Preferences #1: Hot vs. Extra Hot
Written by: Jeff Lund is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Follow him on @alaskalund on Instagram
People prefer. That is, when they like something, they like it a certain way. Some hijack this decision and use it as a way to prove themselves.
This is due, of course, to the lack of real rites of passage (in general) in our padded, Nerf culture. We used to have to prove we could hunt, fish, grow, fight, breed, travel or otherwise solve real problems to prove our worth to our family, village or group of people. Now we sometimes feel the need to prove our worth by ordering spicy chicken wings that make us bleed…where no one wants to bleed. When I order wings, I want to taste spicy flavor, not fire. I don’t want my back to sweat while I’m in the seated position in an air-conditioned environment. If it happens, it happens, but to ask for it seems a little…I don’t know.
Regular (145-160 degrees) vs. Extra Hot (180 degrees)
First off, why does hot coffee taste better? I’ll drink coffee that’s been in a mug for a few hours, but prefer the hot stuff. Of course, now that the summer temperatures in Alaska are reaching into the high-60s, well, yeah I still drink my coffee hot. But I have been known to order cold brew for an afternoon fishing session on a hot summer day in California.
Anyway, let’s tackle regular vs. hot first.
This article by Business Insider provides 3 reasons for drinking it extra hot, all of which are perfectly reasonable:
1. When it’s cold
2. When you’re ordering a milk-based drink
3. When you don’t plan to drink it right away
Alright, the example for No. 1 used is, “When I worked…in North Dakota… - 30F...so drinks cooled QUICKLY.”
Well, yeah. It’s -30. The overwhelming majority of coffee drinkers aren’t ordering it as a means of preserving their lives but it makes sense. Order coffee that’s extra hot to keep it from getting cold and to keeping their fingers frostbite-free.
No. 2 – Ordering a milk-based drink means you’re not ordering coffee. You’re ordering a coffee-drink that changes the chemistry of the drink. Sure, the additives are going to cool down the coffee, but that’s irrelevant to our central question. We’re talking about coffee and why people order it extra hot. So, I don’t need to go into how hotter temperatures impact the milk that might be added to an extra hot beverage.
No. 3 – This one makes sense to me. I am not one who wakes up and immediately pounds coffee. I wait to drink my morning coffee.
My morning coffee goes into a hydro flask and isn’t opened until I am at school. So, while I am not drinking the coffee right away, the hour or so it is resting, it’s not really cooling, but once the top is off, and the temperature is right, I caffeinate.
But what about taste? Do people order extra hot coffee because they think it tastes better?
Hot vs. Cold
Room temperature coffee is bitter, just like hot coffee is, but hot coffee makes sense. The warmth of each drink is soothing. It fits our stereotype of what it should taste like so our tolerance is higher. But like most beverages, the longer since it’s brewing, the more it breaks down.
There is science to consider when it comes to cold brew vs. hot. Chemical compounds react differently to hot and cold water.
Oxidation and degradation occur more rapidly at higher temperatures which enhances the bitterness in a hot cup. This is negated by our expectation that a cup of coffee is best served hot, and once the taste is acquired, we tolerate, or even love the bitterness. At lower temperatures, oxidation and degradation (bitterness making) happens slowly. That’s why it takes more beans for cold brew otherwise you end up with coffee that tastes flat. So it is totally reasonable to like one over the other because they really aren’t the same thing just at different temperatures.
Assuming hot vs. real cold brew (not iced coffee) is too different to really compare, this comes down to two more important preferences:
1. Home brewing vs. buying and,
2. The type of coffee receptacle.
That’s for next time.