Doughnuts are good, but fresh doughnuts are better.

The Secret to Getting the Freshest Krispy Kreme DoughnutsNell Redmond/AP/Shutterstock

A room-temperature doughnut is tasty and all, but there’s really nothing quite like a hot and fresh Krispy Kreme doughnut. Just the thought of a piping-hot, fluffy doughnut is enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but there’s only a certain gap of time when stores serve them fresh out of the oven. True KK fans already know that a lit-up neon sign tells customers the store’s hot lights are on—aka fresh doughnuts are being made—but you’d rather know what the status is before driving all the way there. Luckily, there’s a foolproof way to find out.

All Krispy Kreme locations make their own hot light schedules, so the time for the freshest doughnuts varies from store to store. The glazed doughnuts have a shelf life of just 12 hours, so bakers need to replenish them at some point. Each KK generally makes glazed doughnuts twice a day: around opening time, and again in the p.m., says a Krispy Kreme customer service representative. Specialty doughnuts are baked just once a day, and it’s up to management to pick that time. Find out how Krispy Kreme is also America’s favorite pick for coffee, too.

The stores we talked to have their hot lights on from early to mid-morning, and again from early evening to close, though that won’t be the same across the board. Don’t make any assumptions—there’s a reliable way to figure out your local shop’s schedule. And no, you won’t need to ask an employee.

Like other restaurants, Krispy Kreme has an app that maps out the closest stores and offers coupons and rewards. But the best feature of all just might be its hot light indicator. Every time an employee switches on the hot light to start baking fresh doughnuts, the app’s “Hot Now” symbol on your phone also turns red. If you see that red symbol, you’re in luck! Fresh doughnuts are waiting just ahead.

On the other hand, a green map pin is your signal to hold off. The hot lights aren’t on, so going in for a fresh-baked doughnut is a wild goose chase. (Not that we’d ever turn down a room-temperature treat.) Just check in with the app and you’re guaranteed a fresh Krispy Kreme every time. For all your other doughnut needs, these are the 13 secrets Dunkin’ employees wish you knew.