Cup (unit)

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For other uses, see Cup (disambiguation).
A simple plastic measuring cup, capable of holding the volume one metric cup with a scale for U.S. fluid ounces

The cup is a unit of measurement for volume, used in cooking to measure liquids (fluid measurement) and bulk foods such as granulated sugar (dry measurement). It is principally used in the United States, Canada and Liberia where it is a legally defined unit of measurement, and is sometimes found in older recipes in the rest of the world using the metric system, and the meaning can differ significantly. Actual cups used in a household in any country may differ from the cup size used for recipes; standard measuring cups, often calibrated in fluid measure and weights of usual dry ingredients as well as in cups, are available. Using millilitre/decilitre measures is a recommended option to avoid ambiguity.

Metric cup[edit]

Some countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, notably Australia, Canada and New Zealand, define a metric cup of 250 millilitres.[1] Units such as metric cups and metric feet are derived from the metric system but are not official metric units[2]

1 cup  = 250 millilitres
= 1623 international tablespoons (15 ml each)
= 12.5 Australian tablespoons (20 ml each)
8.80 imperial fluid ounces
8.45 U.S. customary fluid ounces

A "coffee cup" is 1.5 dl or 150 millilitres or 5.07 US customary fluid ounces[citation needed], and is occasionally used in recipes. It is also used in the US to specify coffeemaker sizes (what can be referred to as a Tasse à café). A "12-cup" US coffeemaker makes 57.6 US customary fluid ounces of coffee[citation needed], or 6.8 metric cups of coffee. In older recipes cup may mean "coffee cup".

United States customary cup[edit]

Coffee carafe showing gradiations for measuring water (right) and brewed coffee (left) in multiples of non-standard U.S. customary cups.

United States customary cup is defined as half a U.S. pint.

1 U.S. customary cup  = 116 U.S. customary gallon
= 14 U.S. customary quart
= 12 U.S. customary pint
= 8 U.S. customary fluid ounces
= 16 U.S. customary tablespoons[nb 1]
= 48 U.S. customary teaspoons
236.5882365 millilitres[nb 2]
1523 international tablespoons
11.75 Australian tablespoons
0.833 imperial cups
8.33 imperial fluid ounces

A customary "cup" of coffee in the U.S. is usually defined as 4 fluid ounces, brewed using 5 fluid ounces of water. Coffee carafes used with drip coffee makers, such as Black and Decker models, have markings for both water and brewed coffee, since the carafe is also used for measuring water prior to brewing.[3] A 12-cup carafe, for example, has markings for 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 cups of water or coffee, which correspond to 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 fluid ounces of water or 16, 24, 32, 40, and 48 fluid ounces of brewed coffee, respectively, the difference being the volume lost to evaporation during brewing.

United States "legal" cup[edit]

The cup currently used in the United States for nutrition labelling is defined in United States law as 240 ml.[4][5][6]

1 U.S. "legal" cup  = 240 millilitres
= 16 international tablespoons
= 12 Australian tablespoons
8.12 U.S. customary fluid ounces
8.45 imperial fluid ounces

Imperial cup[edit]

The imperial cup is half an imperial pint. It is no longer in common use, but many recipe books still include it.[7][8][9]

1 imperial cup  = 0.5 imperial pints
= 2 imperial gills
= 10 imperial fluid ounces
284 millilitres
19 international tablespoons[10][11]
14.25 Australian tablespoons[12]
1.20 U.S. customary cups
9.61 U.S. customary fluid ounces

Canadian cup [13][edit]

1 Canadian cup = 8 imperial fluid ounce = 1/20 imperial gallon = 227.3045 millilitres

1 tablespoon = 1/2 imperial fluid ounce

1 teaspoon = 1/6 imperial fluid ounce

It should be noted that many Canadian cups follow the standard metric unit of 250 millilitres.

Japanese cup[edit]

The Japanese cup is currently defined as 200 ml.

1 Japanese cup  = 200 millilitres
7.04 imperial fluid ounces
6.76 U.S. customary fluid ounces


The traditional Japanese cup, the , is approximately 180 ml. 10 make one shō, the traditional flask size, approximately 1.8 litres. cups are typically used for measuring rice, and sake is typically sold by the cup (180 ml), the bottle (720 ml), and flask (1.8 litre) sizes. Note modern sake bottle sizes are almost the same as the 750 ml international standard for wine bottles, but are divisible into 4 gō.

