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I want to produce an extreme low alcohol (<0.5%) sparkling iced tea, but carbonated with yeast / bottle conditioning.

I obviously can't make the tea sweet before carbonation for fear of over carbonating but I want a sweetened result.

I guess what I need is a sugar with a high amount of unfermentable sugars, should I use DME?

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You're on the right track, but DME is around 80% fermentable, so you wouldn't get much residual sweetness.

Using a blend of lactose and sucrose (table sugar) might work. The sucrose will ferment producing a small amount of alcohol and carbon dioxide. The lactose will not ferment and will provide residual sweetness.

You could also try an artificial sweetener instead of lactose. Personally, I've never found an artificial sweetener that I like, but tastes vary.

You can find online priming calculators that will tell you how much sucrose to use. As for the quantity of lactose, you'll probably need to experiment a bit to get it to your taste.

  • I had a feeling lactose would come into play. Recently had a very sweet beer with lactose. – Mild Fuzz Nov 15 '14 at 22:14
  • This answer will not produce a non alcoholic beverage which was the question. this therefore does not answer the question that was asked. – Anigel Nov 17 '14 at 9:22
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    @Anigel, To produce 3 volumes of CO2, the yeast will make 0.4% alcohol by volume. You can call that alcoholic if you want to be technical, but it's so low as to be unnoticeable. – FishesCycle Nov 17 '14 at 14:45
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This is called "back sweetening", and you can look it up for a more authoritative answer than mine. As far as I know there are three approaches (purely from reading books and recipes, I've never actually back-sweetened myself):

  • Add sugar right before you drink it.
  • Add non-fermentable sugars or sweeteners. I've seen lactose most commonly recommended.
  • Deactivate or kill the yeast before adding sugar, either by keeping it very cold or by adding a preservative.
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    Whilst killing the yeast will indeed stop it consuming the sugars in the drink, it will also stop it carbonating the drink. The same issue applies with non fermentable sugars. No fermentation = no carbonation. – Anigel Nov 14 '14 at 13:22
  • Option two is the best for me, as I want this drink to be ready when it comes out of the bottle – Mild Fuzz Nov 15 '14 at 22:15
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I have faced this issue when making soda. What I did, that seemed to work, was mix everything, including all sweetener/fermentable and all yeast, and place into a bottle (I was using a 2-liter plastic bottle). I let it ferment at room temperature in the sealed bottle for 2 days, and then cold crashed it to stop fermentation.

I am not sure how much risk there is of explosions by moving this to glass bottles.

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