coloring problem?

          I did have ONE other question too... in reading some of your comments, you touched on heating up the water to make the sugar easier to dissolve. It was unclear from reading your original instructions above (but now I'll have to re-read them to be sure) but I had always assumed that you needed to heat up the cola syrup mixture to get everything to dissolve nicely and meld into one cohesive solution. However, do you just cold mix your syrup without heating it over a stove? If so, how do you manage to get all that sugar to go into solution? It can be hard enough sometimes to get it all to dissolve over medium heat. Are there any drawbacks to doing it the way I have been doing it - on the stove over medium heat? Am I losing flavor from the Coca Extract or the 7x formulae by heating them? Conversely, is there any benefit to trying to make it as a simple mixture only without using any heat?

          I'd be curious to hear more about your method as this whole time I have been making my Cola syrups on the stove and warming up the water to make the ingredients easier to dissolve into the solution.

          • Kevin, regarding the caffeine, I have tried the dry measure conversion and it was problematic. I ended up with too much caffeine and you could feel it! The beauty of anhydrous is that you can pick up a can of soda, read the milligrams and simply do the math to match commercial products exactly.

            Regarding heat, I have three comments. First, I don't use heat. Not at all. Everything needs to be clean. It was Rory above who suggested heat in a comment and later expressed some regret that it may have affected the flavor retention over time. I don't know if that was real or not, but when I make a ginger syrup using a cold process with ginger juice versus heating the ginger with sugar and water, the cold version retains the flavor and ginger heat while the stovetop version loses it's flavor in just a couple of weeks. Some people cite sugar inversion as a problem with hot process, but I have read that acid will invert the sugar anyway, and we have a lot of lime juice. It's not an across the board endorsement of cold processed syrups, but take it for what it's worth.

            Second, this syrup does not need the heat to dissolve the sugar. Despite the fact that there is so much sugar, there' still plenty of water. Have at least a little patience to stir it. It's not going to take that long.

            Finally, we shouldn't be talking about how heat affects 7x or anything else for that matter. You need your sugar dissolved in water before you even add the other items. The order is apparently important according to the radio program notes. I suppose it has something to do with the chemistry. So, you should have your sugar completely dissolved in water first. Take a look at the post text again starting with making the syrup. The steps are as important as the recipe ingredient list. Think about the extracts--all alcohol based and highly aromatic. I can't imagine heat does good things with them at all. A similar example would be making orgeat or grenadine. If using heat you don't add the orange blossom water until completely cool or you risk loosing the aromas.

            About the caramel, I got lucky with a sample from DD Willilamson. If not for that sample I would have bought whatever size I could get. After spending $300, a few extra dollars wasn't going to matter. Still, saving money is different than not finding what you need at all. I haven't really looked for more caramel color, but I know it's out there. I wish I had better advice, but as more time passes my experience is getting further away from what may be currently available (or not available). I wish I had better suggestions, but don't be afraid to make a few phone calls and check the references by other commenters above. If long term bottled soda stability isn't a big concern you might be able to get away with caramel color for candy making. That's a lot easier to find in smaller quantities. It's just for color after all.

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