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Why Are Different Coffee Cups Different Sizes?

Have you ever noticed all the different kinds of drinking vessels? There are so many! And they’re not just different because of the temperature of the beverage. Yes, we generally have specific cups or mugs for our hot beverages and glasses for our cold beverages, but it goes well beyond that.   Cup Size  

Let’s Start with Temperature

Okay, yes, we definitely have different types of vessels for cold items like juices, sodas, adult beverages, and the like as well as for hot drinks like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. For our cold beverages we have glassware (typically) and for our hot beverages we use china or porcelain or crockery. This is pretty basic, but as we know, the diversity doesn’t stop there.  


We have an abundance of glassware for all kinds of cold drinks. The most variance is in glasses used for alcoholic beverages. There are pint glasses, martini glasses, rocks glasses, whiskey glasses, hurricane glasses, and wine glasses. And that last one, wine, has different glasses as well! White and red (or more properly Bordeaux and Burgundy), champagne glasses (both flutes and coupes), and tulips (for your sweet, dessert wines).   You may know one of the reasons for many of these glasses is the amount of beverage being poured. And you may know that, in the case of wine and whiskey glasses, the shapes are to accentuate the flavor of the liquid. Wide bowls and narrow openings direct the aromas of the liquid into the nose making the drinking experience much more enjoyable. When you’re drinking, or even eating, your sense of smell greatly affects the flavors you can pick out.  


When it comes to mugs and cups, you may not realize there are many choices. Of course, you can drink coffee and tea out of the same shape vessel. And the amount you drink is typically tied to the size of the mug. But cup size isn’t only dependent on the amount of the beverage you’re drinking. At least that’s the case with coffee.   At home, most of us use the mugs that came with our china sets or those mugs we found on vacation with the funny saying or the cool picture. And that’s fine. You can use those mugs for any of your hot beverages and not think twice about it. But let’s take a look at those other cups anyway.   For example, when you’re drinking an espresso, you don’t use a regular 8 to 15-ounce mug (yes, quite the disparity… in most countries a serving of coffee is only 8 ounces, but here in the US bigger is better). An espresso mug is around 3 ounces because a single shot of espresso is 3 ounces. Makes sense right?   Cappuccino mugs are good for cappuccinos (of course!) but also for flat white, Americano, espresso macchiato, and double shots of espresso. There is a little more room in these for the addition of milk or water (depending on which coffee drink you’re making).   Latte mugs or bowls are a little larger than cappuccino mugs and well suited for your lattes as well as any other coffee beverages which also add steamed milk and/or whipped cream like espresso con panna, breve, mocha, and caramel macchiato.   Finally, we don’t want to forget about the Irish coffee mug. This mug is typically glass and is footed. It can certainly be used for any coffee (and any mug can be used for Irish coffee!), but it is usually reserved just for the Irish coffee.  

So, It IS All About Size!

Maybe, but not necessarily. It may seem like the coffee cups are only about size, and maybe for some, they are. But much like wine glasses, the shapes of coffee mugs and cups can enhance the flavor of your coffee. Will it make a big difference? No, probably not, especially if you are drinking store-bought coffee or flavored coffees. But it just might make a difference with some of your single-origin coffees and espressos.   A wider cup allows you to inhale more of the coffee aroma as you are drinking it. This lets the nuanced flavors and aromas in complex coffees to become more apparent. The delicate florals, the buttery nuttiness, or the rich chocolaty notes may be more noticeable as you are enjoying your coffee with a cup that allows your scent receptors to do their job.   What do you think about different coffee cups and mugs? Is it all just a lot of hoopla?  
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