Most of the world drinks coffee and much of the world enjoys coffee mixed with sweeteners, dairy, or other additions. Depending on the drinks your coffee business offers, it may or may not need stirrers. Why is this? Simply put, coffee drinks are made according to a recipe and many drinks include stirring as one of the recipe's steps. Here are some drinks that your coffee business will need plastic or wooden coffee stirrers for, and a few that your coffee business will not:
This is the coffee that most coffee businesses offer in the United States. However, only 35% of coffee drinkers take their coffee black. Everyone else adds something to the coffee before drinking.
When adding dairy and sugar to coffee, a series of chemical changes occurs that are facilitated by stirring. "Temperature" is a measure of the energy in the molecules of matter. A hot liquid contains more energetic molecules than a cold liquid. This is the reason that sugar dissolves faster in hot coffee than cold coffee. In hot coffee, the sugar crystals are struck by more molecules and faster molecules than in cold coffee.
Stirring hot or cold coffee with plastic or wooden coffee stirrers after adding sugar adds kinetic energy (energy from motion) to the drink's molecules on top of its thermal energy (energy from heat). A stirred drink will dissolve sugar crystals faster than an unstirred drink because stirring brings molecules into contact with the sugar crystals.
Adding dairy and dairy substitutes to a coffee drink brings a different set of chemical reactions to the process. Milk, half-and-half, cream, non-dairy creamer, soy milk, and nut milks all contain fat in their molecules. Like a salad dressing of oil and vinegar, stirring coffee containing dairy or dairy substitutes creates an emulsion that distributes the fatty molecules evenly throughout the drink rather than allowing it separate and sit on top of the coffee.
Caffe Cubano and Turkish Coffee
If your business serves Caffe Cubano (or Cuban Coffee) or Turkish Coffee, you will likely not need plastic or wooden coffee stirrers. These coffees are made with sugar mixed into the grounds, which means that the sugar is already dissolved into the coffee when it is served.
Sugar is a common addition to espresso, even in Italy, due to its strong flavor. Although espresso is served hot, it has a thick consistency from the dissolved solids promoted by the fine grind and the use of steam rather than hot water to make the drink. Plastic or wooden stirrers will almost always be needed to dissolve sugar in the thick, concentrated liquid.
Cappuccino etiquette is a complicated topic. Many say that cappuccino should not be stirred because the layering of coffee, steamed milk, and foam allows each sip to contain the right amount of each component. Others point out that cappuccino is always served with a spoon in Italy and, therefore, there is an expectation that the layers will be mixed. To satisfy everyone, coffee businesses often serve the drink layered, as the recipe calls for, with plastic or wooden coffee stirrers on the side to allow the customer to decide.
Caffe Macchiato and Caffe Latte
Caffe macchiato is a shot of espresso layered with a small amount of milk or milk substitute. Caffe latte is the same as a caffe macchiato, but includes milk foam on top. Unlike cappuccino where the etiquette is unclear, caffe macchiato and caffe latte are meant to be stirred. These drinks are often served in clear glasses to show the layering. However, the layers are not intended to remain there, but to be mixed into the espresso using plastic or wooden coffee stirrers.
Vietnamese Coffee and Thai Tea
Vietnamese coffee and Thai tea combine cold coffee or tea, respectively, with condensed milk. The result is a sweet, creamy, slightly thickened cold drink. By using condensed milk rather than sugar, the sweetener dissolved smoothly into the cold liquid. However, because condensed milk is heavier than coffee or tea, plastic or wooden coffee stirrers are often needed to distribute it evenly throughout the drink.
Depending on the drinks you serve, your coffee business may need plastic or wooden coffee stirrers to promote dissolution of sugar and emulsification of dairy into the drink.