I’ve been DIYing soylent for a few weeks, and here are my thoughts so far on making it taste good.
It’s all about the macros
This is the single most important thing. By mass, soylent is mostly water, protein, carbs, and oil. Yes, yes, your micronutrient sources can affect the taste, but not as much as the macros. Measure water as carefully as you would measure anything else; I found myself often adding too much, making it too thin. The type and amount of carbs will obviously affect the level of sweetness. The type and amount of protein will affect the taste and texture. Get the water and other macros right first. Specifically…
My mix is still evolving, but 300 mL per drink (900 mL/day) is roughly the right amount for me. YMMV. That’s about 11 ounces BTW, for those of you still measuring things in barleycorns…
Also, if your water tastes bad, your soylent will taste the worse for it. I live in Boston, where the tap water is pretty great compared to most cities, but if I lived somewhere else I’d probably use a Brita filter.
Most whey protein isolate tastes and dissolves fine. If you’re vegan, try different soy/etc. brands until you find one that dissolves well. (If you’re against both whey and soy, you’re probably going to have a bad time.) Last I checked, Bob’s Red Mill soy protein doesn’t dissolve well, for example. But Trader Joes, if you live near one, has really great soy protein that dissolves really well.
And don’t assume all whey protein isolates are the same. I plan to try several brands to see which taste better. (I like NOW brand fine though so far.)
Personally I’m using a bit of sweet whey powder (which is mostly lactose; more on that in another thread soon) and some sucrose. I would love to hear people describing their experiences with maltodextrins. I suspect using only sucrose would make it disgustingly sweet.
Many people don’t like the taste of EVOO, at least not by the glassful. This is especially a problem if you’re making a more high-fat/low-carb mix like I am. I have seen reports that soy lecithin as an emulsifier reduces the olive taste. I only just got my bottle of soy lecithin powder today, and a quick test seemed to confirm that this does help slightly.
But you may also want to consider alternatives. I haven’t looked into other oils extensively – I was hoping EVOO would work – but it seems like hemp oil is a pretty healthy non-olive oil. It tastes nice, a bit nutty, or like sunflower seeds (but not in a bad way – I’m not crazy about sunflower seeds and I like it), and 1/3 hemp + 2/3 EVOO tastes fine to me. Side benefit: it’s green. (Soylent green is hemple!)
Also, I have a bottle of “light” olive oil on the way, and I’ll report on how it tastes, but I believe <hearsay> that non EV olive oils tend to be more dubiously processed, so I’d prefer to avoid them if I can.
The next biggest factor is whether you’re adding cocoa to your mix, which I highly recommend. Again, my mix is evolving, but I’m finding 10 g/day to sometimes seem like to much, so I was going to try 5 g for the batch I’m making tonight. You should offset your magnesium/etc. by the appropriate amount though.
I haven’t tried vanilla, but I might do that soon. I will say, though, that there’s no reason to be afraid of vanillin (artificial vanilla). In blind taste tests by Cooks Illustrated, people actually preferred baked goods made with vanillin over vanilla, only preferring vanilla in custards. I suppose soylent is closer to custard than cookies, so natural vanilla might taste slightly better, but my point is that the two are very close in taste. And one of them costs 1/10th as much…
So now we’re ready to talk micronutrients. A few tips:
If you’re using table salt, you may find your nutritionally optimal amount of it tastes too salty. (Or you might not, depending on your macros and personal taste.) If so, try looking into other sources of sodium and chloride. I’m trying out potassium chloride, and I plan to check out magnesium chloride at some point. But you might just be able to stick with salt and use less. You don’t need 2.4 g/day; 1.5-2 g seems to be fine, and is perhaps actually healthier. (I’m not going to cite sources because this thread is about taste, not nutrition. Read Wikipedia > Sodium.)
To my surprise, I’m finding many of the tablets I’ve checked out taste fine when ground up. Many of them have cellulose as their primary excipient, which I believe has a neutral taste. Point being, if your multivitamin or some other tablet you’re using tastes terrible, try another brand; you might find one that doesn’t.
If you’re using fish oil for omega-3s, keep it in the freezer or fridge! It starts to taste fishy (literally and figuratively) after awhile if you don’t. I tend to buy Nordic Naturals in liquid form, keep it in the fridge, and I’ve never had a problem.
Lastly, be mindful of how fresh your ingredients are. I know it’s fun to think of soylent as distinct from “food,” but it’s still a form of food, and food usually tastes better the fresher it is. Yes, it’s sci-fi space food, but it still (as of 2013) is subject to entropy. So be aware of the shelf life of your ingredients. Oil especially. The enemies of freshness are generally water, oxygen, light, heat, and time, so keep your oil away from water, sealed, in opaque containers (or a cupboard), and cool. Consider buying smaller quantities to minimize the amount of shelf time between production and consumption.
Oh, and one more thing – temperature is huge. It’s a dimension of taste in its own right, and it affects other dimensions as well. The mouthfeel of oils changes dramatically with temperature, for example, and so does the perception of saltiness. IMHO, soylent is generally better colder. Which means it’s good to plan ahead and leave it in the fridge for a bit, or else add some of your water in the form of ice.
If you’re adding significant amounts of fiber to your mix, how is it affecting the taste and texture?
Can people report on any non-sucrose carbs they’re using and how they taste?