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What’s The Best Material For Coffee Mugs? (Our Top 9 Picks)

If you open my crockery cupboard, you’ll see a wide range of coffee mugs. There’s everything from classy glass cups to hardy stainless steel mugs.

The question is, what’s the best material for coffee mugs?

I’ve done the research and put together a complete guide on the best material for coffee mugs. That way, you can clean out your cupboard and leave only the best picks. 

Let’s jump in!

Best Coffee Mug Materials: Top 9 Picks

Despite what you might think, your coffee cup’s material can play a big role in your drinking experience. 

So, how do you choose the right material?

Let’s take a look at a few different coffee mug materials and go over what makes them worth buying. Or, we’ll learn what makes them worth skipping.

Ceramic 

person holding ceramic mug

One of my favorite materials to drink coffee from is ceramic. Ceramic is a solid, neutral material, so it doesn’t absorb or impart flavors, leaving the coffee the taste it should. 

So, in ceramic coffee cups, the coffee tastes exactly as it should—rich, pure, and delicious. 

A ceramic coffee mug also has the following advantages: 

  • Cheap 
  • Variety of sizes and styles 
  • Not too heavy 
  • Microwave-safe

With a ceramic mug, you don’t have to worry about your coffee staying hot, either. This type of material allows heat to be dispersed evenly. That keeps your coffee temperature even for long periods of time!

Finally, this material doesn’t break as often. 

So, it’s a super durable option, especially if you drink a lot of coffee. 

Stoneware 

Few know that stoneware is a type of ceramic

But it’s still not the same as standard ceramic. 

The main difference is that stoneware is denser than normal ceramic.

As a result, a stoneware mug has thick walls that don’t transfer heat. Thanks to its walls, it keeps the hot temperature of the coffee for longer. 

In the same way, it keeps drinks cold for longer. 

Stoneware mugs are also neutral to the flavor and aroma of the coffee. So, they won’t change how your coffee tastes. 

Finally, stoneware mugs are chip resistant and are usually very durable.

Stoneware is resistant to thermal shocks, so it’s rare for it to crack. For this reason, it can go directly from the oven to the fridge and vice versa. 

Glass 

coffee in glass mug

Serving coffee in a glass mug makes the drink look very elegant. 

Although many may believe that glass coffee cups break with the high temperature of the drink, they don’t. This is due to the specific glass that is used for this type of cup. 

Glass coffee mugs are made from tempered glass. That makes them resistant to heat and changing temperatures

Another cool thing about glass is that you can see the layers in your drink. If you’re making lattes and cappuccinos, that makes for a neat presentation. 

Using a glass coffee mug doesn’t alter the flavor of your coffee drink. Another advantage is that these glasses don’t get stained. So, you’ll be free from tedious cleaning moments. 

Glass mugs still have their downsides, though. For one thing, they can get very hot very fast. That makes it easy to burn your fingers when holding your hot beverage. 

Additionally, glass doesn’t keep heat well. So, you’ll have to drink your coffee a bit quickly. 

Stainless Steel 

Stainless steel is one of the most popular options and a great alternative to ceramic

Coffee cups with this material have a design featuring a double wall. Thanks to this, an air pocket is created that prevents the heat from escaping. That keeps your coffee hot for longer.

Mugs that are made with this material are mostly made for travel. Because of this, stainless steel mugs are often thin and heavy. They’re designed to sit well in cup holders in your car without toppling over. 

A stainless steel mug is made with iron mixed with carbon and chromium. That makes it durable and rust-resistant. Considering it’ll be holding liquid, I’d say that’s important! 

The only thing that can make these cups a bit disappointing is that they can make your coffee taste metallic. Unless you’re a vampire, that taste can definitely get annoying fast.

Melamine 

coffee mugs

Mugs that are made from melamine are some of the most functional and affordable on the market. Despite that, this material doesn’t usually get the recognition it deserves. 

Thanks to the fact that the melamine material is an insulator, this type of cup will keep your coffee hot for a longer time. 

At the same time, the mug itself doesn’t get too hot. So you won’t be at risk of burning your hands!

Another feature of melamine is that it’s durable. The mugs don’t chip easily and are dishwasher-safe. Gone are the days of tedious handwashing!

The one downside is that you can’t put these in the microwave. If you want to reheat your coffee, you’ll have to transfer it to a different cup first. 

China 

China or porcelain mug preserves the temperature of whatever is placed in it. Whether cold or hot, it’s maintained for long periods of time. 

China is also a vitrified material, so it doesn’t absorb odors or flavors. Plus, it doesn’t accumulate residues that could be harmful to health. As a result, it offers more hygiene and safety. 

Beyond that, china is heat resistant. So, you can throw it in the dishwasher for easy cleaning. 

The one downside here is that china is very delicate. You’ll need to take extra care when handling it so that it doesn’t break.

Hard Plastic 

plastic coffee mugs

Hard plastic can be very useful if you’re looking for a good material for recyclable coffee cups. 

These coffee cups made with plastics are quite durable. This is because plastic doesn’t corrode and can take many years to break down. 

Still, in my opinion, it’s not the best option because plastic isn’t environmentally friendly.

Plastic is one of the biggest environmental threats facing the world today. Many activists strongly advise against using any type of plastic. 

Beyond moral duty, in terms of taste, plastic can significantly change the taste of our coffee drink. 

