Does Coffee Vary With Temperature? (Explained)

Have you ever noticed that while sipping on your cup of coffee, the taste doesn’t remain exactly the same as the first sip?

Temperature plays a very important role in transforming your cup of joe. The fluctuations in temperature trigger the chemical reactions that cause changes in the taste and aroma of your coffee.

This is because as soon as your coffee starts to cool, you start to pick up on nuanced and delicate flavor notes. You get to noticed an aroma that you wouldn’t have been able to detect beforehand.

As the temperature of the coffee decreases, you may find that its taste has now moved towards a more sweet, fruity side.

Keep reading to know the science behind how temperature brings in changes to the taste and aroma of your coffee.

How does temperature affect coffee?

A beautiful cup of piping hot coffee

Temperature affects coffee in almost every stage of its preparation.

Coffee is an amazingly complex drink – containing over 1000 aroma compounds that make up the smell and taste we experience whilst brewing and drinking it.

Temperature is a great influencer in creating those aroma compounds during the roasting process. 

The increase in temperature causes reactions with the sugars, carbohydrates, and nitrogen compounds in the green beans. The heat causes the sugar to break down resulting in those familiar caramel notes in your coffee cup.

Water temperature is important in the brewing process too. 

While it seems a simple process, hot water running through ground coffee into a pot or cup is vital to ensure you get the most from it.

The temperature of the water has to be ideal to yield a great brew. 

If the water is too cold, coffee will be under-extracted and will taste flat.

In case of water being too hot, it can lead to over-extraction of the coffee grounds which significantly affects the quality and flavor of the coffee. The hotter the water, the faster it extracts oils, acids, and caffeine from the grounds.

Using manual brewing equipment can allow you to have control over the water temperature. You can also use a thermometer if you really want to be sure of the exact temperature.

What is the ideal temperature for brewing coffee?

The National Coffee Association states that the perfect water temperature for brewing coffee should be between 195°F and 205°F, which is just below the boiling point of water that is 212°F. 

Instead of stating a single figure for the perfect temperature of brewing coffee, I’ll be mentioning a range of temperatures that is assumed to be ideal for optimal extraction.

This is because the temperature of the water should be adjusted according to the following:

Bean type

Coffee beans tend to extract differently depending on their growing conditions and roast degree. More dense coffees are more difficult to extract and thus require comparatively hotter water.

Roast degree

  • Light roasts: It’s better to use very hot water – close to the boiling point when brewing very light roast coffee as it’s comparatively difficult to extract, and therefore, requires some additional help from high temperature.
  • Dark or Medium: Take the temperature down a notch to 200 °F or even lower. You can end up extracting bitter flavors of the coffee beans with a dark roast if you use water close to the boiling point.

Brewing method

The good thing about this temperature range is that it works with all the brewing methods.

Whether you prefer the French press, the pour-over method, or something else, just stay within that temperature range and you’re good to go.

Watch this video to know more about the ideal temperature for brewing coffee.

The perfect water temperature for brewing coffee.

Does temperature affect coffee extraction?

Temperature plays quite a significant role in extracting the flavor compounds from the coffee grounds into your cup. 

Every molecule of coffee has an optimum amount of flavor that is capable of being extracted with the help of hot water.

The hotter the water, the quicker it is to extract oils, acids, and caffeine from the coffee grounds. Each of these compounds has a unique impact on the flavor of your coffee.

When the temperature of the water increases, the water molecules start gaining more energy from the heat. 

Their movement becomes faster, resulting in an increase in the interaction between the coffee molecules and water molecules. 

The more these molecules interact with each other, the more extraction occurs. . In this process, water molecules dissolve more compounds from the coffee molecules which defines the taste and smell that we experience in our cups.

The use of low-temperature water wouldn’t help in the optimum extraction of aroma and flavor from the coffee grounds.

Let me clarify though that the process isn’t the same when it comes to drinks such as cold brew which are extracted for long hours at low temperatures (ranging from 22°C to 5°C).

This long process of extraction at low temperature allows the full extraction of sugar particles from the coffee grounds, resulting in a sweet-tasting drink. 

This is the reason why cold-brewed coffee has low levels of bitterness and astringency in it.

Making coffee is all about the perfect extraction of its compounds. Refer to the following table to understand the flavors attached with different extraction levels.

Under ExtractionIdeal ExtractionOver extraction
sourbalancedbitter
sharpsweetastringent
lacks sweetnessflavorfuldry
quick finishlingering finishlacks depth
Flavors extracted at different levels of extraction

Does temperature affect how coffee is dissolved?

Black coffee pouring down a white cup

The temperature does affect the dissolving rate of coffee.

Science has determined 3 main factors that impact the rate of dissolving of any substance. They include the surface area, temperatureand amount of mixing or stirring.

The temperature has a great impact on the solubility and volatility of the coffee compounds. 

Solubility is described as the ability of the coffee compounds (oils, acids, and other aromatic molecules) to dissolve out of the grounds into the water.

Volatility can be defined as the ability of coffee compounds to evaporate in the air. This evaporation of coffee compounds gives out the amazing aroma of coffee.

As stated above, coffee particles dissolve best at an ideal water temperature between 195-205°F.

Hot brewed coffees are known to be more full-bodied and flavorful than cold-brewed ones. This is due to the fact that high temperature increases the dissolving rate. Thus, more coffee solubles are extracted into the drink.

Furthermore, due to the increase in the volatility of the coffee compounds with higher temperatures, more aromatics are released from it.

This gives out that beloved scent of freshly-brewed coffee that we all desire in our cup. You can read more about this particular topic in this article I wrote to know more.

To sum it all up

Hot aromatic coffee in a mug

No matter how you love your coffee – piping hot or as a cold brew – it’s important to know that temperature has a great impact on the flavors and aroma you perceive in your cup.

Different blends of coffee will yield different flavors and aromas depending on what temperature they’re prepared.

Making coffee is all about extraction.

Cooler brewing temperatures will result in a sour or flat-tasting coffee as the soluble compounds will not dissolve completely and the coffee will be under-extracted.

Warmer temperatures will over-extract the coffee grounds and can make it taste more on the bitter side.

The key to a perfect cup lies in sticking to the ideal temperature range.

To know about your preferences, try to take notes of what flavors and aromas you get to experience at different temperature ranges while brewing your cup of coffee. 

Try to identify the ideal temperature range for sweetness, acidity, and bitterness. 

Making a great cup of coffee is both science and art.

You can know all the right measurements of ingredients, ideal water temperatures, and own all the best equipment in the world but it still takes experimentation, practice, and experience to reflect perfection in your cup.

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Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

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