Drinking Espresso Coffee: how important is the Shape and Colour of the Cup?

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Drinking Espresso Coffee: how important is the Shape and Colour of the Cup?

tazzina da caffè espresso con forme e colori diversi

Have a cup of coffee! It’s easy to say “cup”, but which cup? Do they all fit? Are they all the same? Maybe they are, maybe they are not. Let’s see it together.

Coffee cups: characteristics

Regardless of the material, cups differ in 3 fundamental aspects:

  • by colour
  • by shape
  • and by the thickness of the rim

But how do the physical characteristics of the cup affect the final result?
Is it just a question of aesthetics or is there something more to it?

The inside of the coffee cup

It is not a trivial matter to point out that many cups have an oval inner part.

Why an oval shape?
During extraction, the espresso takes a dip of about ten centimetres, and the oval shape of the cup allows it to be softly received, cushioning the impact in order to preserve the cream.

This would not be possible if the bottom of the cup were flat. It’s like imagining jumping 3 metres: with a comfortable slide to cushion the fall we would certainly not risk hurting ourselves.

The rim of the coffee cup

Continuing towards the outside of the cup we find its rim. This is where the debate in coffee shops gets heated: is it better to have a thick rim or a thin rim?

When we drink an espresso, the moment we place the rim of the cup on our lips we unconsciously send signals to our brain and stimulate memories.

Undoubtedly, a thick, rounded rim will prepare us for rounder, fuller, softer sensations. On the other hand, a very thin rim will remind us of narrower, more closed, more angular sensations.

The outside of the coffee cup

The outside of the cup is the first physical feature that affects our sensations. Shape and colour have a profound effect on our sensory perception.

The colour of the coffee cup

Colours trigger precise memories in the mind. These memories consequently prepare the body for equally precise sensations linked to colours, sensations matured in the past during various life experiences.

Here are some examples:

  • red
    brings to mind a fuller-bodied, more intense, perhaps even warmer espresso
  • yellow
    is linked to acidity and freshness, and certainly less to body
  • light blue
    recalls a colder, saltier liquid
  • pink and white
    are associated with sweetness

It would therefore seem all too easy to choose the colour. In reality, it is not so simple.

The brain’s conditioning is in fact linked to expectation, to the expectation that it will find in the liquid the sensations that the colour has stimulated. So it would not make sense to serve a sour coffee in a red cup to try to make it more full-bodied, or to use a pink cup to enhance the sweetness of a coffee with an intense acidity.

The external colour of the cup should enhance the aromatic profile of the coffee used and not try to compensate it, otherwise the drinker’s senses will be confused, at the expense of the richness of the flavour and taste.

Before choosing the type of cup to use in your coffee bar, you must therefore know very well the aromatic profile of the coffee you are going to serve at the counter.

What if the colour of the cup is dark? Black or dark blue?
These are certainly elegant and very cool colours, but what feelings would they stimulate? I would venture to say that they would probably suggest a bitterer, colder coffee.

And what about the shape of the cup?
Well, to answer that and to understand better, you just have to play with shapes and colours, a bit like we did as children.

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