Nuking Coffee In The Microwave? Read This First
> Reheating coffee in the microwave changes the flavor
It’s the start of another day at work.
You’re armed with a fresh hot cup of coffee and ready to take on the day’s activities.
The first sip is way too hot, so you put the coffee back down and let it cool down a bit as you open up email and see what disasters are in store for you this morning.
As you knock out one quick reply after another, you’re starting to get into a rhythm. As you answer your colleague’s questions and fulfill their requests, you’ve settled into a good working pace.
After taking care of the priority emails, you dive back into one of your current projects to make some progress. You’re hitting an ideal stride.
You glance at the time and amazingly, a full hour just blew by in a flash.
You reach for the cup and take a sip.
Ugh...it’s just lukewarm.
It only seemed like a few minutes ago that it was scalding hot.
Dammit, good coffee gone cold again.
You don’t want to waste this good cup o’joe. You bought it on the way into work and it’s exactly the way you like it. It’s just not hot anymore.
So, you do the usual and head for the breakroom to warm it back up in the microwave.
After nuking it for a couple of minutes, the coffee is hot again, but it’s just not the same taste-wise. It seems to be slightly off.
Most times, you’ll drink it but other times when the flavor is really off, like undrinkably off, you just end up dumping it out. Good money right down the drain.
So, why it is that microwaving coffee changes the flavor? And, what can you do to keep your coffee in that perfect temp for sipping?
Here’s our take on this whole dilemma. We’ll start from a fresh cup of java.
Why Microwaved Coffee Doesn’t Taste As Good - Your Nose Knows!
There’s nothing like the warm roasty aroma of a freshly brewed pot of coffee in the morning, whether it’s at home or at the coffee shop.
Even better, if you’ve ever walked into a donut shop right when they’re making fresh pots of coffee...OMG, that’s one of the best combo smells ever.
Believe it or not, aromas have a profound effect on how things taste. Think of all those times when you were sick and had a stuffed up nose. Remember how you couldn’t really taste anything?
That’s how much our sense of smell impacts how things taste to us.
When that fresh pot of coffee is made and it’s poured into your cup, you can smell all the wonderful scents of roasted beans. There are over a thousand different aromas in a single cup of coffee, but only about a dozen or so are noticeable by our noses.
When you sip on coffee that’s hot and fresh, you’re not only drinking the coffee but also smelling it too. And, the combination of taste and smell is what really makes the flavor standout.
Unfortunately, all those wonderful aromas quickly evaporate off, usually within 10 minutes and thus, the flavor profile changes.
That’s why there’s a specific window of time when the coffee has cooled down just a bit to be sippable (but still hot) and when the aromas are still present.
This is the ideal sipping zone. It’s when you’re able to drink hot coffee while the aromas are still present. You’re getting the entire flavor profile.
When this fleeting moment of ideal flavor passes, you’ve officially entered the zone of lukewarm coffee regret.
How Reheating Coffee In The Microwave Affects Taste
So now, you’ve got this lukewarm cup of coffee sitting on your desk. It’s the one you get every morning and it’s made just the way you like it.
It’d be such waste to just pour it down the drain, especially when it’s one of those specialty blends approaching five bucks.
So, you reheat it in the microwave for two minutes to get it hot again.
What the microwave is essentially doing is changing the state of the water molecules from a stable state to one of excitement. As the atoms vibrate, it creates heat.
This is how it gets hot again.
However, when you reheat coffee, you’re actually further breaking down the chemical compounds in the coffee along with any milk, creamer and sugar that you previously mixed in.
The overall chemistry of the coffee changes.
Plus, all the original aromas have evaporated long ago. There’s no way you can re-insert those aromas back into the coffee. Impossible.
The end result is that the coffee gets a bit more bitter and slightly sour. And with each time you reheat it, it just gets worse.
But, we know that sometimes you don’t want to dump that pricey cup of joe and the free coffee that’s in the breakroom is more like liquified tar and tastes like shit.
So, if you’re gonna nuke it anyway, follow our guidelines below.
How To Microwave Coffee & Not Lose All The Flavor
There’s no getting around the fact that reheating coffee, whether it’s via stovetop or microwave, isn’t going to bring your coffee back to its lovely original flavor. Period.
However, we know that a lot of us will do it anyway for a variety of reasons.
The best way to reheat your coffee in the microwave is to do it gradually. This will minimize the heat shock of the coffee.
All microwave ovens are set to level 10 as the default power setting. It’s like having the flame on full blast on the stovetop.
This isn’t ideal for warming up coffee.
The aim here is to warm the coffee, not re-boil it.
