Coffee Is Hot Anyway, Is Warming Your Cup Really That Important?
Here we shed some light on a particular coffee making practice that you’ll see all the pros do but, at first glance, seems completely pointless; but why, why should we pre-warm our cups before making a coffee?
Whilst many would argue that pre-warming your coffee cup is all rather a redundant exercise since you’re about to be pouring hot coffee into the cup, but what if we told you that we'd encourage such a practice? Why does it really matter if the cup is pre-warmed? Well, you can certainly be forgiven for asking this question and here we’re going to pull back the veil as to why this is a good practice to get into.
If you’ve ever been to a speciality coffee shop then you’ll often see cups stacked on top of the Espresso machine. This isn't just for convenience so that they’re easier to grab when making a customer a coffee, it’s normally because the top of the machine acts as a cup warmer. The same goes for domestic grade espresso machines, with many incorporating a cup warming function as standard depending on the price point.
Maintaining coffee's optimal temperature
So why do this? What’s the benefit? In short, pre-warming a coffee cup keeps the coffee content warmer for a longer period of time, but you guessed it, there is even more to it than that. When you pour freshly brewed coffee into a cold porcelain cup the temperature gradient between the surface and the coffee is quite dramatic; such a temperature change is even further accelerated the smaller the type of coffee you're making. By example, if you're making an espresso coffee, you’ll perceive a temperature decrease much sooner than if you make a flat white or a Chemex or pour over. When pouring any freshly brewed coffee into a cup that isn't pre-warmed, the temperature immediately plummets by 10 degrees, and then if you add milk or sugar, it decreases by an even further 10 degrees, all in all neither an optimal temperature for achieving a perfect cup of coffee.
Cup temperature affects coffee's taste
The reason we say that there’s more to it than just simple heat loss is because being able to drink your coffee quicker first thing in the morning is perhaps never a bad thing - we're all often in a rush. However, the interaction between the cold porcelain and the hot coffee can change the properties of the coffee which will lead to a sub-optimal coffee tasting experience. If you’ve invested in good quality wholebeans (as we always recommend you do when pursuing a passion for speciality coffee), you'll definitely want to ensure you retain all the subtleties and nuances in the flavour profile and tasting notes.
And, cup temperature affects coffee's aromas
As well as taste, the interaction between the cold cup and hot freshly brewed coffee will reduce the coffee’s ability to retain it’s aroma, and therefore, the aroma will be less intense and the coffee may not adequately bloom. Smell is a big part of taste, and so the more intense the aroma the better the perceived taste will be. If you're one to prefer a filter brew, when making a pour over, in particular, you will want that aroma to develop in the cup and that’s why it’s always recommended that you don’t drink pour over or V60 brews straight away; the flavour profile intensifies over time in the cup. For those who love an espresso, you may know the term crema - the beautiful golden layer that sits on top of the espresso -, and it is also proven that pre-warmed cups also enables your coffee cup to retain it's crema for longer.
As we've read, yes, pre-warming your cups will most certainly keep your coffee hotter for longer, but also, if you’re wanting to get the most out of your speciality coffee at home then pre-warming your cups will also do wonders for the aroma and flavour profile of your coffee. And, the added beauty here is that you don’t even need a cup warmer, simply pour some boiling water in your cup and let it sit for a few minutes and that will do the trick just as well.
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