Espresso Cup Guide: 7 Things To Consider Before You Buy

Espresso Cup Guide: 7 Things To Consider Before You Buy
Imagine you just ordered an espresso. You watch the barista go to great lengths to pull the perfect shot to get you the perfect espresso. But then the barista slides it over in a cup that’s….well, let’s say a cup that prevents you from getting the most out of your espresso drinking experience. In other words, the barista fell short when it came to choosing the right cup for the espresso you might have been craving all morning.

But what is the right cup for an espresso then?

In this blog post I’m going to dive into 7 things you should consider before buying an espresso cup. But before we dive in, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what an espresso cup is?

What is an espresso cup?

What is an espresso cup
The espresso cup which was invented by the Italian inventor Luigi Tazzini according to caffeaiello is a small coffee cup that holds highly concentrated coffee drinks like the espresso, doppio, Greek coffee, Turkish coffee or the macchiato to name a few.

These are the tiny cups, usually between 2oz (59ml) to 4oz (118ml) that can be seen in cafes and restaurants all over the world. However, in some countries, especially in France, you might hear them use the word "demitasse" instead of "espresso cup". It’s just another word for espresso cup. Demitasse, pronounced “dem-E-tas”, means “half cup” in French because they’re about half the size of a regular 8oz (236ml) cup.

Now, get your scuba gear and let’s dive into 7 things you should consider before buying an espresso cup, aka a demitasse.

1. The aesthetic of the espresso cup

When it comes to coffee drinking in general, you definitely don’t want to compromise on the aesthetic experience. Why? And I quote from this article I found on simple minded, because “simply put, aesthetics make us happy. On an emotional level they elicit feelings of happiness and calm. They connect us to our ability to reflect on and appreciate the world around us which in turn gives us feelings of contentment and hope”. When your espresso cup is aesthetically pleasing like our 4oz Cairo BL Espresso Cups or our 3.5oz Seraphina Espresso Cups for example, believe me, it will add that extra touch of "wow" to your espresso drinking experience.

2. Espresso cup size

Espresso cup size

Besides of running the risk of being sued for “underfilling” your cup, there’s another reason baristas love to fill your espresso cup almost to the brim. The reason being that the fuller the cup the better it retains the heat.

But why would you want your espresso to remain hot as long as possible? Or at least why do I? Because the hotter my espresso, the more the mouthfeel. Also because hot, the roasted flavors are accentuated.

Now, what our tongue senses changes with temperature. This means that as the cup cools down to room temperature the flavor of the espresso also changes. However, with all that being said, some might find that they like espresso better when it’s just warm and not hot. So there’s no ideal temperature for an espresso.

A quick tip: Extracting the coffee into an already warm cup helps hold the temperature of your espresso at the extracted temperature (usually around 200 °F / 93 °C) for longer. It is also believed that extracting the coffee into an already warm cup allows for a thicker crema. And how to you prewarm your cup? Fill it with boiling water, let it sit for a few minutes, dump the water, and fill 'er up. Thank you americastestkitchen for the tip.

Let’s talk about the liquid measurement of an espresso.

Espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely-ground and closely packed coffee grounds. And depending on how many water you use, a single shot of espresso will measure about 0.85oz – 1oz (25ml - 30ml) while a double shot of espresso (aka doppio which means “double” in Italian) will measure about 1.7oz – 2.03oz (50ml - 60ml). Whether it’s a single shot or a doppio, espresso is meant to be enjoyed in small quantities.

Espresso vs doppio

So assuming you would want to leave room for some wiggles and jostles, an espresso cup should be no bigger than 3.72oz (110ml). Ideally 3oz (89ml) max like our Caledonia Espresso Cup for example. And it’s not only about retaining the temperature for as long as possible. If the cup is too big the crema will spread out, become thin and disappear quicker than you might like.

It’s actually a common misconception that an espresso cup should hold exactly half a cup (118ml/4oz) as the word “demitasse” translates to.


3. The importance of the Espresso cup shape

For an espresso cup I would recommend a cup that reduces in thickness towards the bottom and is round inside. This allows the espresso to swirl around nicely when pouring. You would also want your cup to have a semi-cone (or truncated conical) shape so the coffee can flow-in nicely on its sloped edge while the crema floats on top. This allows the aroma of the espresso to be enjoyed before you drink it. The round bottom makes it also easier to clean. And in case of an espresso macchiato (espresso topped with a dollop of heated, foamed milk), the semi-coned shape helps achieve a more compact and long-lasting foam allowing a better release of the aromas.

