Takeaway coffee cups & espresso machines: Should they be stored together?

Esther Gibbs
February 3, 2023
An image of custom-printed takeaway coffee cups stored on an espresso machine, sustainable takeaway coffee cups and how to store them in an article on takeaway coffee cups and espresso storing them on espresso machines.

An essential part of any coffee shop is its layout, as these businesses work best when designed with workflow in mind. 

Customers are unlikely to return to an establishment where the orders take longer than necessary because the staff are dashing between stations. More so, it can be a horrible environment for baristas to work in. 

A common coffee shop set-up includes a counter that holds a till for ordering, a grinder and a knockout box, followed by the coffee machine, with milk fridges nearby. This is usually followed by milk pitcher rinsers and a service area. 

Everything a barista needs to complete their job should be within arm’s length at every stage of the process. This includes takeaway coffee cups for to-go services. 

Several coffee machines come with a cup warmer on top where coffee shops tend to store cups. However, the age-old question remains: is it hygienic to store takeaway coffee cups on espresso machines?

I spoke with a few baristas about their thoughts on whether takeaway coffee cups should be stored on top of espresso machines. 

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Why do espresso machines have cup warmers?

Cup warmers on top of espresso machines typically allow baristas to preheat ceramic cups to ensure the coffee maintains temperature. 

Ceramic cups are effective insulators and conductors. When a cup is at room temperature, heat from the coffee will transfer to the cup to reduce the temperature of the beverage. 

Storing ceramic cups on top of an espresso machine can help the coffee stay hotter for longer when served. Additionally, the warmth of the cup is likely to make customers perceive the coffee as hotter. 

While this works for ceramic cups, there is a debate about whether it is hygienic to store takeaway coffee cups on an espresso machine.

Historically, takeaway cups were designed with little consideration for their lifecycle. Single-use cups were created in a way that made them difficult to dispose of or disintegrate, which led to them being incinerated or piling up in a landfill. 

However, suppliers are now using environmentally friendly materials to ensure takeaway cups are recyclable or compostable. 

As the materials are designed to be broken down easily, they are more sensitive to the elements. Therefore, cups made from these materials should be stored in the correct environment to ensure they remain fit for purpose. 

An image of sustainable takeaway coffee cups on an espresso machine, paper takeaway coffee cups with a PLA lining, storing takeaway coffee cups in an article on whether takeaway coffee cups should be stored on espresso machines.

Pros & cons: Storing takeaway coffee cups on espresso machines

When it comes to storing takeaway coffee cups on coffee equipment, there can be many pros and cons. 

A barista trainer at Paddy and Scott’s Coffee Shop in the UK explains she stores takeaway coffee cups on the espresso machine at events. “Only because there is a rapid turnaround, as I don’t want the glue to melt,” she says. 

Others in the industry mention doing it for easy access or to heat the cups quickly when they receive a batch that is difficult to separate. 

“I once worked somewhere that had an outer layer on the takeaway cups and the top of the machine melted the glue,” explains David Nickerson-Smith of Quaff East Coffee in the UK

“Now, in my shop, we have an L-shaped bar. The machine and the grinders are on the short part, and the takeaway cups are on the longer line. I serve from the middle, so while I’m talking, I can get the cups ready without having to look away from the customer.” David says. 

Compostable or biodegradable takeaway coffee cups should be stored in a cool, dark space to ensure their integrity. 

While they can hold hot liquids for a short period, if placed on the top of a machine at a temperature of over 40°C (104°F) the cups are likely to suffer.

For instance, the lining of the cup could be damaged, becoming less water resistant. Additionally, the glue securing the cup could melt, and the stack of cups could become stuck together. This results in unnecessary packaging waste, as the entire stack of cups will be unusable. 

More so, the cup shape can become distorted and flimsy. In turn, the lids will no longer fit correctly and the customer may struggle with the cup disintegrating as they hold it.

Some takeaway coffee cups with high-temperature PLA can be safely exposed to temperatures of up to 88°C (190°F) without suffering deformation. Standard PLA is able to withstand temperatures of up to 60°C (140°F).

Compostable takeaway cups are designed to break down under heat, pressure, and humidity. 

Therefore, roasters are advised to avoid storing these cups on top of an espresso machine with a water boiler of around 94°C (201°F).

An image of sustainable takeaway coffee cups made from kraft paper with custom printed coffee cups in an article on whether takeaway coffee cups should be stored on espresso machines.

How should takeaway coffee cups be stored?

So where should coffee shops store takeaway coffee cups for service? 

  • Beside your espresso machine within reaching distance. 
  • On a shelf under the machine. Many baristas recommend this but advise protecting them in case the machine leaks. 
  • Inside a dispenser, which can be built into the work surface. 

It is also important to consider the long-term storage of takeaway coffee cups. Many coffee shops buy cups in bulk as it is more cost-effective, and helps with low minimum order quantities (MOQs) for branded cups. 

However, when stored incorrectly, they will be vulnerable to their environment. Coffee shops and roasters should ensure the cups are stored in a clean, dry, and cool environment. 

At MTPak Coffee, we can provide roasters and cafe owners with sustainable takeaway coffee cups made from renewable materials such as recycled kraft paper with an environmentally-friendly PLA lining.

Strong and lightweight, our range of cups is the ideal choice for roasters and coffee shops looking to reduce the impact on the environment and communicate their commitment towards sustainability.

Our range includes double or single wall cups, compostable takeaway coffee cups, as well as coffee cup sleeves. 

Our recyclable takeaway coffee cups are available in five different sizes: 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 12 oz, and 24 oz.

We can also help you fully customise your takeaway coffee cups or coffee cup sleeves with details of your business, allowing you to communicate the cup’s recycling qualities to customers.

We only use innovative and eco-friendly digital printing technology with sustainable, water-based inks that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

This means that while they are highly resistant to abrasion, water, and heat, they are also compostable and easy to remove for recycling.

Furthermore, we offer a range of low minimum order quantity (MOQ) options, allowing you to order as little as 500 fully customised units in just five working days.

For more information on sustainable takeaway coffee cups, contact our team

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