Brewing Tea with a Countertop Hot Water Dispenser: Pros and Cons

The kitchen remodelling industry abounds with accessories aimed at delivering hot (if not boiling) water in a speedy fashion. Recently, one of our customers asked for our opinion regarding the pros/cons of brewing tea with a countertop hot water dispenser. First, her question:

I was wondering if you’d mind sharing your opinion about hot water. We are remodeling our kitchen and are considering a sink mounted hot water dispenser. The water is filtered and held in a tank underneath the sink, then dispensed through a small faucet on the sink. There are products with adjustable temperature settings. Some can get up to 200 degrees. I drink mostly Chinese black, oolong, green, and white teas (with an occasional pu-erh and rooibos thrown in). I don’t want to spend the money if this device is going to make a lousy cup of tea. What do you think?

We generally advise against using water that’s sat in your kettle leftover from the prior day’s boiling. Using leftover water can result in a brew that seems flat or stale. Water that’s straight from the tap is freshly aerated. Most countertop hot water dispensers (that I’m aware of) don’t actually aerate the water. This is one consideration (albeit a picky one).

Will the water filtration system include de-chlorination? Water in our town is pretty good, but dechlorination is always a plus. Also, will the holding tank be filled from your cold or hot water line? Better that it be filled from the cold water line (I know that sounds counterintuitive), because it’s my understanding that hot water is more prone to picking up metals and other nasties from your home’s water lines (always best to begin your cooking with cold water).

Now for the biggest issue: temperature. While such a system will be great for whites, greens and oolongs (especially if its adjustable), you may not get a complete infusion for your black and pu-erh teas. These are best brewed with boiling water, which, at our elevation, is around 210 degrees. If the system will only reach 200 degrees (which is actually pretty high for these sorts of things), it may not do the trick. One way to help counteract this is to preheat your teapot or cup (if you don’t already do this). Just fill it up with hot water for a few minutes, then dump the water and refill with fresh hot water to brew your tea. Teapots and mugs (especially ceramic ones) can suck up a lot of heat, so this can make a big difference.

So, the plusses: convenience, adjustable temperature, and (possibly) dechlorination. The minusses: water may not be adequately aerated, water may not be hot enough for black and pu-erh teas.

November 03 2007 04:45 pm | Tea Preparation

7 Responses to “Brewing Tea with a Countertop Hot Water Dispenser: Pros and Cons”

  1. Autumn on 27 Jan 2008 at 4:59 pm #

    Excellent information. I am currently shopping for a instant hot water system, either by tank installation (described above) or the counter/standing water dispensers. Unfortunately, the specs for these units do not include the hot water temperature. Do you happen to know the pros/cons for bottle water dispensers? Any information would be very helpful! I drink black and green teas, yerba mate, and coffee. I definitely need instant hot water options for entertaining reasons. Thank you!!!

  2. Jeremy on 28 Jan 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    Unfortunately, I don’t know much about standing/bottle water dispensers. My suspicion, however, is that you’ll be more likely to find a built-in unit that reaches acceptable temperatures than a standing unit. That’s just my “gut feeling”, however. Best of luck, and happy tea drinking!

  3. Alan on 07 Jan 2009 at 9:29 am #

    AFAIC, there’s no drawback to countertop units.

    Aeration should not be a problem. Just hold your pot lower and make sure the water is hitting the water in the pot, thus splashing and aerating, instead of hitting the side of the pot.

    Most countertop units keep the water hot but not boiling. However, they also have a boil/reboil function to bring it back to boiling temperature.

    Use Brita filtered water to fill the countertop unit.

    Also, for proper tea brewing, one should always preheat the pot and cups and rinse the tea.

  4. Emma on 29 Apr 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    I am considering opening a tea bar. Do you have any recommendation for mass amounts of boiling water. The Idea is to have flowing boiling water.

  5. IIsi 50MHz on 02 Nov 2009 at 4:22 am #

    @Emma – For that you’ll need commercial equipment. The most recognised commercial manufacturer name seems to be Bunn. Hobart, Cecilware, and Wilbur Curtis also come to mind.

    You’re unlikely to find any device designed to keep water boiling possibly because it’s inefficient and there’s danger of boiling over or applying high heat after the water has boiled into steam.

    Although this blog post mentions the use of boiling water for black tea, keep in mind these things:

    - All you need is sufficient temperature for “full infusion”. (“Sufficient” of course being left vaguely defined by most tea drinkers, mildly irritating the scientist in me.)

    - Boiling temperature varies with atmospheric pressure (in most cases, primarily altitude) and require impure water. (Absolutely pure water will not boil until some impurity is added–such as a dust, a pinch of salt, or a spoon–and thus is very dangerous)

    - On a less scientific (more opinionated) front, I’ve been advised by people who’s tea I’ve complimented that the water should never be boiled, but should be near boiling.

    And now we’re back to slightly vague term “boiling”…which with typical water at sea level would be about 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The customer’s quoted 200 degrees is only 6% less than that and should suffice (assuming she meant Fahrenheit, since 200 degrees Celsius would be quite unusual and dangerous to say the least).

    The advice to soak or swirl some of the hot water in the cup to preheat the cup is good, though. You might also add “steaming the tea bag for a minute or too before getting it wet” to the list of steps for perfect tea, but I’m not yet convinced how much difference this makes.

  6. Ceramic Water Dispenser on 18 Jan 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    Great info!

  7. Zaba Walker on 16 May 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Thanks for the useful info. We are trying to sort out whether a free standing dispenser will work for our cafe, or if we need to go the whole 9 yards and get a built-in unit. Not decided yet, but the info here helps me to identify some key considerations: temperature, filtration, location, installation (or not) and aeration.

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