Coffee and a Glass of Water – who drinks it like that?

Sorry, can I get a coffee and a glass of water? That’s the line I told every barista in my life. However, the practice of drinking espresso with water is uncommon in Estonia, as I noticed. I was getting some evil eyes and weird looks. So, why don’t we make some things clear?

Why do people order a glass of water with coffee?

And no, being a cheap bastard is not one of them. If I was that cheap, I wouldn’t even be in a cafe. I have more than great ways of preparing coffee at home. But I just enjoy drinking espresso and a glass of water. Here are some reasons why.

A coffee and a glass of water?
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Cleaning your mouth BEFORE the espresso

People like to drink coffee for the taste, not just for the caffeine spike. If that’s your reason, you can just go drink energy drinks. I especially enjoy drinking good Italian espresso in the morning. Which is sometimes hard to find in Estonia, but that’s another story. So, when I do find a nice espresso, I like to savour the taste. And that’s hard if I just ate in an Asian restaurant or even just brushed my teeth. To enjoy your espresso, you need to clean your tongue and your palate with water. Only then you can capture all the taste. 

Do this before every sip of espresso, and your tastebuds won’t get tired of the taste, ever.

Cleaning your mouth AFTER the espresso

It is considered a spit in the face for every decent barista. Drinking water after the espresso means the espresso was lousy, the barista’s bloodline is weak, and he won’t survive the winter… I got carried away, but you get the spirit. If you get a low-quality espresso, you should drink the water to wash out the taste. And don’t drink espresso anymore at that place. There are much better places in Tallinn.

The second usual reason for drinking water after the espresso is switching to another drink, let’s say, wine. If you don’t want the taste of coffee mixed with the new taste, you will rinse your mouth with water.

Battling the dehydration

Coffee is a mild diuretic, but it really depends on how much coffee do you drink. Especially on warmer days, when the dehydration will just sneak onto you. Or when it’s your first espresso in the morning, and you just woke up dehydrated. So, always have a sip of water before the sip of espresso. 

A Turkish coffee and a glass of water

Coming from a country where drinking Turkish coffee from childhood is a tradition, a glass of coffee was a frequent guest on our coffee table. So, besides the mouth-rinsing and dehydration, there are two more reasons why a glass of water is served with Turkish coffee:

A Turkish coffee with a glass of water
Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

History of poisoning

When the sultan wanted to drink coffee, of course, it was prepared specially for him, and him only. If you wanted to poison the sultan (and trust me, many did), it was your best chance. However, poisons of that time were not traceless. So, when the sultan got his coffee, he would first dip his finger into a coffee, then into a glass of water. If the coffee was poisoned, it would dissolve differently in the coffee glass.

History of manners

Coffee takes a great part of the hospitality culture in the Turks. As soon as the guest enters the house, he is served a coffee and a glass of water. Now, if the guest drinks the water first, it was a sure sign he is hungry. So, he would be served food. But if he just drank a little bit of water to cleanse the palate, it was a sign to continue enjoying the coffee drinking.

Still vs sparkling water?

I always go with still tap water when I order my espresso. Actually, I have a couple of reasons for that:

  • You get to taste what is your coffee made of. If the tap water is lousy, don’t expect too much from the espresso. This is sadly true for a lot of Mediterranean tourist places. Looking at you, Adriatic coast.
  • Although sparkling water will do a much better job cleaning your palate and tastebuds, it will also have a side effect. Sparkling water is carbonized water, and the bubbles have a mild anaesthetic effect on our tastebuds. Meaning, you won’t fully enjoy the taste of the coffee.

Of course, the choice is yours. But a nice, clean glass of coffee can only make your coffee-drinking experience better. No mint or lemon inside. For heaven’s sake. The water temperature has no effect on cleansing the palate. So, ice-cold or lukewarm, the choice is yours.

Other reasons to order a glass of water with coffee

  • You want to make an Americano – lousy reason. Americano goes with hot water. Just order an Americano. 
  • Your coffee is too strong – your bloodline truly is weak.
  • Being a student – true in a lot of cases. Your budget doesn’t allow you to drink more than one coffee, and sitting with an empty cup is tacky. But, sitting with a glass of water is a little bit better than that.
  • You have an epic hangover – a reasonable excuse, and I don’t trust anyone will hold it against you.
  • You are afraid of being poisoned – good luck with the water test. Sadly, nowadays, poisons are a bit more advanced.


As you see, there are many reasons to order a coffee and a glass of water. The reason I do it is to enjoy the full taste of my coffee. And sometimes for the hangover.