Coffee cup

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Espresso being poured into a demitasse

A coffee cup is a container that coffee and espresso-based drinks are served in. Coffee cups are typically made of glazed ceramic, and have a single handle for portability while the beverage is hot. Ceramic construction allows a beverage to be drunk while hot, providing insulation to the beverage, and quickly washed with cold water without fear of breakage, compared to typical glassware.

A coffee cup may also be a disposable cup in which hot beverages, including coffee, can be contained. Disposable coffee cups may be made out of paper or styrofoam. At coffee shops, paper cups are commonly are used to give beverages to customers on the go, usually with a coffee cup sleeve to provide insulation against heat transferred through the container.

After-dinner[citation needed]coffee cups are often served with a small coffee spoon.


Coffee was originally drunk in mugs carved from bones dating back to the stone age. Other materials which have been used to make coffee cups are clay, wood, strengthened glass, metal, ceramic and porcelain.

With the opening of the first coffee shop, named Kiva Han,[1] in 1475 in Istanbul[2] the coffee cup diversified due to greater demand and awareness of specialty drinks such as the cappuccino and latte.

In 1511, the governor of Mecca ordered coffeehouses to close, due to fears of “political talk stimulated by coffee.”[3]

In 1675, Charles II of England proposed a ban on coffee shops, coffee and all related merchandise,[4] but backed down before it took effect due to pressure from the intelligencia.[5] The ban’s intent is theorized to have been to both minimize the spread of dissent amongst all-male coffee clubs and appease proto-feminists who believed coffee made their husbands “Frenchified”.[5]

In The Coffeehouse[edit]

Made most commonly of porcelain,[6] this drinkware allows for heat retention and crema preservation.[7] Crema is the less dense, foam like top of a shot of espresso.[8] Preserving it in cups as seen in the picture allows for latte art to occur in milk based espresso drinks.

Gibraltar or Cortado[edit]

Traditional 6oz cappuccino served in a ceramic mug, on a saucer, with a spoon and napkin.

The “Gibraltar” or cortado[9] is served in a 4oz rocks glass. This drinkware is made of glass and looks different from the typical cups made of porcelain. Spanish in origin, this drink and its glassware is not made to enhance latte art, but rather for a quick pick me up, a drink right in between a traditional macchiato and a cappuccino.


The Demitasse is a cup specially crafted for espresso. It is 2-3oz in capacity, and usually served on a saucer. The traditional macchiato - 2 shots of espresso and a dollop of foam is also served in the demitasse, on an accompanying saucer.


Latte, with latte art in a 12oz ceramic mug

The cappuccino is served in its own cup, a 6oz porcelain cup served on an accompanying saucer. The size of the cup reflects the traditional cappuccino, a drink with a 1:1:1 ratio. 2oz espresso, 2oz steamed milk, 2oz integrated foam.[10]

Cafe Drinkware[edit]

There are cafe cups in various sizes, standardized to reflect paper cup sizes. They are typically 8, 12, 16, and sometimes 20 oz. Slight variation is to be expected from coffeehouse to coffeehouse, but these sizes are the standard. These are the cups that house mochas, lattes, and other coffee drinks. These cups are also made of porcelain and shaped to encourage and aid in creating latte art.


A mug is a cup that was designed for drinking hot beverages, such as coffee, tea, hot chocolate or soup. Mugs have handles and hold a larger amount of fluid than other types of cup. On average a mug holds about 12 fluid ounces (350 mL) of liquid but the size varies greatly due to the large variety of mugs available. A mug is a less formal style of drink container compared to the cups used in a coffeehouse. It is a cup most often used at home for casual use and is not often found in a formal setting.

Historically, mugs were often carved in wood or bone or shaped of clay. Today modern mugs are made with ceramic materials such as earthenware, bone china, porcelain, or stoneware. Some are made from strengthened glass, such as Pyrex. Technically porcelain mugs are just one category of ceramic mugs and the difference between them is due partially to the content, partially to the manufacturing process, and partly by the ideas that people have put into them.

The design of the mug is made for thermal insulation to keep the contents warm. The thick walls of a mug insulated the beverage from the air and to keep it from cooling too quickly. The bottom of the mug is not flat but concave to give it space from conducting any temperature from the surface which it sits. The mug is taller than it is wide to lower the amount of the drink is open to the air that could cause it to cool. Mugs are larger in volume than many other cups making a thermodynamic shape an important aspect of the design.

