Every Type of Coffee Mug, Explained

When you think of a coffee mug, what type of mug do you envision? Coffee mugs come in all shapes and sizes, all materials and all manner of bells and whistles. When you are considering creating a custom coffee mug, you need to consider all your options — which means you need this guide to each and every variation of coffee mug.


The style of mug generally explains the purpose of the mug: where and when it should be used, what it should contain, etc. There are five basic styles of coffee mug:


The image that your mind conjures when you hear the phrase “coffee mug” is almost certainly a classic-style mug. Made for drinking at home or at the office — somewhere with stationary seating and a table on which to rest the mug between sips. Classic mugs tend to be short, without lids and with handles, to make drinking easy.


A travel coffee mug tends to be taller and slimmer than the classic mug, so they can fit more easily in the hand or in a vehicle’s cup holder. Travel mugs always have lids to prevent coffee from spilling during transit — though some lids work better than others. Usually, travel mugs lack handles, but if a travel mug does have a handle, it is likely large and easy to hold.


Like a combination classic mug and travel mug, a tumbler is a wide, tall mug that usually comes with a lid and lacks a handle. Almost exclusively, tumblers are made from layers of stainless steel to insulate heat. Tumblers aren’t inherently designed for travel, so many do not fit easily into vehicle cup holders.


The tiny mugs used for espresso are technically called demitasse, which translates from French to “half cup.” These mugs are not suitable for regular coffee, unless you only like to drink a sip or two. However, if espresso is your brew of choice, you should invest in demitasse, which holds roughly three ounces — the perfect espresso shot.


A novelty coffee mug uses strange materials and takes odd shapes. You might find a travel mug that looks like a camera lens, or a ceramic mug in the shape of a toilet bowl. Often, novelty mugs are given as gifts, but their strange forms make them difficult to use on a daily basis.


The material of a coffee mug affects almost everything about the mug, so you need to

Ceramic. The traditional mug material, ceramic, can be made into almost every shape and feature almost every color, making it ideal for custom coffee mugs. Most ceramic is durable and dishwasher-able. Ceramic doesn’t impact the flavor of the coffee, and it insulates the heat rather well.

Glass. Like ceramic, glass is easy to wash and doesn’t change coffee’s flavor, but glass can be more delicate and isn’t quite as effective at insulating. Still, the beautiful aesthetic of glass is increasing its popularity as a mug material.

China. Porcelain and China coffee mugs are extremely delicate and require gentle care as they are prone to chipping and cracking with rough use. Though they do not insulate particularly well, these materials are undeniably beautiful.

Stoneware. Stoneware mugs tend to be heavy, but they can resist damage better than ceramic, glass, China and other materials. Because stoneware is usually handmade, each stoneware mug is totally unique.

Stainless steel. Lightweight and durable, stainless steel is often used in travel mugs and tumblers. Many stainless steel mugs are not easy to care for, and some drinkers suggest the metal impacts the flavor of the coffee.

Melamine. Melamine is a strong plastic product that is dishwasher-safe and drop-proof. It holds in heat extremely well, but it shouldn’t be heated itself, or it could leach toxic chemicals into the coffee.


Believe it or not, coffee mugs can be high-tech. Here are some features that can make coffee mugs function better in specific ways:

Double-walled. Usually present in travel mugs or tumblers, as well as stainless steel mugs, double-walled mugs have a special insulating layer to ensure coffee stays warmer longer.

Footed. A mug with a foot has a more stable foundation, reducing the likelihood of spills.

Lid. Lids help trap the heat inside the mug, keeping coffee warm. Travel mugs always come with lids, but you can find classic mugs with lids as well. You can also purchase aftermarket lids that will fit most mugs.

Vintage. A vintage coffee mug set comes with the charming aesthetic of eras past. However, vintage coffee mugs can also be made with dangerous materials, like lead paint, so you should be careful to distinguish between old mugs that are safe to use and old mugs that are display-only.

Microwave-safe. Not all coffee mugs are safe for reheating in the microwave. Metal mugs and melamine should never be put in a microwave, and other mugs can have non-microwavable paints. You should look for a sign that a mug is microwave-safe before trying to reheat your coffee.


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