Nothing says summertime as much as spending an afternoon sitting on the porch sipping a big glass of iced tea. There’s just something that links the cold, refreshing drink with the season. But thanks to electric iced tea makers, you can enjoy a glass any time of year.
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Traditionally, iced tea was made from sun brewing; placing a big glass jug of water with tea bags or loose tea in the sun and letting solar power do its thing. That old-fashioned method, while still effective, depends on sun strength and time…lots of time. If you leave the vessel out in the sun for hours in July, you’ll end up with a very strong brew. But, depending on your location, that may not be an option in cooler months. Iced tea makers, on the other hand, work 365 days a year and can deliver varying steeping strengths in just a matter of minutes.
Generally speaking, these products operate the same way drip coffeemakers function: Water is poured into a reservoir, heated, and passed over tea bags or loose leaves, and the newly steeped tea drips into a carafe. Most products finish within 10 minutes.
Add some ice for an immediate cool-down and pour yourself a glass, or stash the carafe in the refrigerator to avoid melting ice diluting the tea.
It’s a simple process, but many brands take tea making a step further by allowing users to select among various steeping settings, from mild to medium to strong.
Of course, different types of tea will naturally produce different strengths as well as flavor profiles. Black tea remains one of the most popular; however, others are gaining in favor, including oolong, green, white, and a slew of herbal or fruity blends.
If you like your tea sweetened in the pitcher instead of by the glass, look for a design that accommodates a sweetener chamber where you can add sugar, honey, or artificial sweeteners.
For the best tasting results with any blend or maker, Learn-About-Tea.com, a guide to all things tea, recommends using mineral-free water, such as distilled water.
All the parts
When deciding which model will work best for you, there are a few things to decide on before you go shopping.
- Size: Many makers hold 2 quarts of tea, but some go up to 4 quarts. Also consider where you’ll use and/or store the device and how much space it’ll take up.
- Glass vs. plastic carafe: This comes down to a personal preference. If you opt for plastic, check the manual or product specs to see if it’s BPA-free and dishwasher safe.
- Brewing basket or filter: If you like loose tea blends more than tea bags, make sure your model contains a filter—baskets are better for holding bags. Filter versions may also be able to brew iced coffee, but check the manual first.
Best Iced Tea Makers
High-end choiceBreville BTM800XL 1-Touch Tea Maker
Instead of letting the water pass over the filter basket, this model moves the basket in and out of the water, forcing the water to gently circulate around the leaves for even more infusion of flavor. Program the maker for each individual type of tea’s brewing specifics. A “time since brew” LCD callout monitors freshness as you let the tea cool. MSRP: $249.99
Economic choiceHamilton Beach 40911 2-Quart Electric Iced Tea Maker, White
Sleek and trim, the 2-quart BPA-free plastic carafe fits neatly into a standard refrigerator door shelf. For extra safety, an automatic shutoff cuts power as soon as brewing is completed. When not in use, slide the carafe over the machine and save on storage space. MSRP: $142.49
Budget choiceMr. Coffee TM70 Iced Tea Maker, 3-Qt., Blue
This model offers more versatility than what appears at first glance. It accommodates tea bags or leaves. A brew strength dial lets you finesse the flavor to the intensity you desire. You also can add sweeteners or gourmet blends. Replacement parts or pitchers are available separately. MSRP: $24.99