If you’re a lover of the fine notes that coffee can have, then this material isn’t the one for you. Plastic tends to mute coffee’s subtle flavors. 

Also, keep in mind that if you prefer your drinks hot, plastic doesn’t keep the heat very well. So, your drink will go cold fairly quickly. 

Another problem with plastic cups is that they can actually release toxins into your drink. So, putting coffee in a plastic cup might not be the best pick. 

Paper 

Paper cups are one of the most common cups in commercial coffee shops. Many coffee shops use them to serve hot coffee. 

One of the advantages of using paper cups is that they’re neutral, so they don’t alter the flavor of coffee drinks. Paper also doesn’t absorb flavors and odors. 

These types of cups very often have airtight lids to prevent your drinks from spilling. 

Most paper cups are compostable and recyclable, so they can be a nice choice for the environment.

Paper is portable and lightweight as well. That’s what makes it a great choice for coffee shops serving people on the go!

Assorted Materials 

Although we’ve covered some of the most common materials, there are others that you can find, too. 

For example, many cups are made from different materials, such as recycled cups. There are some that are even made from soy!

There are also cups that are made from a mix of materials

For example, insulated cups are commonly made from a variety of materials, such as stainless steel and plastic.

These materials are designed to help maintain your coffee’s heat for longer. 

What to Consider When Choosing a Coffee Cup  

white ceramics mugs

Now that you know a bit about the material, let’s talk about some other things to consider when choosing a coffee cup.

In general, you want to keep the following in mind: 

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Color
  • Intended use
  • Special functions

Let’s go over each of these in a bit more depth. 

What Size Mug You’ll Need

The size of a cup can be small, medium, or large

It all depends on how much coffee you like to drink in one sitting. 

Coffee cups generally hold up to 30 ounces. However, you can find cups that are a bit bitter or smaller than that. 

You also need to think about the type of coffee you like drinking. Espresso is a small drink, so it can be made in smaller cups. This is just a 1.5-ounce drink.

But, if it’s an Americano you’re going for, the drink has a bit more volume. That’s because the water fills the cup up a bit. Americanos are about 8 ounces typically. 

You’ll also want a bigger cup if you’re an iced coffee fan. In that case, you may need a larger cup to cover the volume of the ice. Iced coffee usually contains about 12 ounces.

The Shape and Style of Your Cup 

different ceramic mugs

An important part of a mug’s appeal is its shape. Not only does the shape make it ergonomic, but it can also affect your drink’s taste

I know. That sounds nuts. 

However, studies have shown that shape can affect how people interpret the flavor of the coffee. For the most part, round shapes may be linked to sweeter coffee, while square shapes correspond to sour coffee.  

NOTE
The cup needs to have a handle that’s big enough to fit your hand. That way, it’s comfortable for you to drink from.  

Pick a Cute Color 

The color of the coffee cup may only be part of the aesthetic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Coffee mugs come in tons of different colors and designs. Sometimes, you can even personalize your coffee cup with photos!

There are even studies that show the color of the cup can affect the perceived taste of the drink. 

This is mostly psychological, but it just goes to show that you should buy something you like.

What Kind of Coffee You’ll Drink

When choosing a coffee cup, you have to think about its intended use. For instance, an espresso cup is quite different from a coffee mug!

Espresso cups need thicker walls. That’s to retain heat even though the drink is small. 

On the other hand, maybe you want a mug for use in the car. In that case, you’ll need something with a lid to prevent spills. 

Keeping the cup’s intended use in mind can help you pick a design that makes sense for you.  

Bonus Features and Special Effects

Some coffee cups have certain special features.

For example, pour-over coffee cups are a brewer and mug in one! These cups let you make your coffee directly into your mug without having to transfer the drink. 

Other cups with special functions have things like: 

There are tons of other special features that you can get with your mugs, too. Just remember to look for something that isn’t too tough to clean.

FAQ 

Still got a couple of questions about coffee mugs?

I’ve put together a short FAQ to help you clear up any lingering doubts.  

What Kind of Mug Keeps Coffee the Hottest?

Stainless steel mugs keep coffee the hottest. These can actually retain heat for up to 12 hours, which is why many travel mugs are made out of this material. Alternatively, ceramic is a great pick for use around the home. 

Is a Paper Coffee Cup Better Than Styrofoam?

Paper is better than Styrofoam. Styrofoam cups could leak chemicals like benzene that are very bad for your health. Paper cups, on the other hand, are coated with polyethylene, which is non-toxic.  

What Is the Safest Coffee Mug Material?

The safest materials for a coffee mug are ceramic and glass. These materials don’t alter the flavor of the drink and retain heat well.

Conclusion 

So, what’s the best material for coffee mugs?

In general, ceramic mugs are your best bet. They’re relatively durable, retain heat well, and come in great colors. 

But if you want to find a different mug material, that’s fine too. Just make sure to think about the shape, size, and intended use. 

With that, you should have no problem picking up the perfect coffee mugs!

Wanna have all the cup sizes at a glance? Check out our coffee cup sizes chart and find the perfect size for every coffee drink!

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Jessica Ruth Lee Fleming
Jessica is a seasoned caffeine-addict who spent 3 years behind the bar. Her early coffee days took her from the commercial Starbucks scene in urban DC all the way to helping launch a craft coffee shop in California. Today she prefers sharing her years of coffee capers through media, although you’ll find she does it with a trusty cup of coffee by her side.