Before you reach for your old standby or a favorite mug, take a moment to consider if it's the right vessel for your drink. Extracting espresso into a cappuccino cup or drinking drip coffee out of a latte cup won't do the beverage any favors. Each type of drink has its own set of unique characteristics that greatly benefit from proper service.
In short, different drinks call for different cups. If you're not sure whether you should be pouring your beverage into a mug, cup, or demitasse, read on for a primer on best practices.
One of America's favorite beverages, the cup of Joe is as easygoing as they come. Typically served in a mug or thermos, the ultimate goal is to prevent heat loss. Ideal serving temperature falls between 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit and the National Coffee Association USA recommends preheating your cup for best results.
A true classic on its own and an irreplaceable base for many specialty beverages, espresso is a concentrated drink that's celebrated the world over. The World Barista Competition (WBC) insists that a shot of espresso be served in a 2-3 fl. oz. demitasse with a handle. The cup's diminutive size helps minimize air exposure and preserve drink temperature. Most espresso cups are narrower at the bottom and wider at the rim. This design is believed to be best for flavor concentration and crema presentation.
Prepared with a single shot of espresso, steamed and frothed milk, all in equal parts, the ideal cappuccino should be topped with at least one centimeter of foam. WBC standards prescribe a 5-6 fl. oz. cup with a handle for proper presentation. Cup and drink volume must match for proper aesthetics. Like espresso cups, most cappuccino cups narrow at the bottom and are accompanied by matching saucers.
The cafe latte is most commonly served in a wide cup resembling a bowl. Again, as is in the case of a cappuccino, content and cup volume should be equal -- that is to say, the cup should be filled to the top. The wide rim lets baristas easily pour steamed milk over the espresso to create latte art.