Water affects tea.
(Let me emphasize this for those who are unfamiliar with the concept: Using good water is the single most important thing you can do to significantly improve your brew.)
More specifically, the mineral profile of your water affects the brewing process of tea, which affects every aspect of how you experience your tea: taste, aroma, mouthfeel, and more. This mineral profile is defined by two main parameters: hardness, and alkalinity.
In order to create a custom recipe, you need to start from a blank slate, like reverse osmosis or distilled water. Then, by adding minerals for hardness and alkalinity, you can create your own mineral profile from the ground up.
Your resulting brew will taste different depending on the particular minerals you choose for each parameter. Unfortunately, there’s no guide that explains how each particular mineral will affect the brewing performance of your water. So we have to figure that part out for ourselves, and boy, can it get complicated.
To keep things simple, I won’t go in depth on all the different forms of calcium and magnesium one could possibly use. I’ll just say that epsom salt (magnesium sulfate heptahydrate) is by far the easiest mineral to find and use for the purpose of adding hardness to water, that it tastes damn good, and that its use is well known in the coffee world.
For alkalinity, I haven’t heard of anyone using anything other than baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), but I will be testing out potassium bicarbonate someday soon to see if it’s any better. Edit: I tried it!
Anyway, here’s my recipe:
- Concentrate: 10.14 grams of epsom salt and 3.38 grams of baking soda dissolved in 986.48 grams of distilled or reverse osmosis water. (Note: Each gram of concentrate contains 1 milligram of Mg and 2.45 milligrams of bicarbonate.)
- Brew water: 4.62 grams of concentrate mixed into 1 liter of distilled or reverse osmosis water. More conveniently, 17.5 grams of concentrate per gallon.
My recipe equates to 4.62 mg/L magnesium content and 11.32 mg/L bicarbonate content.
(Note: When I originally created this recipe, the 3:1 ratio of epsom salt to baking soda was reached organically, purely by taste. Recently, I converted that exact recipe into Barista Hustle’s format, as you see above, except with the concentrates combined. Why did I do this? Because after creating my own recipe, I found out that KUURA had also taken notes from Barista Hustle’s work. I observed that the two recipes they came up with used ratios of 2.94:1 and 3.06:1, the former being the ratio for the normal recipe, and the latter being the ratio for the more intense recipe. Since the midpoint between the two “extremes” was exactly 3:1, and since each number deviated by only 0.06, I concluded that there wouldn’t ever be a reason to deviate from that ratio. So I combined all the ingredients into one concentrate, which I’ll never need to adjust, ever. What I can work on adjusting is how much concentrate to use per gallon of water for each tea.)
You will need to use a scale with a 0.01 gram resolution, and you must test that it is accurate with a calibration weight. This isn’t optional, though luckily it won’t run you more than $20.
In separate posts, I will compare my recipe to popular bottled waters, distilled/RO water, and altered versions of my own recipe.