What Is The Difference Between A Mug And A Cup?

A mug and a cup may seem similar, but the two have distinct differences. A mug is designed to hold more liquid than a cup and is therefore slightly larger than a cup. On the other hand, cups also come with saucers and are designed for smaller coffee blends like espresso.

The size and the liquid quantity determine the difference between a cup and a mug. A cup holds 6 oz (180ml) of liquid, making it ideal for short coffees like espresso. A mug holds 12 oz (350ml) of liquid, therefore is perfect for taller beverages like lattes, instant coffee, or cappuccinos.

This article can assist you when you are undecided about the difference between a mug and a cup. We will give you more information on what size is appropriate and answer the all-important question, what is the difference between a mug and a cup?

The Differences Between A Mug And A Cup

There are several distinct differences between a mug and a cup. These are size, shape, the quantity of liquid, and whether there is a handle or a saucer.

The Collins dictionary defines a cup as ”a small vessel used for beverages, which usually comes with a handle and rests on a saucer. A cup also doubles as a unit of measure when baking or cooking”.

On the other hand, a mug is defined as a larger and deeper vessel with straight sides with a handle. Unlike a cup, the mug does not rest on a saucer.

A standard size cup holds around 6 oz (180 ml) of liquid. The most miniature cup holds around 3-4 oz of liquid and is frequently referred to as a demitasse, which loosely translates to half a cup. Therefore many short and robust varieties of coffees like espressos and macchiatos are served in this cup type.

Recurrently, smaller cups, like the demitasse, have smaller bases with a broader rim. These cup types are designed to allow for faster cooling of your desired beverage. And the beverages are concentrated, making them more robust.

Cups also have smaller, daintier handles. Think of teacups used for a high tea that you pick up between two or three fingers, and don’t forget to raise that pinky!

On the other hand, a mug is larger than your average cup and holds around 10oz (300ml) liquid. And the easiest way to recognize a mug is by the size; it’s considerably larger than a cup, has a much larger handle, and the rim is almost always the same size as the base.

The mug’s shape ensures that there is not much difference between the size of the mug at its base and its rim – another unique feature of a standard mug.

Unless it’s a cappuccino mug, it will have a narrow base with a broader rim to accommodate the frothed milk or allow a barista to show off their coffee art.

Because the mug is so much larger than a cup, companies often use them as advertising gimmicks, or they are personalized gifts from loved ones.

How Is A Mug Different From A Cup?

If you were to ask a coffee connoisseur about the differences between a coffee mug and a coffee cup, they would tell you they are the same. And in some ways, they may be correct. After all, they’re both vessels out of which we enjoy our favorite morning brew.

But there are distinct visible differences between these two. A few ways to differentiate between a mug and a cup are listed below.

1. Does A Mug Shape Differ From A Cup?

There is a big difference in the shape of a mug and a cup. A mug is typically much broader and taller than a cup because mugs hold more liquid than a cup.

A cup is also shorter than a mug. You find cups have a narrow bottom with a wider rim. The wider rim caters for frothy steamed milk to be poured over shorter beverages like your espressos or macchiatos.

An espresso has quite a robust taste; therefore, when coffee lovers slurp up the crema first, it produces a milder taste. And it is for this reason that cups have wider rims than mugs.

Long beverages like a latte or chai latte typically don’t have this sort of crema; therefore, mugs are more suitable because they don’t have wider rims like cups. Mugs are taller, with the top and base the same width.

2. Does A Mug Size Differ From A Cup?

One notable difference between a mug and a cup is the size. The size also affects the quantity of liquid each vessel holds.

A standard size cup holds approximately 6 oz (180 ml) of liquid, thus making it ideal for herbal teas, espressos, and other short coffees.

On the other hand, your mug retains approximately 12 oz (350 ml) of liquid. Therefore, chai lattes, iced lattes, or instant coffees are best suited for mugs.

At this point, we must mention there are larger cups and smaller mugs, but the explanation we have given above is for the norm as far as mugs and cups go.

3. Does A Mug Handle Differ From A Cup Handle?

Cups, be they coffee or tea cups, have smaller handles. The handles are enough to fit two or three fingers without burning your digits. Cups are daintier than mugs, which may seem masculine with the larger size and more oversized handles.

From a design perspective, more mugs are produced without handles. Unlike cups, where handles are necessary, handles on mugs are atypical. When you find handles on mugs, they are larger than what you find on cups.

The larger handles are so your hands wrap around your mug and are a great way to warm them when coming in from the cold!

4. Can The Serving Differ Between A Mug And A Cup?

As we have established, cups are petite and daintier than mugs, and they come with saucers, unlike mugs which don’t come with saucers.

The smaller-sized cup does not accommodate space for a spoon or sweeteners, which is why cups have saucers. Contrastingly mugs have sufficient space for a spoon without it getting in the way of you enjoying your favorite beverage.

It is all in the appearance. You cannot place your spoon on the table after use; it is unhygienic and unsightly for another. Therefore you are provided with a saucer for this reason.

5. Is A Cup More Formal Than A Mug?

Many coffee shops in the past would serve beverages, especially coffee, in cups because they didn’t consider mugs formal. Cups, however, were trendy in coffee shops around the world.

Cups are used to serve beverages during formal occasions like family celebrations, high teas, etc. Picture the Mad Hatter’s tea party if you can; you would not see a mug around!

That is because mugs are more oversized and hold more fluid than cups. In addition, mugs are not served on a saucer and do not come with a spoon, unlike their smaller cups. However, mugs find their way to informal gatherings with family, friends, etc.  

Recently, many coffee shops have used mugs to promote a sense of informality and togetherness.


In certain circumstances, the differences between a cup and a mug make one more appropriate than the other. Mugs have thicker handles and bigger mouths that enable you to fit your hands around them for a secure grip. Cups are much smaller, with thinner handles and narrower mouths.


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