What is the correct temperature for serving coffee?

by Jake
(Tampa, FL)

Getting the serving temperature of your coffee just right.

Getting the serving temperature of your coffee just right.


Can you tell me what is the proper temperature to serve coffee? Thanks!


Coffee is best served at a temperature between 155ºF and 175ºF (70ºC to 80ºC). Most people prefer it towards the higher end, at about 175ºF.

Do you remember that lawsuit that MacDonalds lost when a customer scalded herself after she spilled some of her coffee?

Back then the MacDonalds manual for its employees stated that coffee should be served at "195 to 205 degrees and held at 180 to 190 degrees for optimal taste."

As they discovered when they lost the case, that was too hot.

You won’t go far wrong at 175ºF.

That said, there are some coffee experts who like to drink their coffee at much lower temperatures.

George Howell of George Howell Coffee, who has been sourcing and tasting specialty coffee since the 1970s, likes to drink his coffee at a temperature closer to 130ºF. To you and me that would feel like tepid coffee. But according to him, it’s at that temperature that many of the more subtle flavors of coffee are revealed.

What he says makes sense, because if you think about coffee that is really hot, almost hot enough to burn your tongue, you really don’t taste much at all.

So there is a sliding scale here. At the hotter end of the scale, at about 175ºF, we feel the satisfaction of drinking a nice hot cup of coffee. At the lower end of the scale, at 150ºF and below, we get less of that “hot cup of Joe” experience, but are able to taste some of the more subtle flavors of the coffee.

One approach to the serving temperature of coffee could go like this: For your regular cup of coffee, go for 175ºF, but if you buy some really good coffee beans and want to really taste the coffee and discover all of its flavor notes and qualities, serve it at 150ºF or lower.

Of course, if you choose the second option, then you also need to pay close attention to how you grind the beans and brew the coffee. There is no point in buying great beans and serving the coffee at a lower temperature unless you also take the trouble to brew the coffee well.

Further reading on how to grind and brew a great cup of coffee...

Burr or Blade? The fact is, a burr coffee grinder is better.

Is your drip brewer is even CAPABLE of making good coffee?

What is the correct water temperature for brewing coffee?

Comments for What is the correct temperature for serving coffee?

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Feb 22, 2015
Just wait a while.
by: Anonymous

Is it just me, or is everyone strange?
I bought a coffee pod machine for price and convenience, and it makes of coffee I enjoy.

But as for the temperature problem so many people seem to have, with their coffee too hot they burn themselves, I have an old trick learned many years ago...WAIT.

If the coffee is so hot, just wait a while, it will cool down.

The correct temperature for food to be eaten without burning yourself is about 55 degrees. but is something is so hot it burns, nature will cool it down, the exact same thing goes fore coffee.

Feb 20, 2015
perked coffee video?
by: Jack

I glad to see you tried perked coffee and liked it! could you please make a video on the best stove top percolators?

Jack L. Scudder, Jr

Feb 07, 2015
Get The McDonald's Story Straight
by: Anonymous

The person who quoted the McDonald's coffee scalding lawsuit story did not have their details correct, and neither does the majority of the public. The industrial size coffee machine McDonald's had at the time had two heating modes, "Brew" and "Clean", which is MUCH hotter- and an employee had accidentally put the machine on "Clean" mode, which heated the coffee to a dangerous temperature, burning the customer. THAT is why the customer won the lawsuit- negligence on the part of the McDonald's employee.

Oct 16, 2014
To hot coffee
by: Anonymous

I went to Dennys for breakfast asked for a cup of coffee the first cup was to strong tasted like it had been made way to long (truck driver coffee) so I asked for fresh coffee when I took a sip it burned my mouth so bad I couldn't swallow. I ask what the temperature was and they told me it was 200 degrees

Sep 21, 2014
comfortable, not scalding
by: Anonymous

I just checked the temp on the coffee I'm drinking right now which is perfect, drinkable but not cold, hot but not scalding my tongue. 150F-140F is just right. Your mileage may vary.

Jun 01, 2014
best temperatures in my experience
by: Anonymous

So I've been working as a barista for the last 3 years and have a love for coffee. Recently I convinced my parents to go out and buy a semi-auto espresso machine for home.

Since we've had it one massive argument has arisen, my dad likes his coffee lets say around 50*c and my mum likes hers much, much hotter. This morning she offered me a coffee, it looked and smelt amazing yet I couldn't hold my first sip for more than 5seconds without having to spit it out, it scalded my mouth and brought tears to my eyes, it was that hot.

Now I love tea, absolutely love tea, I always boil the water and apart from the 1-2mins brewing I can always start drinking straight away. The concept is similar for plunger coffee or drip filter, I suppose. For espresso coffee however a different rule applies. It is to be drinkable as soon as it is set in front of you.

As I have mentioned I have worked as a barista before, and I have received a lot of weird requests. I was always taught that the safe temp of steamed milk is 60*c it is the best temp for texturing and pouring well. You know that latte art-60*c.

If someone wants it cooler I'll make it around 50-55 if someone wants it extra hot it'll be closer to 65-70. Once a customer requested that I make her drink 85*c(185*f). At 75*c the base of the milk jug is unbearable to touch, at 80*c the milk starts to boil, at 85*c the milk will boil over onto your hands, which really really hurts. In any case by now the milk is burnt and will detract from the flavour.

