Contrary to what many people tend to do, coffee should not be consumed when the drink is excessively hot, although there is no ideal temperature.
In addition to the most obvious reason, which is the possibility of burning your tongue, there is a sensory reason: the very high temperature prevents the taste buds from being able to effectively capture the flavors of the drink.
Of course, to prepare coffee, you need to use very hot water, close to 100ºC – with the exception of cold brewpreparation method using cold extraction.
But, once prepared, it is recommended to wait a little before starting to drink.
According to food scientist and professional coffee evaluator Verônia Belchior, technical tasting is not even carried out at temperatures above 80ºC, as there is a risk of burning and the palate only begins to better perceive the drink’s attributes after 70ºC.
“When the coffee is very hot, we don’t notice much of the acidity, texture, body or tactile sensation”, says Belchior.
But there is no ideal temperature. What there is is a difference in the flavors that the coffee reveals as it cools.
In professional tastings, the protocol determines that the coffee is tasted at three different times:
Firstly, around 70ºC. At this moment, evaluators can really perceive the aromas of the drink, but, as it is still quite hot, many flavors go unnoticed.
Afterwards, it is drunk at approximately 50ºC, a temperature at which it is already possible to better perceive the main sensorial notes, in addition to the acidity and body.
And finally, try it again almost at room temperature, around 30ºC – here, the drink can reveal even more flavors that were masked by the excess heat.
In the same way that it reveals its qualities, coffee also shows more of its defects as it cools. “If there are problems such as bitterness and astringency, this becomes more evident when the drink is not so hot”, says Belchior.
According to Boram Um, a Brazilian elected the best barista in the world in 2023, the higher the temperature, the more it inhibits sensory perception. Thus, says Boram, the habit that many people have of drinking extremely hot coffee occurs precisely because it is a way of not noticing the low quality of the beans.
In very specialized coffee shops, it is common for the drink not to be served at scalding temperatures.
At Norwegian Tim Wendelboe’s coffee shop, considered one of the best in the world, the coffee arrives at the table with the suggestion that you try it little by little, as it cools.
In fact, very high quality coffees, like those served by Wendelboe, reveal very different sensorial notes when they reach milder temperatures.
“Personally, I like drinking coffee at different temperatures. It changes flavor as it cools and so you have different experiences in the same cup,” Wendelboe tells Coffee in the Press.
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