December 1, 2023

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The Best Coffee Mugs (That Can Actually Make Coffee Taste Better)

The Best Coffee Mugs (That Can Actually Make Coffee Taste Better)

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These mugs will elevate your daily cup with style and comfort.

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Coffee mug preferences are very personal. Style, sentimental value, and routine all play a part in selecting a favorite. At the same time, coffee is a complex sensory experience: there are more than 800 identified flavor and aroma compounds in brewed coffee, and the vessel we drink from can have an impact on how these are conveyed. The thinness of the lip, material, size, and shape can all affect your sensory perception of coffee, but we also want a mug that is comfortable to hold and looks stylish—one that even makes black, drip coffee stand out.

It also might be time to ditch your old, oversized mug. Giant mugs keep coffee too hot due to their large thermal mass when full, but as soon as the volume drops below the halfway mark, the coffee cools off too quickly and becomes sour (coffee tastes best around 130ºF when your palate can detect more subtlety and sweetness). We built a list of our favorite, reasonably-sized (6- to 14-ounce) coffee mugs that will improve the flavor of your coffee while still remaining stylish, comfortable, and easy to drink from.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Coffee Mug

<p>Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm</p>

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

There are a number of specific details that can impact both the sensory experience and comfort of a coffee mug, so we wanted to break those down individually:

  • Lip thickness: A thin lip is easier to sip from without dribbling, but it also allows you to slurp the same way a wine glass does to take in more of the aroma of your brew.

  • Opening width: A wider opening will allow your nose to take in more aroma, but will also lose heat faster. Narrower cups create more thermal mass, but also might block your nose.

  • Size: Our sensory receptors detect more nuance in coffee from 120-140ºF, and smaller mugs help coffee cool to drinking temperature quicker while allowing you to finish your mug before it becomes cold and sour.

  • Base/wall thickness: Adding mass in the walls or the base of the mug will add more thermal insulation, which can help keep coffee hotter even as the volume drops. 

  • Material: Ceramic and porcelain are better heat conductors and add insulation while glass helps coffee cool quicker for people who are eager to sip.

  • Handle shape: Round handles can rotate and slip, but handles with a flat top give your thumb a better leverage point and are more comfortable to hold.

  • Handleless options: Sometimes a handleless cup can feel more natural to pick up than those with a handle, and they tend to be more stylish and sleek.

  • Cup & saucer: A well-designed saucer allows your thumb to pinch the lip easily, making it easy to carry your coffee from room to room (and catching any spills if you stumble).

  • Double-duty: Though some of the mugs below were originally intended for espresso drinks, we included them because they’re also favorites of coffee pros for brewed coffee. These multi-talented options include the Felt+Fat 8oz Cappuccino Cup, d’Ancap 6.1oz Verona Cappuccino Cup and Saucer, Fellow 11oz Monty Double Wall Ceramic Cup, and notNeutral 6oz Vero Glass.

Updated Classic Mugs: Thin Lips, Flat Handles, and Straight Sides

notNeutral Lino 10-Ounce Coffee Mug

An Updated Diner Mug

Working with baristas at Intelligentsia Coffee, notNeutral designed their Lino series specifically with specialty coffee in mind. With a flat handle for your thumb to rest on, a thick base that keeps coffee hot, and a thin lip that’s easy to sip from, it’s a stylish update to the classic diner mug—and it comes in a variety of colors. You may also notice that your favorite local coffee shop has its own version of the Lino mug—notNeutral produces custom designs wholesale, so keep your eye out for fun patterns and colors.

Manual 11oz Amber Glass Mug

A Modern Vintage Touch

These straight-sided mugs from Manual are easy to drink from, and their exaggerated handles add modern flair to their vintage amber glass design. Glass allows coffee to cool more quickly than ceramic, so these mugs are perfect for impatient sippers with a sense of style.

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

A Heated Mug for Slow Drinkers

The Ember mug has a built-in heater that keeps coffee hot for 80 minutes and allows you to set the temperature between 120ºF and 145ºF. By keeping the coffee warm, it prevents organic acids from breaking down into bitter and sour flavors that you normally find in room-temperature brews. While we preferred the travel option in our testing, we also really like the handled mug version for drinking at home.

MiiR Camp Cup

An Insulated Option

This camp mug-inspired cup from Miir checks the right boxes: a thin lip for sipping and a thumb rest on the handle, plus the added bonus of vacuum insulation. Its lid lets you take it on the go, and its sturdy handle can be easily clipped to a backpack for hiking and camping.

Hasami 13.5oz Natural Mug with Saucer

A Lidded Ceramic Choice

We’re fans of the striking angles of Hasami cups, but we particularly like this lidded option. It’s slightly larger than we would normally recommend, but with an included stackable ceramic coaster/lid this mug can keep your coffee temperature regulated before you need a refill. It’s made from a combination of porcelain and clay, however, so it does have a rougher texture that could be off-putting to some.

