Coffee lovers will tell you that every part of the coffee brewing process is crucial to obtaining that proper cup at the end. The type of beans, the grind, and the brewing method, are all important, but the temperature of the water you use may be the most critical part of all.
The correct water temperature will bring out all the flavor nuances of the coffee, including notes of sour and bitterness without under or over extracting, and it’s not the temperature of boiling water.
The sweet spot of coffee temperature for proper extraction during brewing is between 195°F and 205°F (91°C to 96°C).
Why Is It Important to Use the Best Coffee Temperature?
When brewing coffee, using the proper water temperature from 195°F to 205°F helps you achieve the best possible cup. If you’ve gone to the trouble of perfecting all the other steps, it would be a waste not to do this one correctly.
The flavor is impacted by the water temperature, too. Your coffee will contain the delicate notes your brewing method can achieve with the right temperature. It will also maintain the full body due to the water being oxygenated.
Too Hot (Over 205°F)
If the water is too hot, you may damage the coffee flavor before you get to drink it, and it may take longer to cool so you can enjoy it. Tongues have difficulty discerning subtle notes in coffee that’s too hot, and you may lose some subtle sweetness.
Heating water causes some of the oxygen to be lost. Leaving the grounds in water that has been overboiled, with all the oxygen stripped away, can result in a bland and flat cup of coffee.
On the other hand, water that’s too cold won’t allow the water to pull out all the flavor from the grounds in a timely manner.
The cold slows down the process, and too cold water will mean either drinking the coffee cold or reheating it. Most reheating methods can further damage the flavors of the drink.
Why Not Just Use Boiling Water?
According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), boiling water, while perfect for instant coffee granules, is too hot to brew ground coffee properly. Water boils at 212°F (100°C), which is higher than the best coffee brewing temperature and much too hot to serve coffee.
Not all brewers agree with a lower stricter temperature, though, and some believe using boiling water has its advantages.
Advantages of Using Boiling Water
- You don’t need a thermometer to tell when water reaches 212°F.
- Specific brewing methods like pour-over and French press drop the temperature of the water before brewing begins, so a higher temperature is needed.
- Water is a better solvent at a higher temperature, and some coffee aficionados believe a higher temperature is necessary to release all the flavors.
- When the water is too hot, the brewed coffee can taste bitter as the coffee is over-extracted.
- Boiling water takes longer to cool to a more acceptable serving temperature.
- Not only is oxygen lost from water when it’s boiled, but rapidly boiling water can agitate the grounds when it’s poured that can cause an uneven extraction.
A Note About Elevations
Water doesn’t always boil at the same temperature, but at sea level, water boils at 212°F.
Due to atmospheric pressure, water may boil at a higher or lower temperature than it does when at sea level. For example, the pressure caused by a higher elevation may require a lower boiling point.
At specific elevations, the temperature of boiling water could fall within the best coffee brewing temperature range.
Brewing Temperature vs. Serving Temperature
The temperature you brew coffee isn’t the same as the temperature you will serve it to your guests. Giving coffee to guests at over 200°F would be dangerous, and they would have to wait a long time for it to cool to a drinkable temperature.
Choosing a temperature to serve your coffee can help to enhance the flavors and allow your guests to enjoy the best of the coffee, including all the flavor notes.
A 2006 study examining what temperature consumers preferred to drink coffee at in the Journal of Food Science found that the ideal temperature for coffee was 62.8 to 68.3°C (145°F to 154.9°F) before the participants added any milk or creamer to drop the temperature further.
The study found:
- Higher temperatures were also preferred by those who liked a stronger coffee, so serving coffee above 154.9°F could help bring out the bitter notes some coffee drinkers prefer.
- A lower serving temperature could help acidic and brighter notes, especially in light roasts blossom in the cup.
What About Cold Brewing?
Brewing hot coffee at the ideal temperature takes anywhere between 2-4 minutes for a french press and 5minutes or more for a drip machine.
Still, cold brewing coffee takes much longer, from 10 or 11 hours at room temperature to over 16 hours with water that has been iced or chilled in the fridge. Extraction is a process that takes less time with heat but can still produce an excellent cup of cold coffee.
The upside to cold-brewed coffee is that it’s less acidic and lighter in taste, but only if made in advance. It won’t be ready to grab before you go to the office in the morning like hot coffee. Check out our recipe for how to make cold brew coffee at home.
Keeping a consistent temperature when brewing coffee is one of the most important parts of brewing, and the best coffee temperature for most applications will be between 195°F and 205°F.
In order to achieve a consistent and accurate reading of your kettle’s water temperature, it’s essential to properly gauge the temperature of your water before brewing. Using a thermometer or a kettle with a built-in temperature display could make or break your next cup of coffee.
Once you have had the perfect brew, you’ll be glad you took a moment to get things right from the start with these simple tips.
Now that you know all about coffee temperature, check out these other useful tips on how to make a perfect cup of coffee.