In order to brew delicious coffee with a rich, well-rounded flavor, a lot of different variables have to be balanced.
One important variable which is often overlooked is the temperature of the water used to brew the coffee. The water temperature in coffee brewing plays a large role in the coffee's flavor. Fortunately, it is also one of the easiest variables to control.
When you understand how your coffee is affected by the water temperature, you can consistently and reliably make coffee that is perfect for you to enjoy, and you can easily adjust the finished coffee simply by altering the water temperature slightly.
Here is some information on exactly how the temperature of the water affects coffee.
The Role of Water in Coffee Extraction
Substances are extracted from coffee grounds more quickly the hotter the water is.
A balanced extraction can be made in only 2-4 minutes using water that is close to boiling. On the flip side, cold brew coffee, which is made with room temperature water, will take between 3 and 24 hours to extract.
The ideal temperature for brewing coffee is 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
This temperature range is hot enough to make a quick extraction but not so hot that the process is uncontrollable. If coffee is over 205 degrees Fahrenheit, it tends to rapidly over-extract things, leaving you with coffee that is too bitter.
Meanwhile, water temperatures below 195 degrees tend to have more difficulty extracting, making your coffee underdeveloped and sour. However, this temperature range is not some kind of objective gold standard. It is simply what most people in the world find to be helpful.
You do not have to stay within this range, but leaving it is best left to very experienced coffee brewers. Some coffee professionals like to use lower temperatures. In 2013, a finalist in the World Aeropress Championship used 176-degree water.
Another well-known figure in the world of coffee uses 190-degree water in an Aeropress. This can be done if you have experience and a high level of control over other variables.
However, most people like to stick with the tried-and-true range of 195 to 205 degrees.
How to Get Consistent, Reliable Water Temperature
Do you want to easily and consistently get your water to the right temperature?
If you do so, making coffee will be easy and the water temperature variable will be consistent as opposed to in constant need of adjustment.
In order to achieve this, the first thing to do is find the elevation in which you live.
At sea level, the boiling point of water is212 degrees Fahrenheit. At higher elevations, however, the boiling point of water is lower. At 3,000 ft elevation, such as in the high plains of Texas, water boils at 206 degrees Fahrenheit.
In Boulder, Colorado, which is at 5,000 ft elevation, water will boil at 202 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you live somewhere where water boils between 198 and 205 degrees, you are in luck. In this case, you can simply use boiling water.
If you live at sea level, you will need to let the water cool for a couple of minutes after boiling. You can use a thermometer and a stopwatch to tell how long you need to wait for the water to cool to the right temperature. Depending on your environment and your kettle, it could be between 1 and 5 minutes.
If you are close to sea level, you don't have to preheat your coffee brewer. With a boiling temperature slightly above 205 degrees, the coffee brewer will instantly cool down the water to the appropriate range.
If you live at a very high elevation in which water boils lower than 198 degrees, it can get a bit more tricky.
Your coffee is at risk of being under-extracted. In this scenario, you will have to tweak your brewing process a bit.
Some things you can try include preheating your brewing vessel to reduce temperature loss when water is poured in, as well as brewing for longer or grinding the coffee finer to make it extract more easily.
Should You Try to Alter Coffee's Flavor by Changing Water Temperature?
It is possible to manipulate water temperature in order to achieve specific flavors in your coffee.
However, it is difficult to do consistently without specialized equipment. You can buy a special kettle that will heat water to specific temperatures. Such a device is handy to have but can cost $85 or more and are still limited in their precision.
If you want to improve your coffee, you might do better with keeping the water temperature in the ideal range and adjusting a different variable, like the grind size, to make subtle changes to your finished brew.
We designed a coffee grinder, the KONA Manual Burr Grinder so that you can refine the flavor of your coffee without having to mess around too much with water temperature and other inconsistent variables.
When you make coffee, the water temperature variable should be easy to systematize in such a way that you will never have to worry about it again. The more inconsistent variables you can turn into constants, the more balanced your coffee will be.
Just remember - the best temperature for brewing coffee is 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can remember that, you will be on your way to brewing delicious, consistent coffee.