Last Updated on January 10, 2022 by John Moretti
When you want to make the perfect cup of coffee, precision is key; this is why a coffee thermometer is a vital part of any coffee connoisseur’s arsenal. Here we discuss which coffee thermometers work best.
Coffee thermometers are essential to measuring the heat of your milk for a great cup of coffee. A few of the best coffee thermometers are NORPRO Coffee Thermometer, Cooper-Atkins Coffee Thermometer, Update International Coffee Thermometer, and Digital Rhino Coffee Thermometer.
Coffee thermometers provide consistency and precision to your coffee. Therefore, any true barista should have a thermometer next to their coffee machine. This article discusses everything you need to know about coffee thermometers and which ones we prefer.
The Best Coffee Thermometers
1. NORPRO Coffee Thermometer
The Norpro 5981 Espresso Thermometer is one of my favorite picks. It has a clip that easily fits on any frothing pitcher. It is practical to use but has a smaller dial of 3/4 inch, which makes it a bit difficult to read. However, it is still one of our favorites because it delivers an accurate temperature every time and is very affordable.
It has a highlighted red area that shows you when the milk has reached the correct temperature. Norpro is my favorite pick, but its dial only starts at 60 degrees; this is no hindrance for frothing milk.
Sometimes it might steam up a little, but we find that is of no significant concern as it doesn’t take away from its perfect temperature reading ability.
2. Cooper-Atkins Coffee Thermometer
The Cooper-Atkins 1236-70-1 Coffee thermometer is made from high-quality materials and can read from 0 – 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooper-Atkins specializes in and manufactures high-quality thermometers.
The Cooper-Atkins coffee thermometer has a large dial with big, printed numbers that makes it easy to read.
The only vice with this coffee thermometers it is a bit slow to gauge the milk’s correct temperature. This sometimes leads to the milk’s temperature being slightly higher than what it read, so you need to learn to stop frothing 5-10 degrees sooner than the dial states.
This is a common complaint with coffee thermometers in general. Most experienced baristas will keep a close eye on this vice when using a coffee thermometer.
3. Update International Coffee Thermometer
The Update International Coffee thermometer has a large dial that makes it easy to read even from a distance while you are doing something else.
This coffee thermometer has two areas on its dial that show you when the milk has reached optimum temperature and when it is at risk of getting overheated.
A part on the dial shows where your perfect starting milk should be at around 35 Fahrenheit.
The clip attaches securely to the frothing pitcher and reads the temperature of the milk quickly and accurately. Its dial starts at 30 degrees Fahrenheit which is excellent if you want to check the temperature of your milk before frothing.
The only issue with this coffee thermometer is that it has a large dial that is great for reading the temperature, but it sometimes gets in the way of the frothing wand. The Update International Coffee thermometer has a more considerable temperature gauge range than the Norpro.
4. Digital Rhino Coffee Gear Alarm Thermometer
The Digital Rhino Coffee Gear alarm thermometer is made from high-quality materials and will sound the alarm when your pre-set temperature is reached. It has a large easy to read digital display that makes reading it from a distance easy. However, it does not have a cooldown timer.
It is easy to operate to set the alarm temperature and easily switch from Celsius to Fahrenheit. It has a removable clip that can be clipped to any frothing pitcher with ease enabling hands-free operation. This digital coffee thermometer has a 5-inch probe that is long enough for kettles and all frothing pitchers.
5. ProAccurate Coffee Thermometer
The ProAccurate Insta-Read Coffee thermometer model no CDN IRB220-F with a 5-inch probe gauges temperature from 32 to 375 and has both Celsius and Fahrenheit listed on the dial.
It has a stainless-steel clip that can attach to any size frothing pitcher. This coffee thermometer is made from high-grade materials and is shatterproof with a large easy to read dial.
Why Use a Coffee Thermometer?
In any respected café, coffee bar, and even at home, a good coffee thermometer is vital to make the best cappuccino or latte. If your milk is a few degrees off, you will end up with lukewarm milk, which doesn’t belong in any cup of coffee.
With a good coffee thermometer, you control the temperature and can create a thick warm foam every single time. A coffee thermometer tells you precisely what the temperature of the water is and when your milk is the best temperature.
Coffee thermometers are specially designed for baristas, roasters, and even home coffee enthusiasts who like their coffee just perfect. With a good quality thermometer that accurately reads the temperature in your hand, you will serve the best cup of coffee out there every single time.
Digital or Analog Coffee Thermometers
So, you are probably asking yourself, should you buy a digital or analog coffee thermometer? I’m here to help; let’s find out the pros and cons of both.
Digital Coffee Thermometers
A digital coffee thermometer has a large display that is easily visible even in reduced lighting. This is helpful as you can see the display from afar while doing something else.
Digital coffee thermometers can sound an alarm when your preferred pre-set temperature is reached. They are great because they are inexpensive, easy to read, give an accurate reading, and tell you when it’s done.
It is difficult to calibrate a digital thermometer, and I found a few digital brands can’t be calibrated at all.
