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Can lemon-tea be stored for a long time?


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#1 zoliking

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 12:50 AM

I'm thinking of brewing tea in large batches for personal use. I use fresh squeezed lemon juice to make the tea, but I'm worried that it might spoil if bottled and stored for weeks. Is that a risk, should I look at alternatives like bottled lemon juice or citric acid powder?

 

Thank you!



#2 pHruit

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 09:21 AM

I'd say that there probably is a risk, and that using fresh lemon juice may increase that depending on where in the process you add it, but you'll have some microbiological risk anyway - the brewing process *might* address the relevant parts of the microbiological loading of incoming ingredients and the equipment you're using, but it also might not, but in any case the overall brewing and filling process itself can also have an impact.

If the brewing process temperature and time are sufficient then in effect this could pasteurise the product including the juice component you're adding, but if the lemon is added as a second stage once cooled then the freshly squeezed juice is almost definitely going to increase the potential for microbiological spoilage.

 

Depending on the pH, water activity etc of the finished product there may also be a risk of more serious microbiological issues that could make you ill (or possibly worse, in an extreme case), although not specifically due to the lemon.

 

What are you planning to pack it into and how are you planning to store it?
I've seen industrially supplied tea "bases" that are used for bottled iced tea type products with up to 1 month ambient / 6 month chilled shelf life, but these are pH controlled, have a known microbiological status as a result of being produced through a validated process, and are generally also high Brix (upper 60s / low 70s) and/or contain added preservative.

 

If I was doing this at home I'd probably buy a cheap pH meter and use that to make sure that I kept the pH as low as I could without adversely affecting the flavour - without having looked at any proper data for this type of product I'd aim for <4 if possible. I'd probably store it frozen too, as that tends to stop most things growing ;)
 



#3 zoliking

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 10:33 AM

I'd say that there probably is a risk, and that using fresh lemon juice may increase that depending on where in the process you add it, but you'll have some microbiological risk anyway - the brewing process *might* address the relevant parts of the microbiological loading of incoming ingredients and the equipment you're using, but it also might not, but in any case the overall brewing and filling process itself can also have an impact.

If the brewing process temperature and time are sufficient then in effect this could pasteurise the product including the juice component you're adding, but if the lemon is added as a second stage once cooled then the freshly squeezed juice is almost definitely going to increase the potential for microbiological spoilage.

 

Depending on the pH, water activity etc of the finished product there may also be a risk of more serious microbiological issues that could make you ill (or possibly worse, in an extreme case), although not specifically due to the lemon.

 

What are you planning to pack it into and how are you planning to store it?
I've seen industrially supplied tea "bases" that are used for bottled iced tea type products with up to 1 month ambient / 6 month chilled shelf life, but these are pH controlled, have a known microbiological status as a result of being produced through a validated process, and are generally also high Brix (upper 60s / low 70s) and/or contain added preservative.

 

If I was doing this at home I'd probably buy a cheap pH meter and use that to make sure that I kept the pH as low as I could without adversely affecting the flavour - without having looked at any proper data for this type of product I'd aim for <4 if possible. I'd probably store it frozen too, as that tends to stop most things growing ;)
 

 

Thank you for the detailed answer, I appreciate it! <3 In this case I'll just use the citric acid powder. It doesn't taste as good, has none of the health benefits, but at least it won't poison me.

 

As for the process: I just intend to boil some mineral water in a large pot, remove from the heat once it's boiling, add tea leaves, remove them once I get proper tea, wait for it to cool to a more tepid temperature, add the sweetener and the acid powder, wait for it to cool completely and then funnel it into washed out plastic bottles, which then I would keep at room temperature on a shelf for up to 2-3 weeks at most before consumption. Though having read through what you wrote again, I might just figure out a way to find it space in the fridge. (I definitely don't have the space to freeze it.)

 

Thank you again!



#4 pHruit

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 10:51 AM

Sorry, just to clarify - it's not specifically the lemon I'd be concerned about, it's the overall product. You're potentially making an environment in which some bacteria may grow quite happily, with or without the lemon. The lemon may increase the risk of spoilage but in general it's not a fruit that I'd be overly concerned about causing food poisoning, as it's naturally very acidic (to the extent that the drive for more "natural" foods is seeing a large increase in use of lemon juice in place of citric acid), so whilst things like yeasts and moulds can cope with it, there are relatively few dangerous bacteria that can actually grow in it.

