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What is the correct temperature to serve 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 fewer additives such as milk and sugar, the better.

Let’s stick to the 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 with 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), dominating your carefully selected and freshly roasted coffee.

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

This is usually caused by one of three reasons. The first is because it was served outside one of the recommended temperatures, 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

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 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 baristas 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 it for milk preparation, you must ensure it is at its warmest setting (most good machines have this facility). If this is still unacceptable, you need to pre-warm your cups 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.

“Boiled coffee is spoiled coffee.”