Hot, Cold, and Undrinkable

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As I was scrolling through Twitter recently, I found a tweet from someone asking the hard questions in life:

Screenshot reads: how is it that iced coffee is [censored] amazing but hot coffee gone cold is the worst?

This got me thinking. Chocolate milk is great, and hot chocolate is too, but hot chocolate gone cold is terrible. I asked my friends who prefer tea if there was a similar relationship between iced tea and hot tea gone cold, and the answer was a mixed bag. The most common response was that it depends on the type of tea and whether or not you added milk.

Screenshot reads: Kinda like warm beer. Some people drink it hot or cold but not warm after it’s been cold… I don’t know why.

Beer joined the conversation. I’ve never really considered that hot beer was a thing, but then I remembered that there are certain types of beer used to make hot drinks, and other beers are meant to be served at room temperature.

(Mac, the bartender character in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, creates and serves Old World brews, and he gets grumpy when Harry Dresden tries to enjoy them cold. Our favorite books featuring figures from Norse mythology probably involve warm beer, as well. Ignore the refrigerator full of beer that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thor has in Avengers: Endgame.)

But yeah, if a beer is intended to be served cold, it gets pretty gross once it becomes warm. Many types of soda are the same way. Carbonation may also have something to do with the way these beverages become less appealing over time as they get warm.

Screenshot reads: Certain chemicals that react with your taste buds only react a certain way at a certain temperature, and change after reading that temperature.

Science has something to do with it, too! A study published in Nature back in 2005 confirms that our taste buds are better suited to certain types of taste at different temperatures. Ice cream doesn’t taste very sweet in its frozen form, so manufacturers add sugar in order for us to taste its sweetness. That’s great when ice cream melts in your mouth as you eat it, but not so great when the sweetness becomes sickening if you try to drink melted ice cream.

On the flip side, bitterness is best enjoyed at higher temperatures, so the hot coffee that started off this discussion doesn’t hit the tongue the same way when it cools off. While your mileage may vary by the type of iced coffee you enjoy, many iced coffee drinks are prepared with sweeteners to make the beverage more palatable.

Interesting fact: Our taste buds detect sweet, bitter, and umami flavors due to certain protein receptions, while salty and sour flavors work with ion channels.

How about you? Do your hot and cold beverages need to be consumed at the “proper” temperatures, or can you drink pretty much anything, even if it reaches room temperature?

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