The espresso cup: the unit of measurement for perfect pleasure
The balance of coffee also depends on the object in which it is served: the espresso cup.
- The espresso cup has a long history with an artistic twist: starting, as we will see, from its name.
- The espresso cup is also a unit of measurement and a reference point for the recommended method of consumption and quantity of coffee.
- A look at the materials: is porcelain, ceramic, glass or paper better? Resistance, solidity, thermal conductivity, healthiness: the factors at play.
- A study reveals how the color of the cup can influence the consumer's multi-sensory experience of coffee consumption.
- Does the ideal coffee cup shape exist? According to experts, the longer the drink, the bigger the container must be as well.
The container and the content
It is a question of both container and content. A central theme for contemporary psychoanalysis. Only we are not talking about psychoanalysis here. Yet dualism has a lot to do with it. The balance of coffee also depends on the object in which it is served: the espresso cup. The spotlight, therefore, is on this small container with its round mouth and side handle. The container that, through metonymy, has also come to indicate the amount of liquid it contains. Different shapes and different materials. Let us take a trip to the origins of espresso cups to discover why they are the unit of measure for perfect pleasure.
A truly artistic object
The espresso cup has a long history. Speaking of the term cup, the etymology would refer to the popular Latin cuppa. It was a sort of jar or, better, a small glass used to serve beverages.
As it often happens, historiographic accuracy is contaminated by legends and popular beliefs, starting from the spread in Europe of the modern cup’s ancestor. In many places it dates back to the fifteenth century. It is, however, in the 1700's that the espresso cups we know today began to take shape. The merit goes to the English ceramist Josiah Wedgwood. With his meticulous and revolutionary work in pottery, he contributed to projecting ceramics into the domestic sphere on a worldwide scale.
The importance of the (right) quantity in an espresso cup
Talking about espresso cups also means referring, as we previously saw, to its unit of measure. As it happens with glasses, for water, or with spoons for flour and sugar.
From this point of view, reasoning in terms of cups is strictly connected to things related to consumption and quantities. Drinking 3-5 espresso cups per day¹ is considered acceptable for most healthy adults - as stated by the Guidelines for a healthy diet. This, it should be noted, only applies in the absence of other sources of caffeine, a substance for which the daily intake, according to nutritionists, should not exceed 400 mg.
As experts reiterate, coffee is not bad and can be consumed at any age. The important thing is not to exceed the recommended quantities. The key word for coffee consumption is therefore moderation.
In this sense, the espresso cup offers assistance in "conscious consumption": a small pleasure to be repeated several times. To respect the healthy guidelines, but also to shore up your day with this small pleasure.
Porcelain, ceramic, glass or paper?
When it comes to espresso cups, there is a debate to be addressed.. What is the best material? Are porcelain and ceramic better than glass cups? O viceversa? Beyond personal taste, the former are preferable. This is because ceramic:
- has low thermal conductivity which allows the coffee to remain warm while enhancing the aroma;
- does not absorb or retain microbes or odors;
- is robust and resistant to wear.
This explains their remarkable adoption, both in bars and in our homes. Unlike porcelain or ceramic, the glass espresso cup offers the possibility of transparency. That is, you can observe the coffee, satisfying, therefore, also the sense of sight. It, however, offers less protection from the heat as its surface tends to heat up more quickly. A matter that is accentuated for paper cups. The latter, moreover, as highlighted by research², tend to release microplastics and other harmful substances when exposed to hot water. This is due to the deterioration of the hydrophobic film that covers them internally, composed mainly of plastic and sometimes of copolymers.
The importance of color and surface
Coffee is not just a drink: it is a true multi-sensory journey. A confirmation of this can be found analyzing the data of various surveys conducted over the years on the subject.
As it is known, the "traditional" espresso cup is made of white ceramic, which provides a seductive contrast with the black of the coffee. Indeed, color has its relevance. And, as revealed by a study³, it can influence the multi-sensory experience of the consumer. In particular, by acting on the perceived degree of intensity/sweetness. The surface and shape of a coffee cup also contribute to shaping the tasting experience. This has been confirmed by an international experiment⁴ conducted on an audience of about 200 tasters, both simple coffee lovers and professional tasters. Coffee was first served in smooth porcelain cups, then in cups with a floral pattern that caused the lips to feel rough. The result? The coffee was the same but was perceived as more acidic in the "rough" cups and sweeter in the smooth ones.
Is there an ideal coffee cup shape?
For coffee lovers, the ideal espresso cup for Moka is one with a narrow diameter. This is because it improves the immediate perception of the aroma. When you make a drink, you find a shape. For example, the espresso cup needs a truncated/conical shape to preserve the consistency of the cream.
On the other hand, a cappuccino requires a container that widens upwards to give the foam the necessary space to incorporate air. Generally speaking, as experts point out, the longer the beverage, the bigger the container should be as well, taking the so-called "tulip" shape as this allows it to retain heat for longer.
1Quanto contiene una tazzina di caffè? Generalmente, come porzioni standard e misure di riferimento, si parla di 30-35 ml per 1 tazzina di espresso tipo bar. Si sale a 50 ml per tazzine da caffè tipo Moka.
2Microplastics and other harmful substances released from disposable paper cups into hot water
3Does the colour of the mug influence the taste of the coffee?
4Assessing the influence of the coffee cup on the multisensory tasting experience