What Makes an Excellent Coffee Mug?



Everyone has a favorite coffee mug — the mug they automatically reach for every morning. But, what is it about that particular mug that makes it so special?

While a favorite mug can become a sentimental item, for many, the infatuation begins with practical features. So, when a business is considering creating custom coffee mugs, they should think about the design elements that will make their mugs not just functional in the short-term but preferred into the future. The perfect mug is different for everyone, but most people gravitate toward mugs with the following aspects:


A mug’s material is perhaps its most influential feature. The material the mug is made of effects everything from what the coffee tastes like to how the mug retains heat to what the mug feels like in the hand to how the mug must be cared for. Here are some of the most popular materials for coffee mugs:

  • Ceramic. The typical mug material, ceramic, is sturdy, durable, and usually dishwasher-able. Ceramic materials tend to be thick and hold in heat — aside from porcelain ceramic mugs, which are dainty and delicate. Ceramic can be molded into almost any size and shape and feature all sorts of designs.
  • Enamelware. Enamelware is aluminum or cast iron coated in a porcelain lining. Enamelware mugs tend to be inexpensive, and they have a retro aesthetic — but some users believe the metal imparts a strange taste to the coffee. Plus, the metal conducts heat away from the coffee, cooling it faster than other materials, and when the enamel chips, the mug becomes unusable.
  • Stainless steel. A newer coffee mug material, stainless steel is lightweight and easy to clean. Stainless is a common choice for travel mugs because it can be layered with different materials to insulate beverage temperature for hours. As with enamelware, some drinkers believe the metal changes the taste of the coffee.
  • Glass. Glass is growing in popularity as a mug material thanks mostly to its simple, sleek aesthetic. However, glass mugs can be more fragile than other materials, and they aren’t as effective at maintaining heat as other options.


A coffee mug’s shape will impact its functionality as well as its aesthetics. Individual coffee drinkers should consider their practical needs when determining the best shape for their mugs. Ideally, a mug will fit easily into a drinker’s hand, be easy to lift and carry without spilling and feel comfortable against the lips. Additionally, the shape should allow a drinker to fill it with as much coffee as they need in one sitting, to prevent unnecessary trips to and from the coffee pot. Some features to consider regarding a mug’s shape include:

  • Tall or short. Tall mugs can hold more coffee, but they are more apt to tip over if a table is jostled. Thus, clumsy drinkers might prefer a shorter mug.
  • Wide or narrow. Wide mugs allow more heat to escape, so slow drinkers who prefer warm coffee might opt for narrower mugs.
  • Giant or miniature. The amount of coffee a drinker needs should determine the scale of the mug. Larger mugs tend to take up more cupboard space.
  • Round or not. Traditional mugs are round, which makes them easy to hold and maneuver. However, drinkers can find all manner of oddly shaped mugs, like cubes and pyramids as well as animals, human faces and bodies, plants, tech, and more. These tend to be more aesthetic than functional.


A few less-than-rigorous studies on the psychology of color have found that the color of a coffee mug might affect how a drinker experiences their beverage. For example, white might enhance the bitter flavors of coffee. However, the problem with color psychology is that many people experience different emotions when looking at different colors based on their culture and life experiences. For example, if a coffee drinker is in the practice of using a green mug during the winter holidays when they use a peppermint creamer, they might come to associate green mugs with sweetness and mint.

Ultimately, the color of a mug is a purely aesthetic choice. Drinkers can order custom coffee mugs with colors, patterns, images, and text that suit their personal aesthetic, and they shouldn’t worry overmuch about how the visual design of the mug impacts their drinking experience.

There is no platonic ideal of a coffee mug because every drinker has different tastes — literally and figuratively. Drinkers should consider the material, shape, and color of the coffee mugs in their cabinets and order new mugs if they find their current collection less than perfect at providing a satisfying cup of coffee.