Do ripple wall takeaway coffee cups maintain temperature the longest?

Maira Kanai-Nasir
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July 2, 2024
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A high-quality cup of coffee depends on several factors, from its variety and processing to the way it is roasted, ground, and extracted. However, according to a study by the University of Arkansas, one of the most important factors is the temperature at which it’s served. A brand’s choice of takeaway coffee cups is critical to this. 

While ripple wall takeaway coffee cups are often mistaken for an aesthetic design choice, they actually serve a purpose. The ripple design can help preserve a coffee’s temperature for longer and, by extension, ensure customers enjoy it as intended.

But, how long can ripple wall takeaway coffee cups maintain temperature? And are they the only option brands have?

Read on as Conor Conway, the founder of Epoch Chemistry Coffee House, shares his thoughts. 

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How do ripple wall takeaway coffee cups retain heat? 

Temperature can dramatically impact consumer perceptions of aroma and flavour. For example, a single cup of coffee can taste completely different as it cools naturally after brewing. This change in flavour is due to specific chemical reactions generated by variations in temperature. These reactions take place during the roasting and brewing processes and continue once the coffee has been served. As coffee cools, the instability of certain compounds, like caffeine, carbohydrates and fats, cause the flavours to change over time.

The study conducted by the University of Arkansas found that coffee brewed at different temperatures can dramatically influence the perception of characteristics, including acidity, mouthfeel, and flavour notes. While this is simple to manage when serving customers coffee in-store, takeaway coffee orders complicate the process. Namely, the coffee must be brewed to an optimal temperature to ensure that it is at its peak when consumed.

The way in which a brand’s takeaway coffee cups are made can affect how consumers perceive the beverage. For instance, ripple wall takeaway coffee cups consist of a standard paper cup with an outer layer made from corrugated cardboard. This layer gives the cup its signature ripple effect. The gap between the two layers creates a cushion of air, or barrier, that helps retain the cup’s heat. 

Furthermore, the ridges of the cup help with insulation and slowing heat loss. This eliminates the need for an additional cup sleeve, allowing customers to hold it comfortably throughout their drinking experience. 

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The benefits of ripple wall takeaway coffee cups

A sturdy option

Rising environmental concerns around plastic materials have prompted single-use plastic bans around the world, leading to a gradual phasing out of styrofoam and plastic disposables altogether. As a result, many brands are using sustainable alternatives for takeaway orders, such as paper cups. 

However, while it is uncommon, paper cups can weaken and crumble, creating the potential for burns and spills. Furthermore, they may be too hot to hold without the addition of a cup sleeve. Conversely, ripple wall cups are much sturdier than a typical double-walled cup. In some cases, they may have similar strength qualities as wood, as their flutes align vertically to strengthen each layer. More so, the multiple layers mean ripple wall cups are less likely to leak at the seams, which can be an issue with single-walled cups.

The sustainable choice

Recent studies show that bio-based takeaway cups, such as those made from paper and cardboard, use fewer fossil fuels than single-use plastics made from polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). As a result, more paper takeaway cups are being lined with bioplastics instead of plastic. This has helped make the cups biodegradable, and in turn, more sustainable. 

These bioplastics include materials such as polylactic acid (PLA), which is produced by allowing bacteria to ferment natural starches like corn and sugar cane into hydroxy acids. A PLA coating has no odour or aftertaste as it is resistant to high temperatures, as well as the fatty acids found in drinks that contain milk.

Alternatively, an aqueous coating is a water-based lining used on paper cups. It differs from other coatings in that it is printed much like a water-based ink. This allows it to absorb into the paper fibres instead of sitting on top as an additional layer. Essentially, an aqueous coating reduces the amount of material needed while providing the same leak proof benefits as other coatings. 

Conor is the founder and director of coffee at Epoch. He believes that sustainability is more highly valued in the coffee industry than in many other sectors. 

“The call for eco-conscious practices is especially pronounced in the realm of agricultural products and coffee – particularly specialty coffee – stands at the forefront. This aligns perfectly with a consumer base that values intentional interactions with products,” he says. 

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Why maintaining the temperature of takeaway coffee is essential

According to the Specialty Coffee Association, coffee is best prepared at a temperature between 90° and 96°C (195° and 205°F). However, coffee is best consumed when it is between 54° and 71°C (130° and 160°F). This temperature also reduces the risk of a scalding injury. A heat loss of 2° to 5°C (4° to 9°F) occurs immediately as the coffee is poured into a takeaway cup. This is due to the receptacle’s lower wall temperature. Depending on how much of the liquid’s surface area is exposed or whether a lid was applied, the coffee’s temperature will continue to drop by 10°-15°C (20°-25°F).

A dedicated takeaway coffee station could help you serve takeaway coffee at optimal temperatures. Customers can queue for express orders separately from those who want to sit down. Ideally, having customers submit their orders in advance may also ensure waiting times are kept to a minimum, and your coffee remains fresh and delicious for each customer.

Conor explains that Epoch Chemistry Coffee uses double-wall coffee cups as they’re fully recyclable in Eastern Canada. “Paired with high-resolution expert printing and a matte finish, our vibrant yellow takeaway cups are not only eye-catching but also contribute to a sustainable coffee experience.

“Every move towards eco-friendliness is a stride in preserving the essence of the incredible coffee industry,” he adds. Deciding which eco-friendly coffee cup is best for you will ultimately come down to your business model. 

Maintaining your takeaway coffees’ temperatures doesn’t have to be complicated or involve using materials that are bad for the planet. At MTPak Coffee, our range of sustainable takeaway coffee cups is made from recyclable materials such as PET, bamboo fibre, and kraft paper, with an environmentally friendly PLA or Aqueous lining. Our cups are available in three sizes: 4oz, 8oz, 12oz, 16oz, and 24oz. In addition to being strong, waterproof, lightweight, and 100% compostable, our cups can be custom-designed using innovative digital printing technology to customise your cups to your specifications, allowing you to feature your brand logo or recycling instructions. 

Invest in ripple wall takeaway coffee cups today!

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Maira Kanai-Nasir
Maira Kanai-Nasir

Discovering specialty coffee whilst working in Australia, Maira has previously worked in Specialty Coffee as a trainer and coffee product buyer for many years. She currently resides in Dubai, UAE working as a specialty coffee writer, with a strong passion for all things coffee.

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