You might think the perfect cup of coffee is an extremely subjective and personal thing, but you would be wrong. Scientists have been busy in the lab working out the proper way to consume your brew – and, yes, there is a right way to do it and it all has to do with water temperature.
The research, published in the journal Food Research International, involved seven exceptional tasters from the Centre for Sensory Analysis and Consumer Behaviour at Kansas State University, who spent a great deal of time sipping, slurping, and reviewing coffee to find out what exactly makes a decent cuppa. In total, they analyzed 36 different flavor attributes (think: fruity, nutty, and floral) in various samples of hot brewed coffee made with different types of beans and consumed at different temperatures.
And it turns out water temperature could be the make or break. The temperature you want to aim for depends on the type of bean, but drinking it straight from boiling water is an absolute no-no. As a rule of thumb, aim for 70°C (158°F) – particularly, if Arabica is your bean of choice. If using Robusta beans, you can try a little lower. Apparently, consuming the beans at 60°C (140°F) or 50°C (122°F) produces a richer, more intense flavor. Plus, drinking coffee hotter than 70°C (158°F) could result in a scalding injury.
But that's not all. There are various other components to your coffee that can improve its flavor, from the coarseness of your grind to the freshness of the bean to the ratio of coffee-to-water to the quality of the water (apparently, "hard" water is the way to go).
As Christopher Hendon, assistant professor of computational materials and chemistry at the University of Oregon, who was not involved in the research, explained in an article for The Conversation, even the temperature you brew the coffee can affect the flavor. The higher the temperature, the more tasty coffee compounds you extract. Too high, however, and you get undesirable compounds filtering through as well.
Whichever way you have it – iced, hot, or milky – drink up. Studies have linked drinking coffee (in moderation) to a reduced risk of atrial fibrillation, certain skin cancers, type 2 diabetes, and even a longer life.