While the bean you pick has a real impact on the flavor of your coffee, the vessel you use to drink it is just as important. After finding a good roast, brewing it to perfection, putting it in a mug that reduces its taste would undermine all of your efforts!
Read on to learn what to consider when choosing your best coffee mug.
History of Coffee Mugs
At AKA Dwelling, we love the idea of bringing together products sourced from around the world for you. Consistent with our world view for considering quality, coffee, and the vessels for drinking it has an international history.
While coffee was discovered as early as the 11th century in Ethiopia, the first mugs used for drinking predated that. The first ones discovered by archeologists can be traced back to the Neolithic era, more than 10,000 years ago. These relics found from China and Japan were mostly made of wood and bones.
While they looked like the mugs we use today, they lacked handles. Eventually, the material was replaced by clay, and handles were added to the design of these ancient mugs. Until the pottery wheel came about, they were made and decorated by hand. However, due to the thick clay body, they made it a bit difficult for the user to drink from.
By 2000 B.C., metal mugs made of gold, silver, bronze, and lead became popular among the masses. Aside from the obvious dangers posed by lead, these mugs made drinking hot beverages particularly painful.
Around 600 A.D. in China, porcelain mugs were first introduced, finally giving the world just the right mug to drink hot beverages. Porcelain mugs were not only lightweight and thin, but they also gave way to the use of bold colors and designs to decorate coffee mugs.
Why Does the Vessel Matter?
Choosing a coffee mug, much like the coffee in it, depends largely on personal preference. An average coffee mug is designed with one purpose in mind, which is allowing you to drink your hot beverage without getting burned.
Apart from the obvious purpose of convenience and functionality, coffee mugs also vary from cultural norms to regional styles. There are various countries that have their own unique styles to serve coffee. For example, contrary to American coffee culture, coffee is served in small ceramic cups in Italy and it is usually taken more like Tequila shots.
Thus depending on the cultural norms and practices of a country, coffee mugs have varied by size, shape and material. Everything from a vessel’s material, size and shape down to its color continue to matter, as each has an impact on the consumer’s perception of the flavor. While the look of a coffee mug might not change the taste entirely, it may heighten your drinking experience.
Generally speaking, mugs are larger than cups and can range from 8 to 20 ounces, based on the purpose for drinking. Expresso, served in a cup, typically uses a smaller size, 3-4 ounces. Smaller sizes are usually indicated for beverages that are strong, nothing or little is added and consumed quickly. Cappuccino, also typically served in cups, is served in cups the next size up, or 5-8 ounces. In contrast, a traditional morning coffee, and beverages such as a Latte, which incorporate more ingredients, are often served in mugs. For the typical drinking of a morning cup, an 8-10 oz. the mug is perfect for allowing you to enjoy your cup while the beverage is still hot. But for those who like a hearty serving, or like the feeling of wrapping their hands around a substantial vessel, 10-12 ounces will do the trick. Larger mugs can also have dual purposes, rendering them a more useful purchase.
The shape of your coffee mug is a very personal choice. But when it comes to choosing the right shape, what many coffee drinkers overlook is the headspace and tilt angle. Headspace, the volume between the liquid and the top of the glass, is an important factor for creating room for the aroma. Since smell is a major contributor to your flavor perception, the narrower the mug, the less is the headspace, which ultimately lowers the aromatics.
Similarly, the tilt angle offered by the shape of the coffee mug also affects the aromatics. A larger tilt angle will bring the nose closer to the coffee for that heavenly smell. This explains much about the wide mugs all your fancy flavored lattes are served in.
While appearances matter, the most important question is, how does the drinking gear use affect the final taste of the brew? Let’s find out below how coffee mugs made for different materials can have an effect on the taste of your coffee to help you find the best fit for yourself.
Disposable Coffee Mugs
Disposable coffee mugs usually come in plastic or paper coated with plastic to prevent liquid from soaking through the paper. These cups are best suited for traveling or people on the go. Most coffee shops and big brands like Starbucks use disposable cups with plastic lids on top for takeaways. However, the idea of covering the coffee with a lid is absurd in the sense that it is one of few drinks where orthonasal sniffs totally enhance the drinking experience.
While disposable coffee mugs are incredibly convenient, they have their one downside which is hard to overlook. The plastic material of the cup absorbs odor over time which can often ruin the experience and flavor.
Stainless Steel Coffee Mugs
While the material of these coffee mugs is more robust than other options, it transfers the heat to your palm, cooling off the coffee in it more quickly. Unlike plastic cups, stainless steel does not absorb flavors, but sometimes it imparts off odd flavors into your drink. The exact cause for it is not known yet, but it could be anything from bad finishes to the reaction between one of the coffee compounds and the metal.
However, some of the best travel mugs come in stainless steel that is insulated and have a top lid. If you are looking for a coffee mug for traveling, stainless steel travel mugs should be your choice. They will keep your coffee hot and prevent leakage.
Ceramic Coffee Mugs
Ceramic refers to any material, be it earthenware, porcelain or brick, made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral, such as clay by firing at a high temperature, between 1,200 - 1,450°C. Ceramic coffee mugs are extremely hard, shiny, and often white and translucent in appearance. The first ones came from China around 1600 BC, hence the name they are popularly known by - fine china or bone china.
The differences between various types of ceramic coffee mugs is simply the temperature at which the clay is heated. The end product is water-resistant, shiny, and durable material. If you are a flavor intrinsic user, ceramic might be the best choice for you as it does not have any effect on the flavor, leaving the taste of your coffee just as it should. If style and elegance is what you are looking for, then you should go for porcelain.
The Sophie Masson Mug is made from high fired porcelain and is microwave and dishwasher safe. These handmade mugs from the award-winning French designer come complete with messages to start the day right, or provide inspiration throughout the day.
Glass Coffee Mugs
There are few materials that are as aesthetically appealing as glass. Therefore, they boost the drinking experience more than other materials. Glass coffee mugs are made from tempered, heat-resistant glass, which keeps it from shattering, regardless of how hot your coffee is.
A great thing about this type is that due to their low thermal conductivity, glass mugs keep your coffee warm for longer. While drinking your coffee out of a glass mug, you can hardly draw away your attention from the quality of cream or any designs drawn on the milky froth. Glass coffee mugs can be the best choice for coffee connoisseurs and coffee lovers alike.
AKA Dwelling’s line of Trendglas glass mugs, including the Office mug and German mug (pictured below), is made from borosilicate glass. These handmade, high-quality glasses are unique as they provide a smooth, pore-free surface, preventing the transfer of pollutants and lingering odors, regardless of the liquids they have contained. They are constructed with no heavy metals or other toxic substances and have high heat capabilities of over 800 degrees Fahrenheit.