You might think choosing a coffee mug is simple. Sadly, you'd be wrong. With so many coffee mugs available, and different coffee cups recommended for different types of coffee, narrowing in on your ideal can be pretty daunting.
Below we'll walk you through the lot: ceramic mugs, vintage coffee mugs, espresso glasses, stoneware coffee mugs, the cappuccino cup ... in short, all the types of coffee cups going. We'll tell you what they're best for and why, so you can make a decision on the best coffee mug for you.
Classic Coffee Mugs
The classic coffee cup needs little introduction, being as it is the most common and the most well known of all the coffee cups. After all, it's a classic - and you've almost definitely drunk out of one. You might even be drinking from one right now.
A standard mug should hold roughly 250ml-300ml of coffee - although in the current climate of super-sized servings this could range right up to 600ml in certain branded stores. Generally you would expect a coffee mug to be roughly 80mm diameter, 90-100mm tall, and have a wall thickness of 6-8mm.
Hario's Insulated Mug fits the all the above, but features a double walled design and lid to help keep your coffee hot for longer. For those who prefer glass to ceramic, the Kinto Sepia Mug messes slightly with the formula, preferring a chic sepia tint to clear glass, and comes in slightly smaller, standing only 650mm high.
What's The Difference Between A Mug And A Coffee Cup?
The main difference between a mug and a coffee cup is that the coffee mug is normally taller and coffee cups tend to taper near the bottom. The first and most striking difference between the two is the distinctive shape of coffee mugs vs coffee cups. A coffee mug, by definition, is taller, and they tend to taper much less (if at all) towards the bottom. On the other hand, the bowl type coffee cup has a wider mouth and a narrower bottom.
Most types of coffee cups are also in general more fragile than a mug. Coffee cups tend to be made from porcelain which, although superb for flavour, heat retention and achieving the correct intake of air when drinking, is brittle and breaks easily.
Coffee mugs tend to be more robust: which is why you tend to see them less in cafes and much more in homes, offices, and workshops.
Travel Coffee Mugs and Reusable Coffee Mugs
With the boom in travel friendly brewing systems over the past decade (Aeropress, anyone?) it's no surprise that many people are now choosing to treat themselves to a higher standard of coffee when traveling, working away from home or even out hiking the trails while on a camping trip. Such trends as well as eco-conscious customers have led to a rise in demand for reusable types of coffee cups that are great for keeping your hot coffee hot. Stainless steel, double walled to retain heat, tempered glass material, thinner walls for convenience - these are all common features of the latest travel mugs.
Reusable and travel coffee mugs allow you to drink your hot drinks from your favourite coffee mug wherever you find yourself, be it work, the commute, or the side of a nearby mountain. But reusable, portable coffee cups are not only about convenience: they're an important step in reducing our impact on the planet.
Incredibly, Australians are estimated to use (and dispose of) 2.7 million paper or plastic (normally both) coffee cups EVERY DAY. That adds up to over a billion each year. And when you consider that only about 10% of commercial disposable coffee cups are recyclable, that's a hell of a lot of paper and plastic going to landfill each year.
Thankfully, many people now opt for a reusable coffee mug or travel mug when it comes to getting their daily dose of coffee. If you're thinking of joining them, Sttoke's excellent Reusable Cup is perfect for the commute and your car's cup holder: it's sleek, keeps your coffee hot, is easy to carry and almost impossible to break.
If you're traveling out and you need to keep weight down, the Hunu Collapsable Cup is an excellent companion on the trail: super lightweight, it folds down to nearly nothing, yet allows you up to 600ml when in cup mode (different sizes are available).
How To Choose An Espresso Cup
Like nearly everything to do with espresso, choosing a cup is not as simple as you might at first think! You may well have noticed that not every coffee shop takes the same approach. The size, shape, and even the colour of your espresso cups can alter the mouthfeel, flavour and most importantly your perception of the shot. All of this combines to create the full coffee drinking experience.
