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How Long Should I Boil Coffee For?

Until the 1930s, boiling used to be the most common method to prepare coffee. Although it has now fallen out of fashion in favour of other brewing techniques, it is still used in many traditional recipes. To boil coffee, all you really need is water, coffee grounds and a heat source.

When you’re trying out a traditional cowboy coffee recipe or testing your new ibrik to make turkish coffee you might be wondering how long to boil coffee.

Actually, You Should Never Boil Coffee

Steam rising from a thermal carafe

Despite the name of the article, traditional recipes almost never call for actually boiling the coffee. This is because boiling the coffee grounds will destroy flavour compounds and most likely result in bitter over-extraction.

When we’re talking about boiling coffee, we’re really talking about brewing it in heated water. Let’s have a look at some traditional ways to “boil” coffee.

Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy coffee has a reputation of being less than delicious, but it doesn’t have to be (1). To make campfire coffee that tastes as good as at home, you just need to take some care in preparing it. The reason cowboy coffee is often bitter is that the coffee grounds are being boiled and steeped in the water for too long, resulting in over-extraction.

The perfect temperature for water used to brew coffee is between 91 and 96 degrees Celsius (195 – 205 Fahrenheit) (2​​​). If it’s hotter than that, it will burn the delicate flavor compounds in the coffee; if it’s colder, the coffee will not extract fully.

Although you probably don’t have a thermometer with you when camping, just let the boiled water cool down for about 30 seconds (​3​​​) before adding the coffee. Give it a stir and let the grounds steep for only about 4-5 minutes; any longer than that, and you’re again risking over-extraction and bitterness.

Once the coffee is brewed, you should pour it to mugs or a thermos immediately. Since the grounds are left in the bottom of the pot, the brewing process will continue for as long as the coffee is kept in the pot.

Boiling On The Stovetop

Moka pot on stovetop

Boiling in a pot or saucepan on the stove is the most traditional way to make coffee in many countries. Although it has now been replaced by filter coffee machines in most homes, this method still retains some popularity.

It’s kind of like using a stovetop espresso maker, without the coffee maker part.

This is especially true in the Nordic countries and some of their descendants (4) in the US, where it is often called “church basement coffee”. 

Pan-boiled coffee is similar to cowboy coffee, only made on a stove instead of an open fire. Even with such a simple recipe, there are variations – trial and error may be required to find your favorite way of making it.

Watch a visual guide to making stovetop coffee here:

Turkish Coffee

Brass ibrik plus two cups

Turkish coffee is famous for its intense flavor. It has been prepared using the same technique for over 500 years, so the conventions of making it are well-established.

Two things are needed to prepare Turkish coffee: very finely ground coffee powder (5) and a special brewing pot called a “cezve” in Turkey or an “ibrik” in most other parts of the world. A filter is not used in its preparation, so the resulting cup is thick with coffee “mud.” This just adds to its charm.

As a result, you will need a very good coffee grinder to get the beans fine enough to blend into the coffee. Alternatively, you can just pick up some ready-ground Turkish coffee.

To brew Turkish coffee, combine water, coffee and your preferred amount of sugar and spice in an ibrik. Heat the pot slowly, avoiding the boiling point and spillage. Let it cool down and then place it back on the stove, letting it heat just below the boiling point once or twice more (​6​​​). Pour and enjoy immediately.

How Long To Boil Coffee? – Ah, You’re Asking The WRONG Question ?

So it turns out that boiling coffee isn’t such a good idea after all. Most traditional recipes actually call for letting the boiled water cool down a bit before adding the coffee grounds.

Boiling water (212 F – 100 C) should never be used, as it will burn the coffee.

What “boiled” coffee recipes actually have in common is the lack of in-built filters and the resulting simplicity of brewing. Although modern ways to make coffee tend to be neater, there is an air of tradition and romanticism in making stovetop coffee.

Have you tried any of the recipes in this article? Let me know in the comments!

Frequently Asked Questions

Boiling coffee is bad for the delicate flavor compounds that give it complexity and richness. Boiling coffee leads to over-extraction, in which the bitter elements overwhelm any other flavor the coffee grounds might have had.

