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The Best Coffee Mugs (That Can Actually Make Coffee Taste Better)

These mugs will elevate your daily cup with style and comfort.

By
Jesse Raub
headshot of Jesse Raub against a black background
Commerce Writer
Jesse Raub writes about coffee and tea. He's the Commerce Writer for Serious Eats.
Learn about Serious Eats' Editorial Process
and
Betsy Andrews
Betsy Andrews is a contributing writer at Serious Eats.
Betsy Andrews is an award-winning food and drink journalist who has contributed a personal essay to Serious Eats and was formerly the executive editor of Saveur magazine.
Learn about Serious Eats' Editorial Process
Updated May 24, 2024
A collage of coffee mugs.

Serious Eats / Alli Waataja

Coffee mug preferences are very personal. Style, sentimental value, and routine all play a part in selecting a favorite. At the same time, coffee is a complex sensory experience: There are more than 800 identified flavor and aroma compounds in brewed coffee, and the vessel we drink from can have an impact on how these are conveyed. The thinness of the lip, material, size, and shape can all affect our sensory perception of coffee, but we also want a mug that is comfortable to hold and looks stylish—one that makes every cup of coffee stand out.  

“Fresh-roasted, well-brewed coffee requires so many steps to go right, and the final piece is the vessel you’re enjoying it in. If you haven’t thoughtfully chosen your mug, it can turn something that is thoughtfully prepared into a sub-par experience,” says Xavier Alexander, owner of the Chicago café and roastery Metric Coffee.

This means it might be time to ditch your old, oversized mug. Giant mugs keep coffee too hot due to their large thermal mass when full, but as soon as the volume drops below the halfway mark, the coffee cools off too quickly and becomes sour (coffee tastes best around 130ºF when your palate can detect more subtlety and sweetness). We spoke to roasters, baristas, and other coffee experts to build a list of the best, reasonably-sized (6- to 14-ounce) coffee mugs that will improve the flavor of your coffee while remaining stylish, comfortable, and easy to drink from. 

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Coffee Mug

Coffee in an amber colored mug.

Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Here's what, we think, can impact the sensory experience and comfort of a coffee mug:

  • Lip thickness: A thin lip is easier to drink from without dribbling, and it allows you to delicately sip the same way a wine glass does to take in more of the aroma of your brew.
  • Opening width: A wider opening will allow your nose to take in more aroma, but also for the coffee to lose heat faster. Narrower cups create more thermal mass but might block your nose. “Aroma, and the psychology around it, is very important to me when drinking coffee,” says Sarah Nguyen, founder of the specialty Vietnamese coffee company Nguyen Coffee Supply, “so I don’t use one with a small diameter where I couldn’t adchieve the aroma’s effect.”
  • Size: Our sensory receptors detect more nuance in coffee from 120-140ºF, and smaller mugs help coffee cool to drinking temperature quicker while allowing you to finish your mug before it becomes cold and sour. “I like to see how the coffee changes as it changes temperature,” says Chrisena Ricci, lead production specialist in Buffalo, New York’s Tipico Coffee Roasters. For this reason, she chooses mugs at the larger end of the size range we’re suggesting. To avoid the off flavors that come with cold coffee, she only fills her mug halfway and then goes for a couple of refills.
  • Base/wall thickness: Adding mass to the walls or the mug's base will increase thermal insulation, which can help keep coffee hotter even as the volume drops. That’s not always an advantage, though. Some prefer the elegance of a thinner wall. Alexander likes short pours of coffee. “Because I drink less, I’m not looking for thick-walled insulation. I want to drink my coffee at a safe temperature,” he says.
  • Material: Ceramic and porcelain are better heat conductors and add insulation while glass helps coffee cool quickly; good for people who are eager to sip. Stainless steel and silicone are durable materials for travel mugs, which might come with ceramic inserts to avoid off flavors.
  • Texture: When you’re dealing with a hot liquid and going for maximum enjoyment, the feel of the cup on your lips is important. “I don’t like the rough ceramic that feels sandy or brushed. I don’t want to put that in my mouth,” says Kim Westerman, owner of the terroir-driven roastery Hedonic Coffee. She prefers glass or a more refined ceramic, such as porcelain. “They’re smooth, silky, and create no friction between you and your coffee.”
A person pouring brewed coffee from the Bonavita Enthusiast 8-Cup Drip Coffee Maker into a glass cup.

