What Are Coffee Cups Made Out of?

Updated April 17, 2017

Many different types of cups are used in the consumption of coffee drinks. Common disposable paper cups that are designed for one-time use can be made with different types of fibre that have varying degrees of environmental impact and toxic chemical use. Reusable coffee cups, such as ceramic mugs, are usually offered for coffee intended to be consumed in the store and are often found in people's homes.

Paper Cup

The disposable paper coffee cups found in many commercial coffee shops are made of 100 per cent bleached virgin paperboard. This means that the fibre used to make the paper is not recycled and has been bleached with chemicals to remove the natural pigments from the pulp. Some cups have a certain percentage of post-consumer recycled material, such as Starbucks coffee cups which have been made with 10 per cent recycled material since 2006. The paper is usually coated with polythene, which is a synthetic resin that makes the paper watertight. Polythene, often referred to as "PE" in manufacturing, is the result of the polymerisation of ethylene that is removed from natural gas or distilled from petroleum.

Decomposable Paper Cup

The Geocup is a new product designed to reduce the use of virgin paper products in disposable coffee cups. The Geocup is made from forest-free fibre blends and chemical watch plastics, which means it is produced using paper with less of an impact on forests and plastics manufactured without the use of harmful chemicals. The company uses recycled content, nontoxic chemistry and paper mills which have a minimal impact on the environment to produce the cups. The decomposable and environmentally responsible Geocup is an example of minimal-impact cups designed for one use.

Ceramic Cup

There are three types of ceramic material, each with unique qualities. Porcelain, earthenware and stoneware are all forms of ceramics that can be used to make coffee mugs. All ceramics are made from clay. The types of clay can vary, as can the many different glazes, such as clear or coloured glazes. Porcelain and earthenware are often fashioned with the aid of plaster moulds. A model is formed by hand and used to make the moulds, which are filled with liquid clay and fired in the kiln. The pieces are then removed from the moulds, sanded, glazed and possibly painted.

Stoneware Mug

The firing and glazing processes for stoneware differ from other ceramics, which makes it denser and more durable than porcelain or earthenware. Stoneware is a popular ceramic for making coffee mugs due to its density and its ability to insulate hot liquids. In making stoneware, the clay is fired at 1,196 degrees C, glazed and then refired. The high temperature of the kiln combined with the stronger type of clay results in a stronger, chip-resistant material that is favourable for use with hot beverages.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Residing in Bristol, Va., Mitchell Land began writing for various websites in 2010. He worked as a writing center tutor at Baylor School for three years, where he also contributed music reviews to "Baylor Notes." He attends Greensboro College in North Carolina and studies theater and French.