Mug, Cup, or Demitasse


Latte from Shades of Brown in Tulsa, OK

When I walk into the kitchen with intentions of making a hot caffeinated beverage, The options are abundant.  Am I going to brew any of the previously posted coffees? Will I go the less labor intensive route and have some tea, which then leaves me with about a dozen different types of tea to choose from (I stay well stocked).  And after that, I must choose a mug or cup, out of which I shall enjoy my morning stimulant.  I love learning new ways of making coffee and tea, but I also get excited about using different types of mugs.

Maybe you have a favorite mug that you use as often as you drink coffee, or you may only have one kind of mug that matches the rest of your dishes, but if you are like me, you have an entire cabinet shelf overflowing with various drinking containers fit for all kinds of applications.  I have the classic white mugs that match our dishes, I have little espresso demitasses, huge painted mugs that my wife and I made at the Purple Glaze, a nice small white and steel set of cups that my wife picked up when she was in Spain, clear glass tea cups with matching espresso demitasses, two sets of tea cups with matching kettles, two small handmade looking cups that a friend bought for me while she was in Argentina, and a whole mess of tea cups and demitasses that match our fine china.

To be completely honest, there is no need for all of these mugs, but need enough for some of them.  Your regular tea cup and coffee mug works pretty much the same, but there are a couple categories that you can stick to to get the most out of your coffee, tea, latte, or espresso.


A mug, by definition, is larger than tea cup, and is meant to hold hot chocolate, coffee and lattes. Basically any large amount of a hot drink. It will always have a handle, because it isn’t very comfortable to wrap your hand around a hot mug. This is what you are use to seeing on anyone’s office desk, or when you get a latte at a coffee shop.  The American motto is that bigger is better, so most people want big mugs full of coffee.  Because if a little is good, then a lot must be better right? Wrong! The best results will be from using the appropriate container for whatever you are drinking.  Mugs are great for drip coffee, french press, hot chocolate, and lattes.  When the quantity is reduced, you are best of sticking with a smaller container.

Tea Cups

Obviously, tea cups are for tea.  Individual tea bags are meant to brew a small amount of tea, so if you use a big mug and lots of water you will get some weak tea.  The other thing the smaller mug accomplishes is that it allows scolding hot drinks to cool to an acceptable temperature faster, and is more likely to be finished before it gets cold.  I hate getting a huge coffee that I can’t drink for 5 minutes, and then gets too cold to drink by the time I am three quarters of the way into it.


Demitasse of Espresso

My black demitasse with coffee from my moka pot

Demitasse comes from the french word for “half cup”.  I am used to hearing them referred to as espresso mugs or espresso cups.  There are many names in many languages, so it doesn’t really matter to me what you call it as long as everyone knows what you are talking about.

If I am drinking espresso, it must be from a demitasse.  There are few drinks where it is more important to use the correct cup than espresso, and of course, temperature is the key.  For the best result the mug should be warmed before use.  Any coffee shop that knows what it is doing will do this.  When espresso is pulled, you have a small amount of hot liquid.  If you pour this into a large room temperature mug, you will have cold espresso very soon.  I do not have a mug warmer at home, so I simply run hot water through my espresso machine into the cup I am going to use to heat it up before I pull my espresso.  Make sure you dump the hot water and wipe out the remaining liquid with a clean towel before you pull your shots.  One terrible crime that I have seen committed too often is to pull espresso into a paper cup.  Just don’t do it.  If you are drinking espresso straight, then you don’t need to take it with you.  Use a proper demitasse, and drink it immediately.  It is only two ounces you wuss.

Espresso Machine

The top of this La Marzocco machine is a mug warmer

Sorry, I  got a little emotional up there.  As you can see, espresso has a greater effect on me than the caffeine stimulus alone.  You have heard my advice and opinions, and I won’t call you any names if you drink coffee in a peculiar fashion.  That was the last time, I promise.

  • Peppino says:

    Buon Giorno Dylan!

    love the blog. as much as I wish I could afford those 10k+ espresso machines, i can’t! but i just followed your guide on the mokapots and im very impressed with the results. I just subbed your RSS and cant wait for your next post.

    Cheers from Chicago

  • Dylan says:

    Hi Peppino,

    I am glad to hear that you liked your mokapot brew! Thanks for subscribing. If you have any coffee related questions, ask away. I am always looking for topics that others might find useful.

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