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Do people really drink a 4-ounce cup of coffee?

This has always made me scratch my head.

We've used a Cuisinart coffeemaker for years and years, and almost every time I fill the carafe I ask my self why I'm filling it to FOUR cups to make myself one moderate-sized mug of coffee. Seems as if all coffeemakers share this same measure (at least the ones I've seen).

A "standard" cup of coffee (according to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasse_%C... ) is 4 ounces. I get that! BUT................ who drinks that small a cup??? That's just slightly larger than an espresso or demi-tasse cup (which is supposedly 2 to 3 ounces.

So............... why do manufacturers use that small a measure? Just because it's a "recognized" standard? Recognized where and by whom these days?

Not a huge issue, but I AM curious if this bothers other people and what you all think about it. (Obviously a little too much time on my hands this afternoon. ;o])

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  1. I use a Mr. Coffee and fill it up to 8 cups. I think it gets me 3-4 mugs. Never really thought about it, I just know if I fill it to 8 cups I won't run out of my morning coffee.

    1. Does anyone drink a 4 oz cup of coffee? Nope.
      They use that size because they can sell their machines -- if they said "makes 2 cups" no one would buy! Anything bigger would take up too much counterspace I think, especially if you have those thermal carafes -- that's what reduces the size of coffee held I think.

      1. I have a Nespresso machine at home and usually have a cup of coffee from 2 pods set to espresso size. So if that is 2oz, then I drink a 4oz cup of coffee.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ocshooter

          Isn't that a double espresso, and not a cup of coffee?

        2. I just checked the coffee cup from an Arcuroc dinnerware set, and it holds 6 fl. oz. to the brim and 4 fl. oz. to a normal level for serving. This seems right to me, in the context of formal dining. I've always known that the standard coffee cup was based on this type of cup, and have never thought it a problem.

          As a regular coffee drinker, however, I have larger cups at home, and get larger cups in coffee shops. This is just not an issue, in my opinion. It would be far more confusing if some coffeemaker maker decided to use a new unit.

          1. From what I understand that measurement is from the days when people actually drank their coffee out of a cup and saucer, which holds a lot less. My husband likes his coffee very hot, so his favorite mug is short and heavy and only holds about 4 oz--he hates travel mugs.

            3 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              "From what I understand that measurement is from the days when people actually drank their coffee out of a cup and saucer, which holds a lot less."

              yes, this is the reason. Mugs are a relative latecomer to the coffee party.

              1. re: escondido123

                and that cup and saucer was actually a teacup.................
                The first coffees brewed in Europe were by the turkish/Greek stovetop method in a tiny brass pot and served in what we call demitasse (half cup) cups...half cup equals 4 ounces

                1. re: escondido123

                  I finally broke down and bought a Thermos E5 TherMax travel mug. Pricey (around 20 bucks), but it keeps my coffee piping hot for at least an hour, and quite hot for 4 hours - as long as I remember to twist close the lid.

                  In the afternoon I use it for cold icewater - keeps the water ice cold for 5-6 hours easily.

                  Of course that mug is around 16-18 ounces - 4 regular so-called "cups" of coffee.

                2. People who don't live in the US, usually.

                  1. I always thought a standard 'cup' of coffee was 5 ounces?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: John E.

                      It could be 5 fl. oz. Proctor Silex and Hamilton Beach both state that the unit cup for coffeemakers is 4-5 fl. oz., which is an "industry standard."


                    2. My husband drinks his coffee out of what I call a grandmother teacup with a saucer, probably about 4 oz. He rarely drinks more than half the cup, but has to have it every morning anyway. Never used a mug, guess that's how he grew up (and he did grow up in the US).

