Yesterday, we talked about the importance of getting the temperature right for great coffee. Before we talk about troubleshooting your coffee temperature, let's do a quick recap on what we know about coffee and brewing temperature.
- The water temperature affects which flavor compounds are extracted from the coffee and how they develop during the brew.
- The best coffee brewing temperature varies to some extent with the brewing method you choose.
- The important number is the temperature of the water during the "slurry" -- when the coffee grounds and water are in contact with each other.
- You have limited ability to affect the brewing temperature with an auto drip coffee maker, but other methods are easy to affect.
- Espresso is far more sensitive to temperature changes than drip coffee.
We also touched briefly on another known fact: the flavor compounds extracted at lower temperatures tend to be the coffee's intrinsic flavors: the fruits, chocolate, nuts and spices you taste when you sip the coffee. At higher temperatures, you'll get more of the roast flavor, particularly the bitterness. Here's one more fact: the best brewing temperature can vary from one coffee to another, and, if you really want to get geeky, with how long it's been since the coffee was roasted. Before you start freaking out about how many more ways you can mess up your coffee, though, remember that the flavor differences are very small. As long as you get your brewing temperature into the right zone, your coffee will taste great.
Once you understand that, it's a lot easier to figure out how to troubleshoot your coffee brew by fiddling with the temperature of your brewing water. These tips will help you adjust the temperature and maintain its stability throughout your brewing.
Too Hot or Too Cold?
Your coffee's flavor is the best clue to how close you are to the right temperature.
- Sour coffee is generally under-extracted. If your brew time is right, chances are your brewing temperature is too cold.
- Grassy flavors also usually indicate under-extracted coffee. Again, the temperature is probably too cold.
- If your coffee is bitter or tastes burnt, chances are the water is too hot.
- If your espresso has little or no crema, you may be trying to brew too cold.
See how simple it is to diagnose temperature problems?
Fixing Coffee Temperature Problems
Once you've figured out that your brewing temperature may be part of the problem with your coffee, there are a number of ways to fix it.
Water Too Hot: This is the easy one to fix. Let the water sit off heat for a little bit longer, or pour it out from the kettle you boiled into a second kettle for pouring.
Water Too Cold: This is where things can get tricky if you let yourself get dragged down the rabbit hole. Just remember, it's not just important what temperature you start your brew at. It's also important to maintain that temperature throughout the brewing. Try these steps to help.
- Warm your coffee filter holder or your French press with hot water while your water is boiling.
- Rinse your coffee filter with hot water before adding coffee to it.
- Bring the water to a full boil before taking it from the heat.
- Pay attention. One of the biggest reasons that people end up brewing with cold water is that they got sidetracked and let the water cool too long. Set a timer for 30 or 60 seconds so you don't forget what you're doing.
- Switch to a coffee brewer with better insulating properties. For example, the Espro French Press features an insulated body to keep your coffee at the right brewing temperature throughout the whole brew cycle.
Espresso Brewing Temps
Getting the temperature right on an espresso machine is a whole different ball game. We're confident that any of the espresso machines we sell provide excellent temperature control and stability. The best judge of when to start pulling a shot, in most cases, is the machine's ready light or signal. If you're using a single boiler machine or one without a heat exchanger, regulating the temperature can be a lot more complex, so we'll leave that for another article when we can get into it more in depth.
Got more questions about coffee and brewing temperature? Leave a comment and we'll do our best to answer them.