What is the best temperature for brewing coffee? Some people will tell you to brew at 100 degrees. Others will claim that 93.3 degrees is the perfect temperature. Those in a third camp will tell you ‘it depends.’ We look at the reasoning behind all three positions.
What is the best temperature for brewing coffee? The official answer
If you have ever been told that you should always brew coffee at 93.3°C, the source for that value is almost certainly the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCA), and that exact figure is purely due to the conversion of 200°F to the Celsius scale we use in the UK.
The actual SCA heritage cupping standard is a range of 2°F around that value (approximately 92.2°C to 94.4°C). An even broader range of 90°C to 97°C is used as a guide by many coffee establishments.
However, before you set your boiler temperature to this value, it’s worth taking a look at other schools of thought, because the SCA cupping standard is thought by some to be outdated.
What is the best temperature for brewing coffee? The case for boiling point
There are some people who advocate for a brewing temperature of 100°C, or as close as possible to that value. What is the reasoning behind this high value?
When brewing, optimal extraction depends on several factors. Some are related to the coffee (bean density, roast, grind, etc.), and the rest are related to the extraction process, mainly the temperature of the water and the contact time between bean and water.
The hotter the water, the more efficient a solvent it becomes. And since you can see and hear water boiling, it is also one of the easiest factors to keep constant.
People in favour of a 100°C brewing temperature argue that extraction can be optimised by adjusting contact time and grind size.
What is the best temperature for brewing coffee? The connoisseur’s approach
While the first two answers to the question, ‘what is the best temperature for brewing coffee?’ has resulted in exact figures (or ranges), this final answer is far less prescriptive.
Coffee connoisseurs argue that every part of the brewing process has to be fine-tuned to create the perfect cup of coffee.
For example, lowering water temperature, reducing contact time or increasing grind size will all reduce the bitterness of a dark roast, but there may be subtle differences to the end result with each method. This approach treats extraction as an art, not a mathematical equation to be solved.
For the coffee expert, it’s all about experimentation and subjective experience. ‘It depends’ isn’t necessarily the most satisfying answer to the question, especially for the business owner, but it is likely to be the most accurate one.
Finally, a coffee shop or restaurant owner must consider the safety of their customers and the efficiency of their business.
Brewing at 100°C may make sense from a consistency perspective, but the resulting cup of coffee will be quite hot for the customer, which increases the risk of scald accidents. It also means that sit-in customers will have to wait longer before they can comfortably enjoy their drink (a study showed that the average preferred drinking temperature of coffee is around 60°C). Every minute the customer has to wait for their coffee to cool before drinking it reduces your efficiency as a business. Those minutes add up.
Of course, you should avoid the opposite situation. It is a common novice barista error to brew at a low temperature before pouring the coffee into a cold cup. By the time they have added milk, the brew is luke warm!
So, aiming for the lower end of the SCA range may be the best strategy to look after customer safety and maximise throughput while keeping most coffee drinkers happy most of the time.
One thing you shouldn’t be compromising on is quality. As such, we highly recommend you only buy SCA-grade coffee beans. Check out our generous range of hand-picked SCA-grade coffees from around the world.