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Color, Texture, Shape: How Cups Affect Your Coffee Experience

Types of Coffee Cups and Mugs

You can drink coffee out of any old cup and still have the same experience, right? New research suggests that isn’t true. Your coffee cup can have a huge impact on how much you enjoy your morning cup of joe!

Keep reading to learn the fascinating results of three coffee-themed studies. What’s the ideal color, shape, and texture of a coffee cup? You’ll find the science-backed answers here!

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How does cup color affect your coffee?

coffee mug shapes

You may not think the color of your cup matters much — but there’s a new study that suggests the opposite. The study used two coffees, a sweet Brazilian variety and an acidic Kenyan variety, and four cup colors (pink, white, green, and yellow). Participants rated their impressions before and after sampling the coffee — essentially, their expectations and how well they were met.

What were the results? The cup color changed participants’ answers on all of the measured attributes, including sweetness, acidity, and overall enjoyment. Pink cups primed the drinker to expect sweetness, while yellow and green cups made them anticipate acidity. When the pairing was unexpected, people reported disliking the coffee. And combining the pink cup with the acidic Kenyan coffee amplified that acidity.

The takeaway? If you drink sweet, smooth coffee and want to amplify that experience, try a pink cup. On the other hand, if you prefer bright, acidic coffee, you may want to try a yellow or green cup. Whatever you do, don’t drink acidic coffee out of a pink cup or sweet coffee out of a yellow one — you might not like the results!


What about cup shape?

three coffee cups

If you’ve ever been to a whiskey, beer, or wine tasting, you know that differently shaped cups can alter the aroma, appearance, and flavor of alcoholic drinks. According to new research, the same is true of coffee!

This study, conducted at a specialty coffee event in Brazil, compared tulip, open, and split (bulbed at the bottom and open at the top) cups. What did it find? For both experts and amateurs, the tulip cup had the best aroma, while the split cup was sweeter and more acidic. But the pros enjoyed the experience of the split cup much more than the amateurs.

What does this mean? If you like intense coffee, you may prefer a split cup — though you might prefer the superior aroma of a tulip cup!


Does cup texture affect anything?

rough ceramic coffee cup

The third factor in your coffee experience is the texture of your coffee cup. And yes, there’s a study that tested just that! This study, conducted in Russia, involved smooth and rough ceramic cups. Participants rated the acidity, sweetness, and aftertaste of each coffee variety.

Participants found the coffee more acidic when drunk out of a rough cup and sweeter out of a smooth one. They also found a dry aftertaste — which sounds unpleasant — when drinking from rough coffee cups. That’s probably why most coffee cups are smooth!

What’s our takeaway from this one? Stick to smooth coffee cups, unless you really like acidic coffee.

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The Bottom Line: What’s the Best Color, Shape, and Texture?

Now that we’ve been through all the science, it’s time for the really important part: what kind of coffee cup will you enjoy the most? If you’re a fan of round, slightly sweet coffee beans like those from Brazil, we recommend a smooth pink coffee cup with a tulip or open shape. Prefer intense, acidic coffee? Try a rough yellow or green mug with a split design.

Of course, that’s just what science says. Feel free to keep using that mug from your high school reunion or your child’s rough pottery masterpiece. We won’t tell the researchers! Now, where do we sign up for one of these coffee studies?

Ready to buy a coffee cup or mug? Read about the 10 different types!


Featured image credit: Sebra, Shutterstock

Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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