                      1. I've always been annoyed at coffee makers' measuring systems because I've never understood what kind of cup they're talking about. I fill my Melita to just above the 5-cup mark for our morning coffee, which I drink in a teacup (with saucer!) and my husband in an identical but larger cup to accommodate more milk and floating bread or biscotti. There's a little dividend of coffee for seconds. No idea how many ounces in the cups, but I would guess 4 and 6. I arrived at my formula by experimenting on my own coffee maker with my own cups and am therefore helpless if I'm asked to make coffee at anybody else's house.
                        A demitasse may be 2 oz, but an espresso -- a real one -- is 1 ounce max.

                        1. Europe drinks 2- and 4-ounce coffees all the time (and has little cups to serve each size) -- but they don't use ounces, and I can't imagine why you'd mark a US coffeemaker as such.

                          We get 4 cups of coffee out of our machine, which works out great, since there are just 2 coffee drinkers in the house.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: sunshine842

                            US coffeemakers are marked in 'cups', not ounces. I've just gotten used to multiplying by 3 or 4, depending on the size of mug we're serving.

                            We changed from a 12-cup machine to a 14-cup when the last one died, just so we could serve a 5th person without having to make a fresh pot. Apparently there are not a lot of machines that make that much as we had to order on line when one cracked recently (our fault, not the carafe's). 12-cups is more typical.

                            1. re: Midlife

                              Did anyone say they were marked in ounces? My problem is not understanding what kind of cups they mean. An espresso, made in a bar, is 1 ounce, or 30 ml, which hardly makes a dent in the cup. My demitasse at home holds about 3 oz filled to the brim, the teacup filled to a normal coffee or tea level about 5 oz, and the larger café au lait cup, I forget, but it's not meant to be filled with coffee anyway, so it hardly matters. The five-cup mark on my Melitta (European, not American) is equivalent to 3 teacups, so about 15 oz. However, it has a double scale (I just noticed after years), 5 small = 4 large for the 15 oz. So I still don't know what kind of cups it's talking about. But to answer the original question, 4 oz does seem a bit stingy for a regular non-mug, non-demi cup.

                              1. re: mbfant

                                >>"Europe drinks 2- and 4-ounce coffees all the time (and has little cups to serve each size) -- but they don't use ounces, and I can't imagine why you'd mark a US coffeemaker as such."<< - sunshine 482

                                I may have misinterpreted sunhine482's comment to mean that he/she was suggesting that. I see now that wasn't the meaning.

                                My question was (I think) trying to get at the reason these things use a 'standard' that doesn't seem to be very standard, except on Wikipedia and wherever that general measure comes from.

                                1. re: Midlife

                                  It is a "standard," more or less (actually a convention). Take a place setting from any typical set of dinnerware, and you will find that the cup holds about six fl. oz. when filled to the brim. A comfortable level is four to five fl. oz. That's where it comes from. Wikipedia has nothing to do with it — Wikipedia is an authority on nothing.

                                  When it comes to what people actually want in their coffee cup, and considering that most coffee nowadays is drunk outside of a formal dinner, the preferred size will be all over the map, so a consensus would be impossible to arrive at that way.

                                  1. re: GH1618

                                    Is there something wrong with the cited Wiki article? I don't think so. But I also don't think it addresses the question.

                                    1. re: GH1618

                                      I would have agreed with your claim that the cup in a 'typical set of dinnerware' holds 6 oz - until I measured the cup in my old Correlle set - it holds 9 oz! So are you wrong, or is my set not typical?

                                      I'm learning to check all sources, including other posters!

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        I think your set is unusual -- my Corelle cups hold 6 ounces, if you leave enough room to add milk and stir it a bit.

                                        I bought my set in the late 90s (and yes, I just got up and went into the kitchen to measure!)

                                        My mom's Corelle is even older, and she has the same size coffee cups as I do.

                                        (the funky old harvest-gold ones were much smaller - probably really a 4-oz "cup")

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I would say that is not a typical dinner set, but I'm not going to survey hundreds of sets to find out. I checked one formal set and one casual set, which is all I have, and they are approximately the same. My recollection is that other cups I have used at sit-down dinners tend to be similar, but there will obviously be some variation. In any case, the coffeemaker companies seem to have arrived at a convention, and that's that.

