If you love coffee and if you’ve sampled many cups of java in your life then you’ve probably come across the infamous, just-not-quite-right cup of joe. Whether it’s burnt and bitter or thin and watery, nothing ruins the day quite like a cup of disappointment.
The good news is that a lot of these bad experiences come back to the brewing temperature. There is an optimal coffee brewing temperature that will extract the best out of your beans. To help you to avoid an unpleasant coffee experience I’ve created this coffee temperature brewing guide to highlight different brew methods and their ideal temperatures so you can brew your next coffee with confidence.
Optimal Coffee Brewing Temperature
The optimal coffee brewing temperature for beautifully balanced coffee falls between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (90-96C). If the water is too cold then the coffee tastes thin and under-extracted. Higher temperatures will lead to the over-extraction of bitter flavors and will give the coffee a burnt taste.
The ideal temperature can vary with many different factors from brewing method to brew time so although this temperature range is optimal, you still have to consider how you’re planning to make your coffee.
Optimal Coffee Blooming Temperature
Blooming is the process of pouring a little hot water over the coffee grounds to allow them to swell and warm up before you add the rest of the water. During this process, the coffee beans release carbon dioxide which can cause the grounds to bubble and move around. This movement can impact the coffee flavor as it’s brewing and the more CO2 you release during blooming, the less dissolves into your coffee resulting in lower acidity.
The perfect water temperature for coffee blooming is actually the same as the optimal brewing temperature. Coffee should be allowed to bloom for up to 30 seconds before you move on with the brewing process.
Time vs Grind Size
There is a relationship between the brewing time and the coffee grind size you use. If the brewing time is very short, in order for the barista to maximize flavor extraction, the quicker brewing process should use very finely ground coffee.
For cold brewing, the lower temperatures need a long time to allow all the soluble coffee flavors to infuse. Alongside the cold brew temperature, coffee professionals know you need to set your grinder to a very coarse setting to ensure you end up with an even extraction and good coffee.
French press coffee is best when the temperature of the water is at the optimal 195-205F. This is a medium-length brew time of 4 minutes after your 30 second blooming time. This brew method uses very coarsely ground coffee.
Pour-over coffee and drip coffee makers are very similar in how they make a delicious cup of coffee. They use a medium-fine grind size and the water temperature conforms to the optimal 195-205F. The time that is taken to brew coffee really depends on fast the water passes through the coffee and filter paper.
It’s important to make sure your drip coffee maker is set to the right temperature. You can submit your machines to the specialty coffee association to test if passes all the necessary requirements.
Espresso uses high pressure and a short brew time to extract an intense flavor. The quick process of making espresso means you have to use very finely ground coffee. Despite these changes, the temperature still adheres to the optimal 195-205F as this value is ideal for great coffee.
The Moka pot works using the boiling point of water to create pressure through the coffee grounds. Boiling water passes quickly through the medium-finely ground coffee. The hotter water can result in a more bitter taste throughout the coffee but this is minimized by using pre-heated water rather than cold water. Place the pot over medium heat and cool it down the moment the coffee is ready to stop the extraction process rapidly.
The Aeropress needs water that conforms to the optimal 195-205F. As the water contacts the coffee for a fairly short time of around 2.5 minutes you want to use a medium-fine grind. Some people use a lower temperature of 175-185F (80-85C) for their Aeropress to extract a lighter, more mellow coffee with less bitter notes.
Cold brew coffee is a slow extraction process that uses either room temperature water or fridge temperature. The cold water slows the flavor extraction from the coffee so it needs to be left for anywhere from 12-24 hours. Cold-brew coffee needs very coarsely ground coffee beans and results in a sweeter, less acidic cup of joe.
The percolator is an easy way to produce large volumes of hot coffee without much effort. An issue with these devices is that the water boils repeatedly to brew the coffee. This inevitably results in a bitter brew. Percolator coffee is best served with cream or sugar unless you’re a fan of these intense flavors.
How To Assess Temperature
So now we have covered the perfect coffee brewing temperatures, you may be wondering how exactly do I measure the water temperature to ensure I’m hitting the mark?
There are a few ways that you can ensure your brewing temperature is ideal.
The first is to boil the kettle and leave it for a minute. The water will cool quickly and when you pour it over your coffee it should have dropped to 205F or less.
Another, more accurate way to make sure your water is just right is to use a thermometer. A cooking probe works well as does a milk jug with a thermometer attachment. Any kind of thermometer that is waterproof is fine to use as long as it hasn’t been near anyone’s rear end.
Some kettles come with a temperature gauge built in so you can set it to heat the water to this optimal temperature. Some coffee making kettles will even hold the water at this temperature for you which is very useful.
You even get specially shaped kettles to give you lots of control over just how you pour water over your coffee grounds. They’re called gooseneck kettles and many of them come with built-in thermometers.
Finally, drip machines with a calibrated heating element should heat the water to the optimal temperature which means you don’t need to worry about it, just add the cold water and you’re good to go!
The water temperature used to brew your morning java is actually a key player in the resultant flavor. Water just off the boil will give you a bitter brew whereas water that’s too cold will lead to a flat, less than exciting brew with some important flavors missing out on the action.
Most brewing methods require the water to balance somewhere between 195-205F so this is an ideal temperature range to aim for, no matter which brew method you prefer.