Why is hot coffee sold so damned HOT!

OK.  I don’t know about you but the reason I drink coffee is to help stay awake when I need to stay awake.  Say I’m driving home late at night and I need to stay alert.  To help me, I can stop at a local rest stop or fast food restaurant and get some coffee. The problem with the coffee though is that it’s sold so damned hot that you have to wait some 5 to 10 minutes before it’s cool enough to drink without burning you mouth. So if I’m trying to stay awake I’ll need to be patient enough to wait.  I guess I should bring an alarm clock so in case I fall asleep it will wake me up when the coffee is cool enough to drink.  However, I’ll admit I’m impatient at times and attempt to carefully sip my piping hot coffee and inevitably bear the brief pain and burn my mouth anyway.

But who’s idea was it that coffee so be so damned hot?  I mean many years ago this topic lead to a million dollar lawsuit against McDonalds when a person got severely burned after spilling a cup of piping hot coffee on her lap.  Afterwards the person filed a lawsuit that resulted in damages of over $2 million against McDonalds.  The case was eventually settled quietly out of court.  I remember attending Torts class in law school and the professor mentioned the not widely publicized facts of the case, that this was no mere burn but a really really bad burn.  The outcome of this case was that McDonalds had to now put warnings to let customers know that it’s hot coffee is actually hot.  Coffee continues to be served at temperatures up to around 190 degrees.  Note that water boils at 212 degrees.

I do remember the argument that had been made as to why hot coffee is served so hot.  It’s because customers on their way to work expect to drive up to a fast food place, pick up their coffee, drive to work and not drink their coffee until they get to work.  When they get to work at that time they want their coffee hot and drinkable, so places overheat their coffee intentionally.  So that means that maybe most people don’t really drink coffee to stay awake but maybe more as a ritual?  I mean if you’re driving to work early in the morning and pick up coffee but don’t drink it for a while, you must be fairly alert and awake already.  Or maybe in reality you are not that awake and you are waiting for your coffee to cool down so you are slightly sluggish and inattentive drive on the morning commute.  Maybe this inattentive driving promotes traffic tie ups as red lights turn green and the first person in line takes an extra few seconds to react.  So here’s a theory:  Hot coffee being served so hot is promoting traffic jams because so many drivers in need of a caffeine kick are being deprived of that opportunity to wake up immediately.  Many are forced to wait until they finish their commute to be able to drink their coffee.  But by this time the damage is already done.

What is so wrong about about WARM coffee?  What? Are you going to throw up and keel over when the sensation of warm coffee touches your tongue?  I’d guess if that happened you would become so irate and march right back to the place that sold you this immediately drinkable coffee and sue them.  But yet there is a thriving business selling chilled and iced coffees of all flavors.  So explain that?

So for you to be happy in life you have a right to have your coffee served piping hot (that’s marketing hype for scalding hot).  So I guess this is the statement that the average American coffee lover would say about coffee:  “I’ve got this piping hot cup of coffee that is so hot I need a extra wrapper of corrogated box wrapped around it to be able to hold it.  I have no intention of drinking this piping hot cup of coffee, but I’m so happy and satisfied just knowing my coffee is piping hot.  In fact if I had my way my coffee would remain eternally piping hot at 190 degrees and I’d never ever drink it so as to make sure my cup remains full.  I mean why would I want to empty my full cup of piping hot happiness?  Happiness is a full cup, right?”

So here’s my theory.  Some marketing genius (obviously a mad and evil genius though), realized that the optimal happiness and satisfaction surrounding the purchase of hot coffee is at the point of possession of a full cup of piping hot coffee.  It’s not so much about the drinking of the coffee but that knowing that you still have full cup and knowing that it’s piping hot or rather piping happy.

As for me I’m more functional. I think of coffee as a source of caffeine to help keep me awake.  When I get my coffee, I need it now, because otherwise I’m going to fall asleep.  So when I buy coffee I avoid most fast food places that will fill your coffee up to the top with scalding hot coffee.  Instead I visit places that allow you to self serve your own coffee.  I fill my cup about 3/4 the way with the scalding hot coffee and then fill up the rest with cold skim milk.  And so I end up warm, evenly slightly hot but very drinkable and satisfying coffee.  If I’m really dead tired and need lots of caffeine I can gulp lots of coffee quickly.  I pause a bit when the barrista at a coffee shop asks me if I want room for cream or milk.  Filling my cup 90% of the way with scalding hot coffee can’t be cooled down by cream or milk.

So how about you?  Do you like your coffee scalding hot when you buy it, or would you have value in places that serve you drinkable warm or just moderately hot coffee?

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2 Responses to Why is hot coffee sold so damned HOT!

  1. kesterlowers says:

    I often fill cup 3/4 then put sugar and creamer in then go to soda machine and get ice in coffee so I can drink it on the way to work. Nice article as it affects everyone I work with as our hours are so varied and long.

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