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The Surprising Impact of Your Coffee Cup on Flavor

The Surprising Impact of Your Coffee Cup on Flavor

Did you know that your cup can prevent you from enjoying exceptional things about coffee: the first sip, different flavors notes, lingering aftertaste, and aroma? Yes, you read it right.

Your choice of cup can not only make your coffee the best but also the worst. That’s why it’s essential to find the right cup for your coffee. 

You might ask why coffee needs a special cup. Because apparently, what you should look into in the cup is its capacity. Is it big enough to suit your daily intake? And secondly, if the material is safe to hold hot liquids without burning your hands.

But there is one more thing: cup ability to enhance or obscure the coffee flavor. 

You might be surprised to know that there are even researches on ideal mug size, shape, and material for coffee. It’s mostly cafe and coffee enthusiasts that use glass cups that initially are not intended for drinking coffee. Plus, it doesn’t hit all the essential qualities when enjoying the java with its utmost flavors. 

Short Answer: Studies have found that a coffee cups’ texture, shape, color, and size affect the perception of how the coffee tastes.

Keep on reading to find more!

Does the cup affect the coffee taste?

a coffee cup

Yes, the cups’ size, material, shape, and even color can affect the coffee taste. 

Here’s a study about the shape of coffee cups that shows how you can experience the best aromatic coffee in a narrower cup. Short cups make your coffee taste bitter, and wider ones enhance the sweet flavors. 

Another interesting study by van Rompay et al. looked into the difference between sweet and bitter coffee association with cups.

The study findings showed participants who drank coffee from 3D printed angular surface pattern mugs reported about 27% more bitter coffee. While other participants drink sweet coffee in rounded surface mugs and sweetness ratings were reportedly 18% higher. 

Brazilian researcher from The Coffee Sensorium, Fabiana Carvalho, did bulk of research on the influence of all senses on the taste of coffee. Her study results show rounded cups and pink color associated with sweet flavor, and higher aroma associated with tulip-shaped cups.

So that’s how we know that cups play a more significant role in how your coffee will taste. 

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What type of cup is best for coffee?

If we are talking about material, then ceramic mugs are ideal for coffee as they have no impact on the flavors of coffee within. 

You should look into a few essential things while choosing the right type of coffee cup:

  • Cup shape, as it can affect the aroma and perceived flavor. 
  • Cup size, you must look from headspace to the diffusion of the aroma of coffee.
  • Cup material, including durability, comfort, and booty to resist heat.

Let’s look into them one by one.

Cup Size and Shape

The headspace of the coffee cup (volume between the top of glass and liquid) and the aroma of coffee goes hand-in-hand. 

The right headspace will create the right amount of room for the aroma to aerate. Headspace is critical because smell plays a significant role in flavor perception. So a smaller or narrow cup will have less headspace naturally than a wider cup, which means the low intensity of coffee aromatics.

Another essential feature is the tilt angle (when the cup is tilted to your lips for drinking coffee). A large tilt angle brings closer to coffee aromas. A steep or slight tilt angle has little to no room for the coffee aromatics.

There is more to cup surface size because they affect the aroma as well as the flavors. The surface area of the cup determines how much your coffee will have contact with air. The coffee surface is exposed to air and creates oxidation, which influences the tannins in coffee and heat loss. 

You should also know that different types of coffee go with different types of cup shapes. For example, a wide-angle surface is best for medium, medium-dark roast, Brazilian naturals, and Sumatrans. The bigger the surface, the more the coffee is exposed to air, thus enhancing sweetness. 

While on the flip side, most light or medium-light roast goes well with large cups with smaller liquid surface areas. The small liquid is low in oxidation, which creates more fruity acidity flavors of coffee,

Lastly, the size also comes into the equation of impacting your coffee experience. The larger the volume, the longer coffee will stay hot. 

Now, let’s talk about the material of the cup. 


Coffee mugs come in a wide range of materials, including ceramic, glass, wood, paper, plastic, stainless steel. Most of their material directly impacts the flavor of your coffee. 

How fast the coffee cools directly impacts the revealing of flavor notes. That’s why the cup’s ability to retain heat and temperature matters a lot. If you’d like to know which mugs retain heat best, you can take a look at my other article.

Ceramic is considered the ideal material for coffee cups because it doesn’t affect coffee flavor. Then we have double wall glasses that retain heat much longer, but the only downside is coffee stays hot in it for way too long.

Also, it is essential to know that this is not about ceramic vs. glass or paper vs. plastic but how it can impact the flavor of coffee more depending upon how these materials are shaped. 

You can refer to this table to know about the different kinds of material used for coffee mugs:

Material for coffee cupsFeatures Drawbacks
Ceramic Well priced
Plenty of designs and shapes
Doesn’t affect the taste of coffee
Loses heat quickly
Chips more easily
StonewareChipping resistance
Aesthetically appealing
Stainless SteelHolds heat well
Best for travel
Affects the flavor of the drink
GlassAesthetic looks
Taste neutral
Poor insulator
Coffee oils leech into the plastic,
Not environmentally friendly
Material of coffee cups
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Does the color of the mug affect the coffees taste?

Yes, the color of the mug impacts the coffee taste.

two heart shaped mugs next to each other with different colored macaroons

White mugs are more associated with the high bitter rate of coffee. A study published in Journal Flavor shows that the white color makes coffee look and taste more robust.

Red and blue are the colors that bring sweetness. It might be because red and blue are the colors mainly associated with sweet fruits. So it might make you think that the drink is sweet when you drink it in a red or blue cup. 

Brown or dark color mugs are associated with more robust coffee perception. Dark color makes the coffee look more powerful similar to how white mugs make coffee looks muddier and stronger. 

Have a look at this video for a more thorough explanation of how the color of your cup affects your coffee:

Should I use a glass cup for coffee?

You can use a glass mug for your coffee, but a double wall glass is best as it retains heat for longer and won’t impact its flavor. 

A single wall glass mug is not a good idea because it is more susceptible to heat loss. Keeping coffee warm for long is critical because coffee changes its flavors as it cools down. 

Still, glass is a better option than plastic or paper cups, and they are more sustainable. 

Does coffee taste better in a white cup?

Coffee does taste stronger in a white cup. 

White cups make your coffee look stronger and muddy in colors, which tells your brain that the coffee is stronger and bitter. So if you like strong coffee, you should choose a white cup for your java. 

Final Thoughts

white ceramic mug

Coffee cups do affect the taste of your coffee. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any control over how your coffee taste. Yes, you can still make your coffee taste better by experimenting with the quality of beans, grind method, and brew type to bring the best flavors out. 

It’s just choosing the right cup that will compliment all your efforts to make the best coffee and enjoy it to its fullest. The best cup choice will enable you to appreciate every aspect of your delicious coffee. 

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