New study finds “negligible impact” of coffee brewing temperature on sensory quality

A new study by researchers at the UC Davis Coffee Center, titled “Brew temperature, at fixed brew strength and extraction, has little impact on the sensory profile of drip brew coffee,” has been published in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports.

The research found that, where brew strength and extraction yield were kept constant, temperature had a negligible impact on the perceptible sensory quality of the brewed coffee within the limited range measured, reported the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).

While water temperature does affect how quickly the coffee is extracted, the research indicates that what really matters is the final brew strength and final extraction yield at the end of the brew.

Coffees were brewed to specific values of total dissolved solids (TDS) and percent extraction (PE), spanning the range of the classic Coffee Brewing Control Chart. The study tested three separate brew temperatures of 87°C, 90°C, or 93°C, adjusting the grind size and overall brew time as necessary to achieve the target TDS and PE.

If TDS and PE were the same across two brews where the brewing temperature was different, tasters were unable to differentiate between them.

In contrast to tasters’ inability to distinguish between the three different brewing temperatures, results confirm that both the brew strength and the extraction yield had significant impacts on the sensory qualities of the brew.

Although the concepts of TDS and PE (and their effect on the sensory qualities of brewed coffee) date back to the 1950s, this work provides new insight as to how specific and important sensory attributes vary within brewing conditions.

The results indicate that TDS had the greatest impact on the sensory properties, with PE yielding a lesser, but noticeable, impact.

This research is published as a part of the three-year research project, “Towards a deeper understanding of brewing fundamentals,” supported by the SCA’s Coffee Science Foundation and Breville Corporation.

One primary aim of this research project is an update of the classic Coffee Brewing Control chart using modern sensory science methodologies. The classic chart was originally developed by Earnest Lockhart in the 1950s and is still widely used today.

A plain-language version of the work will be included in an upcoming issue of the SCA’s quarterly publication, 25.

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One response to “New study finds “negligible impact” of coffee brewing temperature on sensory quality”

  1. MJ says:

    As a UC Davis graduate I appreciate their attention to detail. Considering the temperatures tested the results are not surprising. Personally, I prefer an even higher temperature extraction (95 C) when possible. There is no such thing as too strong of coffee – only weak people…

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