Many of us love our cup of joe to be steaming hot. But did you know that your coffee could actually be too hot to drink? Some people who have suffered burns on their tongue and mouth from scaldingly hot coffee have even filed lawsuits against fast food chains that serve their coffee at excessively high temperatures.
The question of how hot coffee should be served has been debated for decades. Some argue that a temperature of 140-150 degrees is ideal, as it allows the taste buds to detect nuances in coffee that are overpowered at higher temperatures. Others suggest that coffee should be sipped immediately, because the flavor begins to degrade as it cools down to room temperature.
Most popular coffee shops serve their coffee at a temperature of around 180 degrees Fahrenheit, which is far hotter than water boiling in a sink tap and even higher than the boiling point of water. These temperatures can cause painful burns if ingested directly or, if the coffee is spilled, can damage the cells in the throat and esophagus, making it difficult to swallow.
Despite the dangers, many people insist on drinking their coffee at this extremely high temperature because they believe that it enhances the flavor of their beverage. This theory is flawed, however, because it takes into account only the temperature of the liquid and not the overall chemistry of the drink. The true ideal temperature for coffee will depend on how the drink is brewed, as well as individual preferences and body chemistry. It will also depend on how each person processes caffeine, since different people metabolize it differently.