 

I'd personally be somewhat concerned about the manufacturing/filling process with regard to microbiological stability for the length of time you're considering. The example I referred to really is a very different and very tightly controlled process, for a product that will have different characteristics in terms of the ability to support microbiological growth.

 

If you really want to do this I'd personally fill into something that can cope with a liquid at high temperature - that way you can boil the finished tea briefly and fill the liquid into the container while it's still hot, as this will at least kill off a lot of what is potentially in the tea and/or in the packaging, particularly if you invert the container after filling to allow it to get the lid and upper parts that won't be submerged in the tea.

Nonetheless I'm afraid that I certainly wouldn't want this to be misconstrued as an endorsement for the process given the hoped-for ambient shelf life. Without chance to fully validate it, I confess that it makes me a bit nervous. But then I'm paid to spend a large portion of my life looking for ways that food products could go wrong... ;)



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#5 zoliking

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 12:07 PM

 

Sorry, just to clarify - it's not specifically the lemon I'd be concerned about, it's the overall product. You're potentially making an environment in which some bacteria may grow quite happily, with or without the lemon. The lemon may increase the risk of spoilage but in general it's not a fruit that I'd be overly concerned about causing food poisoning, as it's naturally very acidic (to the extent that the drive for more "natural" foods is seeing a large increase in use of lemon juice in place of citric acid), so whilst things like yeasts and moulds can cope with it, there are relatively few dangerous bacteria that can actually grow in it.

 

I'd personally be somewhat concerned about the manufacturing/filling process with regard to microbiological stability for the length of time you're considering. The example I referred to really is a very different and very tightly controlled process, for a product that will have different characteristics in terms of the ability to support microbiological growth.

 

If you really want to do this I'd personally fill into something that can cope with a liquid at high temperature - that way you can boil the finished tea briefly and fill the liquid into the container while it's still hot, as this will at least kill off a lot of what is potentially in the tea and/or in the packaging, particularly if you invert the container after filling to allow it to get the lid and upper parts that won't be submerged in the tea.

Nonetheless I'm afraid that I certainly wouldn't want this to be misconstrued as an endorsement for the process given the hoped-for ambient shelf life. Without chance to fully validate it, I confess that it makes me a bit nervous. But then I'm paid to spend a large portion of my life looking for ways that food products could go wrong... ;)

 

I see. You may have meant that last bit as trying to describe yourself as overly cautious, I'll take it as I'd better not do anything you can't wholehearedly endorse. I'll just not do any of this, better safe than sorry. I'm really glad it occured to me to ask. Thank you again.



#6 pHruit

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 12:53 PM

Yes, I am inherently cautious with food due to the nature of my job, and to an extent my personality.

I wouldn't see so much of an issue with the process you're considering if the product was going to be stored frozen, but as it stands I'd probably look to make somewhat smaller batches to last a few days, and keep those in the chiller.

Making sufficient stock to last multiple weeks is something I'd only want to consider if I had a lot of freezer space, or if I had access to facilities to do it properly.

 

I'm not sure where you're based, but there are potentially very small-scale bottlers that might be able to help you - some will have pilot-plant facilities designed to run small batches as trials before moving to full production, some might be e.g. cider producers with spare capacity outside the main season and thus reasonably accommodating for any business that keeps plant in use, and indeed there are some universities/colleges around that can offer this sort of thing as they have facilities for teaching students that are not required 100% of the time.
If you really wanted to make up more significant batches and could cope with increasing from a few weeks' supply to perhaps a few months (you'd have to talk to the bottlers themselves to determine what their minimum requirement would be) then this could be worth looking into, as it'll still be your tea but you get the expertise/kit required to bottle it safely and durably. Could be an option to explore.



#7 Hank Major

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 07:21 PM

My personal experience is that it grows little patches of floating mold.



#8 FurFarmandFork

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 06:16 PM

Also a botulism risk if you don't refrigerate that stuff.


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#9 Romee

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Posted 27 February 2020 - 09:31 PM

My recipe for iced tea with lemon is based on the preparation of two concentrates: lemon and tea. With them at the time you need, adding a little more chilled water and ice, you can make wonderful iced lemon tea. I added mint to the tea concentrate. When I lived in property in Italy there was a tip to add the remains of tea and lemon concentrate and then it can be frozen in the form of cubes and added as ice to the main drink, then ice will not dissolve the taste of cold tea with lemon. You can freeze the lemon slices themselves and use them to cool drinks like ice.






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