So you’re out and about and your cup of coffee has gone cold. You wonder if you could reheat it.
But can you microwave paper cups ? Don’t they have that warning on them saying not to place into the microwave ?
Let’s see if you really can or can’t reheat them.
So can you microwave paper coffee cups ?
No, you should not microwave paper coffee cups.
This is because of the way paper cups are made. The wax and plastic lining inside paper cups can melt and warp and seep into the beverage if you expose to sudden high heat.
A microwave does not heat things uniformly, and the parts of the coffee cup that are dry will suffer the most.
In a best case scenario, the cup will just melt in some parts and the coffee will taste off.
In a worst case scenario, the cup can melt, break, catch fire, start smoking, anything relating to sudden heat.
You’re better off drinking your coffee before it’s gone cold.
If you want to make the best coffee at home, you absolutely need to check my article on the best coffee gear.
Why microwaveing paper cups is bad
The reason so many – I think all of them – paper cups have that warning on them is because people have tried to put them in a microwave before.
A microwave oven is a good friend when reheating food in a solid container, but with paper cups it’s different.
Paper cups are made of thick paper/thin cardboard, and lined with wax and plastic on the inside.
The glue holding the cup together can withstand the heat of a freshly brewed coffee, that will later cool down.
But not much more than that.
The way a microwave works is that it agitates the molecules in your food or drink, so they will make the food hot. Watery foods do well with this, but paper cups don’t.
The part of the cup that contains coffee would be alright in many cases, but the rest of the cup would start to come apart.
If you want your coffee fairly hot, then your cup will need to be much hotter.
In short, the plastic lining and the glue are not build to hold up to high temperatures, and microwaveing them is going to result in a bad time for everyone involved.
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Why reheating coffee is pointless in the first place
Let’s talk a bit about reheating coffee in the first place, since that is the actual intent of this question.
You see, coffee is only good while it’s fresh.
How long is coffee fresh for ? The first 30-60 minutes after it’s been brewed.
This means that if you bought your latte an hour ago, it’s definitely cold right now and it won’t be very tasty.
Flavor can and does evaporate out of your coffee as it cools down.
Reheating it only makes things move much faster, so you’ll be left with an even poorer cup of coffee.
The caffeine in it is going to be there, and still do its magic if you need it.
But the taste of the coffee will be off, and it’s hard to get the temperature right.
If you somehow get your coffee boiling, or close to boiling point, it’s going to be a poor cup of coffee, and taste a bit burnt. No matter what kind of coffee cup you use.
Again, you’re better off drinking your coffee as it’s fresh, or getting another one.
What you can do to reheat takeaway coffee
If you really, really need to reheat your cup of coffee, then you should use something other than the paper cup it comes in.
Depending on where you are, you’re probably going to have several options to choose from.
Any kind of ceramic or glass cup will be fine. Even styrofoam would be a better option (barely).
As long as it’s not metal, and not paper.
What if you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, with just the paper cup and a microwave ?
Then you can risk heating the paper cup, I guess.
You’re going to have to be very careful with the parts if the cup that aren’t covered with coffee, like the upper rim.
Please do not put the lid on the cup. Take it off and put it back later.
Put the cup inside the microwave, and set it to a lower setting, like medium. Keep heating for 1 minute increments, and check after each one.
You need to find a balance between warm coffee, and still holding together the paper cup.
You might not be able to get the coffee hot, but you might just get it warm enough to be drinkable without warping the cup.
Even so, the taste of the coffee might be off, so keep than in mind when you take your first sip.
I hope you never have to really microwave your paper coffee cup. It’s a sad story when coffee gets cold, as it’s something few people like to drink.
In any case, you’re better off getting yourself another coffee.
Reheating it is never worth it.
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