If there’s anything worse than a bad cup of coffee, it’s a good cup of coffee gone cold. The Specialty Coffee Association suggests a brewing temperature of around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but your coffee’s only as good as its current temperature.
However close I get to that gold standard myself, with young kids in the house it’s painfully easy for me to forget about my first cup of the day.
I wanted to put together a guide to all the tried and tested methods you can use to keep your coffee piping hot for longer.
(My guide to brewing coffee at home contains plenty more tutorials and buying tips!)
Thermal Carafe Coffee Makers
These devices are handy things if you’re the kind of person who wants to set up a batch of coffee you can dip into over a period of hours.
This sort of coffee maker brews the beans directly into a pre-supplied thermal carafe. The best of these are double-walled stainless steel contraptions, which are great for holding the heat.
If you’re going down this route though, stay away from carafe coffee makers that have a hot plate built-in.
You want the carafe to hold the brewed temperature, not add to it. After a period of time sitting on a hot plate, the coffee will stew and become extremely unpleasant to drink.
I wrote a guide to choosing the best thermal carafe coffee maker a little while ago. Breville’s Precision Brewer coffee maker came out on top if you want to check it out.
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Alright so I’ve just suggested avoiding a hot plate, but if you’re not fussed about the quality of your coffee then these do technically get the job done.
The problem again here is that these things continue heating the coffee, which over-extracts the coffee over time.
If you’re more of a quantity over quality kind of person, this may not bother you. It’s something you really need to be aware of though.
I know some people recommend using a candle warmer as an alternative, but I really don’t think you want to to take this approach.
It has the same problems as a traditional hot plate, using a device that’s simply not designed for the job.
Still, if it really is the only thing you have in the house that can get the job done, it’s an option!
Far better than a hot plate is the immersion heating device. These hang down inside your cup and gently warm the coffee to maintain the current temperature.
You still have the slight problem of increasing the heat overall – given enough time – but I find these to be a much gentler alternative to a hot plate.
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These aren’t exactly portable though, so you’ll need a way of powering the thing through mains or USB, depending on the model you choose.
They’re also a little messy to clean up by the nature of their design.
Use a Cup Sleeve
These are very handy mug warmers that slip over the cup and help insulate it.
You can get these in all sorts of designs and colors to suit your personal aesthetic.
If you want something functional, get a silicon sleeve that will hold the mug tight and do the best possible job of preserving heat.
For something a little more extravagant, you can even buy colorful knitted sleeves! They’re not as effective as their silicon counterparts, but they are a lot more fun.
If you’re struggling to keep your coffee warm on a consistent basis, you might want to consider investing in a good quality travel mug.
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These are specially designed to keep a larger serving of coffee warm for a longer period of time.
They’re ideal if you like to savor a cup throughout the morning, although they won’t hold the heat indefinitely!
Pre-heat the Cup
This is one of the simplest methods for keeping your coffee warm, and simply involves giving the cup a good rinse in hot water before pouring the drink.
Adding a warm liquid to a cold cup dramatically increases the speed at which it will start losing heat. You’re setting yourself up for disaster before you’ve even started!
Instead, a pre-warmed cup won’t instantly begin cooling the coffee, giving your drink a naturally extended period of warmth.
Like the travel mug, the thermos flask is a great way of keeping a large amount of coffee warm for longer.
These are ideal if you’re heading out for the day as a household.
- Thermos vacuum insulation technology for maximum temperature retention, hot or cold
- Unbreakable stainless steel interior and exterior
- Cool to the touch with hot liquids, sweat-proof with cold
You definitely get what you pay for with a thermos flask though, so I would avoid choosing one based on cost alone.
I’ve gone through countless thermos flasks over the years, and learned this lesson the hard way…
In recent years we’ve seen the world of smart technology slowly work its way into the coffee market.
These devices aren’t cheap to say the least, but they do an exceptional job of keeping your coffee warm.
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You can think of them as travel mugs with a lot of fancy tech built in to ensure your coffee remains at a temperature that’s just right for you.
Car Coffee Warmers
If you frequently find yourself stuck in traffic you might like to consider buying a dedicated cup warmer for your car.
These devices plug in via the USB or lighter interface in your car, and keep the coffee warmed up as a result.
They’re very often more secure than your standard car cup holder as well. They have a deeper design that reduces the risk of suffering a very unwelcome spillage.
Magic Metal Beans!
