Hard Iced Tea Alcohol Content

Understanding the hard iced tea alcohol content can be challenging if you don’t know how to test gravity levels in your beverages. However, once you learn the process, testing the ABV can be a snap. It’s also helpful, or at the very least fascinating, to understand the origins of hard iced tea.

What Is Hard Iced Tea?

Many people imagine Twisted Tea was the first hard iced tea to hit the scene. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, hard iced tea is one of the most ancient forms of alcoholic beverage in human history.

After all, calling a beverage hard today just means it has alcohol. For example, hard cider is apple or pear cider that has been allowed to ferment.

Hard iced tea, then, is just iced tea that has been fermented.

The fermentation process simply signifies the fact that yeast has been allowed to enter a food or beverage rich in sugar. Once the yeast encounters sugar, it will begin to eat it as its natural energy source. Then, the yeast will convert the sugar to alcohol, carbon dioxide, and hundreds of secondary metabolites

Once the yeast has done its job, you have beer from grain water, wine from grape juice, and so many other fun beverages with a bit of fizz and a little, or a lot, of alcohol.

History of Hard Iced Tea

The history of hard iced tea really dates back to kombucha, which is thought to have been invented around 220 BC in China. It was then brought to Japan by a Korean physician.

Kombucha is made by fermenting black or green tea with a SCOBY, which is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, specifically curated for kombucha.

But, if you think about it, any time you leave a sugary liquid out exposed to the environment, both bacteria and yeast will be naturally attracted to the liquid and proceed to ferment.

In general, you can trust good bacteria to kill off bad bacteria, and the alcohol produced will take care of the rest.

All of this results in a hard iced tea that has been beloved by many Asian cultures for hundreds of years, and only in the last few decades has been adopted by the western world, thanks to our involvement in the world wars.

Then, in 2001, the Boston Beer Company introduced Twisted Tea to the alcoholic beverage scene, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Twisted Tea is iced tea fermented with malted grain, which is what offers the sugar element to the yeast. The result is a naturally sweetened, non-carbonated, slightly lemony iced tea.

How to Make Hard Iced Tea Today

If you’re hoping to make your own hard iced tea, the process is quite simple.

Brew your favorite black or green tea. Typically, you’ll brew a gallon of tea to give yourself plenty to work with. You can use either loose leaf or bags, and just follow the instructions you would to make your regular tea.

Make sure you boil your water and add sugar while the tea is still warm, so it dissolves.

Alternatively, you could add LME, or liquid malt extract, which is the same malted grain used in Twisted Tea. In general, the more sugar you add, the more alcohol the yeast will produce, as sugar is the food for yeast. So, if you want a harder tea, add more sugar. If you want a lighter tea, you can add less sugar.

A medium tea would call for about 2 cups of sugar or LME.

Once your tea has cooled down below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you can add a half a packet of the yeast of your choosing and place the lid on your container, which will deprive the yeast of extra oxygen and force it to produce more alcohol than water.

If you leave the lid off, you will get less alcohol and more water, but you will still get a slightly boozy, slightly fizzy tea.

If you leave the lid on, be sure to crack the lid and let the carbon dioxide built up out once a day.

After about 7 days, you should have a nice, hard tea.

If you want to know how much alcohol your homemade tea has, be sure to take a gravity reading before you add the yeast and after fermentation has completed (you’ll know because it’s no longer bubbling and fizzing and any foam cap has died down.)

The calculation is Original Gravity minus Final Gravity times 131.25, or (OG – FG) *131.25.

Now, you can store it in your fridge for a couple of weeks and pour it over ice for a hard iced tea.

Hard Iced Tea Alcohol Content

In the end, you are unlikely to get much higher than 5.5% ABV with a recipe like this one. Twisted Tea comes in at around 5%, and others like it are much the same.

Again, when making your own tea, you can of course increase the sugar to get more alcohol, and that can be a fun experiment to engage in. You can also add fruit in mesh bags after your tea has fermented and allow it to undergo secondary fermentation, at which point your yeast will jump back into fermenting and increase your ABV, so be sure to check your gravity readings again.

There is so much to work with, and you can make hard iced tea more or less complicated, depending on your preferences and your sense of adventure.

Just remember to have fun.


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