The thankless job of a coffee cup

The most underrated sidekicks in coffee are cups. For every kilo of grinder reviews online, there’s barely an ounce of cup content. So, grab your favorite cup and join me in taking a closer look at our thankless daily companion.

many coffee cups on the counter

more than a container

There’s a practical, perceptual, and personal power behind our cups. Especially with a daily ritual like coffee, what we see and touch every morning impacts how we feel.

Take a look at your cup as we go through each one.

Does your cup look visually pleasing to you? Does it match your aesthetic and sense of self expression?

feel, texture, weight
Is it smooth porcelain, rough stoneware, thin glass? How’s the weight? And is the rim thick or thin?

Does the shape of your cup “open up” aromas as you drink or is it closed off? (Think wine glass vs thermos) And what about temperature? Does your coffee cool quickly or remain hot until the final sip?

All of these factors (and probably a few more I’m not thinking of) subconsciously mold our drinking experience.

a sense of ownership

The cups we choose to use are woven into our identity. And depending on how we acquired them, there’s also a sense of ownership.

Some of my favorite cups are ones I’ve found randomly at thrift stores. I’m proud of my find and I feel like I’m the only person in the world drinking out of this cup right now.

One particularly fun find was this porcelain Nuova Point mug, which I unearthed at a thrift store the same week that I got my espresso machine.

thirfted Nuova Point mug on thrifted chess set

Now that we have swirled these cup characteristics in our mind, I’d like share a few of my favorites. Along with a few that gather more dust than coffee.

my favorite cups, as of now

This Loveramics Bond mug is my go to; I use it every morning when drinking pourover. I really really like the weight of the mug, it’s heavy. The porcelain looks nice, feels good to hold, and it’s easy to clean.

This mug also keeps my coffee at the perfect temperature. It’s warm at first but there’s a gradual decline that allows me to taste how the flavor changes as the coffee cools.

I can’t say enough good things about this mug, I imagine I will use it for many more years.

a few gathering dust

Now, a digression to discuss a few cups that I rarely reach for.

This East Fork mug looks very nice; the handle is chonky and fun to hold. But oh my god is the lip unpleasant. It’s a rough stoneware that does not feel good to use. Furthermore, it’s too large for my around 250 ml of coffee. I’ve found that if a mug is too big for your drink, you don’t inhale adequate aromas.

East Fork pottery mug

Another no no is this Fellow Monty mug. Again, it looks very cool. It’s also heavy, which feels nice but this keeps coffee way way too hot. If I brew directly into the mug it remains at the temperature where I can’t taste anything.

Fellow Monty Mug

Those two will remain on the shelf and off the brew bar.

controversial espresso containers

I consider there to be two schools of thought with espresso cups, modern and traditional.

Traditional cups look like this. They’re small, porcelain, and can usually be found preheating on top of an espresso machine.

traditional Nuova Point espresso mug

The modern espresso drinker prefers larger cups (often filled with longer ratios like turbo shots), made from a range of materials, and usually these aren’t preheated. Sometimes they’re even chilled.

espresso cup

Personally, I use both. When I want a gushing, soup-style shot and a better aromatic experience, I choose a cup like this.

porcelain espresso cup

But when I want a classic espresso, heavier body, and a weighty mug to go along with it, I pick one of these. They have the added benefit of being extremely cute and the espresso looks great against the white rim.

milk drinks

For milk drinks I really like these Loveramics Egg mugs. I have a few at flat white size, which is my preferred milk beverage ratio. As well as a larger, American-sized, latte mug for sinful guests who prefer coal over acidity.

Both of these have a curved bottom which makes pouring latte art easier compared to a tall coffee mug.

For iced milk drinks, I think glass is the supreme visual and tactile experience. Hearing the ice clink around is half the reason to have an iced drink.

glass for iced coffee

aesthetics, identity, and enjoyment

Cups are a form of self expression. And they’re one of the aesthetic joys of coffee culture. I’m minimal in most aspects of my life but when it comes to cups, I always seem to have room for more.

I encourage you to reflect on your own cups of choice; why do you reach for them day after day?

As you sip coffee and blissfully reflect, try to recall memories of being served espresso in an eight ounce paper cup.

That should help you appreciate the thankless job of a cup.

coffee cup on a desk next to a laptop and keyboard
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