Serving and Holding Coffee

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Freshly brewed coffee is best enjoyed immediately—its flavor is evanescent. The ideal drinking temperature is around 140°F/ 60°C, where a sip won’t scald the mouth, and the coffee’s full aroma comes out. Because it cools in the cup, coffee is usually held in the pot just below the brewing temperature. High heat accelerates chemical reactions and the escape of volatile molecules, so coffee flavor changes noticeably after less than an hour in the pot; it becomes more acid and less aromatic. Coffee is best kept hot by retaining its original heat in a preheated, insulated, closed container, not on a hot plate that constantly supplies excessive heat from below while heat and aroma escape above.