“So how the heck do you make Fizzy Pop?” – It’s the question we get asked the most by people coming to visit Square Root HQ. Getting from a concept for a recipe to a fully-fledged and bottled soda can be a complicated process involving ingredient sourcing, innovative processing methods and lots of trial batches.
Take our Lime & Lemongrass flavour, which we make exclusively for GAIL’s Bakery. They already make their own fresh Lemonade, but wanted someone to work with them to create another citrusy flavour to sell year-round.
“What we look for in a new soda recipe is our ‘house’ balance between sweet and sour,” explains Soda Boss Robyn. “The rule is: the more aromatic compounds two things have in common, the better they will pair with each other. We came up with the idea of a Lime & Lemongrass Soda – both ingredients have Citral, Citronellal, and Nerol compounds in common so scientifically they should be the perfect match!”
However, just because two flavours have compounds in common doesn’t mean they’ll automatically work together – the real magic comes from how we process the ingredients to extract their flavour – ensuring that one component enhances the other!
“We use a variety of techniques to try and get the most out of ingredients,” says Head of Product, Jake. “Chopping, pressing, juicing, cooking, syruping, sous-viding, distilling; you name it, we’ve tried it! We’ve got a feel for what works best with each ingredient now, but some things we still have to get our head around.”
“We already do a lot of work with Citrus – and we know that the sooner you’re able to press them, the better they’ll taste,” says Robyn. “Once they’re picked off the tree, they start to break down, so it’s a case of making sure we can source the limes as fresh as possible.”
“Lemongrass was a new ingredient for us, so it really was a case of trialling all the different production techniques in our repertoire to see what worked best. The way we settled on involves breaking open the stalks, before gently sous-viding to release the aromatics and create a syrup.”
The amount of fruit required to make a batch can vary from flavour to flavour. For example, our latest Citrus Crush batch needed almost two tonnes of citrus fruit to make just over 10,000 bottles (that’s about 5,000 pieces of fruit!) “You get around 30ml of lime juice from a lime,” explains Robyn, “so I’m sure you can imagine it takes a shit tonne of limes to make a batch of Lime & Lemongrass!”
Once we’ve extracted the raw ingredients, it’s all about getting the balance of flavours right. “The development stages are probably the most exciting part of soda production here at Square Root,” Jake says. “Tweaking recipes to bring out the right sweetness or tang from each ingredient takes time. Sometimes you’re making something, and it doesn’t quite taste like the fruit you’re using until you adjust the sugar or acidity by 1%, and then it’s there. Landing on the perfect recipe first time does make you feel pretty smug, to be honest. Although it’s fairly rare.”
The best production hack we’ve got is just keeping it simple and using fresh ingredients,” adds Robyn. “That way, we don’t need to add anything extra to replicate any flavours – the ingredients are doing the hard work for us!”
One of the significant advantages of soda production over, say, making beer, is the relatively quick turnaround. Although the production method itself is pretty labour intensive (have you ever tried juicing hundreds of boxes of lemons in one go?), we’re able to turn around a flavour in 3-4 days, which, when you’re perfecting a recipe for someone else, is dead handy.
“They (GAIL’s) were impressed with how quickly we could make something, likening it to their own development kitchen,” says Robyn. “We realised our businesses are essentially the same. We both strive to make the best tasting version of our product and get it to our customers in it’s best form. They say they’re born to bake; I say we’re born to make soda!”
This article was originally published in Issue One of Fizzy Pop - The brand new seasonal zine published by Square Root. Shipping now for free with every order from our online store.