With this in mind, it stands to reason that you might need slightly different espresso cups for different drinks. Below we break down some of the more common espresso based drinks to give you an idea of which coffee mug you should be using. Don't forget to check out our last post on the differences between the Cappuccino vs Latte vs Macchiato if you'd like more information on the different types of drinks.
What Type Of Espresso Do You Prefer?
Depending on which type of espresso coffee you prefer, you will need a different size and dimension of cup. Matching your drink to the correct size of cup is the first step.
The material is important too, but we'll discuss that in a little while. If you don't recognise the name of the cup we recommend, you can reference the infographic to identify it.
Single or Double Espresso
If you like to go straight to the source, and let nothing get in the way of the pure coffee flavour, then you probably fire yourself up a single or double espresso in the morning. For a single shot, some will use a 60ml doppio normale, but it is more common to drink this from a 60ml-90ml demitasse, especially for a double shot.
Espresso glasses in the cafe are often porcelain, but there are more robust options available, like the Espresso Keep Cup, which are glass mugs for those on the move, or this stainless steel GSI Double Walled Espresso Cup, which will probably last forever.
For a classic Ristretto, once again the demitasse is the go to. That said, many coffee drinks containing the word Ristretto deviate from the formula and are much larger, so you will find some served in larger glasses or cups. Try the Acme Evolution Demitasse Coffee Cup for your next Ristretto.
The Cortado is Spain's most famous addition to the coffee roster, and should be served in a special Cortado glass. A Cortado glass should be 150ml-200ml in size.
Often seen in larger sizes more akin to a latte in the modern coffee shop, a flat white is actually supposed to be roughly the same size as a Cortado, so you will need a similar size vessel. A flat white, however, should be served in porcelain, not glass coffee mugs. Acme makes the perfect flat white cup for your needs.
What Size Is An Espresso Cup? Why Is An Espresso Cup So Small?
Espresso cup sizes are between 60ml-90ml, although you will see smaller cups for single espresso and larger for doubles. This is just enough space in both cases to accommodate the coffee with only a minimal amount of room left at the top.
There are many reasons why espresso cups are so small, but we'll cover only the two main points here. First, a smaller cup helps to keep the shot warm. The relatively small surface area exposed to the air makes sure of this.
Also, leaving a small gap above the coffee ensures that the coffee drinker takes in air at the same time as drinking the shot, which is crucial to get the fullest flavour.
Do You Need An Espresso Saucer?
You will need an espresso saucer just in case of coffee spills. Ultimately, this one is up to you, but there are certain distinct advantages to using an espresso saucer. First, like all saucers, you'll be glad you used one if (god forbid) you were to spill your espresso.
It's a lot easier to empty a saucer than it is to dry down your laptop. Second, espresso cups and glasses can be delicate, and a saucer will greatly limit to damage if you do knock it over.
So, you don't necessarily need one: but if you drink espresso daily at home, you might find that you are better off with than without.
Types Of Coffee Cup Materials
One defining factor between the different types of coffee mugs is the material they are made from - but there are many options to choose from. Below we break down the advantages of each. Some cups even come with a snack tray for maximum snacking comfort.
Ceramic Mugs and Stoneware Coffee Mugs
Classic mugs are designed to keep your hot cup of coffee warm (or your cold brew cold) and should be tough and durable, able to stand up to regular use and the occasional accident. For this reason, ceramic mugs and stoneware mugs are commonplace in the home, office and probably your favorite diner. Heat loss is slow, they don't stain easily and they're amazing at retaining heat for an extended period. They're also microwave safe and dishwasher safe, the best mug for people who love convenience. Try ACF Cups if you're looking for barista-level quality - these porcelain cups are beautifully designed and built to last.
Both ceramic and stoneware mugs are lightweight but tough, neither chip nor break easily, and don't stain anything like as much as other materials when exposed to coffee inside them. Cup holders and snack tray combos also make excellent gifts for the avid snacker.
