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Best Automatic Tea Makers

By: Lisa Maloney on December 04, 2017

Automatic tea makers do the brew for you

If you've ever been jealous about coffee drinkers' ability to wake up to a freshly brewed cup of joe thanks to the automatic timers that are almost standard on coffee makers, you'll probably love the Breville BTM800XL Tea Maker (Est. $250). This tea machine really is fully automated: All you have to do is load the steeping basket with tea leaves and program a start time, water temperature and brew time, then go to sleep. Come morning the steeping basket will automatically lower into the hot water, starting the infusion process, and your tea will be ready and waiting when you get up. If you're not quite ready to roll out of bed, the Breville BTM800XL has a setting to hold the tea at temperature for up to 60 minutes.

The Breville automatic tea maker took top honors in a prominent test kitchen's evaluation of tea machines; testers noted that the well-perforated steeping basket is a key feature for getting a good brew, even if it does sometimes let the smallest tea leaves escape. The Breville tea maker also draws a lot of rave reviews from users who declare it idiot-proof, and say it'll brew the best tea of your life.

You can select from pre-programmed settings for specific types of tea (black, green, Oolong, etc.) or program your own custom brew settings, which the machine will remember for next time. If you'd rather boil water for noodles, breakfast or even blanching vegetables, you can remove the tea steeper and use the Breville BTM800XL as a 1.5 liter (6.3 cup) electric kettle.

There is some back-and-forth discussion between owners about how easy the Breville automatic tea maker is (or isn't) to clean. Since the carafe has integrated electrical components, you can immerse it or run water over the exterior; however, Breville recommends rinsing in warm water only -- no soap -- to maintain the integrity of the tea flavor. If there is scale build-up, the carafe can be cleaned more thoroughly using a water and vinegar solution. All other accessories are dishwasher safe.

One feature everyone does seem to agree on is the Breville BTM800XL's attractive styling. The glass-and-steel construction looks so good that frequent users say they're happy to display this tea machine on their counter. They also love watching the magical-looking operation as the brewing basket, controlled by magnets, slides silently up and down a narrow column inside the kettle. A few plastic-hating reviewers are unhappy at the little bit of plastic in this tea kettle, but very little contacts the water -- and what does is BPA-free. The one real hazard to watch out for here is that if you break the carafe, you have to buy a whole new machine. Breville doesn't sell replacement carafes on their own, although we've seen customers report that they did receive a substantial discount on the replacement purchase.

Although the Cuisinart PerfecTemp TEA-100 (Est. $100) tea steeper and kettle doesn't do as many fancy things as the Breville Tea Maker, users still love it for being a good, solid tea machine that helps make the brewing process foolproof. Think of the Cuisinart kettle as a coach that helps you brew the perfect pot every time, as opposed to a butler that'll have your tea waiting for you first thing in the morning. You program the water temperature and steep time, but instead of raising and lowering the steeping basket itself, the TEA-100 emits a loud beep that prompts you to do it. Early risers, be warned: some say that beep is so loud it might wake other family members who prefer to sleep in.

Even though it doesn't have as many bells and whistles as the Breville Tea Machine, users praise the TEA-100 for being an affordable alternative to the Breville. There are a few quirks that draw some complaints -- chief among them the fact that the lid doesn't come all the way off the steeping basket, which makes both filling and cleaning it a challenge -- but in general, users love the TEA-100's great glass-and-steel looks, overheat/boil-dry protection, sturdy build and dishwasher-safe accessories. As with the Breville, you should not wet the bottom of the carafe itself.

Although the Cuisinart TEA-100's position hasn't changed in this report, we do have one quick update for you on its general durability: While in last year's research the TEA-100's sturdiness emerged as a high point, this year we've seen a spate of recent complaints about the carafe leaking. That makes us wonder if the company might be having a quality control issue. Still, it earns a Best Buy designation from a picky test kitchen, and customers say the company is generally good about sending a replacement. Just be aware that if you do use the warranty, you'll end up paying for the shipping both ways.

Like the Breville Tea Maker, the Cuisinart TEA-100 can be turned into a regular electric kettle -- just remove the tea infuser -- and it has a keep-warm setting that'll hold your tea temperature for 30 minutes at a time. Both machines are great buys once you figure all their features into the price, so the main question boils down (pun intended) to deciding whether you want a machine that'll do everything on its own -- in which case we recommend you go for the Breville Tea Maker -- or one that will help you brew the tea perfectly yourself, in which case the Cuisinart TEA-100 is a great buy, with the one caveat about quality control.

It's rare that a really noteworthy new tea machine comes onto the market, so we're excited to highlight a promising new model that's received a lot of positive user feedback in the last year: The Brewista Smart Brew BATK12S01 (Est. $140). Like the Breville One-Touch BTM800XL, the Brewista Smart Brew is fully automated and lets you control the brewing time, temperature and start time. It also has an auto-off function for safety and a keep-warm function but, unlike the Breville model, it holds the tea at a set 160 degrees instead of whatever temperature you had chosen for the brewing.

We're still waiting for a complete picture of the Brewista Smart Brew BATK12S01's performance to emerge, but so far the early feedback is very good. Users say the large 1.2 liter (5 cup) glass carafe feels nice and sturdy, and they like having two filter baskets to choose from -- one for tea bags and another for loose-leaf tea -- and a "coffee" button to keep the peace with coffee drinkers in the house, although most of this machine's functionality is still aimed toward tea.

The most distinctive feature of the Brewista Smart Brew is the way it steeps your tea. Instead of lowering the tea basket into the water, it pumps water up to the top of the carafe and then pours it down through the basket, so you never have to worry about over-steeping. Again, this function is an early favorite with users, and next year we should have more data on this tea machine's durability. Take note that, just like the rest of the competition, the Brewista Smart Brew's carafe is not submersible, so you must hand-clean it -- and some users say the sizable lip beneath its pour spout is a bit of a pain to clean around.

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