Coffee 101: Temp & Time
A general guideline for the brewing process is that a two-to-six minute time frame transforms your coffee beans into the beverage you love.
Coffee must be brewed using water heated to an optimum temperature range and within an optimum time range. Both factors vary depending upon the brewer and brewing method you use.
In this entry, we’ll discuss the importance of consistency. Temperature and Time cannot be separated because they both influence the outcome of coffee simultaneously as it brews. Assuming you have a consistent grind, the heat of your water must be matched to the duration of your brewing process.
TEMPERATURE — The correct brewing temperature range is between 195 degrees and 205 degrees. Water that’s just boiled, taken off heat and held for approximately 30 seconds will fall within that range. Water that’s too hot can damage the essential flavors of ground coffee. Water that’s too cool (excluding cold-process methods) will result in sour and under-extracted coffee. A lot of research has confirmed this principle. Sadly, most commercial drip coffee brewers are incapable of delivering water at the correct temperature during the entire brewing process.
TIME: Excluding the 20-second brewing process of most espresso machines, the majority of brewing methods take between two and six minutes from start to finish. Starting with water temperature, you can make adjustments in time to obtain the most flavorful cup.
You have an advantage if you brew your coffee manually (pour over, Chemex, french press), because you can control the temperature of the water and the brew time. In these case, start with a water temperature of 200 degrees (an inexpensive culinary water thermometer is helpful) and adjust your brewing time until you’re satisfied with the taste and consistency of your coffee.
Many automatic brewers, despite their convenience, do not allow you to adjust time and temperature. That means you may have to adjust your coffee grind to match your brewer. Sometimes grind adjustments won’t work. That’s when you might have to ask if your ‘convenient’ automatic brewer is brewing your coffee correctly. Sadly, we have found that the majority of auto-drip brewers on the market have problems with both water temperature and time of brew.
In fact, of the hundreds of automatic coffee brewers on the market, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (scaa.org) only certifies one brand, Technivorm, for its ability to match water heat and brew time correctly.
Over the years we at Hunter Bay have learned that there are many manual brewing methods that are just as convenient as auto-drip brewers, and the coffee they deliver is infinitely better. We suggest a variety of methods including: paper/cloth cone filter brewers like Chemex or Melitta, any of the bistro pot/French press methods, a quality vacuum pot brewer, some of the new Hario brewers, and/or a stainless steel version of the classic moka pot brewer.