Two long weeks ago, we finally scrounged the equipment and ingredients necessary to iterate Hack Pittsburgh's Open Mate recipe. Personally, I hadn't heard of this odd Club Mate beverage until I saw the recipe, but -- being a homebrewer -- I couldn't help but to order a case (for comparison purposes only, of course) and hunt down some yerba maté and caffeine powder of my own.
With said ingredients in hand, we put three gallons of water on the hot plate during one of our Tuesday open nights (come visit!), and proceeded to spend three hours hovering around the kitchen area, waiting for it to get anywhere near boiling. The tea was brewed, sugared, cooled, and kegged with the following specifications:
- 3 gallons of water
- 3oz yerba mate tea
- 2c sugar
- juice of 0.5 lemons
- 0.5t citric acid
- bring water to just under a boil
- add tea to water (I put the tea in a big homebrewing grain bag, effectively creating a huge teabag)
- steep for six minutes
- remove tea
- add sugar, lemon juice, citric acid
- cool, pour into a keg, carbonate at 20psi
You'll notice we skipped the caffeine this time. Personally, I'm more concerned with flavor than (added) stimulants, so I never bothered tracking down a scale sensitive enough to measure out one or two grams of powder. Feel free to add that in when you're adding the sugar (check out Hack Pittsburgh's recipe for the correct measurements and warnings).
We finally got to do some beta tasting this past Thursday, and all testers agreed that it was yummy and pretty faithful to the original product. I have since sat down for a more in-depth side-by-side comparison (not double-blinded, mind you), and I feel our recipe -- although quite tasty -- has come up a bit short compared to the real deal. The sweetness is spot on, but there is a complexity and depth to the tea flavor that is missing in our beverage. So I think we'll try some things differently next time:
- adding lemon was a mistake: I was hoping to avoid uncommon ingredients like citric acid, but alas, you should go out and get some (cream of tartar was a pretty popular substitute in old-timey ginger beer recipes)
- more citric acid: fizzy tea is pretty dull without a bit of acid zing. We should probably at least double it next time, but further experimentation is in order
- increase the tea input: I'm hoping part of the depth-of-flavor difference is merely a matter of strength
- caramelize some of the sugar first: Club Mate has added coloring. Hopefully caramelizing some of the sugar will make Open Mate less pale, and also improve flavor.
Any other ideas? I can't wait to work through our first three gallons, so we can start brewing the next version. Bottoms up!