Coffee is arguably the most popular hot drink in the UK, and it is no surprise that coffee connoisseurs across the nation have been searching for the perfect temperature for their morning caffeine boost.
Whether you’re drinking it on your commute to work or before bed, or on a chilly morning at the office, coffee is always a hot topic.
People love their coffee and want to know what temperature it should be prepared at.
While the temperature of coffee varies depending on the brewing method, here is the guide for the ideal time to enjoy your hot beverage.
The Optimal Coffee Temperature
Most of us have a go-to temperature that we prefer to enjoy coffee at. We may not know the number but we know how it feels to have extra hot, hot or cool coffee.
Here at Driftaway, our personal preference is between 120-140°F.
We recognize that others have different tastes, though. Here’s a brief look at the temperature ranges people tend to enjoy coffee at, and why they might prefer those temperatures.
Before we get around to drinking coffee, however, we must first understand the proper temperature that coffee should be brewed at.
Brew Your Coffee Between 195°F and 205°F At All Times
While coffee may be consumed at a broad range of temperatures, the range for brewing it is relatively narrow.
The coffee grounds should be at room temperature, and the water should be between 195 and 205°F. When the water is above 205°F, it can scald the grounds and create a burnt taste.
When it’s below 195°F, the brewed coffee will be under-extracted.
We like to aim for the middle of this range, 200°F. There’s not a lot of difference between 195 and 200°F, or between 200 and 205°F. To get water to 200°F, you can:
- set a temperature-display kettle to 200°F or
- boil water and transfer it to a different vessel or
- boil water and let it stand for 30 seconds in the same vessel
To Drink Above 150°F: Feel the Heat
Here at Driftaway Coffee, we tend to enjoy coffee best when it is between 120°F and 140°F. Some people though (including us sometimes!), drink coffee at higher temperatures.
Many people ask for their beverages “extra hot” at cafes. Typically extra hot denotes 180°F or higher. There are a few good reasons why you might ask for extra hot coffee.
For example, you might want it to still be hot once you arrive at the office, or you may want to slowly sip it for awhile.
When coffee is actually drunk at this temperature, or any temperature above 150°F, it is difficult to taste the coffee itself. The heat overpowers the coffee’s flavors.
Some people enjoy how the sensation of scaldingly hot coffee warms them up, however our taste buds aren’t able to identify fine nuances at these temperatures.
To Drink Between 120 and 140°F: Taste the Flavors
Coffee’s notes shine between 120°F and 140°F, which is why we prefer this temperature. The subtle flavors noted by the roaster will come out within this range, creating a delightful cup.
Note: Coffee shines between 120°F and 140°F
If you must, you can use a thermometer to see when your cup of coffee is within this range. There is an equally effective tool, however – your tongue.
You will also be able to tell when coffee’s within this range, as you will be able to taste the flavors that come out at these temperatures.
To Drink Coffee Below 120°F: Enjoy the Sweetness and Acidity
When coffee falls below 120°F, many people try to reheat it. We don’t recommend reheating coffee, because it changes the profile of the coffee.
Instead, if your coffee falls below 120°F, enjoy a cool cup. A few of our team members here at Driftaway Coffee like cool coffee, which exhibits enhanced sweetness and acidity.
The Right Temperature For Serving Coffee
Coffee is best served at a temperature between 155ºF and 175ºF (70ºC to 80ºC). Most people prefer it towards the higher end, at about 175ºF.
Do you remember that lawsuit that MacDonalds lost when a customer scalded herself after she spilled some of her coffee?
Back then the MacDonalds manual for its employees stated that coffee should be served at “195 to 205 degrees and held at 180 to 190 degrees for optimal taste.”
As they discovered when they lost the case, that was too hot. You won’t go far wrong at 175ºF. That said, there are some coffee experts who like to drink their coffee at much lower temperatures.
George Howell of George Howell Coffee, who has been sourcing and tasting specialty coffee since the 1970s, likes to drink his coffee at a temperature closer to 130ºF.
To you and me that would feel like tepid coffee. But according to him, it’s at that temperature that many of the more subtle flavors of coffee are revealed.
What he says makes sense, because if you think about coffee that is really hot, almost hot enough to burn your tongue, you really don’t taste much at all.
So there is a sliding scale here. At the hotter end of the scale, at about 175ºF, we feel the satisfaction of drinking a nice hot cup of coffee.
At the lower end of the scale, at 150ºF and below, we get less of that “hot cup of Joe” experience, but are able to taste some of the more subtle flavors of the coffee.
One approach to the serving temperature of coffee could go like this: For your regular cup of coffee, go for 175ºF, but if you buy some really good coffee beans and want to really taste the coffee and discover all of its flavor notes and qualities, serve it at 150ºF or lower.
Of course, if you choose the second option, then you also need to pay close attention to how you grind the beans and brew the coffee.
There is no point in buying great beans and serving the coffee at a lower temperature unless you also take the trouble to brew the coffee well.
The Optimal Coffee Brewing Water Temperature
Brewing delicious, rich coffee is all about balancing the variables. One of the least considered – yet extremely important – variables is water temperature.
It also happens to be one of the easiest to control, set, and never have to worry about again.
Understanding how water temperature affects your coffee can accomplish a few things for you.
