Whether you like to drink it during the morning to help you get going or throughout the day when you need a pick me up, coffee is an important drink for many people. Coffee is often a drink that is very personal, and we all have our own coffee making rituals. Some people are happy to grab any coffee from a machine and drink it, while others care about making the perfect coffee to enjoy. If you want to improve the coffees that you make, it’s important to know the perfect temperature for coffee. The coffee brewing temperature can make all the difference to the resulting taste of your beverage, whether you’re taking a shot of espresso or enjoying a creamy, foamy latte.
How is Coffee Extracted?
Before getting into the ideal coffee temperature, it can be handy to know how coffee is extracted. When coffee grounds come into contact with water, soluble in the grounds are pulled out of the beans, and into the water, which gives brewed coffee all the characteristics and flavours that we know and love. During the extraction process, different compounds are extracted at different times. The acids are extracted first, then the sweetness, and finally, some bitterness. Getting the water temperature right will impact how fast these coffee solubles are extracted and how much balance there is in the final drink. In general, hotter water will extract the coffee solubles, faster resulting in a coffee that’s perfectly ready to drink straight away.
When the water is not hot enough, the coffee will not be extracted as fast, which you’ll realise as soon as you take a sip. Under extraction of coffee will lead to a drink that tastes lifeless and flat, and maybe even a little bit sour. So, why is cold brew such a popular drink? The reason that cold brew tastes so good is that you rely on a much longer brewing time to ensure that all the solubles are extracted before drinking. Cold brew is typically brewed for hours, before it is ready to enjoy. On the other hand, if you want to brew a coffee that you can drink right away, it’s important to make sure that the water is heated to the right temperature.
On the flip side, water that is too hot when brewing coffee will over extract the solubles and leave you with a drink that is often too bitter, due to an imbalance between the acidity, sweetness and bitterness. While water temperature is not the only factor to consider when brewing coffee and extracting solubles from the grounds, it is one of the main ones to consider.
Coffee Brewing Temperatures
Coffee making might be referred to as an art, but there is a science behind making the perfect brew. This is dependent on your brewing method of choice, with the best temperature for coffee varying depending on how you are making it.
Coffee Makers and Coffee Machines
If you are using a coffee maker, then the machine will usually take care of the entire process for you and make sure that your coffee is made at the right temperature. Normally, the perfect coffee temp in a coffee maker or coffee machine is at around 90-96 degrees Celsius. Brewing your coffee at this temperature allows the hot water to extract all of the flavours and aromas from the coffee quickly and carefully. So, before you start drinking, check the manual for your coffee machine and make sure that the temperature is set right.
Manual Coffee Brewing
If you are brewing your coffee manually, it’s important to bring the water to the boiling point of 100 degrees Celsius first. Then, turn off the heat source and allow the water to cool down before pouring it over ground coffee. You can use a thermometer to make sure that the water is at the optimal temperature before pouring it over.
What’s the Ideal Temperature?
The best temperature for coffee is no more than 96 degrees Celsius. Using colder water will result in an under-extracted, flat coffee, while on the other hand, hotter water will extract too much flavour from the coffee beans, resulting in a more bitter drink. While cold brew and iced drinks do exist, they follow different rules compared to brewing hot coffee.
Of course, while the smell of hot coffee can be tantalising, drinking it right away after being brewed at 96 degree Celsius carries a burning risk. The preferred and most recommended coffee temperature for drinking is around 60 degrees Celsius. Experts recommend letting your coffee cool down to this temperature rather than brewing it as such, although it is a matter of personal choice so it’s worth experimenting to see what works best for you. Adding cream or milk is also going to lower the temperature of your coffee, which can make a hot coffee easier to drink right away.
Why Use Boiling Water for Coffee?
When it comes to the perfect coffee water temperature, some experts recommend using boiling water. There are many reasons for this, including:
Efficiency: The hotter it is, the more efficient of a solvent the water will be. So, with warmer water when brewing your coffee, the more flavours and aromas you’ll get in the final cup.
Consistency: When you use boiling water for brewing coffee, you will usually be able to get a more consistent result since you can easily see when you are at the right temperature. This is important if you want to make sure that you’re replicating your perfect cup of coffee every morning.
Heat Loss: Heated water will drop significantly in temperature as a result of heat transfer when it is poured into a French press filled with ground coffee or into a pour over dripper. The drop in temperature will be even bigger with a ceramic cone, and less with a plastic cone. Boiling the water means that this heat loss is accounted for, providing an ideal temperature for your coffee.
Brew and Beans Type
Another approach that some people take when making coffee is that there is no ideal temperature that fits all types of coffee. Instead, the perfect temperature for coffee should be determined by thinking about the type of beans, roast degree, and the brewing method. When making coffee, the water is a part of the extraction equation, with the temperature affecting the number of compounds that are extracted from the coffee grounds. Varying the temperature depending on the type of beans used makes sense since coffee beans will extract differently depending on their growing conditions and roast degree. Denser coffees are often more difficult to extract, and usually require hotter water as it is more efficient.
Light Roasts: These are often difficult to extract, so will need some additional help from a higher water temperature. Ideally, use water that is close to boiling.
Dark or Medium: Since these coffees are easier to extract compared to lighter roasts, take the temperature down to around 93 degrees Celsius, or even lower. When using hotter water with medium or dark roasts, bear in mind that there is a higher risk of extracting too many bitter flavours.
What’s the Ideal Brewing Temperature for Coffee?
In general, your water should be between 93 and 96 degrees Celsius for the ideal extraction of flavours and aromas from the coffee grounds. Using colder water will result in under-extracted coffee that tastes weak and watery, while on the other hand, water that is too hot will lose the flavour quality of the coffee and can result in a bitter taste.
Is Boiling Water Too Hot?
The sweet spot for brewing coffee is around 93-96 degrees Celsius. Since boiling water is very hot, pouring the boiling water directly onto the coffee grounds without first allowing it to cool down a little can result in a coffee that tastes ‘burned’ and resulting in a bitter flavour. The exception to this is when the roast is very light; since light roasts are often denser compared to medium and dark roasts, they will typically benefit more from hotter water and can withstand boiling water without resulting in a bitter taste.
Why Is Hot Water Ideal for Brewing Coffee?
Using hot water when brewing coffee will extract more flavour compounds from the coffee grounds. Using cold water to brew is possible, but with this method, you will need to wait for several hours before any coffee flavours are extracted from the grounds. On the other hand, using hot water will extract the flavours almost instantly.
In general, between 93-96 degrees Celsius is considered to be the perfect temperature for brewing coffee. If you are just starting out, sticking to this temperature range will usually provide you with ideal results. However, the temperature can vary depending on the type of roast and the kind of coffee that you want. Brewing with cold water to create a cold brew is possible, but you will need to be ready to leave your coffee to brew for hours so that all the flavours can be extracted successfully.