You should not pour boiling water on coffee. The optimum water temperature for brewing coffee is between 91 and 96 degrees Celsius (195-205 degrees Fahrenheit). If you don’t have a thermometer, a good rule of thumb is to take the water off the boil for 30 seconds before pouring.

If you boil coffee, the aromatic acids and sugars are broken down and eliminated, retaining only the bitter elements – the third part of coffee extraction, from the plant fibers that hold the beans together.


  1. How Do You Make Cowboy Coffee? (2017, September 20). Retrieved from https://driftaway.coffee/how-do-you-make-cowboy-coffee/
  2. Black Bear Coffee Micro Roastery. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://blackbearcoffee.com/resources/87
  3. The Lonesome Art Of Cowboy Coffee. (2016, July 05). Retrieved from https://sprudge.com/cowboy-coffee-94275.html
  4. Johnson, L. (n.d.). Eggy Coffee? Retrieved from https://www.southdakotamagazine.com/swedish-egg-coffee
  5. www.turkishcoffeeworld.com. (n.d.). Retrieved From https://www.turkishcoffeeworld.com/default.asp
Alex Azoury
Alex is an Editor of Home Grounds, who considers himself as a traveling coffee fanatic. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee while in obscure locations, and teaching others to do the same.

Comments

  1. Although making coffee INSIDE boiling water might cause excessive and bitter extraction, using boiling water for your pour-over or French press is perfectly safe.

    The Specialty Coffee Association’s Cupping Standards say, ” Cupping water temperature shall be 200°F ± 2°F (92.2 – 94.4°C) when poured on grounds.” That is their kettle temperature. Unfortunately, that is the extent of their standard. They never say anything about the temperature of the grounds. Is this with grounds at room temperature? Pre-heated? Does it matter if the grounds were refrigerated? All of this should matter but the SCA says nothing about it.

    If the kettle temperature is at 200°F ± 2°F (92.2 – 94.4°C) then it will be much cooler once it hits the grounds. This is a major shortcoming of the SCA standard. The important thing would be the temperature of the slurry. What should the temperature be when it is doing its extraction? This brings into question the validity of the SCA’s standards. They are definitely lacking in some regards.

    James Hoffman shows pour-over and French press temperatures in their slurries from kettles of near boiling water. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_r5kpXPRYo] Although he used “near boiling water (about 98° C/ 208° F), he explained that had it been 100° C (212° F) the result would only have been slightly higher, but still nowhere near boiling temperature during brewing.

    Pour-over has lower temperature effects with French press being higher, but neither exceed 95° C (203° F). Hoffman’s claim is that if the water is at 100° C (212° F) when it leaves the kettle, it will immediately fall when it hits the pour-over or French press to a safe level. This results in the SCA Standards range for kettle temperature. Consequently, Hoffman shows that using near boiling water results in pour-over and French press temperatures (equivalent to SCA cupping temperatures) of 92.2°C – 94.4°C and postulates that using fully boiling water will only raise the slurry a small amount, still never close to boiling.

    Clearly, we know that certain roasts do best at higher or lower brewing temperatures, but as for producing a “burnt” effect, that will not happen with boiling water used in a pour-over or a French press. The closest you could come to an exceedingly “toasted” taste would be if you used a dark roast or “Espresso” roast, which is already extra toasty in the first place. But not “burnt”.
    A siphon brewing method is a bit different because of the way the water is heated during the brewing process, so that could potentially have some cooking effects on the coffee. But pour-over and French press are exempt from that issue.

    The “burnt” coffee effects would then be restricted to brewing coffee inside boiling water, actually boiling the slurry. I have not done that and James Hoffman has not done a video on that showing the brew temperature at 100° C (212° F) and its effect on the taste of the coffee. Even though the SCA says it should leave the kettle at 200°F ± 2°F (92.2 – 94.4°C), it does not say what temperature the grounds should be, nor even the generalization of being at room temperature or pre-heated. Hoffman tested at both warmish room temperature, but then did a full fledged pre-heat on the French press (the hotter of the two methods) to see if that would get close to 100° C (212° F). It did not.

    Questions still abound, but we do know for sure is that using boiling water out of the kettle will not result in “burning” your coffee brew.

    Reply

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