An Expert Guide to Espresso Cups

Wondering what espresso cup is best for you? Coffee & Espresso Expert Hannah Ramsey details the different types of espresso cups and the materials they are made of.

Milk is poured into a short glass cup full of espresso and swirls into the liquid.

You may already be enjoying how you drink your coffee, but have you ever wondered whether there might be a way to get the best experience possible? Each different drinking cup comes with its own coffee-drinking experience. This article looks at some of the many options available to see which choice of cup or mug will bring out the best of the coffee in each beverage. That way, each specialty drink you create at home will leave you relishing every last sip.

We all know that there are different types of coffee cups out there. We have the standard mug that most people use when they make coffee at home. Then there is the basic latte or cappuccino mug you get at your local cafe and finally, we have the espresso cup. What is the difference between these cups and which one should you use for each type of coffee? Let's take a look at the top picks.

Types of Espresso Cups

The Demitasse

A white demitasse mug full of a single shot of espresso sits on a gray, slatted table.

Photo by Victor Freitas

If you are making brewed coffee at home, the standard mug will work just fine. It’s great for a drip coffee, but it doesn't do much for espresso. Espresso needs a smaller cup so that the drinker can appreciate the crema on top of the perfectly pulled shot of espresso. Demitasses, or espresso cups, are designed for espresso shots and hold around two ounces of liquid—perfect for a double shot. They have a wide base and a small opening which helps keep the heat while also amplifying aromas.

Another utensil commonly paired with espresso cups is the demitasse spoon. This is a spoon for stirring that is usually served with your espresso at a cafe. Because the lighter notes are left on top in the crema, stirring your espresso will give you a better tasting experience. This is helpful for getting an idea of the different flavors in your coffee. One downside though is that demitasses can be difficult to drink out of because of their small size.

The Latte Mug

An image of a latte in a blue, shallow, latte mug.

Photo by Iulia Topan

When it comes to latte art, the basic latte mug is the best choice because it has a wider opening that resembles a bowl. The average latte cup is a taller mug than the espresso cup and traditionally holds eight ounces of liquid. They have a narrower base with a wide-brimmed mouth and a handle to make it easier to drink out of. The tapered shape also helps keep the heat in your beverage so it won't cool off as quickly. Their sizes can range from 8 to 16 ounces, which allows enough room for milk to be poured in the slow, steady stream that (when artfully directed) can result in those beautiful latte art designs.

The Cappuccino Cup

The cappuccino cup is also a decent option for creating latte art, but it can be a little more challenging because of its smaller capacity. Traditionally, cappuccino cups hold around six ounces and have a wider base so that more foam can be put on top of the cappuccino without overflowing the cup. Like espressos, cappuccinos are often served with a spoon for incorporating milk foam throughout your drink.

The Diner Mug

Someone pours coffee into a white, tall-walled diner mug.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

At around 10 to 16 ounces, diner mugs are the largest option. They typically have straight sides and a large handle, making them easy to grip. These mugs are a good fit for those who want a larger serving of coffee or want the extra room to add milk and sugar. The diner mug’s large size also means that your drink will cool more quickly, so you may want to consider using a coaster to help trap some heat.

Material World

Multiple types of mugs are hung on a wall.

Photo by Meg Boulden

When it comes to materials, glass, ceramic, porcelain, and steel are all great choices for coffee cups. They all have their own benefits and drawbacks, so it really comes down to personal preference. Let’s compare what each has to offer.

Stoneware

Stone and ceramic mugs sit on a shelf, piled up.

Photo by Yan Krukov

Stoneware is a great option for enjoying coffee or espresso. Ceramic cups are made out of porous clay which helps retain heat and prevent beverages from cooling down too quickly. They also have a neutral flavor which will not alter the taste of your drink.

One of the best things about stoneware cups is the possibility of finding a unique cup with designs and colors to match almost any kitchen’s scheme or theme. If you prefer the look of a classic cup, there are easy-to-find options out there with simple white or black designs. If you want something more fun or funky, there are also mugs with colorful decorations and patterns. No matter what your style is, there is a ceramic cup out there that is perfectly molded for you.

Ceramic cups also have the added benefit of being microwave and dishwasher-safe. This means that if you accidentally forget about your coffee and it gets cold, you can quickly pop it in the microwave to warm it up without damaging your mug. Dishwasher-safe mugs are also convenient because you can simply put them in the machine when they get dirty instead of having to wash them by hand.

Porcelain

Also made of clay but fired at higher temperatures, porcelain is commonly used in fancy dinnerware like fine china, and most typically for tea. These stoneware cups come in a variety of sizes and styles so you can find one that fits your needs. Porcelain cups are known for their elegant designs but are also delicate and more prone to chips if not handled with care.