4. Espresso cup with saucer or no saucer?

Espresso cups with saucer or no saucer

Although getting a saucer for your espresso cup isn’t a must, it is the custom to serve espresso with one. Actually most people rather not drink an espresso without one. Nowadays (you can read about the purpose it used to serve back in the day here) a saucer’s main purpose it to allow you to carry the espresso cup more easily. Besides that it provides a clean place to rest your spoon and will also help protect your nice tables from stains. Eating a cookie while savoring an espresso? The saucer is there.

5. Thickness of the espresso cup

Keep in mind that your espresso starts cooling down from the minute it drips from the machine. And as I mentioned earlier in this post, usually the hotter the espresso the better it tastes. But too hot and it will of course burn your lips. So while cups with thick walls allow you to keep the drink at the right temperature for longer, ideally you would want the upper part of the cup to be slightly thinner so it can sit nicer against your lips. However, some espresso aficionados may tell you that the thicker the rim the better the drinking experience because it allows the liquid to roll easily into their mouth.

6. Espresso Cup material: porcelain, ceramic or double wall glass

Porcelain and ceramic are both made from clay. But the type of clay they’re made of, the temperature they’re fired at and their price makes the difference. Porcelain is technically just a more expensive type of ceramic usually made from white kaolin clay. And since it’s fired at a higher temperature (2650 ℉) it is harder and more durable than other types of ceramic.

On the other hand, ceramic is a type of clay made from a mix of different minerals. It is fired at a lower temperature, which makes it less durable and more prone to chipping or cracking than porcelain. Ceramic cups usually have thicker walls and are heavier than porcelain cups.

Although porcelain cups have a slight edge, they’re both good at retaining heat. And neither of them will affect the taste of your drink since the glaze that are used to finish these mugs is the one touching your drink.

Which one you choose really boils down to preference. Ceramic espresso cups are less expensive and are durable enough while porcelain espresso cups are perhaps a great choice for coffee drinkers looking for something a bit more delicate for whatever reason.

Double wall espresso cups


But what about double wall glass espresso cups, arguably the best out of the three materials when it comes to keeping your espresso at your ideal temperature?

If you like to drink your espresso slowly to enjoy its full, rich flavor then a double wall glass espresso cup might be the best choice for you. Ceramic and porcelain espresso cups are both great at retaining heat but none of them can beat a double wall glass espresso cup.

The double wall glass is basically a glass-in-glass quilt. The air between the two glasses is sucked out to create a vacuum. Instead of having a heating element to keep your espresso hot, it is designed to keep your espresso at the optimal temperature by not allowing heat to escape, it insulates the heat. So although they’re handle-less they’re still comfortable to hold.

However one downside of these double wall glass cups is that they’re very fragile. I recommend you don’t place them in the dishwasher even if they’re supposedly “dishwasher-safe”.

7. Espresso cup color

Espresso cup in color

For me, the color of the cup isn’t that big of a deal. And when we’re talking about the color of an espresso cup we’re mostly talking about the color of the interior and not the exterior of the cup, but I’ll explain.

The reason most (if not all) cafes and restaurant serve their espressos in cups with a white interior is because of the high color contrast between the white interior and the espresso crema. Being able to see the caramel tones of the crema and the rich color of your espresso makes you appreciate the espresso more. So it’s more about the visualization than anything else. Drinking espresso from our all black 2.5oz Flynn Espresso Cup for example, won’t affect the taste of your espresso at all. So while some might say that a cup with a white interior is a must, I’d say you may choose your color based on décor. Your décor is white or you simply want to play it safe? Check out our selection off all white espresso cup sets.

To summarize

If you appreciate espresso, having the right set of espresso cups is simply a must.

You might think you can grab any standard coffee cup to drink your espresso out of, but when it comes to espresso, the aesthetic, the size, the shape, the color and the material the cup is made of does matter. And whether you want one that comes with a saucer or not is also something to think about.

Serving an espresso in the right cup helps improve its taste and makes it look nicer which in turn lets you get the most out of your espresso drinking experience.

If you need any help with choosing an espresso cup from our collection, do not hesitate to contact us.

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