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

  • Handle: Round handles can rotate and slip but handles with a flat top give your thumb a better leverage point and are more comfortable to hold. Size and position matter as well for stability. “For good support, you should be able to fit two fingers in,” says Nyugen, “and make sure the handle is not too close to the base. A handle that’s balanced on the side or higher to the rim allows more control when holding it.”   
  • Handleless options: Sometimes a handleless cup can feel more natural to pick up than those with a handle, and they tend to be more stylish and sleek. For this style, insulation or thick walls prevent you from burning your hand.
  • Cup & saucer: A well-designed saucer allows your thumb to pinch the lip, making it easy to carry your coffee from room to room (and catching any spills if you stumble). It’s also a good look for company. “It’s not my everyday go-to,” Nyugen says, “but it’s very sweet for an occasion when you’re trying to create an experience.” 
  • Double-duty: Though some of the mugs below were originally intended for espresso drinks, we included them because they're also favorites of coffee pros for brewed coffee. These multi-talented options include the Fellow 11oz Monty Double Wall Ceramic Cup and notNeutral 6oz Vero Glass.

The Best Updated Classic Mugs

“I like a square handle because it gives me better control,” Ricci says. Also Alexander’s pick for the mug with the best handle, this update on the traditional diner version lets you wrap three fingers around it, resting them on the flat inner edge so you can navigate through sipping without wobbles or slippage.

Working with baristas at Intelligentsia Coffee, notNeutral designed their Lino series with specialty coffee in mind. With a flat handle for your thumb to rest on, a thick base that keeps coffee hot, and a thin lip that’s easy to sip from, it’s a stylish update to the classic diner mug—and it comes in a variety of colors. You may also notice that your favorite local coffee shop has its own version of the Lino mug—notNeutral produces custom designs wholesale, so keep your eye out for fun patterns and colors.

A Coffee Mug with a Modern Vintage Touch

Manual 11oz Amber Glass Mug

Manual 11oz Amber Glass Mug
PHOTO:

Manual

These straight-sided mugs from Manual are easy to drink from, and their exaggerated handles add modern flair to their vintage amber glass design. Glass allows coffee to cool more quickly than ceramic, so these mugs are perfect for impatient sippers with a sense of style.

The Ember mug has a built-in heater that keeps coffee hot for 80 minutes and allows you to set the temperature between 120 and 145ºF. Keeping the coffee warm prevents organic acids from breaking down into bitter and sour flavors that you normally find in room-temperature brews. While we preferred the travel option in our tests of temperature-control mugs, we also like the handled mug version for drinking at home.

A thermal carafe pouring coffee into a temperature control mug

Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

A Lidded Ceramic Coffee Mug

Hasami 13.5oz Natural Mug with Saucer

Hasami 13.5oz Natural Mug with Saucer
PHOTO:

Blue Bottle Coffee

We’re fans of the striking angles of Hasami cups, but we particularly like this lidded option. It’s slightly larger than we would normally recommend, but with an included stackable ceramic coaster/lid this mug can keep your coffee temperature regulated before you need a refill. It’s made from a combination of porcelain and clay, however, so it does have a rougher texture that could be off-putting to some.

The Best Design-Forward Coffee Mugs

A Lightly Tapered Coffee Mug

Kinto 9oz FOG Mug

Kinto 9oz FOG Mug
PHOTO:

Amazon

Mugs that taper towards the lip can help hold temperature, though they’re usually harder to drink from. This mug from Kinto features a flared lip but keeps all of the heat retention of a squat base without the downsides. We like the squared-off handle, which allows two fingers to nestle nicely with a solid thumb rest.

A Design-World Classic Coffee Mug

marimekko 7oz Oiva/Siirtolapuutarha Coffee Cup

marimekko 7oz Oiva/Siirtolapuutarha Coffee Cup
PHOTO:

marimekko

Finnish design firm marimekko is known for its eye-catching patterns and colors. Its 7-ounce coffee mug is a great size and shape for sipping your coffee at the ideal temperature. Like most options on this list, it has a flat handle and a thin lip, but it also comes in an array of classic marimekko designs (including colorful and monochrome flowers).

A Stylish, Squat Coffee Mug

Haand 10oz Short Mug

Haand 10oz Short Mug
PHOTO:

Haand

Wide-mouth mugs are perfect for taking in the full aroma of coffee as you sip. Since half of coffee’s sensory experience is in its aromatics, these shorter, wider mugs help you take it all in. Haand offers this design in a variety of colors and patterns, too, allowing you to build a set or just pick out a single mug.

A Cute, Colorful Coffee Mug

Felt+Fat 8oz Cappuccino Cup

Felt+Fat 8oz Cappuccino Cup
PHOTO:

Felt+Fat

Though it’s called a cappuccino cup, this option is great for drip coffee. The smaller, squat mug has a wide opening and straight sides, making it easy to sip your coffee at the perfect temp. We like the confetti colorway, but it comes in a handful of attractive solid colors, too.

