Those of you that have read my blog posts over the past few months will have realised that when it comes to brewing yerba mate, I’m a traditional kind of guy. For me it’s all about gourds and bombillas, and that satisfying feeling you get from drinking multiple rounds from the same mate. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy drinking my yerba in other ways, and in this post I want to share with you two different techniques that I use to prepare hot “brewed” yerba mate when at home.
Much like coffee, yerba mate is very versatile, and with the addition of hot water can be used to produce a beverage of varying strengths and flavours. The brewing method itself is also important, and by paying careful attention to a few parameters, obtaining a consistently perfect cup of brewed mate is something that can be easily mastered.
Method 1: Cafetiere/French Press
The most straightforward method I use at home utilises the popular coffee brewing implement the cafetiere. When brewing for just myself I use a small cafetiere which holds about 1 standard mug of water. For this style of brewing I like to use a fairly course cut of yerba, similar to how I would select a courser ground of coffee when using this technique. The yerba is going to be sat in the water for a while, so something with a smaller surface area is likely to produce a less bitter drink. For this test I was using Taragui Roja.
To prepare I proceed with the following steps:
- Pre-warm the cafetiere and mug with hot water, as pouring hot beverages into cold wares can cause them to go bitter.
- Add about 21g of yerba to the cafetiere, this is approximately 2 heaped table spoons. For greater accuracy purchase a pocket scale (they are cheap to buy on Ebay!).
- Heat your water in a kettle and pour into the cafetiere when it reaches the desired temperature of between 75-80 degrees C. I tend to take it off the boil when larger bubbles start to form in the water that are about the size of fish eyes.
- Add the hot water to the cafetiere and leave to brew for 3-5 minutes.
- Take a teaspoon and remove the “crust” of mate floating at the top of the brew. This will help to prevent over-brewing and unwanted particles in the finished drink.
- Insert the plunger and allow to warm for a few seconds before plunging down.
- Pour, and add sugar/honey/stevia if desired, stir, drink and enjoy!
If the brew is too strong add a little extra hot water and perhaps consider using slightly less yerba next time round.
Method 2: Drip filter/Automatic filter machine.
The second method I use at home is a little more advanced and uses a drip filter. This technique I find produces a more intense mate than the cafetiere, and provides a great caffeine kick in the morning. If you wish to take it one step further, you can also use a coffee grinder to achieve the optimum grind of yerba for this brewing method. To use a drip or an electronic filter machine you’re going to need a fairly fine grind of yerba. Not quite as fine as an espresso coffee, but not too far off – think slightly coarse sand. If you don’t wish to grind, a Uruguayan style yerba like Canarias, Del Cebador, or Sara will work ok, but in my experience these can be improved further by running them through a grinder before brewing. For my test I was using Kraus Pure Leaf organic yerba mate.
I use a Japanese Porlex hand-grinder, but any sort of ceramic bur grinder will do. Pass the yerba through the grinder until the desired consistency is reached. You may need to tamp the yerba down from time to time, as the material is much lighter than heavy coffee beans which seem to naturally find their way to the bottom of the grinder. Start with a similar quantity of yerba to when you brew with a cafetiere (see above), but if you find it too strong reduce the amount in the next brew.
Then proceed with the following:
- Add a filter paper to your drip/machine. Pour some hot water through the paper to remove any residual taste.
- Add your ground yerba into the filter paper, making sure it is evenly distributed and not lumpy.
- If using an automatic machine, simply add water to the necessary chamber and switch on. If using a traditional drip, heat your water to 75-80 degrees C and pour over and around the yerba in a circular motion in spells of about 30 seconds. Allow nearly all the liquid to drip out before starting the next pour.
- Once your filter has finished dripping add to a pre-heated mug and enjoy!
My main advice for brewing yerba mate at home is to experiment and find out what works for you. I hope my guide here will provide a useful starting point, but if you manage to refine my techniques and make them work better, please do let me know. Happy brewing! firstname.lastname@example.org