1   = 240113310 litres[nb 3]
180 millilitres
6.35 imperial fluid ounces
6.10 U.S. customary fluid ounces
3/4 metric cup


In European cuisine the cup measure may be found in older recipes, with sometimes uncertain meaning; the transition to the metric system was generally made in the 19th century. In Latin American recipes a cup (taza) may be interpreted as 200 ml, 250 ml or as a US cup measure, depending on country, but there is no consensus and other definitions may be used. In parallel also the measure "glass" (vaso) may be 200 ml.

Using volume measures to estimate mass[edit]

In Europe, cooking recipes normally state any liquid volume larger than a few tablespoons in millilitres, the scale found on most measuring cups worldwide. Non-liquid ingredients are normally weighed in grams instead, using a kitchen scale, rather than measured in cups, as weighing is normally more accurate, and often demanded for confectionery and professional cookery. Most recipes in Europe use the millilitre or decilitre (1 dl = 100 ml) as a measure of volume. For example, where an American customary recipe might specify "1 cup of sugar and 2 cups of milk", a European recipe might specify "200 g sugar and 500 ml of milk" (or 0.5 litre or 5 decilitres). Conversion between the two measures must take into account the density of the ingredients, and some recipes specify both weight and volume to simplify. Many European measuring cups have additional "weight scales" besides the dl or ml scale for common bulk ingredients like sugar, flour, or rice to make the process easier.

Volume to mass conversions for some common cooking ingredients
ingredient density
g/ml[nb 4]
metric cup imperial cup U.S. customary cup
g oz g oz g oz
water[14] 1[nb 5] 249–250 8.8 283–284 10 236.5882 8.3[nb 6]
granulated sugar 0.8[15] 200 7.0 230 8.0 190 6.7
wheat flour 0.5–0.6[15] 120–150 4.4–5.3 140–170 5.0–6.0 120–140 4.2–5.0
table salt 1.2[15] 300 10.6 340 12.0 280 10.0

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1 U.S. customary cup = 16 tablespoons exactly using the old U.S. customary tablespoon of 12 U.S. fl oz.
  2. ^ exactly
  3. ^ by 1891 definition
  4. ^ One gram per millilitre is very close to one avoirdupois ounce per fluid ounce: 1 g/ml ≈ 1.002 av oz/imp fl oz This is not a numerical coincidence, but comes from the original definition of the kilogram as the mass of one litre of water, and the imperial gallon as the volume occupied by ten avoirdupois pounds of water. The slight difference is due to water at 4 °C (39 °F) being used for the kilogram, and at 62 °F (17 °C) for the imperial gallon. The U.S. fluid ounce is slightly larger.
    1 g/ml ≈ 1.043 av oz/U.S. fl oz
  5. ^ The density of water ranges from about 0.96 to 1.00 g/ml dependent on temperature and pressure. The table above assumes a temperature range 0–30 °C (32–86 °F). The variation is too small to make any difference in cooking.
  6. ^ Since an imperial cup of water weighs approximately 10 avoirdupois ounces and five imperial cups are approximately equal to six U.S. cups, one U.S. cup of water weighs approximately 813 avoirdupois ounces.


  1. ^ "Standard Australian Cooking Measurements". Retrieved 2014-09-24. 
  2. ^ "coherent units". BIPM. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  3. ^ "Black and Decker Replacement Carafe". Retrieved 2016-12-30. 
  4. ^ (21 CFR 101.9 (b) (5) (viii)
  5. ^ U.S. Government Printing Office—Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
  6. ^ U.S. Food and Drug Administration—Guidelines for Determining Metric Equivalents of Household Measures
  7. ^ Rosemary Hume and Muriel Downes, Penguin Cordon Bleu Cooking, Penguin Books, 1970
  8. ^ Stephanie Alexander, The cook's companion, Penguin Books, 2004
  9. ^ Jacqueline Gérard, « La cuisine », Larousse 1980
  10. ^ In the absence of measuring cups, tablespoons can be used for volume measurement.
  11. ^ The term international tablespoon as used in this article refers to the 15 ml (~0.5 fl oz) tablespoon used in most countries.
  12. ^ The Australia tablespoon is defined as 20 ml (~23 fl oz)
  13. ^ admin (2016-04-28). "How Many Tablespoons in a Cup - Easy Conversions". First Health Mag. Retrieved 2016-05-08. 
  14. ^ 1 g/ml is a good rough guide for water-based liquids such as milk (the density of milk is about 1.03–1.04 g/ml).
  15. ^ a b c L. Fulton, E. Matthews, C. Davis: Average weight of a measured cup of various foods. Home Economics Research Report No. 41, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC, 1977.