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Why are temperatures so important when making coffee?

Have you ever wondered why the same coffee you make every morning sometimes has a different taste? Indeed, you pay great attention to the coffee beans you use, to the way you grind them, you have found the perfect ratio of water and you always use the cutest mug.

Well, the answer might be simpler than you think, it could be because of temperature! That might sound a bit strange but the temperature at which you brew your coffee can have a big impact on the cup of goodness you are trying to make. In this article we will tell you everything you need to know about water temperature and coffee making.

The art of extraction

Water is essential in the preparation of coffee since it is water that draws out the taste from the coffee grinds. This process is called “extraction”. The temperature of the water is critical in this process because if the water is too hot, you run the risk of over-extraction, which leaves the coffee tasting bitter, and if the water is too cold, you run the risk of under-extraction, which leaves the coffee weak and sometimes even sour in flavour.

While it is true that there are coffee brewing methods that make use of cold water, it is a completely different subject.

What happens when you combine coffee and water is quite interesting. Water dissolves a significant amount of the flavours included in coffee. When you sip a cup of coffee, these dissolved flavours account for everything you taste. The remainder is made up of undissolved matter. 

Roasted coffee beans contain around 28 percent (by weight) water-soluble compounds. These water-soluble compounds are what gives the taste to coffee. The rest is just plant matter. This is why we use filters, a big chunk of a coffee bean is not used in the coffee making process.

Water is fairly effective at dissolving soluble compounds, but it needs assistance. If you put a handful of coffee beans in a pot of boiling water, you won’t get much more out of them than the outer layer. 

In order to get as much flavour, we must increase the surface of the coffee beans available in order for the water to easily absorb all of the flavour. This is why we grind coffee instead of just using the roasted beans. It reduces the size of the beans, expanding the extraction surface area and allowing the water to do its job more effectively.

However, do not get too overzealous when grinding your coffee as a too fine grind will make the cup of coffee taste extremely bitter and unpleasant.

We know what you are thinking, at this point, coffee making seems to be more difficult than rocket science! But don’t worry it is just a question of finding the right balance.

The perfect temperature

The ideal temperature to brew coffee is 96°C. No more, no less. This means that you shouldn’t use boiling water when making coffee as water boils at 100°C. Using too hot water could destroy some of the aroma and flavour of your coffee. To avoid this, you can use a thermometer or invest in a kettle/coffee machine with temperature settings.

The importance of cooling down

When you serve coffee at temperatures below 50°C, you will notice a substantial difference in the flavours and fragrances. As the coffee cools, it becomes more difficult to distinguish aromas, which is mostly due to a decrease in the amount of vapour created.

Bitterness begins to diminish, allowing for the development of more complex flavour characteristics. The greatest amount of flavours can be noticed when the temperature is between 31 and 50 degrees Celsius. This is the range of temperatures you want to reach.

When the temperature is around 44°C, the sweetness is at its peak. Around 42°C, the bitterness is the least noticeable.

The temperature range between 31 and 37 degrees Celsius is when the smallest alterations can have the most interesting consequences. During this temperature range, the presence of volatile chemicals linked with the flavour notes of sugary, fruity, flowery, herbal, acidic, and nutty become more noticeable. The defining features of a cup of coffee are best experienced in this environment.

Acidity is best sensed at lower temperatures, such as 25°C, as opposed to higher temperatures, such as 44°C or 70°C.

The cold brew case

In contrast to ordinary hot coffee, cold-brewed coffee extracts oils and caffeine from coffee beans come through in time rather than heat. An immersion technique is used in this instance. Coffee grounds and cold water are left to “brew” for an extended period of time (typically between 18 to 24 hours), after which the coffee is filtered and served. The resulting brew is considered as a concentrate, and it is typically served over ice to ensure maximum flavour.

Hopefully, this article has made the world of coffee making a little bit less confusing and has given you all the knowledge you need to make a damn good cup of coffee. If you want to learn more about the subject you can visit our website and blog.  If you are looking for coffee catering for any event, get in contact with us. 

We are going to leave you now, it’s time for our coffee break!

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