A Stackable Classic Coffee Mug

Heath 8oz Stack Mug

Heath 8oz Stack Mug
PHOTO:

Heath Ceramics

Heath has been making ceramics for Bay Area coffee roasters for decades, and this smaller, stackable mug is great for people with limited cabinet space. We love the flattened handle for an easy thumb rest, and the stoneware body offers great heat retention.

A Mid-Century Mug

Kinto Cast Amber

Kinto Cast Amber
PHOTO:

Kinto

Alexander’s favorite glass is small, lightweight, and translucent, offering an elegant sip. The thin glass lip feels smooth in the mouth, and the handle, though thin, is flat-topped with sturdy corners for a sure grip. Plus, he says, “The amber color makes the hues of the coffee that much more beautiful.”

A spinn coffee maker brewing coffee over ice

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

An Everyday Mug That’s Fun to Look at

ANK Studios Copper Bloom Mug

ANK Studios Copper Bloom Mug
PHOTO:

ANK Ceramics

For “daily drip drinking,” Westerman grabs this tie-dyed, hand-fired mug. “It’s visually pleasing with a good medium weight and thickness.” Though the low, round handle is “probably an aesthetic choice,” she likes its size and girth; it’s not too wide that holding it is awkward, and it feels balanced in hand.   

The Best Coffee Cups & Saucers 

A Coffee Mug That’s Also Perfect for a Latte or Cappuccino

notNeutral Lino 3-Ounce Espresso Gift Set

notNeutral Lino 3-Ounce Espresso Gift Set
PHOTO:

Amazon

Westerman declares this mug “beautifully designed.” Sturdy without being heavy, it features an “ergonomic and functional” handle that’s rounded at the side to hug the curve of your fingers and flat on top for maximum support. “It’s good for any hand size,” she says, “which matters because I have small ones.” It also features a shape designed to hold steaming milk or a fluffy head of foam if you’re going for a specialty coffee.

an espresso shot with thick streams is dropping into a cup

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

A Traditional Italian Coffee Cup

d’Ancap 6.1oz Verona Cappuccino Cup and Saucer

d’Ancap 6.1oz Verona Cappuccino Cup and Saucer
PHOTO:

Prima Coffee Equipment

Designed for a cappuccino, the d’Ancap 6-ounce cup and saucer is a favorite among coffee pros for drip coffee as well. It features high-quality porcelain with a thicker base that tapers to the lip, offering superior heat retention without sacrificing sippability. Its small capacity makes it easy to drink your coffee at the perfect temperature, and the wide mouth lets you take in the full aroma.

Pilivuyt Coupe Porcelain Cup & Saucer
PHOTO:

Williams Sonoma

A larger cup-and-saucer combo, this high-quality porcelain set from Pilivuyt is elegant and sturdy. Porcelain holds temperature better than regular ceramic, but it’s also non-porous and easier to keep clean of coffee stains. Pilivuyt has been making porcelain since 1818, and these cups are considered commercial-grade.

The Best Handleless Coffee Mugs

A Handless Art-Piece Coffee Mug

Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics 8oz Small Cup Leaf

Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics 8oz Small Cup Leaf
PHOTO:

Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics

With its soft curves and folded walls, this piece from Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics creates a shape that fits nicely in your hand. Its thin walls help coffee cool to drinking temperature while letting the heat warm your hands. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns and serves as a beautiful art piece as much as it does a coffee vessel.

A Sleek, Double-Walled Tumbler

Fellow 11oz Monty Double Wall Ceramic Cup

Fellow 11oz Monty Double Wall Ceramic Cup
PHOTO:

Amazon

The Monty ceramics line from Fellow has a double-walled design for better heat retention while keeping the outside cool to the touch. This is a great option for people who like drinking coffee from handleless tumblers but don’t want to grab a hot cup. The insides are slightly sloped to assist in latte art pouring, so this mug is well-suited for espresso drinks.

A Set of Stackable Tasting Glasses

notNeutral Vero Cortado Glass

Clive Coffee notNeutral Vero Cortado Glass
PHOTO:

Clive Coffee

The Vero line from notNeutral has a thick, glass base and a thin lip, keeping it eminently sippable and heat-proof enough to handle. It’s a great vessel for coffee tasting, too. If you’re looking to brew up an expensive, limited-edition coffee to share with a friend, a set of Vero glasses lets you sip small volumes lightly without feeling like you’re holding an empty cup.

Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine making espresso coffee into a clear cup on a counter

Serious Eats / Nick Simpson

A Pair of Mugs Made for Light and Dark Roasts

Kruve EQ Glass Set

Kruve EQ Glass Set
PHOTO:

Amazon

This double-walled duo is scientifically designed to enhance coffee’s flavor and aroma. The squat interior of the Excite mug softens acidity in darker roasts, while the narrower insides of the Inspire mug focus acidity in fruitier coffees. Westerman likes their look and feel. “They’re really smooth in the hand, very symmetrical, proportional, and balanced,” she says, “and the coffee follows through to a long finish because of the focused shape.”

A Tea Cup for Pour-Over Coffee

Ling BaoBao 200 ml Gaiwan

Ling BaoBao 200 ml Gaiwan
PHOTO:

Amazon

The Gaiwan is a Chinese lidded cup-and-saucer designed for loose-leaf tea, but Alexander uses it as a stylish vessel for pour-overs. “When I brew on a Chemex, the temperature drops 15 to 20 degrees automatically on pour, so the coffee is ready to drink,” he says. The brew has cooled enough to allow him to grip the thin-walled cup. “I really like the delicate nature of it. Similar to the perfect wine glass, it feels almost as if it has no weight.”

The Best Travel Coffee Mugs

Some of the most popular travel mugs are monster-sized, but coffee drinkers looking for flavor rather than just a big caffeine boost will appreciate the reasonable size of this mug in addition to its durability. Stainless steel with a ceramic coating inside ensures proper flavor. The Carter's lid seals up tightly. “I put it in my backpack, and it doesn’t matter how I turn it,” says Westerman. “I could leave it upside down, and that thing will never leak.” Ricci marvels, “One of my bosses drove over hers, and it still worked.” We named the Carter Move Mug as one of the top picks in our travel mugs review.

A person using a instant-read thermometer to take the temperature of hot water inside of a travel mug.

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin

A Collapsible, Eco-Friendly To-Go Cup

Stojo 12 Oz Cup

Stojo 12 Oz Cup
PHOTO:

Amazon

A silicone cup with a heat sleeve and tabbed lid, this lightweight, travel-ready mug collapses to save room in your bag before and after use. Ricci is a fan of its sustainability; rather than using a disposable cup, she can tote this around and present it to the barista when she stops at a café. Silicone can impart flavor over time, so she suggests scrubbing it with a paste made of equal parts baking soda and water before washing it with soap and water.

An Insulated Travel Mug

MiiR Camp Cup

Miir 12oz Insulated Camp Cup
PHOTO:

Amazon

This camp mug-inspired cup from Miir checks the right boxes: a thin lip for sipping, a thumb rest on the handle, and the added bonus of vacuum insulation. Its lid lets you take it on the go, and its sturdy handle can be clipped to a backpack for hiking and camping.

FAQs

What mug shape keeps coffee the hottest?

While a coffee mug with a heavy base that tapers upwards to the lip might keep your coffee slightly hotter, mug temperature is more of a measure of thermal mass. Larger mugs, around 16 ounces or more, will have a large thermal mass when they’re full and keep coffee hotter the longest—as long as they stay full. As soon as you start to sip coffee, the thermal mass drops significantly and the coffee will cool down quicker. Smaller mugs, between six and 10 ounces, will keep coffee warm until you finish your last sip and go for a refill. 

Is glass or ceramic better for coffee? 

Materials that are non-porous, like porcelain or glass, are the best vessels to drink coffee from because they don’t impart any flavor and don’t retain coffee oils. Smooth-glazed ceramics are also great options, but natural glazes and rough surfaces can impart flavor to brewed coffee. Plus, it’s harder to clean coffee oils from their surface. 

Why are diner mugs so thick? 

Diner mugs are designed with thick, ceramic walls so they’re sturdy and won’t break in busy kitchens and dish pits. They also retain heat better. The thick walls can hold higher temperatures than thin ceramics, but they are also harder to drink from, heavy, and awkward to hold.

How do you keep coffee mugs clean? 

To keep ceramic and glass mugs nice and clean so that coffee tastes fresh, Ricci soaks them in a solution of baking soda and vinegar and then washes them out with soap and very hot water. It's the same chemical reaction needed to get baked goods to rise properly, so it's food-safe. She’s also a fan of Cafiza, a cleanser used in coffee shops to eat away the coffee proteins and oils that build up on equipment. You can buy it in easy-to-use tablet form.

Why We're the Experts

  • Jesse Raub was the commerce writer for Serious Eats. He worked in the specialty coffee industry for more than 15 years.
  • Betsy Andrews is a freelance writer at Serious Eats.
  • She is a James Beard- and IACP-nominated food and drink journalist who was previously the executive editor of Saveur magazine and a dining critic for The New York Times.
  • For this article, Betsy interviewed coffee experts about the essential qualities of coffee mugs.

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