Saturday 02 July 2022

Carlo Barbi explains how to choose the right cup for each type of coffee

Carlo Barbi: "A cup for Latte art must have two basic characteristics. First of all a diameter at the top large enough to allow the artist to express themselves fully, by providing as large a surface as possible available for the decoration. Secondly, the cup must not be too deep because excessive depth leads to a less stable upper surface."

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MILAN – Carlo Barbi, the CEO of Club House Srl, explains how to choose a cup for the bar, starting with the compatibility of the inner shape of the cup with the specific blend of coffee used to the economic considerations in an extract from the book CoffeExpert, the encyclopedia book focused on coffee we talked about here. Soon in these pages, there will be other insights from the various coffee expert authors who contributed to the writing of CoffeExpert.

Carlo Barbi explains the importance of choosing the right cup for your espresso

MILAN – “In recent years, a true upheaval has occurred in the area of coffee bar cups. I remember when, early in my career, the range of cups encompassed a total of two sizes: the espresso cup and the cappuccino cup; some dared to go as far as also having caffè latte cups. Today, those are just distant memories. The fragmentation of coffee into a number of types and tasting experiences, coupled with the spread of espresso to a host of countries (with the ensuing adaptations to different uses, customs and sizes) have led to a broader range of cups.

Today, most of the coffee outlets stock seven, eight, up to ten cup models that differ in shape, thickness, capacity and height. Each customer needs to be able to choose their cup on the basis of their needs in terms of blend.

Normally, narrower cups are preferred for Arabica-based blends, while wider cups are preferred for blends in which Robusta predominates. There are also countless requirements concerning sizes.

These range from the classic espresso cups of 70- 80 ml capacity to the classic cappuccino cups of 180-200 ml. A host of intermediate sizes came into use later, as well as larger sizes, especially for milk-based beverages.”

How to choose the cups for a coffee bar

“Experience teaches us that four basic considerations are important when choosing the correct cups for our coffee bars or our blend. The first, and probably most important, consideration is the compatibility of the inner shape of the cup with our blend.

The second important aspect is to keep in mind that the cup is intended, above all, for professional use; therefore we must consider its robustness and ease of handling as well as the ergonomics that facilitate their use by the barista.

A third aspect, that has gained importance in recent years, concerns the aesthetics, as the cup is now used as the main vehicle to promote the corporate image, either of the coffee brand or of the bar in which the coffee is consumed. Finally, the fourth aspect concerns economic considerations.

Our experience leads us to recommend to always analyse the four aspects together at the same time. This will prevent us from choosing one or two solutions that satisfy two of the aspects, neglecting a third or perhaps fourth aspect that could invalidate our initial choice, leading us to select a product that will yield poor end results.”

Parameters of the espresso cup

“The espresso cup for professional use must have three basic characteristics. The first concerns the inner bottom, which must have the typical oval shape to allow the crema to develop correctly and to ensure the coffee’s aromas remain unaltered.

The second, equally important, is the correct thickness of the porcelain, which must be thinner at the edge to give a pleasant feel when in contact with the lips and thicker at the bottom to correctly maintain the temperature of the coffee.

Indeed, as the coffee is dispensed into the cup, it cools slightly when it comes into contact with the thicker porcelain. Later, when the porcelain becomes hot, it allows the coffee to retain its correct temperature for longer. The third important characteristic concerns the material, which preferably must be hard feldspathic porcelain.

This material, thanks to its strength, robustness and long-lasting shine, allows durable professional use and also ensures better retention of the coffee temperature, which is not the case if other materials such as ceramic, glass, paper and plastic are used.”

Parameters of the cappucino cup

“With regard to cappuccino cups, an important distinction must be made between the true Italian cappuccino cup and what is recognised as a cappuccino cup abroad. Much confusion often reigns in this area. The Italian cappuccino cup must have a capacity of about 175 cc, to hold 25 cc of espresso and about 125 cc of milk which, when frothed, becomes 155 cc.

It must have a slightly oval shape both inside and outside. Inside to ensure, as in the case of espresso, the correct dispensing of the coffee; outside to be able to display the dome of frothed milk, with the characteristic brown line that follows the circumference of the rim.

I would say these are the two basic characteristics. The cappuccino cup shares two characteristics with the espresso cup. The material must be hard feldspathic porcelain and the thickness must be greater at the bottom and slightly less at the rim.”

The ideal cup for Latte art

“A cup for Latte art must have two basic characteristics. First of all a diameter at the top large enough to allow the artist to express themselves fully, by providing as large a surface as possible available for the decoration. Secondly, the cup must not be too deep because excessive depth leads to a less stable upper surface.

I would say that these are two of the main characteristics that relate to the contents of the cup, its inner aspect. Another aspect, which mustn’t be underestimated, is the ease of handling. The skill of the artist during the decoration phase must not be hampered by an ill-conceived handle.

The decoration in Latte art is rarely done by holding the cup by the handle. The body of the cup must be shaped in such a way that the barista can easily hold the cup with one hand only and rotate it without difficulty, thus giving free rein to their creativity in the most varied and accurate way possible.”

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