In the battle of coffee cup vs coffee mug I’ll always choose a mug, (I even have a special one handmade by a ceramic artist!). However, my wife always prefers a cup. So what are the pros and cons of each?
Both coffee mugs and coffee cups have their merits. A mug is larger and sturdier and can carry a big drink such as a latte, whilst a smaller, lighter cup is great for a shot of espresso. Remember that a mug is a type of cup, so a coffee mug is a coffee cup but a coffee cup isn’t a coffee mug.
This is a hot topic that needs exploring in more detail! So let’s dive down into the relative merits of both coffee cups and coffee mugs – and we’ll see if you’ve picked a personal winner by the end of this article…
What is the Difference Between a Coffee Cup and a Coffee Mug?
There are a few instantly visible differences between a coffee cup and a coffee mug.
Firstly, a coffee cup tends to be smaller, and is often accompanied by a saucer. It tapers towards the base, in other words, it’s wider at the top. This gives it a more delicate (and some say, elegant) appearance.
A coffee mug is sturdier. It’s cylindrical in shape and doesn’t taper like most cups. The mug is a more casual-looking vessel, with a larger handle and more often than not, an engaging or amusing design. Mugs don’t usually come with saucers.
Are cups and mugs used differently? Well, if you’re aiming to impress, you’ll get out the cups and saucers. If you fancy a brew at your desk or while you’re working in the yard, you’re more likely to pick up a mug.
In fact, if you’re gardening, you might even choose a travel mug, which comes with a lid.
But what about the contents? Neat little espresso shots come in small cups, and a cappuccino looks good in a wide-brimmed cup (plus, you can pop your delicious biscotti on the saucer).
If you’re making a simple Americano or milky coffee, a mug is fine. For “fancy” coffees like lattes and mochas, a coffee glass works the best, but that’s a whole other conversation.
What Do You Call a Cup for Coffee? (Is a Coffee Cup a Mug?)
A mug is a type of cup. So, a mug is a coffee cup but a coffee cup isn’t a mug. Does that make sense?
The generic term for a vessel for coffee is a cup. There are several different types of coffee cup, depending on the type of coffee (and the situation).
For example, an espresso is served in a small espresso cup, which is sometimes called a “demitasse”. The lateral translation of this is “half cup”. Then there’s the cappuccino cup.
These are larger than the demitasse and are wider at the top, so you can maximize that frothy layer (and fit on more chocolate sprinkles).
The “bol” is quite similar to the cappuccino cup, with a rounded, bowl-like shape that’s wider at the top. This is used for milky coffee, the French cafe au lait.
And of course, there’s the mug, our favorite go-to cup for an everyday black coffee, a coffee with milk, or a cozy hot chocolate.
As you can see, there are lots of different names for coffee cups, and that’s before we start on coffee glasses or exotic vessels for Turkish coffees and cortados… Maybe it’s easier to stick to the short and uncomplicated “mug”?
Are Coffee Mugs Better Than Cups?
Let’s not fight over this: both have their place in our cupboard. For a standard drink of coffee, a mug is easier, and can safely be plonked down on most surfaces: you wouldn’t take a demitasse and saucer into the shed with you when you’re doing some DIY.
On a cold day, a mug is unbeatable, because you can wrap your hands around it more easily to warm them up. The cheerful mug is harder to tip over, and most will go in the dishwasher and microwave. It’s a practical option.
However, if you’re making a special coffee that you want to sit back and appreciate, using the correct type of cup really adds to the pleasure.
Imagine a freshly made cappuccino with plenty of sprinkles, served in a wide-top cup that shows off the foam. There’s a biscuit or two in the saucer. The cup wins.
Is a Cup Measurement the Same as a Mug? (Is a Mug or Cup Bigger?)
On the whole, a standard mug is larger than a coffee cup. A mug generally holds between 8 and 12 fluid ounces – and then of course, there’s the Starbucks mugs, which go up to a hefty 20 ounces.
A cup in coffee terms is a different size to the cup we talk about for weights and measures. A measuring unit “cup” is 8 fluid ounces.
However, the “cups” on the side of your coffee maker are smaller, typically 5 or 6 ounces. We look at this in more detail in our article about coffee pot capacity.
If you want a bigger drink, go for a mug. However, a single shot of espresso would be just a puddle in the bottom of a 12-ounce mug.
Why Does Coffee Taste Better in a Mug?
Does coffee taste better in a mug? We’re not so sure about this. What we do know is that ceramic makes an excellent material for coffee, and mugs are often made from this.
This material doesn’t give off or take in any flavors, letting you enjoy the pure taste of the coffee. So whether you prefer a mug or cup, ceramic is always a good choice.
(Although we can’t resist sharing this short film with you, about a unique coffee cup that’s been made from a rock!)
Of course, there could be a psychological reason why we sometimes think coffee tastes better in a mug. There’s something really satisfying about pouring coffee into a large, sturdy mug, wrapping your hands around it, and drinking deeply.
If we want our coffee quickly, we usually reach for a mug, and that much-needed first swig is always the most delicious drink ever.
What is a Mug Without a Handle Called?
Broken? Seriously, there are types of coffee cups that come without handles. These are called bowls or beakers, and they’re not that common in the US, mostly because they’re not as user-friendly as a version with a handle.
There’s warming your hands, and then there’s just pain…
Some travel mugs come without handles: they don’t need them because they’re insulated, so you won’t burn your fingers.
Traditional Turkish coffee cups don’t have handles. These are called gawa or mirra in Arabic, and they’re small, espresso-sized cups that are held carefully while you sip your delicious Turkish coffee.
These days and in the US, Turkish coffee is usually drunk from small cups like espresso cups (except often with gorgeous, ornate designs).