Let me start off by saying that this is a bad idea.
We’ll get into the details why below.
But I do understand the question.
You want to start drinking loose leaf tea, but you don’t want to have to buy a bunch of equipment. You already have a coffee maker and both coffee and tea are made with hot water, so why shouldn’t it work?
Well, there are a few things wrong with that line of thinking.
First of all, tea does not require any special equipment. I can guarantee you already have everything you need. More on that below, too.
Second of all, most teas don’t get brewed with boiling water. But before we get into all of that, let’s go ahead and answer the main question first, just to get it out of the way.
Table of Contents
- 1 Can You Brew Tea In A Coffee Maker?
- 2 How To Make Tea In A Coffee Maker
- 3 Making Tea In A Coffee Maker: Final Thoughts
Can You Brew Tea In A Coffee Maker?
Yes, you can brew tea in a normal countertop coffee maker, no problem. I’ll show you how below, but I would not recommend it.
Since a coffee maker is just a machine that runs hot water through a basket filled with whatever you want to put in it, it makes no difference if you fill it with tea or coffee.
However, do not start dumping your expensive loose leaf tea in your coffee maker’s basket just yet! There are a number of reasons why it is not a great idea.
Why You Shouldn’t Put Tea In A Coffee Maker
- No accounting for steep time
- Can’t be precise with water temperature
- Intense cleaning process to get it ready
- It’s not the proper way to make tea
Steep Time Issue
When you make tea in a normal coffee machine, there is no way to tell it to soak the tea for a certain amount of time before releasing the water into the carafe. This is a major problem for most loose leaf teas, which needs to steep for a certain amount of time.
Not steeping your tea for enough time results in weak and bland cup. Steeping for too long results in bitterness. This reason alone is enough to keep me from using the coffee maker for tea.
This is also a big issue. Coffee makers usually heat water to a temperature just under the boiling point. Black tea needs water that is about the same temperature for optimal brewing. The same goes for most herbal teas.
But other types of tea should be brewed using cooler water. Oolong tea should be 10 to 15 degrees below boiling. Green tea and white tea should be another 10 to 20 degrees below that.
This means that a coffee maker uses water that is far too hot for green or white tea and somewhat too hot for oolong. Water that is too hot results in a bitter cup of tea and is another reason to avoid brewing tea in a coffee machine.
This is a similar issue you face when boiling your water for tea in a microwave. There is no way to know how long to microwave water for tea to get it to a specific temperature.
Coffee Maker Cleaning Issue
To remove weeks, or maybe months, of coffee residue from a coffee machine it is going to take some work. You will need to use white vinegar and hot water to remove all the brown coffee grime that builds up on a coffee maker.
And don’t even think about leaving it! If you have ever had a nice green tea made from a coffee maker and tasted that nasty coffee bitterness you will not want to repeat the experience!
But the vinegar smell isn’t much better, so you need to make sure to rinse that all off, too. Plus you will have to scrub the carafe, and all the plastic parts like the water reservoir and the basket as well.
Doing the job properly can take up to 30 minutes. And it is not fun. I recommend avoiding this nightmare by just making tea the correct way, like a civilized human should. You can just brew it the Chinese way in regular glass.
Not the Proper Way to Make Tea
This one is more of a principal objection. I simply do not like the idea of making tea this way.
If you are British or from some other western country, tea is meant to be enjoyed with a teapot and a teacup and saucer. And if you are going ham, your pinky will be sticking out when you hold the cup.
If you prefer the Asian way, you brew it is a gaiwan or a yixing or a kysusu.
Bottom line: if you go to the trouble of buying loose leaf tea, why would you want to ruin that by brewing it in a coffee maker?
It just seems inappropriate at least, and blasphemous at worst, to use a coffee maker to make your precious cup of tea!
But if you must go against all that is holy, here is how to do it.
How To Make Tea In A Coffee Maker
To prepare your coffee maker for tea duty, you will need to clean it first.
- Take out the filter and any coffee grounds that are in the basket compartment. Wipe the area down with a damp cloth and wring out the cloth. Take the damp cloth and wipe down the inside of the carafe as well.
- Put a few cups of vinegar along with some tap water (however much you normally need to brew a full pot) and run the coffee maker as normal.
- After the machine has finished its course, go ahead, and dump out the vinegar water mixture. Take the carafe and rinse it out in the sink using warm water, and then cold.
- Run another full pot of water through the coffee maker with nothing in the basket. You are just rinsing it out with hot water. This step will help remove any of the vinegar residue left over from the previous step. However, in my experience you can taste a bit of vinegar for the first few pots, so you may want to repeat this step a few times.
- Now you can put your tea in the basket. Use the amount recommended on the box, bag or tin. If there are no instructions, go with one teaspoon per cup.
- Run the coffee machine as usual and wait until the tea is cool enough to drink.
Tea Bags For Slightly Better Results
If you are using tea bags, you can just place them directly in the carafe. This gives you control over the steeping time, at least. Simply run the machine with nothing in the basket, then put the tea bags in the hot water.
This works fine, because tea bags are usually not the best quality anyway and it doesn’t matter much if the water is too hot. Steeping time won’t actually matter as much with tea bags either.
But is this really the easiest way to boil water? I guess if you have no other way to do it, go ahead and make your tea bag tea this way. But for loose leaf, you really shouldn’t.
Making Tea In A Coffee Maker: Final Thoughts
Coffee is pretty much a one size fits all deal. You buy the coffee (does not matter which kind) and you place it in a coffee maker and press the button. It all gets brewed the same way.
But this is not the case for tea!
As mentioned, certain teas need certain steep times and water temperatures. For one easy example, green tea can easily be scalded and taste very bitter.
To ensure you get the best possible cup of tea, you want to brew it correctly. Our article on brewing tea properly will help.
Even if you don’t have a tea pot or any other type of brewing vessel, you can still brew it the right way. As mentioned above, you can simply put the leaves in a regular glass and add water. They do this in a lot of tea houses in China.
A better alternative, and still very cost effective, is to buy a simple tea infuser that you can use with any cup or mug you already have. They cost very little and make steeping tea so much easier. But honestly, even a good teapot with a built-in infuser costs less than $20.