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PFB Investigates - Coffee Temperature...A Hot Subject

Posted Tue June 23, 2009 12:00 pm, by

The other day, in the comment section of the Best Buy letter, the infamous McDonald's coffee lawsuit from 17 years ago was brought up. There are few folks who don't know about this moment of litigation history and even fewer that haven't formed an opinion. To some, it represents the height of frivolous litigiousness - to others it's a great example consumer protection at its best.

I went back in and reacquainted myself with the facts of the case. As I did so, I was struck by the repeated insistence by plantiff counsel that other establishments serve coffee at much lower temps than the 180 degrees that McDonalds purportedly served this lady her coffee. I've never heard of an establishment serving coffee at a hold temp of less than 170 degrees. Even Starbucks holds coffee at 170-175 degrees.

So I tried to find out what establishments might be on the cutting edge of serving cooler coffee and, much to my chagrin, was unsuccessful. Surprisingly enough, they aren't named in any summaries I read...they're only referred to as "other establishments". If anyone knows the names of those establishments, please post them in the comment section.

Feeling unsatisfied, and now armed with a burning question, I decided to go out and do an unofficial test to see what temperature I would get coffee served at some nearby establishments. In addition, I thought it would be quite interesting to see, 17 years later, what the temp of McDonalds coffee is today.

Caution...this was a very unscientific test conducted on the spur of the moment. Here are the results:

Dennys 175 degrees
7-11 175 degrees
Jack in the Box 160 degrees
Starbucks 175 degrees

And...wait for it....

McDonalds 185 degrees

You can read more about the the infamous McDonalds case here and here.


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by burst1pain Posted Wed November 6, 2013 @ 6:34 AM

Just ask them to adjust to your required temperature

by Daniel Z. Posted Mon September 21, 2009 @ 5:09 PM

This lawsuit was not so much about the coffee temperature as it was
about the fact McDonald's knew they were serving out an unsafe menu
item, weighed the costs of changing the temperature and the cost of
paying out compensation to their customers. McDonald's chose to go the
"cheaper" route and burn their customers (pun intended). There were
several previous incidents. With Liebeck, she had multiple burns and
spent 8 days in the hospital and wanted McD to pay $20000 for medical
costs. Add the fact that they tried to settle for $800 and you think
what would you do?
And they did settle out of court for less than $600,000. This is about
what McDonald's used to make for selling coffee for one day, back in
the early 90s.
McDonald's was intentionally negligent.


by PepperElf Posted Wed July 1, 2009 @ 11:11 PM

sometimes i order my coffee with some icecubes in it

i prefer mine at room temperature


by KenPC Posted Thu June 25, 2009 @ 10:42 AM

Some time back I acquainted myself with the details of this case. At
face value, it looked like a frivolous suit.

The reality was that the coffee the lady bought was *way* hotter than
the standard dictated. When some splashed from the cup onto her hand,
it caused her to drop the cup, where it opened and dumped onto her

She was so badly burned that she had to have skin grafts on the inside
of her thighs. If the coffee had been served at the temperature that
McD's own standards state, she would have been much less badly


wrong facts by Dru Sat June 27, 2009 @ 11:16 PM

by Casmly Posted Wed June 24, 2009 @ 8:48 AM

I guess my point of view is this...how about we not worry what the
temperature of the coffee is, we just don't spill it on ourselves.
Short of an employee being the one to spill it on me, I can't think of
a single reason why a restaurant would/should be at fault for a person
getting burned.

How many people drink their coffee down immediately? How many people
take that coffee with them on a trip or to the office and expect it to
stay hot for a while? I'm sure there would be a lot less customers
buying coffee if the temperature was lowered much.


Coffee by franese Wed June 24, 2009 @ 2:16 PM

Inadequate Container by JohnnyCNote Thu June 30, 2011 @ 3:51 PM

by Donno Posted Wed June 24, 2009 @ 12:08 AM

At least that is what I recall from looking into this when Angela
brought it up a few years ago. Here is what Bunn advises, a maker of
coffee urns and pots:


They want the serving temperature to be a mimimum of 155 degrees.

I seem to recall that if coffee was served at a temperature low enough
to not scald, it was predicted many fewer people would drink it.

Isn't the temperature for a really thorough scalding around 145
degrees, and you can get scalded down to around 125 degrees? If that
is the case, it seems impossible to serve a really tasty cup of coffee
and have it not be scalding hot.


So it comes down to the almighty dollar, in a way by Donno Wed June 24, 2009 @ 12:13 AM

by Just Jeffrey Posted Tue June 23, 2009 @ 8:32 PM

All of these coffees are at scald temperatures. At 160 degrees, an
adult will get a third degree burn in just a second. A child or
elderly person, in a half of a second.

For spills, you want the coffee to be no hotter than 140 degrees;
better 135. With clothes and air cooling with dispersed water, there
shouldn't be much harm.

For drinking, however, it should be below 135 degrees to be safe.

185 degrees causes a third degree burn in an adult in about a quarter
of a second.

Keep in mind that most people make tea at 212 degrees (which actually
makes subpar tea).

http://tinyurl.com/nzen2m (as well as others)


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