Science of Coffee: Hot vs. Cold Brewed Coffee

How temperature affects the flavor in your cup

featuring Renee Frechin | October 18, 2016
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Same coffee, different tastes. That’s the flavor mystery that will unfold if you try brewing a single coffee with both hot and cold methods. Why does temperature make such a difference? Starbucks partner Renee Frechin, chemist and coffee master, helps unravel the details with an experiment because, as she says, “coffee is chemistry.”

Breaking it Down
Temperature and time can change the flavor of coffee by affecting the rate of oxidation, which is the rate at which the oils, acids, and sugars in coffee break down. Depending on how quickly this process happens, the aroma, flavor and texture of each cup can greatly differ. The best results come from knowing how to draw out your favorite coffee flavors by combining the right temperature and grind for your brewing method.

Turn Up the Heat

Coffee dissolves most readily at 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. That means heat dissolves aroma and flavor compounds quickly, giving hot coffee that signature scent and a touch of bitterness on the tongue.

Chill it Out

Cold brew coffee requires some patience, as brew times can range from hours to days. Cold water pulls flavors from coffee grounds far more slowly than hot water, resulting in a naturally sweeter, subtler flavor.

Try out both sides of the temperature equation at Starbucks, or play with hot and cold brewing options at home, to see which method suits your taste buds today.

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