                              2. Which came first, calling 4oz of coffee a cup or calling 64oz of milk a gallon?

                                28 Replies
                                1. re: jhopp217

                                  "a cup" in this instance refers to the drinking vessel, while 64 oz is a unit of measurement.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    A gallon is 128 fluid ounces (in the US) and it's been that way for a long time.

                                    1. re: GH1618

                                      wasn't me -- he said it....but my statement doesn't change.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Wow, so nobody here is over 40? I remember supermarkets back in the day advertising a "gallon" which was 64oz. I'm well aware of the number of ounces in a gallon and that a cup is a term when it comes to coffee. People really need to relax and smile a little on CH

                                        1. re: jhopp217

                                          pfft. Forty isn't even in the rear-view mirror any more.

                                          You missed my imitation of a teenager, shaking my head and pointing your way. Wasn't me - it was HIM!

                                  2. re: jhopp217

                                    64 oz of milk is a half gallon......not that it changes your argument! Most "half gallons" now have shrunk to 58 oz anyway.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      I've never seen a 58 ounce half gallon. Milk is still sold in 64oz 1/2 gallon containers around here, BUT Juice has been cut to fifty-NINE ounce containers.

                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                        Yeah that's what I was thinking of, OJ. I don't buy milk, but since it's so highly subsidized I guess they can afford that extra few ounces!

                                      2. re: coll

                                        Ice cream, too - the "half-gallons" are now usually 56oz, which is 1.75 quarts, not a half gallon. Haagen Dazs "pints" are now only 14oz, not 16oz. Very irritating.

                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                          Who is calling those 'pints' and 'half-gallons'? The manufacturer or you? Why does it matter whether a container contains 56oz or 64?

                                          talks about changes in the 'nickle candy bar' in the Depression years.

                                          But there have been lots of threads complaining about changing product size rather than product price.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            "Who is calling those 'pints' and 'half-gallons'? The manufacturer or you? Why does it matter whether a container contains 56oz or 64?"

                                            The manufactures did for years. Of course the size of candy bars change, but when an item is sold by volume (or weight) and is reduced because of the goal of reducing costs and increasing profits, it is annoying. Just think of the outcry if a quart, 1/2 gallon, or gallon of milk were reduced in size. One thing I cannot figure out in these scenarios is why the 60 watt lightbulbs at Sam's Club were reduced to 55 watts several years ago.

                                            1. re: John E.

                                              >>>The nanufactures did for years. <<<

                                              Nonsense. To do this would be a major violation of FTC regs and result in huge fines. It's fraud and no mfr would or has done this. We see a familar-looking pkg size and assume it's the same but we don't read the fine print and that's what they assume we will do and they get away with this. But they can't -- and don't -- say it's a half-gallon and then only put 56 oz in it, and you can't present any evidence that this has ever happened.

                                              As to the light bulb issue -- this was mandated by the geniuses in Congress, so you can thank your local gov't reps for that.

                                              1. re: acgold7

                                                The manufacturers sold ice cream by the pint, 1/2 gallon, and 5 quart pail for years and years. Do you dispute that? You are taking my post much too literally. Candy bars were not traditionally sold by either weight or volume, dairy products have and still are today.

                                                There is a local poultry processor that sells chickens and chicken parts in odd sizes such as 56 ounces at a set price. I only buy meat that is priced by the pound. They are attempting to make it more difficult for a shopper to comparison shop. I don't play their game.

                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  >>>You are taking my post much too literally.<<<


                                                  Paul: Who is calling those 'pints' and 'half-gallons'? The manufacturer or you?

                                                  John: The manufactures did for years.

                                                  Once again you are making specific, clear, seriously unfounded and baseless statements and then claming you didn't. I don't think that anyone is misinterpreting what you said outright.

                                                  1. re: acgold7

                                                    My point was what anybody was 'calling' them. My point was what they WERE. They were pints, 1/2 gallons, and 5 quart buckets.

                                              2. re: John E.

