Coffee drinkers and tea drinkers have a lot more in common than it seems at first glance. Both groups have idiosyncratic routines surrounding their beverage of choice, are very particular about brewing details, and are passionate about sharing their love of their drink with others. Superficially, coffee and tea are brewed similarly; both technically only require hot water, although specialized equipment and tools make the job much easier.
In this article, we’re going to cross the line from our usually coffee-centric musings to cover how to make tea in a coffee maker. We’re going to discuss whether you can use a countertop coffee maker to brew tea and what other coffee equipment a coffee lover can use to branch out into the world of tea.
Loose Leaf Tea vs. Teabags
Before we start, we should point out that the focus of this article is on brewing loose leaf tea. Teabags are incredibly convenient, but you typically don’t need a coffee maker to brew one. If you are wondering if you can brew teabags in an automatic drip coffee machine, we suggest using a coffee maker to make hot water and then steep the teabag in your mug as you normally would. There’s no benefit to using a coffee maker with a teabag.
Coffee and tea are similar in that both drinks are made by extracting flavor compounds from plant matter using hot water. When discussing coffee brewing methods, it is common to separate techniques into two broad categories: percolation and immersion.
Percolation is the process of passing water through ground coffee to extract flavor. Regular automatic drip machines fall into this category, along with stovetop percolators, slow drip brewers, and pour overs.
Immersion brewing takes a different tack and soaks coffee in water, letting the chemical compounds dissolve in the water. The French press is the most popular immersion-style brewer, with Aeropress and cold brew taking the next two spots. In general, immersion brewers are more similar to each other than percolation brewers since there are only so many ways to soak coffee grounds in water.
When you make tea by steeping a teabag in a mug or loose leaf tea in a teapot, you are using an immersion technique. Noticing the similarity between brewing coffee with a French press suggests an answer to our titular question: yes! You can absolutely make tea in a coffee maker, although you are limited to immersion-style coffee makers.
Making Tea In a Coffee Maker
We already mentioned that making tea in an automatic drip coffee maker isn’t a great idea. Instead, you can use an automatic drip machine as an unnecessarily complicated water boiler and make tea as you usually would.
However, if you have a French press or cold brew device, you can use either as a replacement teapot with excellent results. Making tea with a French press is as easy as filling the French press with tea leaves, adding hot water, and filtering with the plunger when it’s finished steeping.
We should note that using a paper filter with tea is uncommon. If you make tea in an Aeropress or cold brew tower, you will filter the tea with paper before drinking it, leading to a cleaner, although typically less flavorful batch, of tea. This isn’t necessarily bad, although the tea drinkers we know are not fans of paper-filtered tea.
What About Other Coffee Makers?
We haven’t tried to cover all coffee makers in this guide because the rule for deciding whether or not you can use a particular coffee maker with tea is straightforward. If the coffee maker uses an immersion technique, it is possible to use it to make tea. Given a choice between two different immersion-style coffee makers, choose one with a metal filter first and only use a paper filter if you have no other choices.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to use a percolation style coffee maker to brew tea. Getting the water temperature and flow right would be an extreme challenge and would probably wind up being more effort than simply driving to the store for a teapot.
Coffee and tea share the same fundamental brewing mechanism, and therefore, some coffee makers can be used to make tea. The most prevalent automatic drip coffee machines many people have on their kitchen counters won’t work, but immersion-style brewers like the French press are great for making tea.
Featured Image Credit: Artem Oleshko, Shutterstock