My point is for espresso coffee 55-70*c is optimal. Any lower- whatever their loss, any higher-my loss of feeling in my hands

May 21, 2014
Coffee should be Hot, but not piping hot
by: Anonymous

Having coffee too hot will burn your mouth or tongue, but coffee served warm is very irritating.
Coffee should be hot in my opinion and most people would agree with this in my view.

Apr 14, 2013
Taste buds
by: Johan

Because must of us have a different amount of Taste buds, ranging from 2000 to 8000! We also have different sensitivity to heat because of that. Myself for example would not feel taste for a while after drinking a beverage at 70ºC, I even got a tough time at 60ºC and prefer it just under that. I can agree that the beverage sometimes depending on content should have reached a higher temperature before serving temperature to acquire the preferred taste.

What that high temperature is depends on what coffee it is, the serving temperature I myself will probably prefer 60ºC no matter type of coffee.

Everyone must test their way towards the perfect, what to keep in mind though is the studies; at what degrees could it be potentially dangerous? not only instantly but also in the long run, could your preferred temperature cause cancer?

If you are in the safe zone, enjoy your coffee; not too much of it but a few cups a day. Do not drink more coffee than you would drink alcohol, not even near.

"However, the number of taste buds varies widely. For example, per square centimetre on the tip of the tongue, some people may have only a few individual taste buds, whereas others may have more than one thousand" - http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/584034/taste-bud

May 21, 2012
steaming, but NOT hot
by: Anonymous

Often order coffee & its way too cool, yet people ay my table can't understand, saying "it 'steaming hot"
Please explain the temp for it to be steaming vs proper drinking temp

Dec 26, 2011
Proper temps for perfect coffee
by: CIA Chef

Coffe must come in contact with grounds at 200 degrees to taste good. Proper serving temp is 180. Your cup should be pre-warmed. If 180 degree coffee hits a cold cup it will drop to 160 or less depending on how cold the cup is.

Mar 15, 2011
Fun Fact
by: Anonymous

To the one guy who said he likes it very hot,
Think about this, in Tibet, at the the top of Mt Everest,water/coffee boils at 70 degrees Celcius. If you went there, you could go drink a cup of coffee at literally a rolling boil.

May 15, 2010
the temp I want it
by: Anonymous

I like to keep my taste buds. For some reason I can eat a pizza straight out of the oven, but I like my coffee at 145 degrees- no higher... I just stuck an instant read thermometer in mine with my morning coffee. If I drank 175 degree coffee, I would not be able to taste my meal! Ouch!( I can always cool mine down at the table, but you can't heat yours back up..)

Nov 27, 2009
my coffee was too hot
by: Anonymous

i just made a cup of coffee and took a sip... now my mouth hurts...so i became curious how hot is not too hot... so now i know from 150-175 which helps... better coffee next time. i like mine hot but drinkable not so hot where my mouth gets sore from the first drink and it hurts to drink more!!

Aug 04, 2009
Hot coffee, Americans, etc.
by: Anonymous

I am from Kona, Hawaii, and frankly the comments about HOT coffee are based on poor tasting coffee to start, in my opinion. I like it at the 155 degree level, but that is pure Kona coffee, not the hot dirt served at 99% of the establishments around the world. I assure all coffee lovers that 1 cup of Kona will change your mind forever about coffee.
I am also not suprised about the comments about "Americans" and our coffee. We just can't seem to do anything right, according to the rest of the world! ;)

May 26, 2009
I like it very hot
by: koam

I really like my coffee piping hot. I just measured a cup and 180 F is as low as I can go for a fresh cup. The reason for this is that I like it to remain hot to the end of the cup. And I take it black. If I were to add milk or half & half on occasion, I'd preheat the dairy before adding the coffee.

I'm going to continue measuring the temperature of coffee when it comes out of my drip brewer or out of the microwave when I reheat it. I also use a tabletop cup warmer to help keep the coffee hot to the last drop.

The temp of 180 F+ is probably hot enough to burn the flesh. It does leave a "heat memory" in my mouth but, at this point, it does not burn my mouth. Of course I don't gulp it at that hot temp. But if it gets much cooler, I'm likely to gulp it down before it gets too cool to enjoy or else I'd go reheat it.

Apr 13, 2009
I don't understand what the fuss is all about
by: Enowil

I was curious about what the best temp for drinking coffee is and ended up here. I totally don't understand, I guess because I'm not a regular coffee drinker, and my palate is perhaps, more sensitive to hot temperatures.I totally don't understand how someone could put something that hot in their mouth and like it. When I try to drink coffee I usually end up with a scalded tongue that hurts for days afterwards. But if that's what it takes for y'all to enjoy coffee, more power to ya.

Apr 07, 2009
don't have a clue about coffee?
by: Anonymous

Yeah, people don't actually know what they like. It's all a facade.

Mar 23, 2009
I like it hot!
by: Anonymous

I consistently have the same problem at ALL the coffee places in the USA: coffee is warm when it should be hot. I am from Argentina and we never have to say "extra hot", coffee is always hot there and I'm sure it is the same for Italy, Brazil, etc. I just think that americans don't have a clue about coffee. You can tell by the amount of things they add to it (soy milk? please!)

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