Choosing Your Coffee Cup

November 01, 2008

One coffee cup does not fit all! Did you know that the type of cup used for your daily brew can have a real impact on its flavor? Why put all the effort into selecting a perfect roast, brewing it to perfection, and then put it in a cup that reduces its flavor?

In this article, I’ll describe why shape, material, and history all play into choosing which type of cup goes with which coffee.

First off, let’s agree on one thing, the cup will not change the taste of your coffee dramatically. However, it might improve it in certain cases, and it will definitely boost up your drinking experience and the perceived enjoyment from your coffee.

As surprisingly as it may sound, there are quite a few things to consider before buying a cup. First off, the most important factor is the type of drinks you usually drink and serve. Different concoctions call for different cups, so many coffee lovers have a selection of various cups rather than a homogeneous set.

We should make sure the cup is made for hot drinks. It should allow us to hold it safely and steadily without risking a burn. Also, it should be made from thick material that will isolate the drink and allow it to remain hot for a long time. We should also see that the size of the cup fits the drink. The best espresso would taste dull in a latte cup…believe me. It also helps if the cup fits nicely into your coffee maker, although larger cups can be used if you “plug” a smaller one and then transform the drink from it to the larger one. Last but not least, do me a personal favor and avoid paper cups if possible. Let’s leave that to McDonald’s.

Next, we will look at each coffee drink and consider the cups the fit it best.

Drip coffee

Drip Coffee CupA drip coffee cup does not have many unique requirements other than to keep it hot. But a surprising number of things can go wrong. If the cup isn’t filled to the top, the coffee will cool faster because of the larger cool mass of the mug. So own a variety of sizes of coffee cups and choose one that allows you to fill it to the top. You’ll be surprised at how dramatic a difference it makes to have a coffee cup filled to the brim.

Some European-style cafés serve coffee in clear glass cups with spoons that have extra-long handles. The benefit is that the drinker can see whether the sugar at the bottom of the cup has dissolved. That’s a sweet extra touch...


Café latte

latte cups

Here size matters! This is a large drink and you need a large cup. Same guidelines as in the drip coffee cup apply, only now the main liquid is frothed milk rather than water. The latte should also fill the cup all the way, with the thick milk foam at the top holding it without spilling.




A set of cappuccino and espresso cupsEnough with the size variations! A cappuccino has a fixed size and you definitely want an upside-down pear-shaped 6-ounce cup. The small cup base diameter allows the espresso, which is poured before the frothed milk, to flow-in on the cup’s slope, so no “evil” bubbles are created in the process. Just like the latte, the cappuccino should fill the cup all the way to the top. It may come with a cup saucer for a nicer presentation.



Espresso glassEspresso, as its cappuccino cousin, comes in a fixed size (2-ounce, unless you go for a double) and uses a cone-shaped glass so the coffee is flowing in on its slopped edge and creates no bubbles. The espresso should not fill the cup. It may also come with a saucer for a nicer presentation.

Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee cupDid anyone say tradition? The traditional Turkish coffee goes into a small cup called finjan (1.7oz, although an espresso cup should do the trick too). The most important feature of Turkish cups is by all means the design. Here you are looking for oriental patterns that will make you feel as if you are in a coffeehouse in Istanbul. The coffee should fill the cup and it should definitely come with a matching saucer for a true authentic presentation.

Click here to check out our cup selection. Brew on! 

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