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My wife and I had a discussion in regards of my consumption of coffee during office hours. Health gurus always talk about a maximum amount of coffee during a day - measured in cups!

But what is the definition of 1 cup of coffee, and how much coffee is one cup?

We have several types of cups etc. at the office and at home, so its hard to know how many "cups" I drank over the day!

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Perhaps the solution is to ignore health advice from someone who can't express it in proper units? I'm sure you can find recommendations in terms of mg of caffeine if you look hard enough... –  Peter Taylor Oct 7 '13 at 11:19
Is your question not answered by this previous one? cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/25041/… –  Jefromi Oct 7 '13 at 23:37
@Jefromi: I'm not sure if the question is really even specific to coffee. A cup of coffee is the same as a cup of tea or a cup of water. It's a standard measurement. –  Aaronut Oct 8 '13 at 0:14
@Aaronut No, see the other question - a cup of coffee is apparently 6oz, i.e. not a cup. (Of course, I'm not sure which one these unnamed gurus meant.) –  Jefromi Oct 8 '13 at 0:15
@PeterTaylor health advice in terms of mg of caffeine sounds more precise, but in reality, there is a huge variation in the amount of caffeine per volume unit of coffee depending on the bean caffeine content and the preparation technique, so still not very helpful. –  rumtscho Oct 8 '13 at 8:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The most common global standard for recipe and marketing purposes** is 150 ml (5 oz), with a caffeine content around 100 mg. This commonly refers to instant, filter, or drip coffee, or a mixed espresso coffee like a latte

Coffee is traditionally served in a smaller cup than other hot beverages, mainly due to strength and expense. For example, an Italian espresso cup is around 30 to 60 ml (1 to 2 oz) in size, with a caffeine content a little more then 100 mg

Some references

  1. http://www.ico.org/caffeine.asp
  2. http://www.scaa.org/?page=resources&d=cupping-standards

** e.g. marketing description of a "6 cup coffee maker" refers to 6 x 150 ml cups

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I wouldn't call this standard "global", for example in countries with Ottoman kitchen traditions, this is a terribly large cup. And I think that in Italy, it is also considered a "large" or "American" size. I can imagine that it is common in the English-speaking countries. –  rumtscho Oct 8 '13 at 8:36
I disagree that it's smaller than other hot beverages ... standard tea "cup" is 5oz, standard coffee "cup" is 6oz. –  Joe Oct 8 '13 at 11:58
@rumtscho smaller than 150 ml cups often have different names, like "espresso cup", the standard cup used for reference purposes usually comes out at 150 ml, yes some USA makes use large cups, buts that's hardly surprising. Check the marketing material of modern coffee makers –  TFD Oct 8 '13 at 18:33
@TFD Again, this seems to be a language- or region-specific custom. My grandma's coffee cups are all under 100 ml (I believe 80). And no, they are not for espresso, they are for Turkish coffee, which is called simply "coffee" throughout the Balkan. There, it would be the larger portions/cups which get a different name. It is all up to the most common type/size in a given region: whatever it is, it is called "coffee", and the other types get different names. –  rumtscho Oct 13 '13 at 11:41
@rumtscho The was a bad edit, original entry had just 'coffee' –  TFD Oct 13 '13 at 17:55

In the US, generally a "cup" of coffee is six ounces. Unfortunately, that still doesn't answer your concerns as the strength of coffee varies widely. Is a "cup" on a coffee maker always 6 oz? Is this a standard in the US?

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Drip percolators (the kind on many/most kitchen counters in the US) usually count a cup as between 4.5 - 6 oz. So, a 10-cup coffee machine brews 60 ounces (depending on the brand). If you pour those 60 ounces into the also very common 12-oz 'to-go cup' (or cofee mug, for that matter), you have 5 servings.

As you see in the other answers, there are different kinds of coffee and different kinds of cups (the ones I just mentioned are not the standard-measure 8 ounce cups).

I'm not sure what a health guru is, but I have seen claims of the reverse - that more coffee is healthier. I'm inclined to agree.

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