                                                Dreyer's recently reduced the size of their ice-cream package to less than a half-gallon, and I'm sure they never called the new package a half-gallon. I am not aware of any instance of an ice-cream manufacturer calling anything but 64 fluid ounces a "half-gallon." You haven't documented it, and I don't believe it.

                                                I was annoyed by the reduction in package size until I decided I had to reduce my sugar intake. Now I rarely buy it, so don't care.

                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  I can understand a manufacturer calling a 16oz container a pint, but I seriously doubt if they called the 14oz size that.

                                                  With light bulbs, you need to look at more than the 'watts'; lumins and life are also relevant, and a number of other construction details.

                                                2. re: paulj

                                                  If you keep the price the same and decrease the amount sold, it equates to an increase in price, which is probably why people have issue with product size changing.

                                                  We unfortunately have had to leave our favorite Thai restaurant -- in the past 6 months the prices have risen gradually (50 cents at a time) to equate to a 30 percent increase in price. At the same time, portion sizes have decreased by an equal 30 percent. Squeezed from both ends, so we've had to find a new local.

                                                  I think people feel the same way about product pricing and size at their local grocery store.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    I am the one calling them pints or half-gallons, and the reason I put them in quotations is because I was talking about the phenomenon that John E. discussed above. For years, a half-gallon of ice cream (or a pint for Haagen Dazs) was the standard size, and consumers came to expect that ice cream sold in that size container was indeed a pint or half-gallon. Recently, several brands have shrunk those containers ever so slightly, while maintaining their appearance, resulting in people thinking they're getting a half-gallon when they're really only getting 56oz - a sneaky roundabout price increase. It also makes it harder to compare the price of products across brands, because some are still selling traditionally-sized containers.

                                                    I do read labels and I know quite well they're not calling 56oz a half-gallon, because it isn't one. However, I think the quiet shrinkage is a deceptive way to raise prices, and I try not to patronize companies who do it.

                                                    1. re: biondanonima

                                                      The reduction in size of the Dreyer's package wasn't "ever so slightly," it was obvious. I didn't like the price increase, but I wouldn't call it "sneaky." There are many other examples of package sizes being reduced. We have unit pricing on the shelves in the state where I live, so comparisons are easy.

                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                        It may be only in California but our markets all include a 'per measure' cost on their shelf price tags. So............. you can see the per-ounce price of the ice cream you're looking at and compare it with the same measure cost of another. Looks like our legislature did something right on this one, or it may have been the markets themselves to highlight comparative value in their house brands. Either way it is very helpful.

                                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                                          The point may have been made upthread, I don't recall but the traditional 1/2 gallon 'brick' of ice cream is now 1.5 quarts in many instances, 1.75 in others. Or the packaging is in oval containers which many consumers still expect to be a 1/2 gallon but of course most time are not.

                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                            I really don't want to get in the middle of this, JohnE, but you're defending a principle here and not (IMHO) making that specific point as clearly as you could.

                                                            What you're saying (if I may) is that manufacturers are taking advantage of consumers' naivete when they reduce content weights and volumes of 'traditional' packages. What I see coming back at you is from consumers who aren't that naive.

                                                            I started this topic with a rather tongue-in-cheek question and got back replies that suggest I shouldn't be annoyed by a cup measure that is simply a useful comparative. I knew that before I asked the question. I find my intention misunderstood often here, but usually chalk it up to my offbeat view of things.

                                                            1. re: Midlife

                                                              I don't understand this post of yours at all. I simply joined in lamenting the fact that usually ice cream no longer comes in 1/2 gallons but instead 1.5 or 1.75 quarts.

                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                It's possible some other poster was being given a hard time about pleading the case that reduced package sizes are annoying and less than proper.

                                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                                  I too believe the reduced package sizes for ice cream are annoying and less than proper (deceptive). I also understand that it is the manufacturers' choice as to how they package their products.

                                                3. I own and use demitasse cups w/ saucers at home (a little less than 4 oz) with guests, and regular tasse (4 oz cups) when not entertaining.