It gives you the knowledge you need to use water that’s consistent and reliable without having to think about it and it empowers you to make adjustments to your final cup using temperature adjustments if you’d like.
Let me give you a rundown on the best water temperature for coffee and how you can find it in your own setting.
How water may affect coffee extraction
As I’m sure you know already, the hotter your water, the more quickly it extracts things from the coffee grounds. Near-boiling water only takes 2-4 minutes to produce a balanced extraction.
Cold water, however, can take anywhere from 3-24 hours to produce cold brew coffee.
The ideal temperature range for hot brewing is 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is hot enough to extract carefully and quickly, but not so hot that it’s uncontrollable.
- Coffee over 205 degrees Fahrenheit tends to over extract things from the grounds very easily, producing bitter coffee.
- Water under 195 degrees has a difficult time extracting, which often leads to sour, underdeveloped coffee.
The 195 to 205 degree range isn’t the objective gold standard for water temperature for coffee brewing. It’s just the range that most people around the world tend to use the most because it tends to make the best, most balanced coffee.
You are free to depart from this proven temperature range, but I don’t suggest it unless you’re a seasoned coffee veteran.
There are quite a few coffee professionals who use lower temperatures to achieve different results in their coffee. One World Aeropress Championship finalist in 2013 used water at 176 degrees.
Another major figure in the coffee world commonly uses 190 degrees in his Aeropress recipe.
It can be done if you have master-level control of other coffee variables, but most of us like to stick to the tried and true, classic range of 195 to 205 degrees.
The easy way to use consistent, reliable water
If you’re really just looking for a way to get your water to the right temperature consistently and easily, that’s great!
Finding your water’s sweet spot is an easy way to eliminate the stress of water temperature for coffee by turning it into a reliable, consistent constant (rather than a variable you have to constantly adjust).
First, find the elevation of where you live. Boiling point at sea level is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. On the high plains of Texas (elevation of 3,000 ft), water boils at 206 degrees.
In Boulder, Colorado (elevation of 5,000 ft), boiling happens at 202 degrees.
The higher you are, the lower the temperature you water needs to be to boil.
If you live in an area where boiling occurs between 198 and 205, you’re one of the lucky ones. You can just use your water right off the boil every time, since it boils within the ideal range.
If you live at sea level, you’ll want to let your water cool for a minute or two after it boils before using it.
I suggest using a thermometer and stopwatch to see how long it takes for your water to cool down to an acceptable temperature.
It could only be 1 minute, but it could also be 5, depending on your elevation and kettle size/material.
If you’re close to sea level, you can also skip preheating your coffee brewer. That way, when you pour in your water that’s above 205 degrees, it’ll instantly cool as the brewer soaks up some of the heat.
If you live at a very high elevation where boiling occurs lower than 198, you’re at risk of under extracting your coffee by brewing with water that’s just barely too cool.
You may need to adjust your brewing style slightly to brew the best coffee you can. I suggest trying a few things:
- Preheat your brewing vessel very well to reduce temperature loss when you pour in your water.
- Increase extraction by either grinding your coffee slightly finer or by adding time to your brew.
Should you manipulate water temperature to improve your coffee’s flavor?
There are ways you can use water temperature to achieve specific flavors, but it’s pretty difficult to do consistently unless you have a specialized kettle that heats water to specific temperatures.
These are very handy, but they often run $85 or more and still aren’t razor precise.
If you’re looking to improve your coffee, it’s much easier to leave your water temperature in the ideal zone and use grind size instead to make small changes.
Grind size adjustments are quicker and easier to control than water temperature adjustments.
Water temperature for coffee should be an easy thing to systemize and never worry about again. It’s a lot easier to brew balanced coffee when you can eliminate variables by turning them into reliable constants.
Just remember: the best water for coffee generally agreed to fall in the range 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. At the very least, if you can keep that tidbit of information in your noggin, you’ll be just fine.
In the end, the most important factor in great coffee is… your coffee beans!
And the easiest way to aways have uber-fresh, high-quality beans is to have them delivered right to your door from your favorite coffee roaster
Brewing Temperature vs. Serving Temperature
So let’s just get this out of the way: the brewing temperature for coffee is different than the serving temperature for coffee!
This may seem like a no-brainer, considering that the standard brewing temperature for coffee (195–205°F) is hot enough to settle a half million dollar lawsuit with McDonald’s.
However, there aren’t many drinks prepared with with such considerations.
Unless you are making some refreshing cold brew or competing for the World AeroPress Championship (those guys use some ridiculously low brew temps), your serving temperature is going to be well below your brew temperature.
Other Related FAQs
What temperature should you brew coffee at?
Your brewer ought to keep up a water temperature between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit for ideal extraction.
Colder water will bring about level, under-extracted coffee, while water that is too hot will likewise cause lost quality in the flavor of the coffee.
Is boiling water too hot for coffee?
When brewing coffee, the sweet-spot for water temperature is around 202-206 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since boiling water is excessively hot, pouring the boiling water straightforwardly onto the coffee beans can be too much unless the roast is very light.
Why is hot water suitable for making coffee?
Hot water extracts more flavor compounds. However, if the water is too hot you might end up with some bitter flavors.
If you use cold water to brew, you have to wait for several hours before any coffee flavor will be extracted.