Nowadays coffee makers can choose from countless brewing techniques and machinery

A vast range of coffee beans.

Many shapes of cups and glasses.

Tampers, stencils, all sorts of dairy products. Spices, toppings, sweeteners…

Things have got really complex. And possibly a bit silly too.

Yet there is a little thing I have found in some cafeterias which, to me, adds more to the quality of the experience than the beans’ pedigree.

That little thing

It’s empathy.

The thing that brings a smile to my face is getting served an -unrequested- glass of water along with the coffee.

Extra points are given when both water and coffee come served on a shiny stainless tray.

Machiatto coffee and glass of water

Helados Italianos Brustolon‘s take on coffee.

There is a place not far from where I live that does that. You will find nothing fancy in this cafeteria. It is an old-fashioned place. The waiters are well into their fifties, and so is the clientele.

I do not go there because of their style. To me, it all boils down to the fact that they consider the importance of having a sip of water with you café.

I think it is a lovely add-on.

Total cost is nearly zero, yet the quality of the experience goes up.

In its humbleness, it becomes memorable.

From a user experience perspective

For a brief theoretical discussion on the matter, let’s take Hekkert and Desmet’s model of user experience.

According to their framework, experiences can be structured into three elements: Aesthetic (or how it feels sensorially), Cognitive (or what it means to you) and Emotional (the actual emotional states you go through).

Now, regarding the little glass of water…

  • At the sensorial level I enjoy how the neutral temperature and taste of water feels in opposition to the hot, bitter taste of coffee.
  • At the cognitive level, I find the water has a connection with nature and the coffee has that with industry, modernity and civilisation. With urbanity.
  • At the emotional level, I feel taken care of, loved, guided in the experience by someone who knows about it. My coffee experience turns into a cocoon.


This is the first post in a series featuring subtle details of products and services that turn common actions into extraordinary experiences.