In the last few years I have noticed a change, from the traditional narrow shaped Espresso cups served in Competitions and Specialty Cafes to cups with a Wider Lip.
Now, is there a reason for this change?
The first Barista I saw serve Espresso with a 'wider style' lip was Hugh Kelly at the Australian Barista Championships, 2017.
I can recall Hugh said that he chose this cup - for his 'Morgan Estate Geisha' - because he loves what it does to the mouthfeel; which he described as 'silky'.
A more elegant, silky texture for a more elegant Espresso -
this makes sense.
If we think of the more established wine industry - it is common practice to serve different wines in different glasses; depending on how they are processed and the varietal.
Why are Shiraz and Riesling served in a different glass?
A taller, narrow shaped glass (such as for Riesling) helps to retain a cooler temperature (less exposure to oxygen).
This concentrates the aroma and highlights acidity.
In terms of flavour, the wine is delivered onto the front of the palate (similar to a traditional espresso cup), this enhances the perception of acidity and effervescence.
That acidity is a natural part of a Riesling's flavour profile and makes that varietal unique - so it make sense to serve it in a vessel to best showcase that variety.
A rounder, more open glass (such as a Burgundy) increases exposure to oxygen – more air can reach the wine. This lets the wine breathe, opens up the flavour of the varietal, highlighting more complex fruit flavours. It also allows the face and nose to take a bigger part in the drinking experience. The wider shape also helps to soften the more intense tannins and the exposure to air opens up new flavours; flavours that may have been masked by the more intense ones.
Now lets go back to Espresso.
I've found that a Wider cup stretches out the crema, minimizing the perception of bitterness. You are actually taking in less crema per sip.
A Wider shaped cup also enhances flavour clarity and opens up the unique flavour of the Varietal; such as Geisha and Heirloom varieties.
Espressos that naturally have a bigger body, such as Pacas and Pacarmara varieties can also benefit from a wider cup. This softens the enhanced body and improves flavour clarity. Creating a higher quality experience of that Varietal.
Traditional, narrow shaped Espresso cups concentrate the aroma, enhance body and the texture, as well as highlight the espresso's natural bitterness – as you are drinking through the crema: creating a much more textural experience.
This cup shape can also highlight more chocolatey flavours.
This cup shape may be more suited to varieties with a more vibrant acidity such as, SL28 and SL34 varieties. A Wider cup with more exposure to air would only intensify those fresh and juicy qualities - it may be desirable to have that texture, body and natural bitterness to balance out that fresh acidity.
Looking into the future
I believe that we will see more Baristas in the cafe and in Competitions using different shaped cups to best showcase their coffee's varietal .
This has already started to happen in Barista Competitions on the National and World stage, as well as some Specialty cafes.
The experience of espresso in a wider vessel can enhance the perception of flavour. We all love drinking amazing coffee.
Imagine at your local cafe, enjoying an Heirloom varietal from Ethiopia in a vessel that showcases that particular coffee. Imagine your customers enjoying these high quality coffees (not just Geisha) in a vessel that best highlights that varietals unique flavours - similar to the wine industry - in order t0 enjoy the best possible taste experience.
In Summery A Wider Cup does 3 things:
1. The flavours are clearer
Because there is less bitterness (less crema per sip) increasing the impression of sweetness and has a higher quality of acidity; this gives the perception of more complexity, more sweetness and a low bitterness. Improving the overall Taste Balance.
2. Creates a really silky texture
Even with a 1:2 Brew Ratio. This cup shape changes the way the espresso is delivered onto the palate; the espresso hits a wider surface area on the tongue, this creates the perception of a more silky texture; it glides effortlessly across the palate.
3. Overall impression
The overall experience with an Espresso in a wider cup I believe is of a higher quality, adding value to the experience. The flavours are more distinct and clearer – It may also create the impression that you are drinking a higher quality (or even a more expensive) coffee.