Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Last week's guest post from Michael Rustad discussed (among other things) the infamous Liebeck v. McDonald's case, triggering a response from Ted Frank (in the comments) and an additional post from Rustad.
I start my Torts class with asking students what they think of when they think of "Torts." Invariably, the Liebeck case comes up, along with some of the various understandings of the case that are out there. One of the points of the discussion is both that case's centrality to many torts discussions, and the variety of "facts" that exist about it.
This year, I decided to ask students to use a food thermometer I have to compare the temperatures of coffee and other hot drinks as served in the Springfield area. I have not calibrated the thermometer (a CDN home food thermometer, chosen, if memory serves, because of a recommendation in Cooks Illustrated), though it has in the past come up with temperatures very similar to those of other food thermometers in my house. Nor is this a blinded experiment or anything along those lines. I mostly wanted to see what variety there might be in temperatures.
The instructions I gave:
1. Purchase an ordinary coffee. If you are getting anything other than coffee (i.e., tea, latte, etc.) note that in your post.
2. Before adding cream or any other product, and as soon as possible after the beverage being handed to you, check the temperature of the drink. To do so, turn on the thermometer ("On/Off" switch), wait for it to show the air temperature, and then put the metal probe into the drink (put it essentially all the way in, without the plastic part going into the drink). Once the temperature listed stabilizes, note the temperature (in Fahrenheit). Then clean off the thermometer probe thoroughly. Do not immerse the plastic part of the thermometer.
3. In this [TWEN] forum, post the location where you got the beverage, the date, the time, and the temperature. Additionally, if the beverage is anything other than coffee, note that.
4. Repeats are fine -- i.e., it is fine for multiple people to report the temperature of the Court Cafe's coffee. (I know from personal experience that it varies fairly dramatically.)
5. Home-brewed coffee is also fine.
- I got coffee from the law school court cafe just before class today (approximately 1:00 pm). It was the house blend from one of the insulated containers. I don't know how long it had been in there. The thermometer indicated that it was 167.9 degrees.
- I just purchased today (9/3) a small coffee from the Dunkin Donuts across from campus at approx 9:15 am. The temperature of this coffee was 174.3 degrees. As I was driving to campus I was also testing this partiuclar drink and some did spill on my hand. It was hot and it did hurt, but no burn was evident.
- September 4 at 8:00 a.m: Today I measured the temperature of my home brewed coffee. It was dunken donuts coffee made in an older model of a krups coffee pot. The coffee measured 160.3 F. I observed this was optimal temperature because I was going to drink it immediately. However, if I put it down for a little while it cools fast...it would not be ideal temp if I was traveling with the coffee starting at this temp.
- This morning, September 8th at 6:45am. I boiled water for tea using a stainless steel kettle on an electric stove. When the kettle whistled I poured the water over the tea and waited approximately 2 minutes before testing the water (tea bag still immersed). 171.6*F, I will not drink it probably for about 5-10 minutes though to allow it to cool down.
- Wednesday, September 9th, 7:40am: I purchased Starbucks Coffee, Mild Blend out of one of the insulated thermoses in the [law school] cafe downstairs [a/k/a the Court Cafe]. The temperature read at 179.4 degrees.
- September 9th, 3:30pm - I bought a coffee from a McDonalds on Allen Street in Springfield. The temperature was 159.1 F.
- September 11, 2009, 8:30 am...I bought a coffee at the main cafeteria in the Germain Campus center (The Rock Cafe Food Court)...It is advertised as "New England Coffee", I chose the Breakfast blend. Last time I bought coffee there I burned my mouth on it, so I was interested to see how hot it was...It was 171.4...which I was kind of disappointed it wasn't higher...but I still think that this is too hot to serve in flimsy paper cups with no covers!
- Saturday Sept. 12th: purchased regular coffee from Starbucks at the mall in Holyoke. 166.6F
- On 9/20/09 at 4:30pm I purchased a coffee from Starbucks in Northampton, MA. The temperature was 173.4 degrees.
Again, the thermometer has not been calibrated, but I believe from experience cooking with it that it is fairly accurate. So far, the highest temperature has been just shy of 180, and the lowest has been just over 159 -- from a McDonald's.
More updates to come. And if any other Torts professors are so inclined, perhaps we could build up a wider range of data on coffee temperatures.