“Once you wake up and smel the cof ee, it’s hard to go back to sleep.”
One very common form of energy we’re familiar with is heat (light and sound are other familiar forms). The hotter an object is, the more energy it has. Thus, the hotter it is, the more vibration or movement its atoms or molecules have. Another thing about heat is that it transfers energy from molecules that have an excess of it to molecules that have less of it.
This applies to coffee brewing in two ways. First, the heat contained in the brewing water has a big influence on the extraction. Hotter water with its higher energy and dancing molecules can extract more coffee solids, faster, than colder water because the energy facilitates molecular movement (coffee solids) into the water. Not only does it happen faster, but more molecules will move into the water (hot things can dissolve more molecules than cold things; this is why we heat water to make simple syrup). Second, heat from the water transfers to the grounds, filter, container, and air around it, resulting in brewing water that is instantly colder than was intended and a final brew that is colder than the water that went into it.
The temperature of the water used to brew coffee, then, is very important to the molecular content of the brew and our organoleptic experience of it. If the temperature is low, the coffee can taste thin (low body/viscosity), flat, and have a low flavor intensity. As the temperature increases, the bitterness, acidity, astringency, roastiness, acridness, body, and flavor intensities increase. The question remains, what is the temperature where all these flavors balance in such a way that we think they all taste good?
Ultimately, that decision is made by the drinker. However, we have an idea of what most people like, all things being equal. The brew temperature should be 90–96°C (194–
205°F). While this can be somewhat pieced together using articles in the scientific literature, we know this because back in the 1950s, Dr. Earl E. Lockhart did an enormous amount of research to figure out just what temperature of water brewed up coffee that most people liked.
Ultimately, the temperature ideal for brewing coffee is up to the drinker, but more than a half century of research has determined that most people prefer coffee that’s been brewed between 194–205°F (90–96°C).
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