In old movies or kitchens, you see a water kettle being used to boil water that is then poured over the coffee grinds. Most modern homes use a drip coffee maker to conveniently make a pot of coffee without having to pour boiling water yourself.
However, does a coffee maker boil water? Can you use it to make tea? Surprisingly, the drip coffee maker in your kitchen does not boil water when you make a pot of coffee!
The better coffee machines get to around 200 degrees F, which is just a little below the boiling temperature of the water. Cheaper models will only reach 180 degrees F, staying quite a bit under the boiling point of water.
With all modern automated coffee makers not boiling the water, you have to ask whether you should brew coffee with boiling water at all. Let’s dive right into that topic to see at what temperature water boils. We’ll also cover whether you need boiling water to make the perfect cup of coffee. Lastly, we’ll cover what the best temperature for brewing coffee is.
What is the Boiling Temperature of Water?
It should be pretty easy to answer that question. If you look up the scientific answers, you’ll find 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius as the boiling temperature of the water.
Yet, that’s only half the truth. These temperatures are correct at sea level but vary depending on altitude.
The higher the altitude (Does Altitude Affect Coffee Flavor?), the lower the temperature to boiling water. The differences can be quite significant. If you’re somewhere in the Rockies and try to boil water, you will need up to 10 degrees less compared to sea level. So, up in the mountains, an automated drip coffee maker might end up boiling water while that never happens at lower altitudes.
But, what is boiling water anyways? It’s described as the point where water changes from a liquid to gas (steam).
Boiling water was and is often used for cooking and sterilization purposes. Bacteria in the water do not survive being boiled, and you can often transform non-potable water into potable water by simply boiling it.
There are some coffee makers that use boiling water. No, none of the automated machines but stovetop Moka pots (Comparing Aluminum vs Stainless Steel Moka Pot: Which One is Better?), for example, boil the water and use steam to brew coffee. Other brewing techniques like pour-over brewing or a French Press do not heat the water themselves. It depends on what temperature water you pour into them. If you use boiling water, then you’ll brew your coffee with boiling water!
However, all automated drip coffee makers will not reach boiling points for the water when brewing a cup or pot of Joe (Why Is Coffee Called Joe?)!
How does a Coffee Maker Heat Water?
A modern coffee maker consists of a water reservoir, a pump, a metal tube, a filter basket, and finally, the carafe. The water is pumped out of the reservoir through the metal tube in which it is heated up.
The size of the tube is pretty small, so the heating process happens quickly. The water is heated up to somewhere close to boiling (in good coffee makers) and then sprayed over your coffee grounds in the basket.
Does a Coffee Maker Boil Water to Make Coffee
No, it does not. The main reason is that the perfect temperature to brew coffee is around 200 degrees F. That’s quite a bit below the boiling temperature of water at 212°F.
Now, you might say that a percolator or Moka pot use steam so they obviously must boil water. That’s correct. However, the steam condenses, and that condensed water brews the coffee. While these two types of coffee makers do indeed boil water, they do not use that boiling hot water to brew coffee.
Most high-end coffee makers will heat the water to 195 to 200°F. There’s no need to increase the temperature to the boiling point of water and then produce a lot of steam in the metal tube. This steam would then need to be condensed so you could have the coffee machine spray the now slightly less hot water over the coffee grounds. It’s easier to heat the water to the desired temperature.
Most coffee makers will not even reach 195°F when heating the water. Even rather expensive models like the Keurig single-serve brewers do not reach higher temperatures than around 192 degrees F. Keurig’s machines need to be able to brew coffee, tea, or hot cocoa, which explains why the slightly lower temperature is the best compromise for them.
How would Coffee taste if your Coffee Maker Boiled Water?
There’s no technical limitation as to why a coffee maker couldn’t use boiling water. However, coffee tastes best when brewed with water up to 205 degrees F.
That’s quite a bit below the boiling point of water. If you brew your coffee with boiling water, it might not taste as good.
The higher temperatures would start to burn the coffee grounds, resulting in bitter-tasting coffee. That’s the main reason why coffee makers have not been updated and changed to boil water to brew coffee.
Does a Coffee Maker kill Bacteria in the Water?
If your tap water used to brew coffee is not potable and cannot be consumed by a human, then your coffee maker is not going to kill the bacteria in the water. In that case, you will have to use bottled water from the supermarket or boil the water before using it to brew coffee. If you boil the water before using it in your coffee maker, then make sure that you let the water cool first!
The temperature of the water in the coffee maker simply does not get hot enough to guarantee that all bacteria get killed. The water definitely has to boil for a while, and that’s not happening in the coffee machine.
You also do have to regularly clean your coffee maker to get rid of all the bacteria and gunk that accumulates within the machine. You should either use vinegar or a cleaning solution to get rid of any limescale or other gunk that collects in the brewer.
Another rule to follow is to empty the used coffee grounds immediately after the brewing cycle. This makes sure that there’s no time for mold or other gunk to build up while the wet filter and wet coffee grounds sit in the basket.
Can you use a Coffee Maker to Boil Water?
No, you can’t. The temperature gets close to boiling, but it does not reach the boiling point.
However, it does get hot enough for most uses where you need to use very hot or boiling water. Most better quality coffee makers will make the water hot enough that you can use it for some teas as well as some instant foods.
Final Thoughts on Whether a Coffee Maker can Boil Water
The only way to get your coffee maker to boil water is at high elevations. If you climb a mountain in the Rockies to around 4,000 feet, the water’s boiling point will be down to 204 degrees Fahrenheit.
In that case, it’ll be child’s play for your coffee maker to boil water. Yet, you might not like the climb up the mountain to get your coffee maker to the point that it boils water.
Otherwise, in most areas that are lower in elevation, there won’t be any boiling water coming out of your coffee maker. Not that you need it, as your coffee tastes better with water just below the boiling point.
The temperature of the water will usually be hot enough for tea and instant soup or noodles. For the cases where you genuinely need boiling water, you should use a water kettle.