To make this an easier read to the causal word skimmer, I would like to summarize the topic at hand prior to delving into a more in-depth analysis. Simply stated, this entry asks the world at large to avoid using lids on their drinks. There is a reason why most independent cafes choose to put these lids at the condiment bar rather than capping them for you, and it is not a matter of vanity. We are not merely trying to show off latte art (although this is possibly indicative of further enjoyment), rather it is done to encourage the drinker to take a sip prior to placing the lid on the beverage. All the aromas, textures, and flavors are muddled when drank through a tiny plastic hole. So, the next time you order an espresso drink, take the time to taste your coffee before you drink your coffee and you’ll be amazed at the difference.
Without further ado, the extended version:
There’s a certain je ne sais pas when it comes to drinking coffee out of porcelain.
It may be the smooth warmth of china on your fingers, or perhaps it’s the lack of the papery taste that I’ve come to associate with to-go cups. Even more than these, however, I believe that one giant difference-maker in the deliciousness of a well-made porcelain cupped cappuccino versus the same drink in paper is the absence of a taste-inhibiting lid.
The beautiful aroma that perfumes the air of a coffeehouse also permeates from the contents of each individual cup of coffee. The presence of lid stifles this aroma; it is important to remember that taste is largely influenced by what we smell. If we smell a plastic lid, then we will taste a plastic lid.
Let me put this in a more perceptibly-egregious scenario:
Would you drink a beautiful 1945 Chateau Petrus through a straw? If you did, do you feel that you’d get the full experience of the wine?
(A resounding) No!
Coffee, like a fine wine, carries different flavor components and mouthfeel, acidity, and sweetness are three incredibly important parts of our enjoyment of coffee. A lid (a straw, or any small opening) limits our perception of these elements.
This is particularly true when you are drinking a milk-based beverage. The frothy goodness that makes up the mouthfeel (the central element of a properly prepared milk drink) is restricted by the small opening in a traditional plastic lid.
Note the video below: foamed milk is added to espresso. If the drink is allowed to sit, it will separate- foam on top, liquid on the bottom. You can swirl the cup to reincorporate the mixture. When you pour out or drink the cappuccino (with a lid) the separated liquid will slide under the less dense foam that is being held back by the plastic and you will be drinking a foamless, nearly frothless milk and coffee mixture (ever get stuck with nothing but foam on the bottom of your lidded cappuccino?).
I carried out a numerical example to corroborate my theories by making three (8oz.) cappuccino:
Cap A @ 181.4 grams
Cap B @ 177.9 grams
Cap C @ 181.5 grams
With Cap A, I swirled the cup and poured out 4 fl. oz.
With Cap B, I placed a lid on the cup, swirled, and poured out 4 fl. oz.
And with Cap C, I poured in 1oz. increments (to simulate drinking), swirling before each pour up to 4 fl oz.
Cap A finished at 111.8 g (61% remains)
Cap B finished at 66.8 g (38% remains)
Cap C finished at 95.0 g (52% remains)
As you can see, Cap C, the cappuccino with no lid and drunk in an experienced manner, yielded the most accurate mixture of foam to milk (if you want to be truly happy, use the same method with a 6oz, or traditional cappuccino).
Cap B lost all of its liquid (read as weight) as the delicious foam was being held in the cup by the lid. This number will get worse as the milk and foam separates (the milk slides under the foam).
And last but not least, Cap A lost most of its foam because the foam is on top! So, if you guzzle your cappuccino sans a lid, you will also have a bad time (and a burnt tongue).
Bottom line- I understand that there’s a huge difference between drinking coffee and tasting coffee. Sometimes you’re just looking for a boost or merely to fulfill your morning ablutions. In these cases, fill up and open wide.
However, if you’re ever looking to get enjoyment out of your coffee rather than just a surge of caffeine, I’d suggest tasting it. Remove your lid and think about your drink; give yourself a break from the daily grind.
Remember, a morning cup is only just a morning cup if you make it so.