Issues in Practical Halacha

Issue Number 13 --- 20 Teves, 5755

Compiled and Published by Kollel Menachem - Lubavitch (Melbourne, Australia)

in the zechus of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, o.b.m.

Making Tea or Coffee on Shabbos

By way of introduction to the laws of making tea or coffee on Shabbos, some of the laws of cooking on Shabbos are first set out:

Levels of Vessels [1]

The vessel in which liquid is heated in, even after it is taken off the fire, is called a "first" vessel (kli rishon). If the liquid is then poured into another vessel, this vessel is called a "second" vessel (kli sheni). If poured again, the vessel which receives from it is called a "third" vessel (kli shlishi). Each of these different categories apply only where the temperature of the liquid content is at least 45 Celsius (yad soledes bo) [2].

A kli rishon cooks. Therefore it is forbidden to place food which is not fully cooked in a kli rishon which is above 45 Celsius in temperature. Even if it is under this temperature one may not, as a precaution, place not fully cooked food into it.

A kli sheni, however, does not cook as the walls of the vessel are cold and its contents cool quickly. Nevertheless placing not fully cooked food into a kli sheni is forbidden since it appears like cooking. Only adding spices (those used in the times of the Mishnah), which are used only for flavouring is permitted as it does not appear like cooking. There is, moreover, a view which expresses a doubt. There are some foods which can cook easily and will cook even in a kli sheni; this may incur a Torah prohibition. As we are not certain which foods these are, no food may be placed in a kli sheni except those items specifically permitted by the Chachomim, such as spices, oil and water. The Alter Rebbe permits onions and other liquids, while the Mishna Brura does not.

Placing food in a kli shlishi, even if its temperature exceeds 45 degrees is permitted. The Chasam Sofer [3] writes that one should not place uncooked food in any vessel above this temperature [yad soledes bo]. The Pischei Tshuva disagrees. [4]

Pouring From a Kli Rishon and Sheni

The liquid poured from a kli rishon will cook the surface of the food onto which it is poured. Pouring from a kli sheni, however, is permitted unless this would complete the cooking process or make it fit for consumption.


Fully cooked dry foods which have subsequently cooled, may be re-cooked even in a boiling kli rishon, provided it is not on the fire. Fully cooked liquids, which have subsequently cooled, may only be re-cooked if they are still warm enough to consume. In this regard foods with a liquid component are considered by the Pri Megodim [5] as either a liquid or solid food in accordance with whichever is the majority.

The Alter Rebbe disagrees and rules that if there is any liquid component it is considered as a liquid, and so cannot be re-cooked if completely cooled. Cooked dry food which when re-cooked will liquefy, is considered like dry food according to the Alter Rebbe in Shulchan Aruch. However in his Siddur the Alter Rebbe rules that it is to be considered as a liquid.

The Mishna Brura states that one should in the first instance refrain from putting such food into a kli rishon. Roasting or baking after cooking, or vice versa, is prohibited (in the first instance - but permitted bediavad (after the fact)).

In regard to the specific laws relating to making a cup of tea or coffee, the following cases are treated:

Using Tea Essence

Pouring from a kli rishon onto solid food is forbidden. However, pouring onto a liquid (such as from the kettle into the cup of cold tea essence) is a matter of dispute. The Rif permits [6] , while Tosefos [7] forbids, it.

The Shulchon Aruch [8] rules that it is permitted. Hence, one may pour directly from the kettle onto tea essence.

The Tzemach Tzedek [9], however, writes that one should be stringent like Tosefos. Accordingly one should not pour from a kli rishon; rather from a kli sheni into the cup containing the tea essence.

The Mishna Brura [10] rules that one who is stringent with himself should act similarly, though he should not rebuke others who do not adopt this stringency. The K'tzos HaShulchon [11] permits pouring tea essence into a kli sheni providing it is not very hot. The Mishna Brura [12] rules that so long as the tea essence was cooked before Shabbos one may pour it into a kli sheni, even if the kli sheni is very hot.

