Sunday, May 24, 2015

Flavor experiment

Last weekend, I set up a little experiment to better understand what some of the individual roots I have taste like. I steeped 8 different teas for around an hour and mixed them with sugar water with yeast so I could make a different flavor in each bottle:

1 tsp of single roots in 4 fl. oz. of water
1 cup sugar to 40 fl. oz. of water
1/8 tsp Safale S-04 yeast

I also did a bottle with Pappy's Sassafras Tea and one with no flavor. Unfortunately, the yeast didn't really take off in most of the bottles. The yeast had spent a few weeks lost and unrefrigerated, but that doesn't explain why some bottles carbonated fine. Anyway, after 5 days fermenting and a couple days in the fridge, I had to taste the results.

What I learned will definitely affect future batches. Other than the classic sassafras and sarsaparilla, the flavors were mild to subtle. If I want these other flavors, I think I need to use more. At the same time, I'm not sure some of the flavors help much, so I'll probably cut back to a simpler recipe and think more about balance.

It's rather difficult to describe the flavors, but here are my notes:

  • Sassafras had a strong, up front, very aromatic flavor. 1 tsp for a serving was around the right amount.
  • Sarsaparilla was super aromatic. Nutty, sweet, and vanilla. My roommate found it "cloying." I like it, but thinking less might be less overwhelming, I mixed it with the sassafras at different ratios and it seemed the best balanced around 1 part sarsaparilla to 3 parts sassafras.
  • Pappy's Sassafras Tea concentrate must have some other flavors besides sassafras--it was nicely balanced and wintergreen flavored. It would be fine with nothing else as a simple recipe.
  • Cherry bark had a very nice, subtle woody flavor. I could probably use more of this.
  • Yellow dock had a green, grassy flavor. Sort of unusual, but I like it
  • Licorice was extra sweet, as expected, with a lingering sweet aftertaste. 
  • Birch bark was a bit sweet but also acidic with hints of vanilla. Not really wintergreen. I'd be curious to try some other source to find that element.
  • Burdock was not particularly bitter and was earthy and green. This bottle got super-carbonated.
  • Dandelion root didn't have much flavor beyond the carbonation, yeast, and hint of alcohol. I should have tried the toasted rather than raw root.
Next step is perhaps to try equal parts sassafras, cherry bark, and yellow dock, with a smaller amount sarsaparilla.