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Brew temperature: 180 vs. 200

Postby atao on Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:16 pm

Most of what I've read has recommended brewing coffee in the 200 degree range. Plus or minus a few degrees. On the other hand, many of the aeropress contest recipes recommend somewhere in the 175-180 degree range.

So i've been trying french press brewed at both ranges of temperature, and i'm struck by how smooth and tasty the 180 degree range is. It's not that the 200 degree brew is bad, but i have had more sour/bitter cups from the 200 degree brew range than the 180 degree range. Especially with beans from some of the lighter-roasted local shops in san francisco. The flavor profile does change a bit. I might not be getting quite as much of the caramels in the finish with the lower temperature.

If i pull an espresso even a few degrees too cool, i can get a pretty sour shot, but here, i'm able to get a great brew with temperatures that seem 20 degrees cooler than the "norm". Thoughts? Does anyone use these cooler temperatures other than the aeropress folks?
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Postby yakster on Mon Apr 02, 2012 12:49 pm

I'd bet that most non-SCAA approved automatic drip coffee makers are closer to the 180 degree mark than the 200 degree mark. Just a hunch.
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Postby another_jim on Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:16 pm

Below about 185F, you get a toddy brew, no acids, no bitters, just sweet and malted. In other words, Postum. If you prefer a coffee at that temperature, either change your coffee or change your drink.
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Postby atao on Mon Apr 02, 2012 9:02 pm

Hi Jim, can you say a bit more about why below 185 there are no acids or bitter extracted? These compounds are only soluble above 185?
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Postby another_jim on Tue Apr 03, 2012 12:25 am

I'm not an expert on the dT/dt solubility rates for different compounds. The basic coffee literature I know has no serious discussions of the chemical thermodynamics of brewing; quite possibly because there are too many compounds. However, I do know that the characteristic cold brewing or toddy coffee flavor comes out when you brew below about 85C (185F), both for regular brewing and for espresso. At this point, the acidity drops of too, and all you get is the malty compounds and the sugars (along with the caffeine).

If the coffee is poor, this might be a good idea. For instance, I think one of the reasons the Nespresso system produces fairly pleasant and understated shots (but not good ones), is that it brews at these lower temperatures. But for good coffees, you are leaving out all the the things which differentiate great coffees from mediocre ones.

I do a coffee seminar with a group of UC students every year. This year, instead of the usual Folgers, I demoed the Nespresso system to show how far mass produced coffee had come since the days of instant and Folgers cans. Everybody there (i.e. people who like coffee but aren't experts) found the straight Nespresso espresso shots pleasant (unlike the previous years' Folgers, or sadly the bulk of US cafes), but simply not in the same league as the good coffees I was brewing.

So my take is that cool brewing temperatures goes along with capsules and other technologies that make for pleasing mass produced coffee. It's a lot better than awful mass produced coffee, but still nothing like good coffees prepped in ways that bring out their distinct flavors.
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Postby dustin360 on Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:06 am

So for some reason Im pretty obsessive about temperature. And I think about temp loss during brewing probably more than I should. The last temp. experiment I did evolved simultaneously cupping the same coffee at 4 different temps. Initially I wanted to set the temp of each cup, but i soon realized that was going to be next to impossible(temp wicking of the cups, temp loss over time, etc). So I settled on doing the experiment with out picking the temps I was steeping at(but knowing it was a descending scale). I cant remember off the top of my head what temps each cupped steeped at, but it went from as hot i could get(205), high 190's, 180's, 170's.

The overall the tastiest cup was the hottest. It was the most complex and sweet. But one interesting thing that came from the experiment was how pronounced the floral's were in the cooler cups. Im guessing this was because there fewer other flavors distracting me. Im not sure why the florals were extracted but little else.

The cooler cups were less exciting, but not awful.
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Postby Arpi on Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:47 am

You can also go all the way down to room temperature "extractions" (http://www.amazon.com/Toddy-T2N-Cold-Br...164&sr=8-1) but they take considerate amount of time (30 hours!). But I admit I've never try one of those yet :) My guess is that the colder the longer the brew time should be to achieve "similar" results. Some things like acidity will change.

Cheers
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Postby yakster on Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:58 am

another_jim wrote:If the coffee is poor, this might be a good idea. For instance, I think one of the reasons the Nespresso system produces fairly pleasant and understated shots (but not good ones), is that it brews at these lower temperatures. But for good coffees, you are leaving out all the the things which differentiate great coffees from mediocre ones.


Very interesting. When I was searching for a hot water source to brew espresso in my Mypressi Twist at work, I found that the hot water taps on the water coolers were hotter than the Nespresso... now I have a better idea why. (I ended up bringing in a kettle to further heat water from the cooler for pre-heating the Twist and making shots)
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Postby lalinpv on Wed May 09, 2012 7:21 pm

I also thought it was interesting that most aeropress championship winners had stated their brews used 80-85C water. This makes me think of cupping though. When we cup coffees we don't taste right at the break, we wait for the cups to cool to taste, and continue tasting as they cool. In the aeropress contest, if the judges receive 3 cups, all brewed at the same time but at different temperatures, the cooler cups will probably taste "clearer." I haven't seen them use anything to accelerate cooling (except for decanting, but they decant all the brews including the cooler brewed coffees) and I think that those coffee joulies may serve a purpose here.

I also, however, don't think that coffee has to be brewed at 195-205F. I think that there is a different flavor profile that comes with brewing at any temperature range and to dismiss the resulting extraction when someone likes it is unfair. Sure you may lose out on caramels and bitters as Jim stated, but by not brewing at 212F or 250F we also miss out on some bitterness dont we? The people who dont brew at these temperatures refrain from doing so because they dislike the results, so to entirely dismissing lower extraction temps seems odd to me.


Dustin, I agree with tasting more florals when using lower temps. They are interesting brews huh?
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Postby dustin360 on Thu May 10, 2012 12:07 am

lalinpv wrote:Dustin, I agree with tasting more florals when using lower temps. They are interesting brews huh?


I try and test common wisdom's held in coffee. Mostly cause Im a nerd, and want to know why. But also cause Ive told people a million times to "brew at this temp, fines are bad, brew for this long, dont pre grind, etc". And when they ask why, id much rather have experience that im drawing from.

It makes me wonder if a declining temp profile during brewing might be better for some coffees that have alot of florals. Maybe my next experiment will involve lowering the temp (mid brew) by 20 degrees or so...
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