Using Tea Leaves or a Tea Bag

Pouring hot water directly from the kettle onto tea leaves or a tea bag is obviously prohibited, as it cooks the surface of the leaves [13]. Even to place the leaves or bag into a kli sheni is forbidden as it appears like cooking and moreover the tea might actually cook even in a kli sheni (being possibly in the category of those items which are easily cooked). [14]

The Mishna Brura [15] suggests cooking the tea leaves or bag before Shabbos by pouring boiling water over the leaves or bag and stirring it thoroughly so that all the tea leaves cook. The leaves should then be allowed to dry by pouring out the essence. It would then be permitted to pour onto the leaves or bag even from a kli rishon on Shabbos (see above). The best method, he suggests, is to use tea essence, as pre-cooked leaves might not have been fully cooked.

To pour from a kli sheni onto the tea bag or to place the tea bag into a kli shlishi is forbidden by the Oruch HaShulchon [16]. He claims that we see that tea leaves cook even in a kli shlishi. The K'tzos HaShulchon [17], however, permits it.

Rav Auerbach shlita [18] writes that the tea bag should be removed from the cup with a spoon, as removing by hand and suspending it over the cup is considered straining which is forbidden. If the bag is quickly removed so that no tea rips from it intentionally, then perhaps it is allowed.

Using Instant Coffee

Instant coffee is a pre-cooked dry food and so may be placed even into a kli rishon off the fire. Since, however, when placed in hot water it liquefies, its re-cooking in this way is not permitted according to some opinions mentioned above. Accordingly water directly from the kettle may not be poured onto the coffee, rather one should pour water into the cup first and then add the coffee. This seems to be the opinion of the Alter Rebbe in his Siddur and of the Mishna Brura [19].

There is an additional consideration with instant coffee which is not just pre-cooked but also pre-roasted. If the cooking was after the roasting there would be no question in re-cooking. If the cooking was before the roasting the Pri Megodim [20] permits it to be re-cooked while the Mishna Brura [21] prohibits it. If the coffee was produced by roasting only without any cooking, both opinions prohibit cooking it - i.e. to place it (even) in a second vessel - on Shabbos, but permit placing it in a third vessel.

Adding Milk, Sugar or Lemon

According to the Alter Rebbe [22] milk may be poured into a kli sheni.

According to the Mishna Brura [23] this is allowed only if the milk was pre-cooked (pasteurised). Otherwise it may only be poured into a kli shlishi. Sugar is also a pre-cooked dry food which liquefies in hot water. It therefore has the same laws as instant coffee.

The K'tzos HaShulchon [24] and the Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchaso rule not to put a piece of lemon into a kli sheni. Lemon juice will have the same rule as milk.

[1] The following is based on the rulings of the Alte Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 318) and the Mishna Brura (ibid). Disagreements between the Alte Rebbe and the Mishna Brura regarding these laws are stated explicitly.
[2] see Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchoso Ch.1:1
[3] Responsa Yoreh Deah 95
[4] Yoreh Deah 94:7
[5] Orach Chayim Ashel Avrohom 253:41
[6] Shabbos 42a
[7] ibid
[8] Orach Chayim 318:11,12
[9] Chidushim on Shas, Shabbos Perek 3 Mishna 5
[10] 318 Biur Halocho
[11] in Badei HaShulchan Ch 124:31
[12] 318:39
[13] see Mishna Brura 318:39
[14] see Shvisas Shabbos, Mleches M'vasher 24 Mishna Brura 318:39 Ktzos HaShulchan 124:5,7
[15] loc.cit.
[16] 318:28
[17] 124:21
[18] see Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchoso Ch.3:58
[19] 318:71
[20] Ashel Avrohom 318:17
[21] 318 Biur Halocho
[22] loc.cit.
[23] loc.cit.
[24] 124 Badei HaShulchan 14,31

The above is not intended to decide halachic questions, but rather to clarify them in a clear and concise form. Please refer all your practical questions to your local Rabbi.

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