Temperature is one of the most important aspects of coffee extraction, which is why so many coffee kettles have thermometers. However, many coffee enthusiasts boil the water and immediately begin pouring it to brew their coffee, but is that the best idea? Not necessarily. So, if you can find an optimal brewing temperature, your brewed coffee will be better for it.
This guide details the effects of water temperature on coffee flavor and explores what the best water temperature is for brewing coffee. Let’s find out more.
What Is The Perfect Coffee Brewing Temperature?
The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) recommends a Golden Cup Standard between 195 °F and 205 °F as the optimum coffee brewing temperature. We have quoted this range many times in our coffee brew guides.
“Coffee Preparation Temperature: To achieve the Golden Cup Standard, water temperature, at the point of contact with coffee, is recommended to fall between 200°F ± 5° (93.0°C ± 3°).“Quote from https://sca.coffee/research/protocols-best-practices
However, while this is a good rule of thumb for most coffees, a different temperature might suit your tastes even if it doesn’t meet the Golden Cup Standard.
If you don’t want to experiment until you find the best brew temperature for you, we suggest aiming for that SCA-recommended 200°F (93.0°C). Why? Because it’s been tested by coffee professionals as the perfect temperature for the optimal extraction of most beans, and it’s easy to remember. So, as a starting point, it’s ideal, but don’t be afraid to experiment with higher or lower temperatures until you find your sweet spot.
Will Boiling Water Burn Your Coffee?
Boiling water will extract the more bitter compounds of the coffee beans, which results in a burned or smoky aroma, hence why many coffee lovers say that boiling water can burn or ruin the beans.
In reality, boiling water simply extracts more flavor. During the roasting process, coffee beans are sometimes roasted to temperatures over 420 °F (220 °C). Therefore, having already been exposed to significantly higher temperatures, 212 °F (100 °C) won’t significantly affect the coffee taste. In other words, boiling water won’t make the coffee roast any darker or create more coffee flavors than the roasting process.
Nevertheless, sometimes, people will say you’ll ruin the coffee if you use boiling water. If you’re concerned about that but don’t have the time to find the perfect temperature, we suggest using off-boil water. Doing this will ensure the water is hot enough for extraction. It’s also a good way of finding a relatively consistent temperature if you don’t have a variable temperature kettle or a thermometer.
There’s another thing to keep in mind to allay fears that the water is too hot, too – because of heat transfer, the moment you pour your water to the coffee grounds in a pour-over or French press, the water temperature will be lower than the boiling point. So, even if you have a pre-heated coffee pot, as soon as the water meets the ground coffee, it won’t be too hot.
Adjust The Brew Temperatures
Of course, everyone has different tastes, so if you’d rather not use 200 °F water, feel free to tweak the temperature based on your brewing method, roast level of the coffee, and your tastes.
Ideal Water Temperature For Different Roasts
If you’re using light roast coffee, 200 °F is a good starting point. However, if you find it hard to extract the complex, subtle flavor of the beans, aim for 205 °F.
If you’re using medium or dark roasts, a lower temperature around 185 °F to 190 °F should produce a sweeter, less bitter cup of coffee.
Because of a longer roasting time and higher roasting temperature, darker roasted coffee has fewer soluble compounds. Therefore, hotter water tends to over-extract the coffee resulting in more bitterness.
Light roast coffee is denser, but the cell structure doesn’t break down in the way it does with darker roasts. Therefore, the hotter the water, the better it can extract flavor from the light roast beans, leading to a more complex and flavorful coffee.
Here are the temperatures we recommend for each roast:
- Light roast: 200 °F (93 °C)
- Medium roast: 190 °F (88 °C)
- Dark roast: 185 °F (85 °C)
Ideal Water Temperature For Different Brewing Methods
Pour-Over Coffee Temperature
With pour-over, the coffee grounds are held in the paper filter inside the dripper. Therefore, when you pour water onto the coffee grounds, it can be hard to trap the water’s heat in the brewing process.
Our experiments used boiling water on the coffee grounds, which led to the saturated grounds reaching a peak inner temperature of around 202°F (94 °C).
Also, pour-over requires you to bloom the water for between 30 and 45 seconds, which leads to a further drop in the temperature of the water.
So if you’re using a pour-over dripper, high water temperatures are fine. Not only that but light to medium roasts are best for pour-over, which leads to better extraction with hotter water. Cold water can lead to under-extracted coffee, which doesn’t taste good as well. You can use the SCA recommended brewing temperature between 195 °F and 205 °F to make great coffee with a pour over dripper.
French Press Coffee Temperature
French press is an immersion method, and it is easier to retain the heat as coffee grounds steep in a larger volume of hot water in the brewer. Also, you can trap that heat even more effectively by placing the plunger with a lid on top of it.
The longer brewing time also helps the extraction, so you can use a lower temperature. Finally, medium and dark roasts are best for French press, which are also ideal using water at lower temperatures. 190 °F to 195 °F should be a good, you can make adjustments according to the beans you use.
AeroPress Coffee Temperature
The AeroPress is an extremely versatile brewer, and, as there are many ways to brew coffee with it, the ideal brewing temperature can vary. Using the AeroPress, you can use upright or inverted brew methods, different coffee to water ratios, different grind sizes, and different brewing times. If you look at the recipes used in the World AeroPress Championships, you’ll find water temperatures ranging from 167 °F to 197°F (75°C – 92°C).
Drip Coffee Temperature
If you are using one of the drip coffee makers to prepare your coffee at home, try to find an SCA-certified coffee maker. With that seal, you are guaranteed that you can enjoy coffee brewed at the perfect coffee brewing temperature, brew time and brew ratio, so the final cup will be more satisfying.
Many coffee makers fail to heat the water to a higher temperature and make under-extracted coffee.
Adjust The Water Temperature According To Your Taste
Bear in mind that several factors affect a coffee’s flavor, including grind size, brewing time, and roast type. So, if you’re happy with those elements but still aren’t entirely happy, try adjusting the water temperature.
If the coffee is too acidic and has a sour taste, use slightly hotter water. Meanwhile, cooler water increases the acidity. If the coffee is too bitter and charred, try a lower water temperature to balance those roasty notes.
Finding the right temperature for your coffee may seem complex. However, once you’ve identified how the temperature affects the flavor, it’s not too difficult to tweak to find the ideal temperature range. We suggest you start with the recommended brewing temperatures for particular roasts we listed earlier and, if necessary, tweak from there. If you do that, hopefully, you’ll soon be enjoying an even more satisfying hot coffee!