Coffee mugs are often plentiful in many a cabinet in most peoples homes. They have become an item that is sold everywhere from gift stores to coffee shops to supermarkets. They are being used as an object for promotion and advertisement. This is because the coffee industry is a multi billion dollar industry. Four billion dollars is spent on importing coffee to the U.S. each year[11] with 100 million coffee drinkers a day.[11]

Coffee mugs are sold in a wide variety of locations. Companies such as Starbucks, eBay, Amazon, and other smaller businesses are places where mugs are bought both online and in the store. There are now businesses offering “create-your-own-mug,” custom mugs, and other personalized mugs as the coffee mug industry had become a popular item for a gift.

Travel and Disposable[edit]


A thermos, or vacuum flask is an insulated storage vessel that greatly retains the temperature of its contents,[12] making it useful for keeping coffee hot.

Thermos L.L.C. is the leading worldwide maker of insulating containers (both beverage and food).[13]


Paper cups are also often used as containers for coffee, and are usually lined with wax or plastic to prevent leakage. The Anthora paper cup designed by Leslie Buck for the Sherri Cup Company in 1963[14] is recognized as an iconic part of New York City daily life.[15]

Usually made of plastic,[16] the first patent for a coffee cup lid design was filed in 1967,[17] and focused on creating a tight seal between the cup and the lid to reduce leaking and a vent hole for minimized sloshing.[18] However, there was no opening for drinking, and the consumer would have to perform the awkward maneuver of tearing into the lid.[19] In 1986, the Solo Traveler lid was created[20] and continues to be America’s most used and most recognizable coffee cup lid,[20] enough to earn a spot in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2004 exhibit “Humble Masterpieces.”[21] Louise Harpman, owner of the world’s largest collection of coffee cup lids, suggests that coffee cup lids “represent a major shift in American ‘to-go’ culture.”[22]


Polystyrene, better known under the trademarked brand name Styrofoam, is another commonly used material for coffee cups, mostly because of its insulating abilities. The use of polystyrene is controversial in coffee cups[23] and other containers because it is non-biodegradable,[24] a major part of marine litter,[25] difficult to recycle, and has various health risks. It is banned as a food and drink container in several U.S. cities including Portland, Ore.; San Francisco, Calif.; and Amherst, Mass.[26] Many more cities are proposing banning the cups. The doughnut company and coffeehouse chain, Dunkin’ Donuts, has been criticized for continuing to use styrofoam cups.[27] The company has argued that there is no other material that is as insulated,[28] and has an official statement about their foam cups on their website.[29] However, they have begun phasing in doubled-walled paper cups designed to look like their signature foam cup.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The History of Coffee". Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  2. ^ [La Dolce Vita. 1999. Coffee. London, UK: New Holland Books]
  3. ^ [Schreckinger, Ben. Wake up and Smell the Coffee. Feb 22, 2014. Winnipeg Free Press, Canada.]
  4. ^ "By the King. A proclamation for the suppression of coffee-houses (1675)". 2003-07-13. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  5. ^ a b "The 1674 Women's Campaign Against Coffee". The Spearhead. 2011-04-15. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  6. ^ "Espresso Machines & Espresso Grinders". Espresso Parts. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  7. ^ "Espresso Supply, Inc". Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Nguyen, Tien (2013-10-03). "Drink This Now: Cognoscenti Coffee's On-the-Menu Cortado | Squid Ink | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  10. ^ "cappuccino: definition of cappuccino in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US)". 2014-05-14. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  11. ^ a b "Coffee Drinking Statistics". Statistic Brain. 2013-11-21. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  12. ^ "Thermos® - Hot Matters. Cold Matters. It Matters". Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  13. ^ "Thermos® - Hot Matters. Cold Matters. It Matters". Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^ [3]
  16. ^ Garber, Megan (2011-05-09). "The Rise of the Plastic, Disposable Coffee Cup Lid - Nicola Twilley". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  17. ^ "Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine – To-Go Cup Lid Makers Hoping to Capitalize On ‘Third Wave’ Success". 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  18. ^ "Patent US3421681 - Cup and lid - Google Patents". Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  19. ^ [4]
  20. ^ a b "Patent US4589569 - Lid for drinking cup - Google Patents". 1983-10-24. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  21. ^ "Humble Masterpieces". MoMA. 2004-09-27. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  22. ^ "History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places | Smithsonian". Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  23. ^ "Drinking Coffee in a Styrofoam Cup? Pour It Out". Rodale News. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  24. ^ "Studies on photocatalytic degradation of polystyrene". Maney Online. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  25. ^ [5]
  26. ^ [6]
  27. ^ [7]
  28. ^ [8]
  29. ^ [9]
  30. ^ [10]