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Why Is Coffee Served With Water In Cafés?

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Espresso and water on a tray at a cafe

Each month, over one million people in the United States search for “coffee near me” on Google. It’s a big number, that keeps rising every year. Whether you’re new to the world of coffee drinking or you’re a seasoned pro, you may have noticed the occasional café serves the espresso and cappuccino with a complimentary small glass of sparkling or still water. If you’re confused about why they do this, keep reading. We’re about to explain why coffee is served with water.

Why is coffee served with water?

Cafés serve water with black coffee to cleanse the palate. The water removes any impurities from toothpaste, gum, or anything else eaten in the last hour. Some patrons like to reserve some of the water for after drinking the coffee to tame the rich, intense flavor that lingers after. However, coffee “experts” believe that if the coffee beans are quality, you won’t want to remove the taste at the end.

Some café-goers prefer to soak up the atmosphere for more than just one drink. If the café serves alcohol, then a wine may be the next drink ordered. For these customers, the water is, once again, useful for cleansing the palate before moving on to the vino.

In some parts of the world, like the Middle East, there is another important reason for serving coffee and water together. Hot climates can easily cause dehydration, so the water helps to offset the dehydrating effects of caffeine.

If you like to order an espresso (long black in some parts of the world) you’ll understand that it is served at close to lava-temperature. Some coffee-lovers enjoy pouring a little water into the drink to speed up cooling. While baristas may not endorse this practice, no doubt it is appealing to some customers.

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A collage of coffee and water shotsOther common questions

Why is coffee served so hot?

Coffee is served at a scalding temperature of around 185°F (85°C) as this is best for extracting the full flavor notes from the coffee. It’s much better to receive a coffee that’s too hot than one that is Lukewarm or even worse, cold. If you’re in a hurry, then you can always add some milk.

Why is coffee served in a glass?

Some enjoy drinking coffee served in a glass as it allows the drinker to savor the hot beverage before tasting it. Also, a tapered glass allows for a more elevated, denser froth on top. The downside of glass is that it transfers heat better than a regular cup or mug, making it hard to hold.

Why is coffee served after dinner?

Coffee is served after dinner as it aids digestion and acts as an appetite suppressant, reducing the temptation to eat more snacks after dinner. Others enjoy sipping a hot coffee during desserts as the sweetness and richness from the final course is a perfect match for the bitterness offered by coffee.

Why is coffee served with a saucer?

Back in the 17th Century tea was originally served with a mismatched saucer. During this time, it was fashionable to pour the tea into the saucer, allowing it to cool quicker. Over time, manufacturers began to make cups and saucers that matched and were used as a set. This trend also spilled across to coffee (excuse the pun).

Fast facts

  • Many baristas in Italy often serve a shot of espresso coffee with sparkling water in the Southern region, such as Calabria, but this experience is not so common in Northern Italy.
  • Although water is commonly paired with black coffee, it may also be served with a hot latte, cappuccino, or even hot chocolate.
  • Espresso is made by forcing extremely hot water through ground coffee at high pressure. In Italian, espresso means “forced out” or “expressed”.
  • After oil, coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world.
  • Adding cream to the top of your next hot drink will keep it warm for about 20% longer.

Summing up

Using a machine at home to create brewed coffee is convenient and saves you money. But unless you use a high-tech unit, it’s hard to beat the quality of a café-made coffee. If you find the right one, you may also get served still or sparkling water with your hot drink on a tray. This service is mostly about cleansing the palate so that you can appreciate the coffee flavor profile without any distractions. If sipping wine is something you like to order afterward, then you can use the water after drinking the espresso to remove those strong flavors.

Are you happy receiving coffee without the extra water or do you prefer to see it on the tray? Please let us know your answer in the comments below.