Melamine Coffee Mugs
Ask a furniture maker about melamine, and you could be in for a long conversation - such are the endless properties and advantages of this wonderful, man made material. Ask coffee lovers about melamine mugs, however, and you may just get a blank look - because many people aren't aware what a great material this is for a coffee mug (though they may well have drank from melamine coffee mugs already).
Melamine is practically impossible to break, giving it the edge over ceramic, glass and porcelain, is scratch resistant and is a good insulator so your cup of coffee won't get cold quickly. That's all you need for a good coffee mug.
Glass Coffee Mugs
Everything tastes better in glass, and coffee is no different. Glass coffee mugs and espresso glasses have many pros when it comes to serving your favourite coffee drink.
Glass, like ceramic, will not retain any previous flavours - which is crucial if you are to enjoy the best coffee. Glass is perfect for retaining heat, which is why we can use glass in our houses.
Glass is sustainable, recyclable, and relatively cheap to produce. It's also often tougher than porcelain, meaning a thick walled glass coffee mug should be able to stand up to repeated use, and even the odd fall to the floor.
Stainless Steel Coffee Mugs
The major advantage of a stainless steel coffee mug is that it will keep your drink hot (or cold) longer than many of the more traditional materials. So, if you tend to get waylaid, distracted or called into meetings more often than you would like, a stainless steel coffee mug means you have a higher chance of returning to a hot brew than with a glass or ceramic mug. The Kinto Stainless Steel Travel Cup is a great pick for those always on the go.
Flat White Cup
The flat white is arguably the most misunderstood, and possibly missold, of all the espresso based coffee drinks. Often oversized and sold as a kind of smaller latte, the true flat white should be served in no bigger than a 150ml cup. The Acme Evolution Flat White Cup is the perfect size, and features extra thick ceramic walls and a curved lip for the perfect mouthfeel.
Cappuccino cups are generally a little larger, between 150ml and 165ml, and are designed to keep your brew warm under the foam whilst allowing you the perfect sip.
Acme's Evolution Cappuccino Cup is a fine example of the form, optimised at 190ml, with extra thick walls and tapered lip for the perfect cappuccino.
Irish Coffee Glasses
If you've ever ordered a pokey coffee of an evening, you may well have seen the Irish coffee mug. Tall, made of glass and containing something a little stronger than your average coffee, the Irish coffee glass is similar to glass coffee mugs sometimes used for lattes.
Turkish Coffee Cup
Small, often ornate and generally lacking a handle, Turkish coffee cups are a more traditional style still used in Turkey and throughout the middle East.
Often feature intricate designs and normally only seen in artisanal Turkish coffee shops, they are small, beautiful, and perfect for drinking the short, strong coffee favoured throughout the region.
Pour Over Cups
Perfect for travel, pour over cups (paired with filters) allow you to brew great coffee no matter where you are. All you need is hot water to pour.
The Hario V60 Portable Travel Coffee Mug takes the science from the traditional V60 ad applies to a lightweight, portable and super robust travel coffee mug. Super lightweight, so long as you can boil water, this is more than a cup - it's a portable brewing system that fits neatly into your backpack.
Double Walled Coffee Cups
Double walled coffee cups are the ultimate in insulation. Two walls of either ceramic or glass are used, with a vacuum in between. This retains the maximum amount of heat, which is obviously perfect for your coffee.
From the people at Chemex, the Double Walled Coffee Mug is a great example of a super robust, stylish double walled vessel.
Self Stirring Coffee Mug
Believe it or not, there are coffee mugs that can stir themselves. Technically, there is no stirring involved though, and these cups feature hydrodynamic grooves on the inside which allow the coffee to rotate and mix easily when lightly rocked.
Custom Coffee Mugs
If you're looking for something unique , it is possible to have custom coffee mugs made just for you. Using the info above, hopefully you will be able to design the perfect mug for you, or perhaps as a souvenir for your next high school reunion.
We hope this article has helped you on your mission to find the perfect coffee mug. By identifying the right size for your favourite brew, and a material to suit, you should be able to hone in on your perfect cup. Check out our full range today to see if anything inspires you!