You have just finished brewing a pourover from beautiful coffee beans recently purchased from your local roaster. You then reach for a nearby clean coffee mug to enjoy your hot drink, but did you know that the material, shape, size and colour of your mug has an impact on your coffee’s flavour? In this week’s post, let’s explore a few things you should consider when looking for a coffee mug that will allow you to enjoy your coffee to the fullest:
The material your beverage cup is made of directly impacts the taste of your coffee, as well as its ability to keep it hot. Professional baristas suggest that we avoid the following materials:
– Plastic (as they absorb flavours in the long-run)
– Glass (for their low heat retention)
– Poorly-constructed stainless steel mugs (because the finishes may leech into your coffee and alter the flavours)
What is the best material for a coffee mug for home, one may ask? Most coffee professionals are probably going to recommend getting a double-walled ceramic mug for your home: ceramic is a neutral material that leaves coffee tasting just as it should, while the double walls will keep your coffee hotter for longer, and let you enjoy all the fine tasting notes in your brew. What’s most important is that most ceramic mugs can easily be cleaned in a dishwasher, are reasonably durable and pleasant to drink coffee out of.
If you are looking for a ceramic to-go cup, we recommend that you go check out the Nomad Mug from our friends at Loveramics; for those of you who prefer to keep your coffee hot, you may want to look into our selection of MiiR cups: they are made of 18/8 medical grade stainless steel, which retains the heat in your coffee without altering its taste.
While it is easy for us to assume that the colour of your coffee mug is more likely to affect your Instagram feed rather than your coffee experience, we may be terribly wrong. In a study carried out by Van Doorn, Wuillemin and Spence in 2014, people tasted the intensity and sweetness in a coffee differently when they drank out of a white mug. In another experiment performed by Carvalho in 2018, serving coffee in pink, rounded cups will enhance its perceived sweetness, and tulip-shaped cups will increase the perceived aroma in a coffee.
Shape and Size
In the world of coffee, we love to discuss aroma and perceived flavours, and they go hand in hand with headspace and liquid surface area.
Headspace is the volume between the liquid and the top of the vessel: it creates room for the aroma of a coffee to aerate, allows the sense of smell to be involved and elevates the perceived intensity of coffee aromatics. For the same amount of liquid, a smaller/narrower vessel allows less headspace, while a bigger/wider vessel will lower the perceived intensity of coffee aromatics.
On the other hand, different liquid surface areas will bring out different flavours of a coffee. The amount of coffee that is immediately exposed to the air is determined by the liquid surface area, which plays a vital role in altering the rate of oxidation. Consequently, it can have effects such as softening the tannins in coffee and impacting the rate of heat loss. The science behind this is quite straightforward: a wider liquid surface accelerates the process of oxidation, resulting in an increase of sweetness; on the contrary, a smaller liquid surface area slows down the rate of oxidation, enhancing the acidity of the coffee.
By now, you can have a brief idea of what impact the material, colour, shape and size of the coffee mug could have on your daily cup of joe. As the famous saying goes, ‘Art is all in the details’. In this case, paying extra attention to the choice of your coffee vessel allows you to enjoy every element that adds to the beauty of the coffee.
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