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What is the correct temperature to serve coffee?

South Africans have traditionally brewed our instant coffee with boiling water, it’s time to learn the correct method and to use pure coffee.

Let’s start with the facts: (i) Coffee is best served at a temperature between 65 deg. C to 80 deg. C. (ii) If you really want to taste (as compared to relax and enjoy) the actual coffee, the closer to room temperature is the best and the less additives such as milk and sugar, the better.

Let’s stick to fact one which is the important one when it comes to serving guests good coffee. It’s a simple measurement, use a food or coffee thermometer, one which has a small/appropriate scale.

When using a traditional espresso machine or barista, the coffee itself (your espresso shot) is pretty much out of your control but your milk is not. Milk should be prepared at between 60-70 deg c. At 75 deg. C milk can begin to scald (burn/change flavour) and it will then dominate your carefully selected and freshly roasted coffee.

Let me start by saying that boiling water should never be used for any coffee, instant or otherwise. The boiled water actually changes the flavour of the coffee. The problem is those who are used to over-heated instant coffee are used to waiting for their coffee to cool while they chat, move around or do something else until the coffee is ready for drinking at under 80 deg C (above). Now if they wait before drinking professionally prepared coffee which started off at the desired temperature - they will now find the coffee too cold - even at a coffee shop or restaurant. The coffee, although served correctly, will be far colder than they are used to. Machine and professionally prepared coffee is designed to be consumed immediately after brewing.

Cold cups

This doesn’t only apply in winter but also in summer. A porcelain cup absorbs the ambient temperature of let’s say 14 deg.C overnight. In winter, this could go as low as say 2 deg.C. It stands to reason that if you pour a well prepared coffee (at say 70 deg. C) into a cold cup, the coffee cannot defend itself against the cold porcelain and will quickly lose its heat and the temperature of the brew will fall below the desired warmth.

What do I do?

If you have a traditional machine, it is essential to have a milk thermometer. Your barista’s need to be trained and to be cautioned against milk that is either too hot or to cold. Traditional machines usually have a cup warming platform on top of the machine to guard against cold cups…use it!

If you have an automatic machine and are using this for milk preparation you need to ensure the machine is at it’s warmest setting (most good machines have this facility). If this is still not acceptable, you need to pre-warm your cups, either with hot water from a kettle or tap. Consider a hot-tray/food warmer or better still, we sell a Jura cup-warmer which is designed for this purpose.


Buy a milk thermometer now             Buy a cup-warmer now    

If the problem is still not solved, go back to the machine itself and test the coffee temperature immediately after preparation. It is unlikely, but still possible, that the machine is faulty.

“Boiled coffee is spoiled coffee.”

You now know the correct temperature, your coffee is at the correct temperature but guests are still unhappy?

This is usually caused by one of three reasons. The first because it was actually served outside one of the recommended temperatures  or the customer is more accustomed to instant coffee made from boiled water or your coffee cups/mugs are too cold.

Instant coffee using boiled water