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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Selecting a Good Coffee Cup- Coffee Tastes Better in the Right Mug

Finding a Good Coffee Mug

You might not think the cup you use to drink makes much of a difference.  Most of the focus is on making great coffee in the first place.  Very little attention is paid to the coffee mug itself.

Which coffee mug is best for drinking coffee?
What kind of coffee mug is best for drinking coffee?
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

I realized that the choice of coffee mug makes a difference to me when I found myself hunting for my favorite mug before I would pour my coffee each day.  When my favorite brown mugs are not available, I fall back to using the red mugs.  My next (and last) choice is the yellow mugs.  The yellow mugs look nice and are fine for drinking tea, but I don't like drinking coffee with them.  With the yellow mugs, the coffee does not stay as hot, and it seems to have a weaker flavor.

Why Is a Good Coffee Mug Important?

My favorite style of coffee mug is a large brown ceramic coffee mugs that my wife picked up at Pier 1 Imports.  I didn't use the new mugs for a few years because I assumed they were for special occasions.  One time my wife said I could use them and I really liked the size of it and how it seems to keep coffee warmer than my other ceramic mugs.

The best coffee mug
The best coffee mug
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
Since all of my mugs are made of ceramic, how could one ceramic mug keep coffee warmer than others?  I think the size and shape are the keys to this mystery.  The Pier 1 mugs are very large and hold my 16 oz of coffee all at once.  Having a lot of coffee in the mug provides thermal mass to keep the coffee warm longer.  The ceramic is fairly thick, perhaps adding slightly more insulation value.  Also, the shape of this mug seems to reduce the surface area of the coffee, slowing transfer of heat relative to other mug shapes.

How Can a Good Mug Make Coffee Taste Better?

How can one mug make coffee taste different than another?  I can think of a couple reasons.  One is that the shape of the mug can really accentuate the smell of the coffee.  My large brown mug has space at the top when filled with 16 oz of coffee so my nose is right near the coffee and that wonderful flavor is focused right on my face each time I take a sip.  Another way the mug can affect the taste of coffee is residual flavors.  I have had old plastic mugs that provided some "plastic" flavor and really held on to stale coffee flavors.  Even ceramic mugs can hold stale flavors depending on the glaze.  My new mugs have really slick glaze and are easy to clean completely so the only flavor you get is fresh coffee.

This coffee mug is too small- coffee gets cold fast
This coffee mug is too small- coffee gets cold fast
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

A few weeks ago, I went into Pier 1 with my wife- mostly to try to stop her from buying things- and I saw that they had my favorite brown mugs on clearance.  I think they were $1 each or something.  I bought all of them- literally all of them.  They only had 5 of so left on the shelf at that point.  My wife was somewhat stunned when I started grabbing the mugs from the shelf since she had never seen me buy anything at Pier 1.  So now I can have my coffee in my favorite mug every day.

A couple years ago, I upgraded my travel mug that I take with me in my car when I drink coffee while driving to work.  My old coffee mug would sometimes leak and that was no good.  I got a Contigo thermal mug that does not leak.  You can turn it upside down and it still will not leak.  It has a spring mechanism to hold coffee in and a trigger to release coffee when you want to take a drink.

Contigo thermal travel coffee mug- keeps coffee hot

Contigo thermal travel coffee mug- it does not leak!
Contigo thermal travel coffee mug- it does not leak!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
I prefer drinking coffee from a ceramic mug.  Having the top open allows me to smell the coffee and feel the warm steam rising from the mug with every sip.  I have tried taking ceramic mugs in the car with me, but it is not safe to try to drive with an open container of hot liquid in my hand.  The Contigo is probably as good as it gets for a travel mug- it keeps coffee hot and fresh for a long time, and does not leak.

If you want to try a different coffee mug, here are some features I would recommend:

  • Get a large mug so you can put a lot of coffee in it and still have some room at the top to smell the coffee and feel the warmth from it as you drink.
  • Get a mug that is shorter and wider to help keep the thermal mass of the coffee less spread out, reducing surface area exposed to room temperature.
  • Get a mug that has a neutral color inside so you can see and enjoy the color of your coffee.
  • Go for a thicker mug that will help keep coffee warm.
  • Get a big handle so you can easily control your sip.

Copyright © 2015 Dr. Penny Pincher. All Rights Reserved. Coffee Maker Journal

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