How Hot Should Coffee Be Served?

By Shabbir
Last update:

The average coffee drinker has a preference when it comes to the temperature of their morning brew. Some like it piping hot, say just under boiling, and others enjoy a lukewarm cup. What’s the perfect temperature for your daily dose of caffeine?

Read on to discover the best temperature for coffee for maximum enjoyment.

How Hot Should Coffee Be Served?

Coffee Brewing temperature and serving temperature

The water temperature for brewing coffee and the temperature for serving coffee are two very different things.

Brewing Temperature:

According to SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) standards, the water temperature to brew coffee should be between 195°F – 205°F [1]. This ensures that all soluble material has been thoroughly extracted from the coffee beans without any burnt or bitter aftertaste. If the temperature is below that, the brewed coffee will be under-extracted.

Serving temperature

The SCAA also notes that within minutes of brewing coffee, its flavor peaks and it should be consumed immediately before the flavors degrade and turn bitter. If you’re not in a rush to drink your morning brew, you can store it in an insulated container on your countertop or desk.

One notable exception to this rule is cold brew, which is brewed much colder and enjoyed at either the same or even lower temperatures.

What temperature should coffee be served at ideally?

While there is no absolute best temperature for hot coffee, you should know that the right temperature to drink coffee is actually a range rather than an absolute number.

It just depends on your preference. If you’re the type of person who likes to drink their coffee quickly, then it’s best that you consume it while it is still hot, around 175°F – 185°F degrees. If you are not in a rush and prefer drinking coffee later, store it in an insulated container so it stays hot for longer.

Each temperature range tends to bring out a different flavor.

If you want to try this yourself, make a cup of hot, black coffee and take a sip at varying temperatures. (Read this article to learn how to enjoy drinking black coffee.)

Wait a few moments between each sip and notice the difference in flavors!

One trend that you will notice is that coffee tastes more acidic the more you let it cool.

The best way to describe the range of coffee drinking temperatures is:

  • Right off the brew (180 degrees F): Warmth in your body
  • Slightly cooled (150-170 degrees F): Flavorful and balanced; here, you’ll be able to pick up on the many flavor notes
  • Cool (120 degrees f): Very acidic

The science of flavor and temperature

When you drink your coffee at different temperatures, the temperature can affect how our taste buds are able to pick up on certain flavors.

Coffee is an acidic beverage that has many complex flavor notes that change depending on its temperature. While there have not been any studies that specifically focused on coffee temperature, studies have been done on general food and drink.

The research found that hotter temperatures brought out more sweetness and bitterness, and lower temperatures brought out sourness and saltiness (which would explain why cooler coffee tastes more acidic).

This change also happens because of how temperature affects our ability to smell things!

Because of the laws of thermodynamics, when something gets hotter or colder, this affects the volatility of its molecules. This means that when coffee is hotter, it should be more volatile and we are able to smell it better.

However, unlike the studies of taste and temperature [2], there have been no studies of smell and temperature.

What do baristas say?

Baristas don’t necessarily agree on what the perfect temperature is for hot coffee.

Some baristas say that it’s best to drink black coffee while still hot, around 175°F – 185°F degrees and let milk-based drinks cool down a little bit more before drinking them; they often run too hot at temperatures closer to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, this can end up masking many of coffee’s subtle flavors.

Others recommend letting your cup of joe sit for about ten minutes after pouring in order to better enjoy a wider range of flavor notes.

If you’re in an extreme hurry, you can put ice cubes into your hot coffee so that the temperature drops quickly without needing to add extra water and diluting the taste.

However, not all people will like how this changes the flavor of their coffee, and it may be better to just let the coffee sit for a few minutes instead!

So what temperature should you drink your coffee at?

A nice, warm cup of coffee is best enjoyed when it’s not too hot and the temperature has been lowered just enough to allow for a cool sip.

Everyone has different heat tolerances, so some people will enjoy a hotter cup, while others may prefer to let the coffee cool a little.

The ideal temperature for coffee that will suite the widest range of tastes is between 140 to 150 degrees F.

This way, the coffee is not hot enough to scald your mouth and the desired flavors are shining through.

What’s most important is to enjoy your cup of coffee. Whether you prefer the body-warming heat of a freshly brewed cup, or the tongue-tickling acidity of a cooler cup is your thing, coffee is meant to be enjoyed!




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About Shabbir

Shab is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee Brewster. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.