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I infuse the tea in about 4-6 cups of water just off the boil for about 5 minutes. Then I dilute it down to 1 gallon (usually with some ice to speed chilling) and keep it in the fridge.

I was interested in just making the concentrate and diluting it as I drink just to save space in the fridge and consolidate the brewing time. How concentrated an infusion can I make without adversely affecting the flavor?

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What have you tried? I think that this is going to be a matter of your taste. I think trial and error is going to be your best metric. –  Cos Callis Sep 12 '11 at 22:21
    
How much tea do you use per gallon? That's half of the vital info. =P –  Benny Jobigan Sep 12 '11 at 22:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The amount of tea you use won't affect the flavor of tea adversely; the way you brew it will. This also depends on what kind of tea you're making (black, oolong, green, white, herbal). Greater quantities of tannins are released in higher-temperature water, which makes the tea more bitter.

TL;DR: If you follow the instructions for brewing temperature and time, you should be able to more or less add as much tea as you want.

Black teas are brewed with boiling water, typically for 2-3 minutes. Green, white and oolong teas are usually brewed at lower temp (180 F) for 3-4 minutes, and herbal teas at just below boiling for anywhere from 4-8 minutes.

I've found that I can easily more than double the amount of tea leaves I use, brew it at the recommended temperature for the recommended time (most tea packages should have instructions), and store the 2x concentrated tea in my refrigerator. Upton Tea has a great guide to tea for water temps and amounts. They also have instructions for hot and cold brewing iced tea - they recommend double or tripling the leaf quantity when hot brewing, then diluting to taste. (I buy a lot of my teas from here, and their instructions have never steered me wrong.)

If you're looking for even more information about preparation of and descriptions / histories of different types of tea, I recommend the Harney & Sons Guide to Tea.

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I usually use 10 "standard" teabags per final gallon of iced tea. Like you, I steep them in less hot water first (I'd estimate about 4-6 cups, too) then dilute to 1 gallon.

That amount seems to provide enough strength for me. Since the tea infuses well into that amount of water, I'd guess you could try your plan of keeping concentrated tea on hand...say 2x concentrated or so. Maybe you could do 4x.

In chemistry class a while ago, I remember there was some way of calculating how much of a particular substance could be dissolved in a given volume of solvent (like water). If you really wanted to know the maximum concentration of tea you could make, that's what you'd need to look up. It's also temperature and pressure dependent, so cold water will "hold" less tea than hot water.

This wikipedia article seemed to have some related chemistry info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solubility

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As far as I know tea isn't really a homogeneous solution (instead you have a huge amount of small particles in the water), so I guess that there is no maximum concentration, although I am not sure if it is tea when you cannot pour it anymore. –  daramarak Sep 14 '11 at 10:46
    
tea syrup. =) that might be useful, actually. –  Benny Jobigan Sep 14 '11 at 14:25

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