Preheat Your Mug for Better Tasting Coffee

For many years I drank coffee without preheating my mug. I’d pour the brew into a room temperature mug (which actually tends to be a little cold), add some cold creamer, then I’d be really disappointed with the resulting lukewarm brew. Then I’d have to compensate by sipping a little coffee out and adding more hot coffee to my mug. Then I’d need more creamer. Then it would be cold again. Then I’d stick my mug in the microwave to make it hotter (I know this is coffee heresy, but this was a long time ago!). Round and round I’d go. Just like leaving coffee sitting on a warmer, cooking away for 20 or 30 minutes, microwaving coffee actually changes the physical chemistry of the brew and degrades the overall quality.

Brew temperature

I didn’t really understand too much about coffee back then or know anything about optimal brew temps or what I could do to make better coffee at home. Warm coffee can taste a lot different than hot coffee, as the flavors seem to change as coffee cools. The problem is, most drip brew coffeemakers, including the one I was using at the time, can only get up to about 190 degrees Fahrenheit at best, when optimal coffee extraction really takes place between 195-205 degrees. So, the coffee wasn’t brewing at the correct temperature to begin with and the brew wasn’t making it into my cup at a decent temperature, either.

This is why I like French press and pour over dripper methods so much. They allow you to control the temperature of the water so you can brew coffee at the right temps for proper extraction. If you really prefer drip brew coffeemakers, the only one I recommend is the Brazen by Behmor. It’s an amazing coffeemaker and lets you choose the temperature you want to brew, all the way up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (don’t brew more than 210 or you will burn your coffee). It lets you choose a pre-soak time setting to allow for fresh coffee blooms and crusts to form. It also has a calibration system for users who live in high altitudes and need to compensate as water boils at lower temperatures as you rise in altitude.

The hack

Keep coffee hotter by preheating a ceramic mug before brewing your coffee. Hot water from the tap isn’t hot enough. You need near-boiling water for preheating. If you’re using a pour over dripper, you can do this by placing the dripper on top of the mug and pouring some hot water on it. Go ahead and put your filter into the dripper first, I’ll explain why in the next section. This not only preheats your mug, but also preheats the dripper itself, which can help maintain heat while brewing. If making coffee with a regular drip brew coffeemaker, you can also run some hot water through but since the brewer itself won’t usually get past 190 degrees, it may be better to put some water in your mug from the tap and microwave it for about a minute or boil water using a kettle. Using a microwave is probably more convenient. If you’re using a pour over dripper or making French press coffee, you’ll need a kettle.

This obviously doesn’t really work too well when pouring coffee into a paper cup, but when using a ceramic or travel mug, by preheating the mug, we can prevent the dramatic heat loss that happens when pouring a fresh brew of hot coffee into an otherwise cold mug. Leave the hot water in the mug until you’re ready to either brew coffee with your dripper if using a pour over method, or right before pouring in the brew from the French press or drip brew coffeemaker. Dump the hot water in the mug right before you start and you’ll notice that the fresh coffee you pour into your mug will be a lot hotter than before. You’ll likely taste flavors you may have never picked up on previously.

Give preheating your mug a try and hopefully you’ll never microwave your cup of coffee again.

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