On Coffee Cups

One of the most common questions we get asked when taking on a new customer is ‘What cup size should I use?’.  The expectation is that we ‘frown upon’ large cup sizes and favour smaller cups.  There is an element of truth in this but we have a clear rationale for this preference.

Firstly I’d like to define what we mean by ‘large’ and ‘small’ cups.  Possibly the most common size of cup used in many coffee shops is 12 oz – this is one of the smaller sizes used in the larger chains.  These establishments then tend to use 16oz, 20oz and even 31oz cups.  We would define these cups as ‘large’.  When it comes to ‘small’ cups we would be looking at 10oz being at the very top end of the cup sizes.

When we set about crafting coffees such as cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites and the like, we use taste as the determining factor when choosing the ratio of coffee to milk.  We start with our espresso and then build from there, considering how the milk and/or foam affects the final cup.  Our approach to roasting is to highlight the flavours in different coffees; our current espresso has wonderful nutty flavours with an underlying fruitiness.  When we then add milk we’re trying to work with these flavours and this is where we need to consider cup sizes.

Our espresso is carefully thought out.  For each blend we carefully consider the ratio of coffee to water being used, the temperature of the water in the espresso machine, and how long we’d like the extraction to last.  For our current espresso blend we like to use 20g coffee to give a 32g end beverage weight, taking around 28-30 seconds to extract.  Our espresso machine is set at 94 degrees celsius.  We then move onto the drinks.

My drink of choice is a cappuccino.  I use a 5 oz cup with a ‘single’ espresso shot and then add tightly foamed milk.  It is a sublime drink – sweet and smooth, with the milk balancing the acidity in the coffee; the nuttiness is still there and the fruit comes through in the aftertaste.

For a flat white I’d use a 6oz cup and use the full ‘double’ shot; this coffee has a more intense taste, but still very smooth.  I’m generally not a latte drinker but a ‘double’ shot in an 8oz cup creates a slightly milkier, but still balanced coffee.  And then there’s the piccolo – a ‘double’ shot in a 4.5oz glass.

For us it’s always about flavour – we want our coffee to taste as good as it possibly can when we blend it with milk.  |We also recognise that taste is quite subjective.  We encourage our customers to experiment for themselves.  Some of our customers use the 8 oz cup as their standard size, others use 10 fl oz as their maximum.  We have some who successfully serve our coffee in 12 oz cups.  And as for 16 oz cups . . .

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Very nice, concise article. I rarely drink cappuccino, but I think I’d really like yours 🙂 Too often the coffee is drowned by the milk. I’d love to try a cappuccino in comparison to your flat white.

    You also highlight the confusion in terms in the coffee industry; practically everybody has a different explanation of what a cappuccino/latte/flat white/piccolo is. Might be one of the reasons I stick to espresso a lot of the time!

    Thanks,
    Brian.

    1. If you’re ever over in Cumbria we’d be happy to give you a tour of the Roastery and obviously make you a coffee or two! When I go out for a coffee, I often want to see what the staff are able to do with the coffee. In Cumbria at the moment it is pretty standard – 12oz cups, standard fluid ounce espresso shots; very few people are playing with dosing and cup sizes. We are slowly encouraging our customers to think about the drinks they serve, and the ratio of espresso to milk. We don’t necessarily want all our customers to serve the same cappuccino, for example, but we would like them to have a rationale for how they create one.

      1. Should I ever make it up your way (and I do have plans to) then I shall take you up on your kind offer 🙂 These days I rarely order anything more than 6oz in size…

  2. Heather Park says:

    I now always ask for a “small” size when I go for a coffee and as I tend to seek out Carvetii sellers they are usually ready for such requests. So some good training taken place I think! But anything bigger over faces me. And after all I can always have a second cup!

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