Caffeine fix: smaller cups leave latte lovers flat


Baristas call it a better flavour. Consumers may call it a rip-off.

Takeaway coffee cups are beginning to shrink in size yet the coffee price remains the same price, as Sydney and Melbourne cafes brace for the inevitable spike in global coffee prices, while still offering a premium tasting coffee.

In Australia, the standard dining-in coffee cup holds 60 millilitres less than the regular-sized takeaway cup. The discrepancy means a takeaway coffee features more milk, which dilutes the intensity of the espresso.

Froth and bother: Anthony Kaplan of Panama House in Bondi is trialling the smaller cups.
Froth and bother: Anthony Kaplan of Panama House in Bondi is trialling the smaller cups. Photo: Peter Rae

Baristas say the regular takeaway size has always been at odds with the flavour they are trying to create and they often compensate by adding a double ristretto, or short, shot.

For three months, Panama House cafe in Bondi has been trialling the smaller cup, with plans for it eventually to supersede the larger cup but at the same price of $3.50, owner Anthony Kaplan says.

"Inevitably there are some people who look at it in [terms of] volume as opposed to flavour, but it's the same amount of coffee that people have been used to, just with less milk," he said.

Coffee roaster Di Gabriel has also started selling the smaller 220 millilitre cups.

"We noticed a lot of people were ordering three-quarter coffees," said Vince Capozzi, part-owner of the coffee shop Dose Espresso in Willoughby which sells Di Gabriel coffee. "This gives the maximum flavour."

Mark Free, co-owner of Collingwood, Melbourne speciality cafe Everyday Coffee, says smaller takeaway sizes are better for farmers and small business owners struggling with increasing costs.


"It's really unsustainable; prices of green beans have gone up but retail prices have remained static," he said. "If people don't want to be paying more for their coffee, we'll just have to start giving them less coffee for the same price. It's only a matter of time."

Consumers paying the same for less is not new. For years, food and beverage companies have cut the size of their products to boost profits without increasing prices.

Between 2001 and 2011, Uncle Tobys, Pantene, Arnott's, Kellogg's and Smith's Chips all downsized their content without downsizing the price, in some cases by up to 26 per cent.

In 2009, chocolate-maker Cadbury came under fire after it cut its family block from 250 grams to 200 grams – a 20 per cent change – without reducing the price.

It followed a decision in 2008 by Foster's-owned Cascade Brewery to reduce its 375 millilitre twist-top Pale Ale stubby to a sleeker "European-style" 330 millilitre bottle without changing the price.

The move infuriated beer lovers, who boycotted the brand. Sales dropped by up to 50 per cent at some outlets and the backlash forced the company to issue a sheepish "we got it wrong" and bring back the 375 millilitre size.