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You have gone to great lengths to achieve the perfect espresso. You chose a state-of-the-art espresso machine and have painstakingly sought and tested a variety of beans to find the perfect blend, so don’t fall short when it comes to choosing the right cup in which to present this luxurious coffee.
It is really disappointing when a coffee is served in the wrong cup. And no, it’s not just about the aesthetics. Believe it or not, the cup's size, shape, and material impacts the taste of the drink. This is specifically true for espresso and espresso-based drinks.
Read on to learn what you need to consider when choosing your cups for espresso and espresso-based drinks.
Consider that an espresso is about 60 ml. The cup in which this coffee is served should be no bigger than 90ml. If the cup is too big, the crema spreads out, becomes thin, and disappears quickly. Additionally, a large cup effects the temperature of the espresso and you run the risk of it becoming cold quickly.
Here is a trick if you want to keep your espresso hot. Heat the cups with boiling water or put them in the microwave for a few seconds with hot water. If the porcelain is hot, the espresso will remain hot longer.
There are also some machines that come with built-in heating surfaces that will allow your cups to stay warm. Alternatively, you may want to consider a cup warmer like this one from JURA.
This appliance has two heating elements constantly keep the cups at a temperature of approximately 131°F – ideal for preparing a fiery espresso or a cappuccino topped with milk foam.
You want a shape that hugs the espresso. A cup that tapers at the bottom allows the crema to float on top. It also allows the aroma of the espresso to rise to the top, allowing the espresso’s aroma to be enjoyed before the first sip. Additionally, a rounded bottom allows the liquid to swirl easily permitting every last drop of the espresso to be enjoyed. There are some funky shapes on the market. While these may be fun, they are not ideal or appropriate for the real espresso connoisseur.
Porcelain is the material of choice when choosing the iconic espresso cup. Other materials may be fashionable, but you will find that espresso served in anything other than thick high fired porcelain runs the risk of going flat quickly. High fired porcelain makes the material durable and less likely to break. How can you tell if a cup is well made? A high fired, well made cup should have some weight when you pick it up. Also, porcelain ensures temperature is distributed evenly, which is not always the case with other materials.
There is a growing trend to use glass to serve espresso because it provides a beautiful presentation, where the layers of the coffee can be seen and appreciated. In this case, be sure to use double walled glass cups. Learn more about these in the section “Specialty Drinks” further in this article.
Consider whether it is rounded or sharp, thick or thin. Espresso aficionados will tell you a thick rounded rim allows their lips to sit comfortably on the cup allowing the liquid to roll easily into their mouth.
While the exterior may be chosen based on preference or décor, the inside of the cup must be white. Only with a pure white interior can one appreciate the caramel tones of the crema and the rich colour of the espresso. It is not a coincidence that Italian cafés serve espresso in cups that have a white interior.
It may not seem like a big deal, but a handle can make want to pick up a cup or just bypass it and pick up the cup by the body. A flat handle allows the user to be able to balance the cup comfortably in their hand. The size of the handle will either allow a finger to slip through it or not. Given the size of espresso cups, handles that are too thin feel like they are going to break when you pick them up and make the user feel uncomfortable.
By the Italian definition, a cappuccino is a drink that is comprised of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 milk, and 1/3 foam. When you consider that an espresso is 60ml, a true cappuccino will be 180ml in total volume. Again, cup size matters. A good cappuccino cup should hold no more than 200ml of liquid. A cup that too big will make the drink go cold before it can be enjoyed.
Again the curvature of the interior is an important consideration especially if you plan experimenting with latte art. It is the curves in the cup that allow the milk and foam to flow giving the barista full control to create elaborate latte art.
If you have gone through the trouble to make some fancy drinks like a flat white, you want to show off your talent. There is growing trend to serve specialty coffee drinks in glass. It is certainly aesthetically beautiful to see the layers in the drink but be careful on the type of glass cups you use.
Double-walled glass cups are those that are ideal for hot drinks. While double-walled glass cups may appear to be ordinary glass, they are in fact significantly thicker than a simple glass mug. Double walled cups have air in between the two layers ensuring hot drinks stay hot and cold drinks stay cold.
If you are hosting a large dinner party, you may not have enough espresso cups for the entire crowd and don’t want to be bogged down doing dishes. Don’t despair and don’t compromise the coffee by using inferior cups. There are disposable espresso cups that can be used that maintain the integrity of the espresso.
There are some pretty decent disposable espresso cups on the market which are the perfect size. Avoid styrofoam but the taste of the espresso will be compromised. Darnel cups are ideal. Made of sturdy plastic, they hold about 90 ml which make them perfect for an espresso.
Since you have invested considerable time and money in pursuit of the perfect espresso, don’t make the cups you serve your coffee in an afterthought. Consider the size, shape, material, rim, colour, and handle when looking for the perfect vessel in which to serve your espresso. A thoughtful choice of cups is not only important for presentation but it actually contributes to the overall taste and experience.
Contact us if you have any questions any of your espresso needs.