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Espresso is a pleasure. It's an enjoyable experience. That's why so much thought goes into the selection of coffee beans, picking a grinder, an espresso machine or stovetop. Getting the balance just right is the essence of a good espresso. If you're fussy about your crema then read on...
Initially a well-designed cup can catch the eye with an exciting shape or interesting use of colour. This is a subjective process and so it's important to understand that elements of espresso cup design do impact the taste and texture of the drink. Whether a cup needs, or comes with, a saucer has no effect on the drink itself, but may fulfil the design requirements of some. The design of the cup itself is the main concern in choosing a vessel which brings the best from the pour.
As illustrated in the graphic above the shape of the cup affects its heat retention capabilities. A large base with sides tapering to the top of the cup helps keep heat for longer and allows a thicker layer of crema. The cup doesn't have to taper to keep a reasonable amount of heat, having flat sides allows even distribution of the drink throughout the cup. To stop the shot 'sitting' a continuous curve of the inner wall of the cup, not a flat bottom, is necessary.
Espresso and coffee cups are made from different materials each with their individual benefits. There is some small compromise made whichever material of cup you favour as each material carries different attributes in aesthetics and drinking quality.
Porcelain: perhaps the most common material used in coffee cup, tea cup and crockery production, and for good reason. The combination of keeping a beverage or a meal warm is balanced well against the easily decorated surface facility porcelain has. Having a polish-able, shiny surface helps keep the cup looking great. Porcelain is easy to care for, its quality doesn't diminish with consistent use and it offers a good canvas for interesting design.
Heat Retention: 2/3
Glass: a more simple type of cup, the espresso glass is rarely seen in as-interesting designs as porcelain. Transparency is its main design feature. It does not blend colour as well as porcelain. There is no espresso cup material which holds heat as well as glass, making it a competent alternative to porcelain.
Heat Retention: 3/3
Clay: as a less dense material than porcelain, clay has better heat retention. This makes it a weaker material than porcelain and affects its ability to glaze as 'shining white'.
Heat Retention: 2/3
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as taste is on the tongue of the beholder. Choosing the right espresso cup is not straightforward, so why not try a few and see what works best with your espresso. At Espresso Deco we favour porcelain and glass espresso cups with a strong aesthetic quality.