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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
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    Is your question not answered by this previous one? cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/25041/… – Cascabel 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
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    @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.) – Cascabel 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
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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
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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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It's not the size of the cup, it's the amount of coffee in it. But if you want a more objective answer, things start to get murky because different coffee experts define a cup different things depending on their agenda.

Most of the big-name percolator companies including KitchenAid, Bunn, Mr. Coffee, etc. advertise a "cup of coffee" as being 5-oz. because it makes their coffee pots seem larger.

Folgers says a "cup of coffee" is 6 oz. because they work with these percolators, but they want people to use more coffee grounds.

Starbucks sells cups of coffee at 8 oz. at the lowest because what do they care? They want to make customers happy.

It gets even more muddled when you start getting into commercial urns and percolators who consider a cup anywhere between the demitasse size of 2 ounces to the imperial size of 8 ounces.

It's actually a very controversial topic. There are some camps who believe that a cup is 5 ounces always and there are other camps who think we should only go by the 8-ounce cup for simplicity.

If you're interested, there's more information about the debate here: http://www.jesrestaurantequipment.com/jesrestaurantequipmentblog/coffee-carafe-sizing/

  • Hello. This is an interesting viewpoint you are bringing into the discussion. I must note that we are a purely culinary site, and we don't discuss nutrition or make health claims. This is why I removed a sentence from your post. The rest is a good first post - welcome to Seasoned advice! – rumtscho Nov 20 '14 at 18:54
  • It's amazing how often the answer boils down to "it depends." Thanks for giving the complete picture! – Chris Bergin Dec 20 '16 at 16:39
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I did a small measurement on my Mr. Coffee pot and got between 5.2 - 5.5 U.S. fluid ounces per "cup", definitely not the six. I then looked at the instruction manual for a Mr. Coffee coffee maker, and it says one "cup" is equal to 5 ounces.

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Short version:

Effective July 16, 2016 in the US, the official serving size of a cup of coffee is 12 ounces.


Long version:

For purposes of nutritional labeling, the US Food and Drug Administration has set "Reference amounts customarily consumed (RACC) per eating occasion" for common foods.

The official reference amount for a sweetened cup of coffee was 8 ounces (240 mL).

Interesting, that black coffee has no reference amount. I believe that black coffee is exempt from nutrition labeling (and reference amounts) because black coffee has scant nutritional value.

You notice I stated "was 8 ounces." Effective July 16, 2016, the official description of a cup of coffee will be 12 ounces (21 CFR 101.12 it's about a quarter way down the page).

The Federal Register entry announcing the change said:

Since that time, consumption patterns have changed so that the RACC for some beverages has increased from 8 oz to 12 oz. Because the consumption amount has increased for certain beverages, such products for which the RACC has increased may appropriately no longer be able to make ‘‘free’’ claims. As noted previously, we intend to consider in a future rulemaking issues such as whether any changes in eligibility for claims would assist consumers in constructing healthy diets and whether the criteria for claims remain appropriate.

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A standard cup according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America is defined as 8.25 grams of roasted coffee beans in 150 ml of water.

  • I think this is your source. It's not totally clear they actually mean that 150mL is a standard cup; they just describe that as a ratio, and then provide a standard for adjusting for vessel size, and say that "cupping vessels" shall be 7-9 fluid ounces (207 to 266 mL). – Cascabel Dec 19 '16 at 20:44
  • Hello Pedram, I just approved an edit that removed the caffeine suggestions. The reason is that nutrition is off-topic on the site. You can learn more about our scope in the help center, cooking.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic. – rumtscho Dec 19 '16 at 20:56
  • I think this is a valid answer. They say "when adjusting for vessel size" which, to me, implies that a standard "cupping" is 150 ml and 8.25 grams. – Caleb Dec 20 '16 at 0:16

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