People perceive coffee to taste differently in different sizes and shapes of cups

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It’a almost like the increased aroma of a wide-open mug could be an integral part of the perception of flavor.

Sorry, I’m just nonplussed to hear the study involved only images of coffee.


I read this elsewhere yesterday and it struck me as a dumb study. Basically, they did not put different coffees in multiple different cups to see if different cups of coffee per coffee type were perceived differently when tasted (as the headline might lead one to speculate could be the case) - no, they just showed people pictures of different cups and asked what coffee they’d expect in that cup.

Given that different types of coffee have traditionally been served in specific different types of cup, well duh … of course people ‘perceived’ (anticipated) that a certain sort of flavour of coffee would be expected in a particular cup shape. We’ve been conditioned to expect that!

The first sentence of the summary article gives this game away very clearly:

Avid coffee drinkers know that a sweeter cappuccino is often served in a larger, wider mug, while a stronger, more bitter espresso typically comes in a short, narrow mug.

I.e. we have already been conditioned to expect it.

And so the conclusion…

business owners, baristas, and restaurateurs can use these findings to their advantage to better cater to their customers’ expectations. “These findings … suggest that coffee should be presented in certain mugs in order to convey a message that is congruent with the customer’s expectations,” they write.

… is a statement of the already bleedin’ obvious, as a result of our conditioning by the coffee industry. The baristas etc will not be able to use these findings to do anything other than carry on exactly as they have been forever.



Can’t get to the comments through the “Comments” link on the article fyi.

And yeah as mentioned above this study isn’t bringing any new insight, it’s relatively well known that visual presentation and the shape of a container can greatly impact the subjective perception and taste/smell. This is why i highly recommend to those that order cappuccinos at coffee places to only order them if they intend to drink it from a porcelain cup, the paper cup not only fucks with the ratio of the foam but it messes with how the aroma gets to you while drinking. Though hot coffees will always taste better if drunk from a proper cup, if its iced then it likely won’t matter as much.


Wine and spirits get the same treatment.


I find that coffee tastes best when quaffed from the hollowed out skull of an enemy. It is probably psychosomatic. But, man, that is some mighty fine coffee.



… coffee to “taste different,” not “differently.” In this case, “taste” is a linking verb that identifies a property of the beverage. That is, the coffee is not doing the tasting, rather the drinker perceives a taste that is different.


“It is unpleasantly like being drunk.” :smiley:


That’s OK, it only passed the illusion of peer review.


All of these areas have been studied to death, this one just happens to involve coffee. Reminds me of an education student who was measuring testosterone changes in something and it was simplified to “Men do worse on X because of testosterone” which technically was correct, but the gist of the research was the effect that this had on something else - which was completely ignored.

In a follow up study, participants were shown pictures of different glasses. Astonishingly, researchers discovered that people expected drinks from these glasses to taste different



They are now investigating how the specific dimensions of different glasses affect people’s perception of aroma and taste …

for the


Well played.
In other groundbreaking studies, subjects were shown plates and bowls and asked which one they might expect to eat soup from. :wink:


Plate for holodets which is just cold soup

Joking aside, you could do an interesting study with roughly this methodology, but it really depends what the question you’re asking yourself is. Something like “are there factors which affect people’s understanding of what coffee in different cups tastes like?” for instance, cross levelled against, I don’t know - age? gender? education? income? number of artisanal roasters within 10km of their place of work? etc. Which I guess would really be using coffee knowledge as a proxy for asking something about privilege, or cross-cultural awareness, or something like that.

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