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Water and Coffee: Understanding How Temperature Affects Your Cup


Water and Coffee: Understanding How Temperature Affects Your Cup

When it comes to making a delicious cup of coffee, you need to know how to balance several factors, including brew ratio, grind size, brewing time, etc. But one of the most overlooked variables happens to be the thing that makes your coffee piping hot – temperature. Let’s take a look at how brewing temperature affects your coffee, whether there’s an ideal temperature, and the gadgets you can use to control it.


How Does Water Temperature Affect Your Coffee?


Water temperature is essential in the brewing process because it affects the rate of extraction. Extraction refers to the flavors and substances that are dissolved from the coffee beans into your cup. The hotter the water, the quicker it is to extract compounds such as oils, acids, and caffeine. Each of these substances has a different impact on the coffee’s flavor, and at a higher temperature, it’s tougher to control the rate of extraction. This can lead to over-extraction, making your coffee taste too bitter since the heat strips away a lot of oxygen.


On the flipside, under-extraction can happen if your water temperature is too low. When coffee is under-extracted, it can cause a sour taste and lack of body. This flavor profile occurs because the oils aren’t extracted, leaving the coffee without body or sweetness and bitterness to provide balance.  Cold brew, though, is an exception. Its extended brew time compensates for the lower temperature. 


Is There a Perfect Coffee Brewing Temperature?


According to the National Coffee Association, the ideal water temperature for extraction is between 195°F and 205°F, which is a little below the boiling point of water — 212°F. What’s handy about this temperature range is that it works across all brewing methods. Whether you prefer the pour-over method, the French press, or something else, just stick within that temperature range, and you’re good to go. 


You may need to raise or lower the temperature depending on the type of roast you’re brewing. For a lighter roast, brew your coffee at a slightly higher temperature because it will help speed up the extraction process a bit. Brew a darker roast at a lower temperature to avoid over-extraction and minimize the potential for bitter flavors. 


What Equipment Do I Need to Control the Temperature?


A thermometer is one of the most useful tools to have in your coffee arsenal. A traditional one is always reliable, but if you want to go high-end, an infrared laser thermometer is a good choice because it allows you to measure temperatures from a distance. Whether it’s a regular or laser thermometer, be sure to measure the slurry – the mass of coffee and water in the filter during brewing.


An electric gooseneck kettle is another helpful gadget to achieve the ideal water temperature. To make things even easier, look for a kettle with an adjustable temperature feature, so you set it to the right temperature every time. 


If you own a simple drip coffee maker, you may want to consider an upgrade. Why? Unless certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), most drip coffee makers can’t reach an ideal brewing temperature. 


This all may seem a little extreme just for a morning cup of joe. However, if you want to get the most out of your java, being precise and accurate about water brewing temperature can make a world of difference.