Calculating the optimum temperature for serving hot beverages

Burns. 2008 Aug;34(5):648-54. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2007.09.012. Epub 2008 Jan 15.


Hot beverages such as tea, hot chocolate, and coffee are frequently served at temperatures between 160 degrees F (71.1 degrees C) and 185 degrees F (85 degrees C). Brief exposures to liquids in this temperature range can cause significant scald burns. However, hot beverages must be served at a temperature that is high enough to provide a satisfactory sensation to the consumer. This paper presents an analysis to quantify hot beverage temperatures that balance limiting the potential scald burn hazard and maintaining an acceptable perception of adequate product warmth. A figure of merit that can be optimized is defined that quantifies and combines both the above effects as a function of the beverage temperature. An established mathematical model for simulating burns as a function of applied surface temperature and time of exposure is used to quantify the extent of thermal injury. Recent data from the literature defines the consumer preferred drinking temperature of coffee. A metric accommodates the thermal effects of both scald hazard and product taste to identify an optimal recommended serving temperature. The burn model shows the standard exponential dependence of injury level on temperature. The preferred drinking temperature of coffee is specified in the literature as 140+/-15 degrees F (60+/-8.3 degrees C) for a population of 300 subjects. A linear (with respect to temperature) figure of merit merged the two effects to identify an optimal drinking temperature of approximately 136 degrees F (57.8 degrees C). The analysis points to a reduction in the presently recommended serving temperature of coffee to achieve the combined result of reducing the scald burn hazard and improving customer satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Beverages* / adverse effects
  • Burns / etiology
  • Burns / prevention & control*
  • Coffee
  • Cohort Studies
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Food Handling / methods*
  • Hot Temperature* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Skin / injuries
  • Skin Temperature
  • Thermal Conductivity


  • Coffee