                                                  I also use the Bialetti stove top espresso maker (3 cup Moka model) so it fits well with my demands for both styles.

                                                  1. As others have noted, people used to drink coffee from 'cups', not mugs. Current drip coffee measures probably have remained constant since machines were introduced in the early 70s, and even then probably took their clue from how percolators were sized.

                                                    I was looking at old style stove top percolators, which now are mostly sold to campers, e.g. Coleman and GSI brands. Those are sized by 'cup'. REI has refined that a bit, by using 'servings'
                                                    "Maximum quantity of coffee brewed is approximately equal to eight 5 fl. oz. servings of coffee"

                                                    1. We have some formal china - porcelain, actually - but there are no cups with it, because it's 19th-C. French, and coffee was never an integral part of dinner service. We do have a mixed-bag collection of mugs, all but a couple of which hold a measured cup or better, and some espresso cups too. There is no place in our lives for the kind of 4-ounce cups our parents had. When I was very much younger I wasted a lot of energy being annoyed about the essential wrongness of calling four or five ounces "a cup", but I'm over that now. I simply ignore the cup markings on the side of coffeemakers and use my coffee mug to measure the water.

                                                      1. Every pot I make in our Cuisinart G&B is a full 12 cups. Get two fills of my 32 oz. Bubba cup on that.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: njmarshall55

                                                          How are you getting 64 ounces from a 48 ounce coffeemaker? Cuisinart cup = 4 oz x 12 = 48). Sounds like Bubba's drinkin' short cups. ;o]

                                                          1. re: Midlife

                                                            I'll bet his coffee maker considers a cup to be 5oz, which would give him 60oz of coffee if filled to the 12 cup mark.

                                                            1. re: biondanonima

                                                              See...... that's the point of my question. If there's more than one standard for what a "cup" is then THAT IS ANNOYING. I'm going with the 4 ounce standard until further notice. ;o]

                                                        2. I use a mug that holds about 10 oz but I fill it only half way, meaning a 4.5 to 5 oz brewed cup of coffee, maximum, including half and half. Why? I like my coffee hot, not tepid, not lukewarm, not at room temperature, and not cold. But I don't like to gulp it, I sip it. (and yes, I warm up the half and half).

                                                          If I want more, and many times I don't, I go back and pour another cup, usually not for 45 minutes or an hour, though.

                                                          It's probably at least as much about a ritual that starts my day as it is the caffeine and it certainly isn't about slaking thirst; for that, I drink water.

                                                          1. If you look at older china services, you will see small coffee cups. Most of us now drink coffee from mugs. The table I use for coffee states that a cup of coffee is 5 fl. oz. The ratios given for coffee to water are:: 8 C water to 6.5 T of coffee; 6 C water to 4.5 T of coffee, etc. I think if the 5 fl oz "cup" were to be reworked, you'd have to adjust the tablespoons, and probably no one wants to disturb the old, decades old formula..

                                                            1. When we make coffee in the morning, we make a small pot and pour it into a thermos bottle.
                                                              Then, I fill my small coffee cup (about 3 ounces?) up about halfway and drink, refilling little by little when necessary to make sure the coffee in the cup is warm.

                                                              1. a variation on your theme -- one of the most intimidating cooking (party prep) tasks for me is figuring out those somewhat horrifying big perc coffee makers (*like what one finds in community halls and church kitchens) --- we like good coffee (not weak) and i have googled and fiddled and fretted about it.

                                                                i add cinnamon in the dry grounds up top - to boost the "richness" factor.

                                                                but the four ounce designation must be from the cup and saucer era. some higher-end establishments still serve in cup and saucer (obviously) and it gets so cold, so fast. I'm not used to that factor.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Georgia Strait

                                                                  If you don't know what the capacity is, find a container of a known size (a gallon jug would be a good start...)

                                                                  Fill the urn with plain water, counting how many jugs it takes to fill it.

                                                                  Capacity found.