The Physics of Coffee & Cream
Every Seattleite has been in this situation: On a cold, rainy December morning, you get your coffee to go from Vivace, Stumptown, or Starbucks, and then watch out the window for your bus. The bus, you know, might be a minute or two late, and you’ll have to wait a few minutes. You want to keep your coffee as hot as possible during your wait so that it’s still piping hot when you step out the door. You grab a lid for your cup, pausing at the cream. Should you add the cream to your coffee now, or will that only cool your drink faster? Maybe you should add your cream at the last minute, before you dash out the door.
The basic physics of heat provides the answer: you should go ahead and add the cream to your coffee now. Coffee with cream cools about 20% slower than black coffee, for three reasons: