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  • I have concerns about steeping tea in plastic pitcher because I do not want anything to leach out of the plastic with the hot water.
  • Glass would solve this problem, but it does not handle thermal shock well, so it is usually a matter of time before a glass pitcher will shatter if it is routinely used for brewing.
  • A traditional brewing method would be a ceramic tea pot, but my experience is that these pots are designed to brew hot tea a cup or two at a time. I have not seen any large teapots designed to accommodate 32 oz or more of tea.
  • Stainless steel seems like it would be acceptable since this is how commercial kitchens brew batches of tea, but it looks like home stainless-steel pitchers are an afterthought. Few have lids and those that do are generally not airtight, so after the brew is complete it would need to be transferred into a different pitcher and chilled for storage or plastic wrap over the top.

Certainly there must be a best practice for brewing iced tea at home without a plastic container, right?

  • How would you like to brew the tea leaves? Do you let them float loose-leaf, do you use tea bags, or some other method? Also, if you're so concerned about the effects of heat on various containers, have you considered cold-brewed iced tea? – Athanasius Jun 11 '16 at 18:23
  • @Athanasius I'm using black tea bags. I haven't considered cold-brew methods, but I'm usually very happy flavor-wise with the outcome of hot-brewed iced tea. – Ben Mordecai Jun 11 '16 at 18:24
  • Thanks, obviously a hot brew is traditional, but I just thought I'd ask. One other question: how much are you trying to brew at once? I just did a quick Amazon search for "large teapot" and one of the first hits was a traditional ceramic pot that holds 75 ounces. – Athanasius Jun 11 '16 at 18:50
  • @Athanasius Hey, that just might work. Maybe I'm just a bad shopper. I generally feel like 1/2 gallon would be minimum size for a tea brewing container. – Ben Mordecai Jun 11 '16 at 18:51
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    What about steeping the tea at double strength in a Pyrex measuring cup or ceramic teapot, then pouring into your desired pitcher and dilute as necessary. – dogwoodtree-dot-net Jun 11 '16 at 20:58
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Stephie's answer covers a couple convenient options: there are large ceramic pots, and any stainless steel vessel can work. (Traditionally, metal has been frowned upon for tea brewing because it loses heat too quickly, and many people are particular about maintaining a consistent temperature during brewing. I think that concern is overblown, particularly if you aren't serving the tea hot.)

I'd also just challenge the assumption from the question that glass containers will shatter when used for brewing. It's really a question of the type of glass.

Glass vessels designed for hot liquids are usually produced from borosilicate glass, the same stuff used for most glass laboratory equipment. For example, borosilicate lab beakers are commonly available up to 5 liters, with pouring spouts as an option. The downside is most lab glassware doesn't have convenient handles. And beakers don't generally have lids, so storage in the same vessel is less convenient. (I have been known to brew tea in my 2-liter Erlenmeyer flask, which can be conveniently corked for storage; I guarantee it will get interesting looks from guests.)

I would, however, be careful with cooking glassware that is not specifically advertised as borosilicate glass. Much "pyrex" glassware, for example, has switched in the past few decades to a soda-lime glass formula, which is more susceptible to thermal shock breakage (though cheaper to manufacture). Ironically, you're often better off buying dedicated "professional" lab glassware for a cheaper price than the expensive non-borosilicate stuff often marketed in kitchen stores.

Personally, I've also found heavy-duty traditional canning jars to work fine for brewing tea. And they're usually available quite cheaply up to 2-quart size, with standard lids (including pourable flip-cap ones, if you look for them) so you wouldn't even need to change vessels from brewing to storage. (I'd be careful with the gallon-size ones, which often aren't built for standard canning and more susceptible to fracture.) Just don't "abuse" them or "beat them up" -- avoid metal stirring and cleaning utensils or rough handling, and periodically check for any sign of flaws.

Although it will generally take many thermal cycles before canning jars will crack, you can limit the stress by pouring a small amount of hot water in the bottom first (the most common breakage point in canning jars is around the bottom), "swishing" a bit, and then gradually filling the rest of the way -- or emptying that small amount and re-filling, sort of like "warming" a traditional teapot. Traditional ceramic pots are sometimes seen to crack over time too if you don't do this.

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A reasonably large teapot would probably the classic choice, 1-2 liter or up to 1/2 gallon should be available either online or from your local kitchen store.

For those cases where a teapot is not available, any stainless steel (= non-reactive) cooking pot should do, up to your largest stock pot for big batches. They generally come with a lid, but you'd have to laddle your tea or transfer to one or many vessels with better pouring properties.

If you want a really, really big batch, pick a large electric canner (comes with integrated heater) with a spout. That shold get you around 20 quarts of tea...

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You can brew ice tea with cold water. In fact the results are usually a sweeter more refreshing tea ( I am not talking about sugar).

Fill your glass container with cold water, use as much tea as you like for the quantity and let it steep for between an hour and hour + half.

The cold water doesn't draw out the woodiness of the tannins like hot water does.

  • Is this cold brew in the fridge or on the counter? Most sites I see with fridge-brew methods call for 6-8 hours of brewing. – Catija Jun 13 '16 at 16:41
  • I do it on the counter, if you did in the fridge you might want some more time. On the counter if you wait too long (2 hours-ish) the tea starts to draw out tannins and the tea gains unwanted astringency. – Escoce Jun 13 '16 at 23:08
  • The reason I asked is that I was getting ready to post an answer about sun tea, which is brewed similarly... and, apparently there are some food safety issues with it, so, while brewing it in the fridge is safe, it might be worth it to note that precautions should be taken in the case of counter-brewed teas. snopes.com/food/prepare/suntea.asp – Catija Jun 13 '16 at 23:12
  • That article specifically says tea sitting in the sun is warmed to 135 degrees and the sunlight helps some of the critters grow. On my counter. The cold water is barely going to reach 70 degrees by the time I pull the bags. – Escoce Jun 14 '16 at 4:24

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