One of the more innovative additions to the coffee market in recent years are the metal coffee beans made by Joulie.
It sounds like science fiction but these large metallic beans sit inside your drink, and absorb heat energy until the coffee’s at 140 degrees.
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Once the drink falls below that level, the metal beans release some of that energy back into the cup, heating the coffee. You can add more or less beans depending on the size of your drink.
It sounds like voodoo to me, but they work surprisingly well! They’re large enough that you don’t have to worry about consuming them either.
In all honesty I’d make a second cup of coffee before I re-heated my first one in a microwave.
It’s also not so much a way of keeping your coffee hot as reversing the situation!
The problem with microwaved coffee is that the appliance heats the coffee extremely unevenly.
It’s very hard to achieve a consistent temperature across the entire cup without stopping constantly to re-stir. If you don’t, you end up nuking a portion of the drink, ruining the coffee.
Still, if you’re just looking to glug a quick caffeine fix this is – technically – a method you can use for getting your cup of coffee warmed up.
In the next section I’m going to answer some of the more common questions about keeping coffee warm in particular circumstances.
Hopefully this should help you out of whatever coffee-cooling predicament you’re facing!
How to keep coffee warm without electricity
It’s no fun being at home when the power goes out. It doesn’t help much if you can’t even keep your coffee warm while you frantically try to fix the problem.
Here are a few quick remedies you can use in a flash:
- Grab the thickest bit of fabric you have on hand and wrap it around your cup.
- If you own a travel mug, transfer your cup of coffee to it right away and get the lid on fast.
- Don’t own a travel mug, but you do have one of those insulating sleeves tucked away somewhere in the kitchen? See if you can stretch it around your cup. You’re still going to lose a lot of heat from the top of the cup, but every little bit helps.
- Even if it’s a bit overkill for the volume involved, there’s no reason you can’t grab an old thermos, give it a quick rinse, pour your coffee in and seal the lid.
Obviously a lot of these solutions require you to have a few items in your home already.
Still, it’s surprising what you can make use of when disaster strikes your power supply!
How to keep coffee hot for a party
It’s hard enough brewing up enough coffee for a large gathering, but no one wants a reputation for serving up a big old batch of tepid coffee to their guests.
You have a couple of options here:
Buy An Airpot Carafe
Your best option if you’re doing this regularly is to invest in one of those pump-top (or Airpot) carafes you might have seen at work events.
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These act in much the same way as a regular home carafe, but hold a much greater volume of coffee.
They keep the coffee warm for absolutely ages, and everyone can just grab a top up as and when they need it.
Buy a box of sleeves
Alternatively, you might look into buying a box of disposable cardboard sleeves. These are normally used at takeaway outlets to stop your hand getting scalded, but they also provide a little extra insulation by design.
How to keep coffee hot at your desk
This one takes a little planning and preparation, but it’s far from a complex problem to solve.
The moment you pour your coffee into a cup, it’s going to start rapidly losing heat. That cooling will happen even more quickly if you’re adding the coffee to a cold cup.
Before you pour a cup in your home or office kitchen, given the inside of the cup a good rinse out with hot water.
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It’s a simple fix, but it will stop the cooling process in its tracks – at least for a little while.
Alternatively you might consider buying a mug warmer. These are miniature heating plates that sit next to you while you work, and keep the temperature of your coffee ticking over nicely.
I wrote a guide to the best coffee mug warmers earlier this year. The Nomodo Wireless Mug Warmer came out on top if you want to head straight to the top pick.
How to keep Starbucks coffee hot
As a general rule of thumb, the milkier your takeaway Starbucks is, the quicker it will cool down.
For that reason, you might want to switch out your lattes for something else.
Determined to stick to your favorite drinks?
You can try asking for your Starbucks to be brewed “extra hot”. Starbucks tends to brew its coffee at a lower temperature than artisan baristas would prefer.
By asking the staff if they can dial up the temperature a little, you’ll have a brew that tastes a little different from the regular Starbucks. You might actually find you prefer it though.
The main benefit of this, of course, is that when the coffee’s brewed at a higher temperature it will stay drinkably warm for much longer.
If that doesn’t work out, consider getting a thermal travel mug that you can pour your Starbucks into. That’s guaranteed to keep the drink hot for much longer than the standard takeaway cup will.
As you can see, with a little imagination and preparation it’s possible to counter every cup of cold coffee.
Think about what you might need in any given situation, then make sure you have the most cost-effective solution should any of them crop up.