Skip to main content

The type of coffee cup you drink from actually matters

Your coffee mug can have an effect on your morning brew

The perfect cup of coffee is an elusive thing. What kind of coffee beans should you use? Which brewing method is best? How long should you let it brew? Even when you think you’ve made the ideal batch, it’s a constant battle to keep it at the right temperature. But in the quest to create the perfect cup of joe, it seems that most people ignore one of the most crucial factors: the cup itself. That’s right; according to recent research, the type of coffee cup you drink from can impact how you experience the beverage’s flavor and aroma.

It’s what’s on the outside that counts

small coffee cup and saucer
Maani Collection/Shutterstock

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t put much thought into picking out a mug for your morning cup of joe. As long as it’s clean and within reach, it’s good enough, right? Well, it may be time to rethink what you pour your coffee into.

According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Food Quality and Preference, the type of coffee cup you use impacts how you perceive the flavor. The study asked coffee experts and amateurs attending a specialty coffee event to taste samples from three different shaped mugs. Then, they were asked to rate their experience based on aroma, acidity, sweetness, and how much they liked it. The researchers found that coffee served in a tulip mug (a mug with sloped sides) had a stronger, more intense aroma than when served in a split cup (classic diner-style mug). Tasters also rated coffee as sweeter and more acidic when it was in a split cup.

Another study from 2017 looked at how people expected their coffee to taste and smell based on the type of cup it was served in. Participants expected the coffee to be more aromatic in a narrow mug and more bitter and intense in a shorter mug. Additionally, coffee in mugs with wide diameters was expected to be sweeter. The research adds to the evidence that there’s an association between “visual information and a product’s likely (or expected) sensory qualities.”

Finding the perfect coffee cup

man drinking coffee surrounded by papers
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What does this research mean for your morning routine? We know that cup shape and size can affect how you perceive the flavor and aroma of your coffee. The perfect coffee cup for you depends on your taste preferences. If you prefer sweet coffee, try drinking from a split cup or one with a wider diameter.

A lot of the appeal of coffee is its scent, and the size of your cup plays a big role in that. As researchers noted, aroma is strongest in tulip mugs and narrow mugs. But, there’s a bit more to it; headspace also plays a role in your coffee’s scent. Headspace is the amount of space between the liquid and the top of the glass. With more space, the aroma has more room to aerate and intensify. Wider cups leave more headspace and require you to tilt the mug more, further strengthening the scent. You can still create a strong aroma in a narrow mug, just be sure to leave ample room at the top.

There’s a lot more to making the perfect cup of coffee than most people think. Of course, the coffee itself is the most important aspect. But, by choosing the right size and shape mug, you can enhance the flavor of your coffee and start your day off right.

Editors' Recommendations

Shannon Cooper
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Shannon Cooper has written about everything from pet care and travel to finance and plumbing in her seven years as a writer…
5 incredible tequila recipes you’ve definitely never heard of
Have you ever heard of these tequila drinks and applications?
Corralejo Tequila Tropical being mixed with.

Tequila has always been an incredibly popular drink, especially when it's mixed into a variety of cocktails. Better still, the agave spirit is a lot more versatile than you might think. Sure, we've all heard of and even mixed up a few margaritas or some tasty Palomas. But what of lesser-known applications, like cocktails kissed with bittersweet amari or salsas for dipping?

With several distinctive styles, from blanco to reposado, tequila's uses are many. The lightest versions can perfectly accent an unbelievably refreshing batch of ranch water. Darker, aged versions can be used to cook with or join unexpected ingredients in your cocktail shaker. Want some proof? Check out some great, lesser-known tequila recipes below.

Read more
These 5 slow cooker recipes will keep you cozy all fall
Eat, sleep, repeat - all fall and winter
Kung Pao Chicken

If you ask us, there really isn't anything better than walking through the door after a long, chilly day to the smell of a delicious meal, waiting for your arrival with its savory scent and promise of nourishing comfort. That's why we love a slow cooker. Five minutes of morning prep, the push of a button, and off you go to work, nearly forgetting the warm and cozy blanket of comfort food that awaits you later in the evening. But then, you walk through the front door and remember. You say a little "thank you" to your morning self as you inhale the delicious fragrance that's been floating through your empty house all day. No takeout tonight. You gave yourself a gift this morning. One you now get to enjoy with little to no extra effort. That's the beauty of a slow cooker.

These are five of our favorite slow cooker recipes that invoke that exact feeling. They're warming, savory, and delicious and will keep you satisfied all autumn long.

Read more
This is the only quiche recipe you’ll ever need
Don't settle for soggy crust
A slice of quiche on a white plate

The first time I saw quiche on a menu, I was with my mom and best friend at a particularly posh restaurant in Carmel, California. At 11 years old, I’d never seen the word written down before, and I asked my mom what a “qweechy” was. I’m now nearly 40 and have yet to live that one down. As it turned out, qweechy would become one of my very favorite things to eat. I love how versatile it is, that it’s an acceptable meal any time of the day, how simple it is to make, and most importantly, how delicious it can be, served hot or cold.

This easy quiche recipe is hearty and rich and filling enough to be an entire meal by itself, but we love to serve it with a fresh mixed greens salad. It's also casual enough to serve on a regular Tuesday night, but special enough for holiday gatherings.

Read more