Why Hot Coffee Beats Iced, Even In Summer

Let me drink my steaming hot dark roast in the middle of July.

We are fast approaching the season in which I must always reassure my barista that I did, in fact, place my order correctly. "You want that iced, right?" they ask helpfully after I order a coffee or latte. "Nope, hot," I clarify, and I see their hand pause while reaching reflexively for the plastic cups and shift toward the cardboard ones. Despite the blaring heat of a Chicago summer, I never switch to iced coffee in the summer. Give me a hot coffee any month of the year, please. I have my reasons.

Hot drinks don’t get diluted

There's nothing more frustrating than seeing a drip machine dispense a barely brown-tinted stream of water into my cup. Maybe this is extreme, but I'd rather deal with a caffeine-withdrawal headache than drink diluted coffee. And no matter how quickly you drink it, the ice in an iced coffee starts melting as soon as it's plunked onto the pickup counter. The result, a less concentrated coffee flavor threaded with ribbons of cold water that hit your tongue at unexpected and unwelcome intervals, is so unappetizing that the disadvantages offset the nice cooling effects of an iced drink on a hot day.

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Beyond that, hot coffee is more adjustable long after it's fresh. Room temp coffee can be microwaved back up to the ideal temp, whereas a melted cold brew isn't getting any colder—unless you turn it even more watery with the addition of extra ice cubes.

It's worth mentioning, of course, that hot drinks don't actually keep you cooler on a hot day than iced ones do. Not unless you drink so much of them that you sweat bullets, and you happen to be wearing something that allows all that sweat to dissipate, thus lowering your internal body temperature. I don't think I've ever drank something that hot in my whole life. No, my preference for hot coffee all summer long isn't backed up by science. It's just a preference, plain and simple.

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Hot coffee factors in air conditioning

The (unfortunate) fact is that pretty much any destination I head toward with an on-the-go coffee—the train, the airport, the office, the grocery store, the gym, or hell, even the coffee shop itself—is one that tends to run its air conditioning at full blast in the summertime. I spend most of the season carting a hoodie around, and using hot coffee as a hand warmer. Even now, on a temperate day in May, I sit at my desk typing with numb fingers, and the idea of drinking an iced coffee is giving me literal chills.

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The hazards of perspiration

I speak from an unfortunate amount of experience here: the plastic cups used for iced beverages sweat their condensation all over the place, making the cup slippery and harder to hold onto. This means that, yes, I have dropped more than one nearly full beverage on the sidewalk, watching my $5 investment dribble across the pavement. Maybe I'm the biggest klutz in the world, but the fact remains: hot beverages, with their coarse cardboard cups and recycled sleeves, are easier to grip.

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Hot drinks must be nursed

Twitter is always there to assure me that I'm not the only person who routinely drinks too much coffee and feels like they are about to die. (I feel that way right now, in fact! I'm typing so fast!) Hot coffee doesn't necessarily contain any less caffeine than cold brew—it actually contains more, depending on the roast and concentration—but it must be sipped slowly due to its temperature, and so it's easier to pace oneself and not overdo it. And I'll take any assistance in not overdoing it that I can.

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