There’s nothing like a hot, steaming cup of coffee — if it’s fresh, that is. While fresh, hot coffee is tasty and delicious, but coffee that has improperly been kept warm often tastes stale, over-extracted, or burnt. It’s best used as a hand warmer, not a gourmet beverage. Below are many methods people use to heat up coffee and how these methods negatively impact the beverage’s flavor. Finally, an alternative is presented so you can keep your coffee warm all winter long.
Misconception 1: Using a Hot Plate
The image of the hot plate has morphed from a diner waitress grabbing a pot of coffee off of one to modern-day mug-sized models that plug into USB ports. The heating mechanism used has not changed: they’re still hot plates. Hot plates actively heat up coffee, which distorts its taste by overcooking it.
Hot plates actively heat up coffee, which distorts its taste by overcooking it.
Misconception 2: Microwaving Coffee
Microwaves use radiation, instead of conduction, to heat up coffee. This poses two problems. First, since you cannot check the coffee’s temperature without stopping the microwave, it is difficult to know when the coffee is sufficiently warmed. Often the coffee becomes burnt. Second, radiation heats coffee inconsistently, creating hotspots while leaving other areas cool. These hot areas get especially burnt and leave a bitter taste.
Misconception 3: Using an Insulated French Press
While an insulated French press may keep coffee warm, coffee should never be left in a press. The water in the press will continue to brew the grounds long after plunging them to the bottom of the press. Letting coffee sit in a French press will lead to over-extraction, which is why coffee should always be promptly poured out of a press after the brewing time is complete.
Letting coffee sit in a French press will lead to over-extraction.
An Alternative: Turning to Thermal Carafes
We prefer to keep coffee warm in a thermal carafe. Instead of heating the coffee with an outside source of heat (like a hot plate or microwave), a thermal carafe uses the coffee’s original heat to keep it warm. It also doesn’t over-extract grounds, because they do not sit in a carafe (as they do in a French press).
Coffee should be brewed at near-boiling temperatures, between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, but these temperatures will burn your mouth. Most people prefer to drink coffee that is between 150 and 180 degrees. A well-insulated thermal carafe will be able to keep coffee at or above these temperatures for several hours, at least.
Of course, you could also drink your coffee while it’s hot and brew another fresh cup when you’re ready. If you want to enjoy tasty, hot coffee all day but only brew it once, though, spring for a thermal carafe. Your taste buds will thank you, even if your hands don’t notice a difference.
Take a look at our current coffees on the home page – they all make a delicious hot brew.