The Perfect Cup

We asked David Donde from Truth the question of what constitutes the perfect cup. This is what he had to say.

As those Stones with no moss once said, “you can’t always get what you want…”

Getting the perfect cup when going out can turn into a needlessly daunting prospect. You are going to drop between R10 an R20 for a cup so it is not about the price.  The company you choose to be with may well influence the experience, but I am going to firmly avoid this as thats up to you Bubba.

What makes for a good cup? That is the right starting point. How do you properly tell the difference between a good cup and a bad one?

Perhaps before that can even be done one needs to know what to order. A minefield in itself. Geography and brands result in varying names for the various drinks. The trouble begins with you. Yes you. You heard me, I am talking to you. Damn it. You demand to order different drinks by first choosing a cup size. You ruined it for all of us and I will explain why by explaining the different drinks.

An espresso is coffee pulled on an espresso machine. Approximately 14-20g of coffee is ground up quite fine, put in a basket, tamped and gently has 9 Bars of pressure drive water through it in around 25 seconds. This is our basic building block.

The standards as we in the speciality industry understand them:

A Machiatto is 1 part espresso to less than 1 equal part steamed milk
A Cappuccino is 1 part espresso to between 3 and 5 parts steamed milk
A Latte is 1 part espresso to between 7 and 9 parts steamed milk
Americano is 1 part espresso with some boiling water
Filter coffee is hot water dripped through ground coffee by gravity

So a latte is merely a milk diluted Cappuccino.

A double espresso comes to approximately 60ml. A single shot in the regular (small) standard take away cup which holds 250ml would be a latte. No matter what it is called.

Not convinced? Half of the double shot is 30ml. That leaves 220ml of space for steamed milk. 30 into 220 goes a little over 7 times or expressed as a ratio 1:7.333 firmly in the latte territory.

Worse a single latte served by some in the large (read 350ml cup) is 1:10.66 or a cup of stained milk. Eina. I guess if the coffee is bitter enough it would taste like something. What, I am not sure, but something. A double shot in the small cup is a Cappuccino.

The whining refrain I always hear at this point is “but in Italy they serve a single shot cappuccino” yes, and that is in a 150ml cup. Try serving that size cup to a Souf Efrikken and see the skeef looks you get.

So if you want a strong latte, order a cappuccino, want a weak cap? Order a damn latte.

Got it?

Now as for temperature. If coffee is served too hot you wont taste it. That is how you manage to drink many of the excuses for coffee served every day. Fine coffee still tastes good when it cools down. Preparing it too hot causes over-extraction of the ground coffee and makes it taste bitter. Always.

Heat up milk past 80˚C and it looses all sweetness. This is why modern cappuccinos & lattes are served cooler. Don’t want that fluffy tasteless foam? Then accept a cooler cup. Ask the barista to pre-heat your cup properly though. With boiling water.

What is a Flat White? A cappuccino serve in the proper way. No shaving foam. No sprinkles and hopefully with tasty coffee and a little latte art for finesse.

So order what you want and damn what we in the industry call it.

And no you Americans, we can’t put a single shot in a bucket of milk and call it a cappuccino. I mean, we wont.

Drink up.

“…Get what you need”

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Written by Cindy Taylor

Cindy is the editor in chief and photographer for I Love Coffee.


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6 Responses to “The Perfect Cup”

  1. Andrew September 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    & that’s theTruth …thanks you coffee legend

  2. Kate September 9, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Lovely work Cindy! Look forward to seeing you soon at Truth.

  3. Andre September 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    Good work.

    I hate it when I order a cappuccino, and they serve it in a cup the size of a small bowl. All you taste is milk. If I wanted a latte…

  4. Greg October 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    Now we are talking that is why Bialetti produce different size pots for home use

  5. Sam Lurie October 9, 2010 at 4:55 am #

    Have you been baptised yet by “double shot” – take a drive up the coast!
    Great article, passing on to some folk who need this info. thanks

  6. Briony November 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Brilliant! So frank, so true. I’m craving a cappuccino now.

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