If you’ve ever microwaved your coffee and it was bubbling when you took it out of the oven, that’s way too much time and power.
When you re-boil your already mixed coffee, you’re breaking down all sorts of other compounds in the mixture - the creamer and any sweeteners. This leads to some funky flavors.
So, to minimize this, warm it, don’t re-boil it.
Instead, follow these steps:
1) Pour coffee in microwave-safe mug and place it inside the oven
2) Set the power to 7 or 8
3) Re-heat for one minute
4) Do taste and temp test
5) Extend time in 30 second increments, if needed
For most microwaves, a one-minute session at power level eight is enough to get the coffee back up to a warm sippable temperature. Larger mugs (i.e. - hand buckets) will require more time.
If you like it piping hot or know that you’ll be sitting with the mug for a bit before drinking it, extend the time by another 30 seconds.
This will get it closer to a steamy warm temperature.
You may need to add a bit more milk and/or sweetener to offset the increase in bitterness.
Now, with all that noted, if you’re drinking the office coffee stock, don’t bother with reheating it. Just make a new pot instead. There’s no reason to drink reheated cheap office coffee.
How To Keep Your Coffee Warm For Longer
One way to solve this cold coffee dilemma is to get at the root of the problem - minimizing the heat and aromas from escaping your fresh hot cup of coffee as much as possible.
By extending the time it takes for the hot coffee to cool, you’ll have a much longer window of opportunity to sip-n-savor your fav morning drink.
Here are two ways that work well to keep your java steaming:
1) Use An Insulated Travel Mug (Our Recommended Option)
The best way we’ve found to extend all of the coffee goodness for most of the morning is to use a high quality insulated travel mug instead of the disposable cups from the coffee shop.
Not only will you be able to keep your morning java hot for longer, but you’ll also be minimizing waste by not using paper cups and plastic lids.
You can buy these at most all major retailers like Target or Walmart and of course online.
And today’s versions can keep your coffee warm for up to 6-8 hours.
Plus, they all have spill-proof lids that will help keep all of those awesome aromas sealed until you take your sips.
Most are shaped in such a way that they’ll fit into most cup holders in cars. So, go for the normal round types and stay away from odd shapes or over-sized models.
2) USB Powered Coffee Mugs & Warmers
This one’s taking things one step further by actually keeping the coffee hot with heating elements built into the mug or a separate warming plate.
It’s a much pricier option but for those that are die-hard coffee-holics that want to keep their fav brew hot for longer, this could be your next fav mug.
The USB powered coffee mugs have a built-in rechargeable battery and heating coil.
If you’ve ever seen electric stovetops, you’ve seen heating coils. It’s the flat wiring that is shaped into a circle that contacts the bottom of pots and pans.
The heating coil is typically embedded inside the mug at the bottom of the cup. It uses battery power to create heat in the metal coil, which in turn, keeps your coffee warm.
There are also companion wireless warming coasters for the mugs. These are like the warming plates you see at diners where they keep coffee pots warm. It’s the same idea. Only here, it’s keeping a mug warm instead of a glass pot.
The technology has gotten so good that some office workers may be a bit unscrupulous with this kind of new tech.
VIDEO: Bud Light Steaming Cup of Coffee commercial
We’d add a desktop screensaver showing excel workbooks and powerpoints in draft form. And, to top it all off, drape a jacket over the chair. 😉
Anyway, getting back to the hi-tech solutions, some of these USB powered mugs and warmers even offer apps to customize your “coffee experience” via temperature settings among other things.
Do we really need an app to track and monitor our coffee drinking?
However, either of these powered solutions will work just fine. But, in our honest opinion, it’s a bit too complex.
We prefer simple and we’re guessing that you do too.
Tasty Coffee = Happy You
Having our morning coffee is a mandatory requirement for most of us working folks. It’s our wake-up brew and a caffeinated kick-start to the day.
It’s critically important that we get our java and be able to enjoy it while it’s at its optimum taste.
So, if you’ve missed that ideal window for drinking your fav brew, don’t fret. Go ahead and microwave it at a lower power setting to warm it back up.
It’s not going to be as good as when it was first poured, but at least you’ll be able to enjoy what’s left of it and not waste your hard earned dollars.
Even better, next time, ask your barista to pour your coffee into an insulated mug instead. Then, your warm java will be right next to you as you’re powering through the morning’s emails. Each sip will be just as warm as the one prior and just as tasty too.
Or, maybe mix it up and try something new like cofftea instead.
Whatever you end up doing, keep your fav morning coffee in your routine. It’s one of the few reliable things we can do for ourselves daily that brings us some joy.