Digital coffee thermometers need batteries that can expire at any given time. This can be an inconvenience when you must find batteries and replace them in the middle of making a cup of coffee.
They malfunction far more than analog coffee thermometers do and can easily get damaged if dropped.
Analog Coffee Thermometers
Analog coffee thermometers work the good old-fashioned way with mechanical mechanisms. Many coffee enthusiasts prefer to use this trusted old system with little or no fail.
Analog coffee thermometers are sturdy, very easy to calibrate, and don’t need any batteries to operate.
The problem with analog coffee thermometers is they have small displays that are difficult to read sometimes and are not that easily visible in low light or from a distance.
Analog coffee thermometers don’t have an alarm to sound when your water or milk has reached optimum temperature.
Both coffee thermometers have good attributes, and when buying your coffee thermometer, personal choice is what matters.
How to Calibrate an Analog Coffee Thermometer in Hot Water
During packaging and transportation, coffee thermometers can receive bumps and jolts, which can cause their temperature readings to be inaccurate. Don’t worry; it is straightforward to calibrate your coffee thermometer; I will show you how.
When you purchase your coffee thermometer, calibrate it before use. It is advised to regularly check and calibrate your coffee thermometer to ensure temperature readings are precise and accurate.
This is how you do it:
Dip your coffee thermometer in boiling water, then using tongs or pliers, grip it and rotate it gently without touching the sides until the temperature registers the correct number for boiling water which is 90 degrees.
Check if it read the temperature correctly; if not, you need to adjust it so; turn the nut or bolt, which is usually at the bottom of the thermometer, to move the needle anti-clockwise or clockwise, depending on which way the reading was off to set it correctly.
How to Calibrate an Analog Coffee Thermometer in Cold Water
This is how you do it:
- Fill a container with crushed ice and water.
- Mix the water and ice.
- Place the coffee thermometer probe into the slushed ice and water and let it sit for 1 minute.
- Make sure the probe is not touching the side of the glass or container as it can misread the temperature.
- When you get a reading from 1 to 5℃, you need to adjust your thermometer to 0℃.
- To adjust, you can turn the nut or bolt under the thermometer and move the needle anti-clockwise or clockwise to the correct setting.
- Now repeat the steps above and check if the thermometer is currently reading 0℃.
- When it reads 0℃, you successfully calibrated your coffee thermometer.
Note: Coffee thermometers that are constantly inaccurate should be removed from use or sent for a professional service.
Optimum Milk Temperatures
The boiling temperature of the milk is lower than water. When the milk reaches a rolling boil, at about 212°F, it destroys the natural sweetness of the milk and can quickly leave a burnt after taste.
The optimal drinking temperature for milk is 140℉ for specialty coffees. This milk temperature is an industry standard for baristas and does not negatively affect the taste of the milk.
Never overheat your milk when making any specialty coffees; try to stick to the recommended temperatures that will give you the best taste.
Here are some temperature guidelines that could be useful to know:
- Lower than 140℉ (60℃) These temperatures are for stretching and texturing milk.
- 140℉ (60℃) – 160℉ (70℃) This temperature is the best drinking temperature. Don’t use this temperature for texturing or stretching milk.
- 160℉ (70℃) – 180℉ (80℃) Heat the milk to these temperatures if you like your coffee extra-hot. Try not to exceed 180°F as this is close to milk’s boiling point, leaving you burnt after taste.
When Should You Stop Heating the Milk?
When using your coffee thermometer to gauge the temperature of the milk, it is good to know that milk will continue to rise in temperature, even when you have turned off the heat. For the precise milk temperature, you should stop heating or frothing 5 degrees before the preferred temperature.
To achieve 140℉-degree milk, you should stop at 135℉ degrees to reach precise temperature.
Depending on how fast the milk heats up will indicate when you should stop heating it.
Therefore, analog coffee thermometers work better than digital thermometers for this purpose. The moving dial on the analog coffee thermometer indicates how fast your milk is heating up and give you a heads-up when to stop frothing and remove the milk from the heat.
The Best Milk for Frothing
Here is where your coffee thermometer will be most helpful to get the best temperature for frothing the milk for specialty coffees.
The type of milk that is the easiest to froth into a good foam is nonfat milk. The taste is not as creamy as whole milk, but it whips up a foam a lot faster than full-fat milk.
When you use whole milk, it requires a bit more work to get to that optimum thick foam, but the taste is fuller and creamy due to the higher fat content of whole milk.
Different Types of Milk
- Whole Milk – Great for flavor and thick creamy foam.
- Oat Milk – Great for lactose-free foam and flavor.
- Skim Milk – Easy frothing that gives a lighter foam.
- Almond Milk – Best low-calorie foam and great for coffee art.
- Soy Milk- Best lactose-free foam, flavor, and perfect for Latte art.
- Coconut Milk – Best low-calorie option and great tasting foam.
A good quality coffee thermometer is essential If you want to make great tasing cups of coffee that are a just the right temperature. We listed the five best coffee thermometers above and hope this will help you choose the perfect one for you.