Espresso is probably the purest, most robust coffee brew. It has a vibrant taste and aroma. It also extracts the most caffeine and other nutrients from the ground beans, which is why coffee lovers worldwide love it. One thing you’ll notice, though, is that it’s almost always served with water, usually sparkling. So, why is espresso served with sparkling water?
Sparkling water works great as a refreshment for your mouth and cleaning your palate. That way, you will get the best taste of the espresso. In addition, some people use the sparkling water after to battle coffee breath, reduce the espresso aftertaste, or simply rehydrate.
There’s a long history of serving sparkling water with espresso, as well as a great history of people enjoying their shots with still water. So let’s dive deep and take a look at all the reasons why you might want sparkling water with your espresso and how it differs from simply having a glass of regular still water.
The Origins of Serving Sparkling Water with Espresso
As you probably know, espresso originated in Italy. While it wasn’t customary to serve sparkling water with it right from the start, it quickly became a thing as more and more people started to enjoy the rich taste of a good espresso.
People wanted to experience the espresso shot to the fullest. Any residual toothpaste or food aftertaste can diminish the experience of a cup, so baristas started serving water to their customers with espresso. First, you drink some water to clean your mouth. Then try the espresso to get the full taste and aroma without your previous consumption interfering.
Later, they found that sparkling water works better as a palate cleanser, so some coffee shops started serving a complimentary glass with every espresso shot.
One more reason why it caught on is that espresso is a strong, fragrant beverage that tends to dehydrate you. Italy is a Mediterranean country, and it gets pretty hot during the summertime. So, consuming a drink that dehydrates without rehydrating sounds like a bad idea, right?
But, all those reasons aren’t the reasons why the tradition of serving sparkling water caught on. In the Mediterranean cultures – including Italy, Croatia, etc. – you don’t just visit a coffee shop briefly and then drink your coffee on the go. Instead, people hang out at coffee shops for a long time to converse with others, relax, read the papers, watch sports, etc.
Even famous writers soaked in the blissful atmosphere and did some of their best work while sitting in cafes, including Franz Kafka, Scott Fitzgerald, TS Elliot, etc. As espresso is a pretty short beverage, people would open up with espresso and order something else.
However, the aftertaste can be too much and ruin the taste of any beverage you consume, be it wine, soda, or something else. Therefore, baristas would serve some sparkling water with the espresso, not just to clear the palate before the shot but to clear it after you finish your drink so that you could enjoy another beverage without the espresso aftertaste.
The tradition caught on and spread, and it’s still present to this day. However, now that we know more about nutrition, espresso, and coffee in general, it just gave us even more reasons to serve and drink water with a shot of espresso, especially sparkling water.
Why Is Espresso Served with Sparkling Water?
To clear the palate before drinking espresso
Espresso is a type of coffee enjoyed by millions. It’s served pure or a base for other coffee beverages, such as macchiato, mocha, cafe latte, etc. However, espresso is not a special type of coffee beans but rather a brewing method that extracts the most flavor, aroma, caffeine, and nutrients from the ground beans. That makes it especially strong and rich in taste.
Baristas might serve sparkling water with your espresso to help you get the best experience. Any toothpaste or food residue in your mouth can ruin the taste of the espresso or simply not allow you to taste it properly.
That’s why you have your sparkling water – drink a sip of the water first to clear your palate of any residual taste you might have in your mouth. It will give you a fresh, clean start, allowing you to get the full flavor of a well-brewed espresso.
I thought it played no part in the taste until I tried it. Oh, how wrong was I! You’ll experience everything better – the texture of the espresso, the refreshing aroma, the bold taste. And, if you clear your palate before taking a sip, the pure coffee aftertaste will linger for longer. If you don’t want it to remain, you can drink yet another sip of sparkling water to get rid of it.
To clear out the palate after drinking espresso
If you’re drinking good espresso, you might not want to clear your palate right after you finish it. However, you might want to do it in specific situations, and sparkling water will do the trick perfectly for you.
Let’s say you need to go to work right after you visit the coffee shop. You don’t want that strong aftertaste to remain in your mouth, right?
But, the occasion where most people want sparkling water after their espresso is when they plan on eating or drinking something else after it. Coffee in general (especially espresso) will leave you with a strong aftertaste, which can ruin the taste of beverages and food you eat or drink after.
Therefore, drinking a bit of sparkling water after espresso, removing the aftertaste, and clearing your palate for other things is always an excellent idea. You can do that, or bring a toothbrush anywhere you go.
To stay hydrated
Coffee is a diuretic and is known to dehydrate the organism, especially if it’s strong and bold like espresso. While it isn’t that big of a deal in colder climates, if you drink coffee without water during the summertime or in places where the environment is always damp and hot (like southeastern Asia, for instance), you can get dehydrated very quickly.
That’s why you should always have a glass of water with your coffee. Even if you don’t want to wash out the beautiful aftertaste of the espresso, you can finish your water before taking the last sip of coffee. That way, you’ll stay hydrated but keep the flavor you love so much.
To avoid coffee breath
I’ll keep this short – coffee breath is the worst. Especially in the morning, after your first cup. It can be unpleasant, and if you don’t want to carry a toothbrush and toothpaste with you and hide in bathrooms brushing your teeth, a great solution to bad coffee breath is to drink some sparkling water after you finish your espresso.
Your breath won’t be minty and cool, but at least it won’t be bad.
Sparkling vs. Still Water with Espresso – Which Is Better?
Some people argue that there’s no difference between consuming sparkling and still water with your espresso. I beg to differ, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be better off with one or the other. It depends on what you want out of the espresso drinking experience.
If you want a precise palate and the best possible taste of the espresso, choose sparkling water. It’s also better if you’re going to eat something after an espresso or get rid of bad coffee breath. The CO2 in sparkling water will clear your mouth better than regular still water.
On the other hand, if you want your coffee just for a quick energy boost, you might be better off with regular water. It’s smoother to drink and hydrates you without the unpleasant side effects of CO2 (e.g., those nasty burps in the middle of your workplace).