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Espresso Cups ⎮ What to Consider Before You Buy

            Espresso Cups ⎮Espresso Canada

You have gone to great lengths to pull the perfect shot, to get 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. 

Espresso cup size

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.  

Expert Tip:

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. Coffee tastes its best when served hot. That's why all professionals work with correctly pre-warmed cups as a matter of principle. If hot coffee is poured into cold porcelain cups, a lot of heat is lost. Too much, in fact.

In pre-warmed cups, the mouthwatering aroma is released in its entirety. With the elegant, slim cup warmer, JURA offers the ideal accessory for any automatic specialty coffee machine.

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.

Programmable so you will find your cups hot and ready to use when you wake up and are ready to enjoy a coffee.


JURA Cup Warmer

JURA Cup Warmer

Espresso Cup Shape 

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.

Graphic comparing two espresso cups shape and impact on mouthfeel

Espresso cup materials

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.

Espresso cup rim

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. 

Espresso Cup Colour

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.

The Nuova Point Cup collection is made in Italy. This is the brand most often used in Italian cafés. They come in a variety of colours to suit personal taste and decor.  Let's face it,  the cups you use will set a certain mood and vibe.

In Italian cafés the classic mocha coloured cup in the iconic shape with the egg form on the inside is the one most often used. 

Nuova Point Espresso Cups

Nuova Point Espresso Cup Most Often Found in Italian Cafés


Espresso cup handles

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.

A cup for every type of espresso drink


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.

Espresso-Based Specialty Drinks

If you have gone through the trouble to make some fancy espresso based 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.

Some benefits of double-walled glass cups is that they are much lighter than their ceramic counterparts but they are also much more fragile. Additionally, glass cups should be washed by hand because they will eventually cloudy if placed in a dishwasher. Also, be careful not to use a rough scouring type sponge when washing them because they will look scratched over time.  Espresso Macchiato in Double Walled Cup by Bodum available at Espresso CanadaHere is an espresso macchiato in a Bodum double-walled cup.


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Espresso cups for entertaining

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. 

This size cup is also ideal for many other uses. Individual servings of candy or snacks, soups or ice cream.  They are sturdy and versatile that it would be helpful to have some in stock at home for any occasion.

Darnel plastic cups 90 ml cups perfect for espresso available at Espresso Canada.

These are 90 ml Darnel disposable plastic cups that are perfect to use for espresso.

What to look for in espresso cups

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.

Of course it goes without saying that the best espresso starts with the best coffee beans. Afterall an espresso is comprised of two simple ingredients- coffee beans + water.  The highest quality beans that produces a rich creamy espresso served in the perfect espresso cup will make you the envy of your friends and family and even your local barista. 

Contact us if you have any questions any of your espresso needs.

Comments (2 Responses)

22 June, 2022

Amarjeet Panesar

At 68 years of age and having drank good espresso coffee for over 30 years I thought I knew it ALMOST all till I read your article. Thank you for enlightening me before I invest in my next set of espresso cups which is why I am here. I wish you all good health .

31 March, 2022


It was a pleasure to read your blog post. You have covered everything in great detail. When I was looking for an explanation, I was really interested in learning how things operate, but after reading your piece, all of my worries were dispelled. Reading your post provided me with the answer. Continue to post material like this in the future. I eagerly await your response.

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