Glass

A shot of espresso sits in a little glass cup on a black, slatted table.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Glass cups are a good fit for those who enjoy seeing the color and clarity of their coffee or espresso. Being able to see the beautiful color of your drip coffee in the light, or the layers of your espresso-based beverages is another enjoyable part of the coffee-drinking experience. It is also easy to clean glass cups as they don’t absorb flavors or stain over time like other materials. The downside, though, is that glass is a poor insulator, so your drink will cool quickly. This may not be the best option if you want to savor your hot beverage, but it is a good one if you want to drink your coffee or espresso quickly. On the other hand, if you are a connoisseur of cold brew, or you happen to be an iced coffee drinker, glass is probably your best bet!

One of the biggest perks about picking up a glass cup is that they are one of the most sustainable options. Not only are they made from all-natural raw materials, but glass is also infinitely recyclable. So even if you chip, crack, or drop your mug, you can rest easy knowing that your coffee cup can be turned into recycling and then made into another glass receptacle.

Double-Walled Glass

Double-walled glass cups or mugs are one of the best picks for those who enjoy hot beverages. These cups are made with two walls and a layer of air between them which helps insulate your beverage. This keeps it hot for longer while also preventing condensation when sipping iced drinks. The double wall also prevents heat from being transferred to the outside of the cup so you don’t have to worry about burning your hands. This is a great option if you want to savor your coffee or espresso and enjoy it over a longer period of time (like while going on a walk).

Hearth Glass

Now that we know a bit about double-walled glass cups, let's talk about the hearth glass offerings. These cups are made out of BPA-free borosilicate glass, which is a type of glass that is resistant to thermal shock. This means that hearth glass cups can go from hot to cold without shattering. Like other double-wall cups, hearth glass helps keep drinks hot for longer and prevents heat from being transferred to the outside of the cup so you can enjoy your beverage at its ideal temperature.

These cups are also dishwasher and microwave-safe so you can easily reheat your drink if it starts to cool down. They are also stackable, which means a little more space can be made in the cupboard. And because they are made out of glass, you can see the color and clarity of your coffee or espresso. If you’re looking for a cup that will help you enjoy your espresso and coffee beverages to the fullest, I’d recommend Ascaso’s double-walled glass cups.

Steel

A metal cup sits on a table and steams in the sunlight.

Photo by Emiliano Arano

Another popular selection for coffee, especially for a go-to, to-go option, is a steel coffee cup. Known for durability and sustainability, these cups come in a variety of designs, colors, and capacities. One of the most recognized mugs made from steel or metal is the classic camping coffee cup or a work Thermos. A few well-known travel cup brands are Thermos, Stanley, SToK, Yeti, and Hydro Flask. Typically insulated, these cups boast the ability to keep your coffee piping hot for at least six hours, and iced drinks cold for 24. A double-wall vacuum insulation prevents heat transfer to the outside of the cup so you can comfortably hold your beverage. And if you choose a cup with a sweat-free design, condensation will never be an issue.

Most steel coffee cups come with a lid—usually, a screw-on—to prevent spills. Some lids are clear so you can see how much coffee is left, while some are equipped with a slide opening for sipping. A few even come with a locking mechanism to make sure the lid stays put. When choosing your cup, make sure to get one with a capacity that matches your needs. Although steel is the best defense against breakage, at around eight ounces minimum, these are not typically known to be little cups.

Another thing to note about steel cups is that they are not microwave-safe. So, if you want to reheat your coffee you will need to do so on the stovetop or pour it into another heated mug. Some also note that they don’t enjoy the metallic taste that seems to develop when coffee sits in a steel carafe for a long period of time. Steel cups also tend to be a heavier option so if you are looking for a light cup to take on the go, this may not be the best choice.

Final Thoughts

A latte in a glass travel mug and a pastry sit on a serving board on a wooden table outside.

Photo by Lina Kivaka

So, what is the best cup for enjoying espresso and coffee beverages? It depends on what you want out of your drink. If you want to savor your beverage and enjoy it over a longer period of time, then a double-walled receptacle is the best choice. If you want to get the perfect profile of the flavors in your beverage, ceramic or porcelain cup are sound options. If you want to see the color and clarity of your coffee or espresso, then a glass cup is best. And if you want to drink your coffee or espresso slowly, an insulated steel cup would be great.

Whichever cup you choose, remember to preheat it before brewing your coffee or espresso. This helps to maintain the thermal integrity of your beverage and keeps it warmer for longer. You can do this by rinsing the cup with hot water from the tap or by running it under the hot water from your espresso machine. Another great choice if you are a slow sipper is to use a small appliance like a mug warmer that you place your cup on to allow you to keep sipping on hot coffee for as long as you need.

No matter how you like to enjoy your coffee, there is a perfect carafe and cup out there for you. By taking the time to find the right one, you will almost surely enjoy every last sip! Need help? Contact a Curated Coffee and Espresso Expert today!

Like this article?
Share it with your network

Written By
How it All Got Started In 2010 my senior year of high school an opportunity came along to intern at a local coffee roaster. Little did I know that I was going to soon fall in love with Coffee and gain a whole new appreciation for the process it goes through to get into my cup every morning. Where I'...

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

Read Next

New and Noteworthy