How Hot is Your Coffeemaker?

My grandmother, every morning, used to open a can of Hills Brothers coffee, put the ground coffee in a percolator and place the percolator on top of a wood stove. After the coffee had finished “perking” she pulled it off the stove and served it. My grandfather loved it; it was hot, black and gave him a jolt to start his day. She then put the percolator back on the stove and let it boil some more, just in case he needed another jolt.

It wasn’t great coffee but who knew the difference. If you are reading this, you know the difference. You know the five elements of a great cup of coffee, beans, water, brewing temperature and extraction time. But do you know whether or not your coffee maker is brewing at the right temperature?

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the National Coffee Association, the optimal temperature for brewing a great cup of coffee is 197.6 – 204.8 F. If the temperature of the water is too low under extraction occurs. Since acids in the beans are the first substances to dissolve, the coffee will taste weak and have a sour flavor.

If the water temperature is too high, then over extraction occurs and the coffee tastes bitter. Hula Daddy Kona Coffee brewed at the right temperature tastes sweet and flavorful, doesn’t burn your throat and doesn’t give you “coffee mouth.”

There are a number of reviews on coffee makers including Consumer Reports and Cooks Illustrated. They all test coffee makers to see if the water going into the brew basket is between 197 and 205 F. However, they are all testing new coffee makers. We have tested a number of used coffeemakers and found that after a few months that the brewing temperature drops drastically. One popular used coffeemaker we tested was brewing coffee at 156 F.

Many coffee makers use thermocouples to control the temperature of the brew water. Thermocouples are mechanical and they tend to wear out after a few months of use. (Often just after the warranty expires.) As they wear out the temperature of the brew water begins to decline. The result is that the coffee becomes weak and sour. Users sometimes try to step up the brew flavor by putting more coffee in the brew basket. The only solution is a new coffee brewer.

If you use a drip coffee maker, you should periodically take a meat thermometer and place it under the water discharge head on your coffeemaker. It should read close to 200F. If you can’t get to the head, check the temperature of the coffee coming out of the filter. It should be about 180F. If your temperature is below or above the recommended temperature you need a new coffeemaker.

If you are looking for a new coffee maker, the coffeemakers certified by the Specialty Coffee Association to brew coffee at 200 F are:

  • Technivorm Moccamaster
  • Bunn Phase Brew 8 Cup Coffee Brewer
  • Brazen Plus Customizable Temperature Control Brew System
  • KitchenAid Coffee Maker KCM0802
  • KitchenAid Pour Over Coffee Brewer (model KCM0801OB)
  • Bonavita Coffee Maker (model BV1900TS)
  • Bonavita BV1900TD 8-Cup Digital Coffee Brewer
  • OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker
  • OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Maker
  • Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker

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