What’s the best water temperature for coffee brewing? Don’t put the kettle on before you read this!
We put a lot of faith in our kettles. We fill ‘em up, flick the switch and pour away, kind of assuming that they know what they’re doing about finding the best temp to brew coffee. Because that’s what kettles do, right? Give us hot water. And hot water is what we need for coffee brewing.
Well, yes. And no. Because there’s a bit more to coffee water temperature than just ‘hot’…
We’re on the case.
Water temperature for coffee: why does it matter?
Water is key. We’d even say it’s more important to your coffee than it is to us humans. Because we’re only 60% water – our coffees are a mighty 98.75% H20.
So, yes, water matters. And water temperature matters, like, BIG time. It’s a HOT topic.
Using the right temperature to brew coffee is vital for getting pinpoint-perfect extraction. When extracted correctly, a cup of coffee tastes effortlessly balanced and beautifully sweet: you’ve hit bull’s-eye and found the coffee’s ‘sweet spot’.
Adding hot water to coffee grounds gives more energy for chemical reactions. This means that compounds like acids, oils, aroma and caffeine start to extract.
These compounds all extract at different rates. Acidic, fruity flavours extract first, followed by sweetness and balance, and finally bitterness and caffeine. As such, increasing the water temperature doesn’t just put the foot down on extraction – it also changes the types and proportions of compounds extracted.
- Using water that is too cold will under-extract your lovely coffee. Sad face 😓 The compounds aren’t extracted enough, or you’ll have too many acidic compounds and not enough sweet ones. If you were looking at some scales, they’d be more than a bit wonky.
- Feeling the heat and used water that was too hot? This gives us an over-extracted cup. Too many bitter-tasting compounds extract to give a cup that tastes – you guessed it – bitter.
Does hot water make coffee stronger?
Yup, it sure does. Coffee is never going to be a sun-worshipper. It likes heat, but not heat-heat.
Remember those acids we mentioned a moment ago? Using too-hot water makes them start to decay. It also makes more of the bitterness and caffeine extract, which need more energy to wiggle their way out.
That punk rock strength might be for you, but most cups made with too-hot water will over-extract and taste bitter, astringent and (too) strong.
We keep nattering on about too-hot, but what is too-hot? Let’s stop with the cloak-and-dagger and give you a number. So, in general, any hot water that’s above 205°F (96°C) is too steamy for your coffee. Coffee has a delicate soul, after all…
Does water temperature affect caffeine?
We know cups taste strong with hotter water, but are they stronger inside? Will using a scorching water temp to brew coffee give you a bounce-off-the-walls caffeine kick?
You already know that compounds in coffee extract at different rates, with caffeine and bitterness being some of the last to come out. Using hotter water gives more energy to the brew, meaning that more of the caffeine compounds extract. Caffeine tastes bitter, so a bitter cup often indicates one with more caffeine.
But don’t worry: one sip of a strong-tasting coffee ain’t gonna send you into a spin. The increase in caffeine will be marginal. The main result of over-extraction will be that bitter taste.
Okay, tell me… what is the best temperature for coffee brewing?
Ground coffee will extract in any water that’s close to boiling. Some coffeeholics, however, say that there’s one optimum temperature for brewing. This is (they say) the golden figure, the supreme number that makes awesome cups every single time.
And what is this fine figure, I hear you ask. For many, the best temperature for coffee brewing is 200°F (93.33°C). This is what the Specialty Coffee Association recommend, so we trust it’s a good shout.
Getting water down to the degree is tricky, so aim for a water temp somewhere in 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C) range, and you’ll be good to go!
Does the temperature depend on the type of coffee?
The first camp of coffee lovers say there’s one golden temperature. “Nay!” say the second “we must alter the temperature depending on the type of coffee!”
They’ve got a solid case: there are a few factors you might want to consider when deciding on your brewing temp…
Denser coffee beans like to cling to their compounds. As such, they require a tad more energy to get a balanced extraction:
- Light roast coffee beans have a denser cell structure because they contain slightly more caffeine. This makes hotter water – marginally hotter water – a good shout. Use a water temp in the range of 206°F-208°F (96°C – 97.8°C), and you’ll extract the balancing sugar sweetness as well as the light roast’s trademark acidity.
- Darker roasts are less dense and contain an itsy bit less caffeine. Less dense beans don’t require as much energy to extract, so you’ll be able to use a lower temperature for a super-smooth brew. De-lish!
Wondering what’s the best water temp for pour over coffee? For cafetiere coffee? This one’s nice and easy – just set your sights on that in 195°F – 205°F (90°C – 96°C) range, and you’ll be on your way to perfect coffee!
We’re going to throw a spanner in the works with that don’t-brew-with-too-cold-water rule. Or the AeroPress is, at least. Because this nifty device makes awesome coffee at a range of temperatures.
How? It’s because the AeroPress is a pressure device. The pressure created by the AeroPress plunger accounts for the lower temperature to give you a well-extracted brew – even when using water that’s as low as 165°F (74°C)!
Just take a peek at these past AeroPress Championship winners. Many of their recipes recommend water temperatures between 175°F – 180°F (79°C – 82°C).
The ideal temperature for espresso machines is 195°F – 205°F (90°C – 96°C). Even though espresso machines are pressure brewers like AeroPresses, they don’t like lower water temperatures. It’s the combo of high temp and high pressure that makes espressos so formidable!
Sneak preview. In a minute, we’re going to tell you to leave your kettle to cool for a while once it’s boiled.
But right now, we’re going to tell you to ignore this advice if you’re using a Moka pot. Brewing with just-boiled water is the way forward with the Italiano Moka pot because it reduces the overall time the pot needs to spend on the stove. The result? A perfect stovetop coffee with lots of natural sweetness!
Help me make coffee brewing temperature easy!
All these temperatures and numbers can be a bit baffling. But don’t panic. There’s a simple trick you can use to brew awesome coffee at home. All you need to do is leave your kettle for 30 seconds after it’s boiled.
Water boils at 212°F (100°C), which is too hot for your precious grounds. Leaving the kettle to cool before you start to brew gives it enough time to come down to that optimum range.
You also want to steer well clear of water that’s still bubbling. This will make the grounds jiggle about as you pour and cause an uneven extraction.
You’re sussed with the water. But what about the grind size? Perfect them both, and you’ll have a heaven-made cup!
Guide to grinding