What Temperature Should I Brew Coffee? A Definitive Guide

If you brew coffee in a coffee maker, you might not put much thought into the brewing temperature. However, if you want the perfect cup of coffee, knowing the best temperature to brew coffee at can make a world of difference in how it tastes.  After much research, I have put together a guide on what temperature you should use when brewing coffee.

The general rule for brewing coffee is to use a temperature of around 200°F, give or take 5 degrees.  This temperature may need to be adjusted depending on the roast and brewing method, but most experts agree 200°F is the best temperature for making a standard cup of coffee.

If you think this answers the question though, keep reading. Coffee brewing is complex because there are so many ways to brew it. Each extraction method is a little different.  Thus, a simple answer isn’t sufficient.  I am going to explain in more detail why temperature matters and how to adjust the brewing temperature for different brewing methods.

Why does temperature matter when brewing coffee?

When coffee is brewed, the coffee is extracted into the water. This leaves the water flavored with the aroma and taste of whatever coffee bean was used during the brew. Different factors affect the amount of time it takes for extraction, but the brewing temperature is one of the biggest factors. The hotter the temperature of the water, the less time it takes for coffee to be extracted. If you use water that isn’t quite hot enough, your coffee may taste weak, watered-down, and have less flavor. If you use too high of a temperature, the coffee can end up over-extracted, burnt, or acidic tasting.  The temperature becomes even more important with certain brewing methods that require more specific temperatures.

The science of coffee extraction

Before you can understand why temperature matters, it helps to understand what happens during coffee extraction. Coffee is made through a variety of extraction methods, but all of them essentially work the same way. Hot water is used to extract the aroma and flavor of ground coffee beans into water.  Each extraction method uses different equipment, temperature, and time.  Some extraction methods brew coffee at a higher temperature for a shorter period. While others brew at a lower temperature for longer. But, they all accomplish the same thing.  When it comes to making a perfect cup of coffee, it’s important to use the best temperature for each extraction method.

What temperature should I use for espresso?

Espresso is a unique type of coffee.  It uses a fast extraction process. Pressurized hot water is forced over compressed finely ground coffee beans, resulting in a concentrated shot of coffee. Because this is a fast extraction method, it needs to be brewed at a high temperature.  However, brewing it too hot can result in burnt espresso.  

In general, the ideal temperature for brewing espresso is between 195 and 205°F. A temperature too high or too low can result in over or under-extracted espresso. Calibrate the temperature of your espresso machine to fall between these numbers for the best results.

What temperature should I use for French Press?

French Press uses an immersion method and a slower extraction process.  Because of this, you can use a lower temperature when you make French Press coffee. When you make a French Press the coffee grounds and water are mixed together. They are then kept in a covered canister while the coffee steeps. This process heats the water and coffee more evenly and slowly.  

For the best results, French Press should be made using a slightly lower temperature than other brewing methods.  A temperature of around 190 to 195°F is ideal. Using a higher temperature will speed the extraction process up, and make the coffee over-extracted, burnt, or bitter tasting.

What temperature should I use for pour-over coffee?

Pour-over coffee is one of the simplest ways to make coffee. Hot water is poured over a filter containing coffee grounds. Because it is not made using a slow drip, the water pours through the coffee grounds faster. The heat from the water can be lost rapidly which is why getting the temperature right is so important.

In general, pour-over coffee should be made using a temperature around 195-205°F.  The coffee needs to bloom for 30-45 seconds. This may cause the temperature to decrease while it is made.  It may be better to use the higher end of this temperature range,

What temperature should I use for cold-brew coffee?

Cold-brewed coffee is brewed differently.  To make cold brew coffee, you heat water in a kettle on the stove.  Then half the water is poured into coffee grounds and left to bloom. The remaining water is poured into the container and allowed to steep for about 12 to 14 hours in the refrigerator.  This is a slow immersion process so you don’t want the water to be too hot.

Typically, a cold brew coffee should use a lower temperature than other brewing methods. The temperature should be around 160-170°F. It’s important not to use a high temperature when making cold brew coffee because it will cause it to be over-extracted.

Temperature to Use for Different Coffee Roasts

Making coffee is so complex because you can make it using a variety of roasts, grind sizes, and brewing methods. Now that I have explained which temperature to use for different brewing methods, let’s talk about temperatures and coffee roasts.

The best temperature for Light Roast Coffee

Light roast coffee contains beans that have barely been roasted. They have the most flavor and caffeine of all the roasts because the flavor hasn’t been roasted out of the beans. If you are using a light roast coffee, using a higher temperature will help draw out more of the flavor from the beans. It will also speed up the extraction process.  

In short, the best temperature for light roast coffee is around 200-205°F.  Light roast beans are full of flavor and need a higher temperature when brewing. This will help to extract all the natural flavor and aroma from the beans.

The Best Temperature for Medium Roast Coffee

Medium roast coffee is the go-to roast for most coffee drinkers. It can be used with almost any brewing method and tends to be the one people drink the most. That said, getting the temperature right when it comes to brewing a medium roast is still important.  A medium roast should use a temperature slightly lower than a light roast.  

In general, the best temperature to brew medium roast coffee at is around 190 °F. This is just below the standard brewing temperature. However, you may need to adjust this temperature to match the brewing method you are using.  

The Best Temperature for Dark Roast Coffee

Dark roast coffee is known for being strong, dark, and bitter. Because it has been roasted for so long, a lot of the natural flavor has been roasted out of it. This is why it’s often used in fast extraction methods like espresso. It has a strong flavor, to begin with, so using a lower temperature can prevent over-extraction and make it taste better.

Overall, dark roast coffee should be brewed at a lower temperature than other roasts. A temperature of 185 °F is recommended. Complicating this, certain extraction methods require more heat.  Use the extraction method as a guide and adjust the temperature higher or lower based on the roast you use.

The Best temperature for Roast and Brewing Method

As you can see, brewing coffee at the right temperature is complicated.  The best way to decide what temperature to brew your coffee at is to start with the extraction method.  Use the temperature recommendation for each method as a starting point and adjust the temperature slightly higher or lower depending on the roast you are using.  

Coffee science is a bit of trial and error.  While certain roasts taste better with different brewing methods and temperatures, ultimately which method and temperature are best is a matter of preference. If you like a strong flavored coffee, a dark roast brewed at a high temperature with a fast extraction method is the way to go. If you like a milder flavor, a light roast using a slower extraction method would be your best bet.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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