The Lowdown: Burning Coffee

Can you burn coffee by adding the water first? Does it taste better when adding the milk first?

Being told “you’ll burn the coffee” is quite possibly one of the most annoying sentences to ever be uttered. Especially when you’re me and you really don’t give a shit either way. I put hot water in first because it means I have to stir it less when I add the milk.

It’s all about getting the coffee made and into my mouth the quickest way possible.

For the purpose of this post, and experiment, I am using instant coffee. This is because I use it, as do a lot of you. So I put it to the test myself PLUS Googled the shit out of it and here are the results:

FIRSTLY: Instant coffee starts with ground coffee beans. A very strong, concentrated coffee is brewed from them. Then the liquid has the moisture removed by freeze-drying, or by spray-drying to leave just the solids (taken from

TEST 1: Google
Google told me a few things. Firstly it told me what Instant Coffee was (read above). Then it told me that the reason people initially put milk in their cup first, was to prevent the cup from cracking – NOTHING to do with burning the coffee. Then it told me a lot of people’s opinions. So I continued my test …


TEST 2: Read The Instructions
The instructions on my instant coffee pack state “for the perfect brew, add 1 or 2 teaspoons to your mug, fill with hot water, add milk if desired, stir and enjoy”.  I do note here that it says “HOT” and not “BOILING”.


TEST 3: Water Temperature
Once you boil the kettle, it clicks off and then you fill your mug; your hot water is no longer boiling. It will have dropped a couple of degrees. I tested this out using a digital thermometer and at boiling it’s 100 degrees Celsius (maybe an extra degree or two). By the time I poured the water into the mug (maybe 2 seconds afterwards), the temperature was dropping. It was 93 degrees.

Even if I let it boil and poured it before it actually clicked off, it will still be cooling down. So you can’t definitively say that it’s boiling water that hits the coffee.


TEST 4: Taste
Since I’ve kind of proven you can’t “burn” the coffee (because it’s technically not 100 degrees when it hits the coffee), the next test is the taste test. Two cups of coffee, one prepared with milk first, the second with hot water first.

I could only slightly taste the difference – I’m happy to admit that. But the taste difference isn’t enough to convince me to pour milk in first. However I do understand that for some it is. That part just comes to taste differences.


Overall we can’t definitively say that instant coffee can be “burned” – because the water isn’t hot enough. However I can say it tastes differently – not sure the science behind it, but perhaps the milk hydrates the coffee granules first.

Either way, I’m not bothered; and I wanted to make point that you can’t “burn” instant coffee. Feel free to prove me wrong though – throw an article at me that says you can! It has to be about Instant Coffee though – because that’s what myself and many others use.

YES. When you grind your own beans, the experts say to not use boiling water as it can cause a bitter/burnt flavour. Not a problem because kettle boiled water won’t be boiling by the time you pour it out. Your favourite café won’t use boiling water either, just perfectly hot water.

When the coffee beans are roasted they can also be burnt – but neither you nor I will be roasting coffee beans, so we don’t have to worry about that LOL.

Before you say “gah stop drinking instant coffee, it’s shit” … or “instant coffee won’t taste burned because it’s shit to begin with” – I DON’T CARE. I am not about to grind beans, or let my filter coffee brew for 5 minutes before drinking it. I’m not a coffee connoisseur, I just want to drink some form of coffee that takes the least possible time to make.

It does get a little tiring when people keep saying I’ll burn my coffee by putting water in first.

Nope – I won’t!


The Lowdown: Burning Coffee

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