Just ask an oenophile (connoisseur of wine) if the glass in which their wine is served matters. They will respond with a resounding, yes. It does matter what type of glass your wine is served in. In fact, connoisseurs of any drink, be it a scotch or a milk shake, will tell you their drink of choice tastes better when served in the right vessel. This is also true of espresso. Yet we see espresso served in all the wrong vessels. Even high end cafés serve in cups that are the wrong size or worse yet, wrong material.
Here are six things to consider when choosing your next espresso cup.
Ideally, an espresso cup should be 2-3 oz. 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. Of course, if you regularly drink a doppio espresso, a 3.5-4 oz. cup is better. 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.
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 be enjoyed before the first sip. A rounded bottom, allows the liquid to swirl easily permitting you to get every last drop. Yes there are some shapes that are interesting, for example, we have seen square espresso cups. While these may be fun and esthetically interesting, they are not suitable or ideal for drinking espresso.
Porcelain is king and the material of choice when choosing the iconic espresso cup. Other materials may be fashionable, but you will find that espresso served in anything, but porcelain runs the risk of going flat quickly. Also, porcelain ensures temperature is distributed evenly, which is not always the case with other materials.
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 color 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 color of the espresso. It is not a coincidence that Italian cafés serve espresso in cups that are white on the inside and outside.
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.
NotNeutral is a company that has really married design with functionality. They have taken the time to consider every aspect of a perfect espresso cup. Here they outline the anatomy of a cup (Lino Collection) to help us better understand the elements to consider.
So the next time you are ready to update the espresso cups in your cupboard, be sure to consider the elements of size, shape, and material before you buy. Having the right cup will make your espresso experience that much more enjoyable.
The other thing to consider is the cups you use when entertaining. It is understandable that you don't want to spend time washing cups when you have guests around, so consider using disposable espresso cups. Yes there are such things. Even the disposable variety take into consideration important elements like size and shape. There is nothing worse than getting an espresso in a large 8 oz cup.
Taking the time to serve your espresso in the right cup will show your guests you are a true coffee connoseur.
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