Do coffee cup sizes really matter?

TL;DR: Yes.

(By default coffee cups are done in American sizing, conversion is: 8oz – 240ml, 12oz – 350ml, 16oz – 470ml)

The issue has always been with the different sizing for have-here and takeaway coffees.  Our regular size coffees have always matched – both are 12oz.

The issue was with small coffees.  Our have-here cup was in the stock standard 6oz tulip cup manufactured by ACM in Italy (they were very popular in cafes until going bankrupt a few years ago).  Our takeaway small however was 8oz, a full 2oz bigger (60ml). There was no difference in the amount of coffee; both were done with double shots.  The issue was there was more milk in takeaway cups, meaning takeaway customers were getting more for their money.

small-cup-originalThe old 8oz ACM small cups

I first noticed this when a good proportion of our customers were asking for their small flat whites in takeaways cups, even though they were having here.  Even today, some customers still get coffees in takeaways cups but this is because the coffee stays hotter for longer (or so they reckon).

The first option for us would be to downsize the takeaway small coffee cup – feedback from our customers was that the 6oz takeaway cup was too small, and they wouldn’t be happy with it. The only option left was to increase the size of our have-here small cup.

Another issue I wanted to fix at the same time was our 12oz cups were latte glasses. Customers weren’t able to drink their coffees immediately as the cup would be too hot to hold.  The best solution to this would be to swap to a coffee cup with a handle, thus avoiding the burnt fingers issue.

I know that cafes are judged on their attention to the small details, so I began the worldwide hunt for cups that would be suitable.  It was at that same time, we decided to add another larger cup size (16oz), mainly for our elderly customers who are after a much larger, milky coffee.

We couldn’t purchase just any coffee cups, they would have to be commercial cups.  The reason for this is domestic crockery hasn’t been designed to put up with the punishing environment of a café.  In any one day, a cup may go from cold, to full of hot coffee, to cold once it’s been drunk, to very hot as it goes through the sterilizer after being cleaned (repeated maybe 5-10 times every day).  This constant change in temperature, plus being crashed and bashed about means domestic crockery doesn’t last very long.  This is why a commercial dinner plate costs around $40 each.

The first stop was NZ manufacturer ACME (from the clever peeps behind Prefab in Wellington). We bought samples of their cups, and they are great, but they only have 6oz and 12oz cups (similar offerings to ACM). They had nothing in the 16oz size.

After months of searching and having samples sent from all over the world to us, we ended up with the Cremaware cups (from Espresso Supply).  They had all the sizes we needed, and the samples we bought over were great looking and very sturdy.  We put in our order back in September, and shipped them all the way from Seattle, WA.

old-and-newOld ACM cup (6oz) on the left, new Cremaware cup (8oz) on the right

We are six months in now, the Cremaware cups are holding up very well. All our takeaway and have-have cup sizes match exactly, and we’ve had good feedback about them from customers.

As well as the 8oz, 12oz and 16oz sizes, we also bought across their massive 19oz cups (560ml).  We do offer these as a size (XL), but they are too big for most of our customers.

small-large-cups8oz cup vs the huge 19oz cup

My only complaint is because the plates fit all the sizes, they look too big for the smallest cup.  Most of our coffees are in regular, so the plates don’t seem to be too big.

I’m really happy with our cups now, and even though it took six months of research and samples (and a fair amount of money), it was all really worth it. According to our coffee supplier (Bell Tea & Coffee Company) we are the only cafe in NZ, that they know of, that’s solved this issue.

Our next big change is to get custom Tuihana takeaway cups printed from our friends at Innocent Packaging.

Next time you’re in your favourite café, ask them – why do your small have-here and takeaway cups sizes not match?  I’d be interested to hear their excuses… 🙂