Design-Forward Options: Smaller Sizes with Some Added Flair

Kinto 9oz FOG Mug

A Lightly Tapered Mug

Mugs that taper towards the lip can help hold temperature, though they’re usually harder to drink from. This mug from Kinto also features a flared lip but keeps all of the heat retention of a squat base without the downsides. We also like the squared-off handle, which allows two fingers to nestle nicely with a solid thumb rest.

marimekko 7oz Oiva/Siirtolapuutarha Coffee Cup

A Design-World Classic

Finnish design firm marimekko is known for its eye-catching patterns and colors. Their 7-ounce coffee mug is a great size and shape for sipping your coffee at the ideal temperature. Like most options on this list, it has a flat handle and a thin lip, but it also comes in wide array of classic marimekko designs (including colorful flowers, monochrome flowers, and dots).

Haand 10oz Short Mug

A Stylish, Squat Option

Wide-mouth mugs are perfect for allowing your nose to take in the full aroma of the coffee as you sip. Since half of coffee’s sensory experience is in its aromatics, these shorter, wider mugs help you take it all in. Haand offers this design in a variety of colors and patterns, too, allowing you to build a set or just pick out a single mug.

Felt+Fat 8oz Cappuccino Cup

A Cute, Colorful Option

Though it’s called a cappuccino cup, it’s best for drip coffee. This smaller, squat mug has a wide opening and straight sides, making it easy to sip your coffee at the perfect temp. We particularly like the confetti colorways, but it also comes in a handful of solid colors.

Heath 8oz Stack Mug

A Stackable Classic

Heath has been making ceramics for Bay Area coffee roasters for decades, and this smaller, stackable mug is great for people with limited cabinet space. We love the flattened handle for an easy thumb rest, and the stoneware body offers great heat retention.

Cups & Saucers: Wide-Mouth Cups with Drip-Catchers

d’Ancap 6.1oz Verona Cappuccino Cup and Saucer

A Traditional Italian Cup

Designed for a cappuccino, the d’Ancap 6-ounce cup and saucer is a favorite among coffee pros for drip coffee as well. It features high-quality porcelain with a thicker base that tapers to the lip, offering superior heat retention without sacrificing sippability. Its small capacity makes it easy to sip your coffee at the perfect temperature, and the wide mouth lets you take in the full aroma.

Pilivuyt Coupe Porcelain Cup & Saucer

A French Porcelain Set

A larger cup-and-saucer combo, this high-quality porcelain set from Pilivuyt is elegant and sturdy. Porcelain holds temperature better than regular ceramic, but it’s also non-porous and easier to keep clean of old coffee stains. Pilivuyt has been making porcelain since 1818, and these cups are considered commercial-grade.

Handleless Options: Style and Comfort Combined

Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics 8oz Small Cup Leaf

A Handless Art-Piece

With its soft, folded walls, this piece from Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics creates curves that fit nicely in your hand. Its thin walls help coffee cool to drinking temperature while letting the heat warm your hands directly. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns, and serves as a beautiful art piece as much as it does a coffee vessel.

Fellow 11oz Monty Double Wall Ceramic Cup

A Sleek, Double-Walled Tumbler

The Monty ceramics line from Fellow has a double-walled design for better heat retention while keeping the outside cool to the touch. They’re a great option for people who like drinking coffee from handleless tumblers, but don’t want to directly grab a hot cup. The insides are also slightly sloped to assist in latte art pouring, if you’re looking for a cup that’s well-suited for espresso drinks as well.

notNeutral 6oz Vero Glass

A Stackable Tasting Glass

The Vero line from notNeutral features a thick, glass base and a thin lip, keeping it eminently sippable while making it heat-proof enough to handle. It’s a great vessel for coffee tasting, too. If you’re looking to brew up an expensive, limited-edition coffee to share with a friend, a set of Vero glasses lets you sip small volumes lightly without feeling like you’re holding an empty cup.

FAQs

What mug shape keeps coffee the hottest?

While a coffee mug with a heavy base that tapers upwards to the lip might keep your coffee slightly hotter, mug temperature is more of a measure of thermal mass. Larger mugs, around 16 ounces or more, will have a large thermal mass when they’re full and keep coffee hotter the longest—as long as they stay full. As soon as you start to sip coffee, the thermal mass drops significantly and the coffee will cool down quicker. Smaller mugs, between six and 10 ounces, will keep coffee warm until you finish your last sip and go for a refill.

Is glass or ceramic better for coffee?

Materials that are non-porous, like porcelain or glass, are the best vessels to drink coffee from because they don’t impart any flavor and don’t retain coffee oils. Smooth-glazed ceramics are also great options, but natural glazes and rough surfaces can impart flavor into brewed coffee. Plus, it’s harder to clean coffee oils from their surface.

Why are diner mugs so thick?

Diner mugs are designed with thick, ceramic walls so they’re sturdy and won’t break in busy kitchens and dish pits, and also so they retain heat better. The thicker ceramic walls can hold higher temperatures than thinner ceramics, but they are also harder to drink from, heavy, and awkward to hold.

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