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How to use a tea infuser

In the coffee versus tea debate, there are passionate opinions. But for those of us who know the correct answer is “tea,” another debate begins. What’s the best method to brew tea, which are the finest tea leaves and blends, how long to steep, and don’t even get us started on the milk-first debate.

Difficulty

Easy

Duration

10 minutes

What You Need

  • Smart tea infuser

In truth, both coffee and tea have gone through a renaissance in the last decade. While coffee has elevated its game through espresso machines and made things easier with pod machines and fully automatic options, tea has remained mostly tech-free. There’s not a lot one can automate about putting tea into hot water and waiting. Or is there?

Companies like Breville have introduced new tea machines that will excite tech and tea lovers. Most notable are smart tea infusers.

What is a tea infuser?

The science behind tea involves placing tea leaves in water heated to a precise temperature and leaving them there for the “right” amount of time. The fancy term is known as “infusing,” or simply put, soaking things in liquid to extract flavors. You can find a myriad of baskets, strainers, and balls that are simple, low-tech ways to make a great cup of tea. Short of using a thermometer every time, what is the best way to know your tea game is dialed in? The answer for some may be to use an automatic or smart tea infuser.

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What is a smart tea infuser?

A smart tea infuser brings automatic control and assistance to tea making. A smart infuser knows the right temperature and steep time to give you perfect control over your favorite teas. In some cases, there's a timer that can tell you when steeping is complete to avoid over-steeping, then the device automatically keeps the tea warm until you are ready to drink. Brands like KitchenAid, Breville, and Shark all make automatic or smart tea infusers, and you can also check out our review of the Teforia smart tea infuser.

Pro-level Infusing

The first step in proper infusing, whether you’re going the basic or smart route, is to ensure your water is at the right temperature. While infusion can occur at any temperature, we’re dealing with tea, and tea has some specific heat ranges. 

While everyone may have their own tastes and preferences, the school of thought is that white tea should be steeped/infused at 158 to 167 degrees Fahrenheit, green tea at 176 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, oolong at 176 to 203 degrees Fahrenheit, black tea at 203 to 208 degrees Fahrenheit, and herbal tea at 205 degrees Fahrenheit (or hotter). These temperature ranges work best for their specific types; we could talk at length about why, but for now, trust us.

ThinkGeek Star Wars Death Star Tea Infuser

What kind of tea do you put in an infuser?

It’s possible to infuse any kind of tea. Depending on the type of tea you’ve chosen, you’ll want your water at different temperatures, and that’s where a smart tea infuser can be genius. The five main categories of tea are white, green, oolong, black, and herbal.

A smart infuser will have settings that automatically raise the heat of the water to the desired type of tea and hold it there. This is one of the big advantages of smart infusers; there’s no going over or under the right temp. A smart infuser gives you a choice of preset temperature options, or in some cases, you can choose your own precise settings and save them for daily use.

Drop the basket

Once the right temperature is reached, it’s time to lower the leaves into the water. Most smart infusers will have a metal basket with lots of perforations to allow the water to come in and mingle with the leaves. The best infusers will have a basket that is removable and washable since us tea fans know tea tends to stain things, even metal.

Steeping time

The second factor that will make or break that perfect cup of tea is the length of steep. Some types of tea are best with a longer steep of eight to 10 minutes, like herbal teas, while green and white tea are best at one to three minutes. Over-steeping leads to an excessive amount of tannins in the leaves being released into the water, leading to bitter tea. If you’ve ever had a sip and started to pucker up, you’re drinking over-steeped tea. Yes, steeping longer leads to stronger tea, but you still have to stay within the range.

Automatic infusers will have either a set time for the strength of each type or a way to adjust between mild, medium, and strong tea. Using a smart or automatic infuser will give you some kind of alert after the proper steeping is complete. If you choose a higher-end machine, you may get a steeping basket that will automatically raise and lower the basket for you. Breville’s One Touch Tea maker is one example of this type of fully automated machine.

Finishing up

Once the tea has been infused for the right amount of time, you need to remove the basket to stop the steeping process (or let your automatic machine do it for you). Then you can pour your tea and add any honey, sugar, milk, lemon, or other additives of your choice. Pinkies up!

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Ocha 2.0 Tea Maker by Sachin NP Sachin NP/A'Design Awards

FAQ

What is the difference between a coffee infuser and a tea infuser?

In some cases, there’s not much difference. For example, it’s possible to use a French Press to infuse tea or make coffee. But when it comes to smart tea infusers, these machines are purpose-built for either coffee or tea, and that’s because they have very different requirements.

How much tea do you put in an infuser?

The short answer to this is: It’s up to you! You can use as much or as little tea as you want. However, some smart-infusion machines will have recommendations about best practices for their machines, so be sure to read the manual.

What is the difference between a tea strainer and a tea infuser?

A tea strainer is often a small open basket that is temporarily in contact with the water. A tea infuser is usually closed on all sides to it can be fully immersed in the water. A smart tea infuser automates this process.

Can you put a teabag in an infuser?

While you could put a teabag into an infuser (an analog one or an automated version), that’s kind of not the point. Infusers, strainers, or baskets are designed to keep the tea leaves out of your drink, and the same holds true for the teabag. By putting a bag into an infuser, you’re essentially doubling up. But if you want to use the brains, timing, and temperature control of a smart tea infuser, with the precision of no leaves filtering in thanks to the sealed bag, well, we say go for it!

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