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What’s the ideal taste temperature for coffee?

Nov 08, 2019

It’s an altogether different question to one we’ve answered a little while ago in this coffee blog, how hot should the coffee be? Here, let’s look at the effect of temperature on taste. As anyone who works in a customer-facing role – and especially in cafés, pubs and takeaway sandwich shops – will know, you’re often under a lot of pressure to serve your customers speedily, especially around the lunchtime and pre-commuter-train rushes. And while, providing you’re brewing coffee at the right temperature, the temperature your customers end up drinking it at isn’t directly your concern, it’s worth conducting your own taste tests, to see what you think is the ideal taste temperature for coffee.

Wait until you’ve closed up for the day and pour yourself four coffees. An espresso, an Americano, a cappuccino and a flat white. We’d probably skip the latte, since between the cappuccino and the flat white, you’ve pretty much got it covered. Grab a thermometer, a pen and a pad of paper and get comfortable.

The ideal coffee temperature taste test

First off, don’t start drinking as soon as you’ve poured it. We know, we know, perhaps you’re one of those people with an asbestos mouth. But there are two things to consider here. Firstly, your typical customer doesn’t immediately knock back the freshly poured coffee. Even if they take a sip immediately, they’re likely to nurse it over the next 15 minutes or so. Secondly, some interesting research has just been published in the International Journal of Cancer. Yep, that’s the C word. According to a study of 50,000 people, drinking 700ml of tea at 60°C or higher could be associated with a 90% increased risk of developing oesophageal cancer. Scary stuff. The authors point out that it’s all about that temperature, so coffee, hot chocolate, soup…they’d all carry the same, greater risk if consumed at too high a heat. Food for thought.

So, give your coffees a chance to cool. Use your thermometer periodically and take a sip of each drink. Give each drink a mark out of 10, at five- or ten-degree intervals as the liquid cools, and note the time that’s passed since pouring.

By the time you’re into the heart of the coffee (the last swill from the bottom of the cup), you should have a fairly clear idea of the temperature range at which you most enjoyed each drink.

Sure, it’s not the most scientific taste test in the world, and not everybody’s tastes are the same, but at least you’ll be able to recommend how long your sit-in customers should wait to get the very best from their coffee. We found we enjoyed all of our coffees most at between 34°C and 60°C. Arguably, the cooler the better, peaking just before it gets to tepid. No bad thing to be outside of that increased carcinogen risk, we’re sure you’ll agree.

Nobody wants to be lectured about their health, but if you have regulars who want their coffee or tea served piping hot and immediately set about it, perhaps point them at this article. They might find they enjoy their coffee all the more if they follow your ideal temperature guide, and it could just mean a longer life as well.