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How Are Coffee Mugs Made?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: May 27th, 2021

Waking up wouldn't be the same without a good cup of coffee. For this reason, almost everyone has a cabinet full of ceramic mugs at home, from photo mugs printed with family pics to funny coffee mugs with sayings like "I Woke Up Like This."

Have you ever stopped to think about how your favorite mugs are made? Pour yourself a cup of joe and get ready to learn more about the process!

What Are Coffee Mugs Made Of?

Coffee mugs are usually made of ceramic since it's a durable material that won't melt when in contact with hot cocoa, tea, coffee, or soup. Metal, glass, and copper mugs are also used to make mugs, but they're typically designed for cold, alcoholic drinks.

The following materials can all be used to make coffee mugs:


  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Plastic
  • Glass
  • Copper
  • Stainless steel
red mug

Ceramic

Have you ever taken a pottery class? If so, you're likely familiar with ceramics. Ceramics are molded from an inorganic material (usually clay) and fired in a giant oven until the material hardens. At the end of the process, the material is sturdy enough to be used as kitchenware like bowls, plates, and of course, mugs!

porcelain

Porcelain

You'll feel like you're sipping tea with the Queen of England when you use a porcelain mug. Porcelain is a type of fragile ceramic that is often used as part of fine china sets, or for espressos and other small, caffeinated drinks.

plastic

Plastic

It's not a good idea to use plastic mugs for hot drinks since the material will melt. However, this type of mug is excellent for holding fruit, crackers, and other snacks, as well as cold drinks like lemonade and soda.

glass

Glass

Glass mugs are similar to plastic in that they should only be used for cold foods and drinks like beer and water. Unlike plastic, however, glass tends to be longer lasting, and doesn't become brittle over time.

copper

Copper

If you're craving a Moscow Mule, copper mugs are the drinkware for you! These cups are known to keep beverages nice and chilly, which is why they're often used to hold your favorite cocktails.

stainless-steel

Stainless Steel

Commonly used for travel mugs, stainless steel is an amazing insulator. It's a great material to use for coffee mugs since it can hold both hot and cold drinks.

Ceramic is the most common material, but the other types of mugs have their pros and cons as well. It's worth having at least one of each in your kitchen at home, especially if you like your coffee and your Moscow Mules!

Did you know?

What is Better Porcelain or Ceramic Mugs?

Ceramic mugs are better for everyday use, while porcelain should be reserved for holiday dinners or formal occasions. Either way, both types of mugs are worth having in your kitchen at home!

The most notable differences between porcelain and coffee mugs are:

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Porcelain tends to have thinner walls and is a lot more fragile than ceramic.

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You can expect ceramic to keep the coffee hot for a lot longer.

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Usually, porcelain mugs are more expensive than ceramic mugs.

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It's recommended that you hand wash porcelain mugs, while most ceramic mugs can go in the dishwasher.

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Ceramic mugs hold more coffee since they're typically bigger than porcelain mugs.

When it comes to drinking coffee in the morning with breakfast, just stick with ceramic! Porcelain, on the other hand, is a type of ceramic that you probably won't use as often. These mugs are great for weddings and for coffee with your pie after Thanksgiving dinner.

Are you curious to learn more about ceramic vs. porcelain? Check out this video!

mugs contain lead mobile

Do Ceramic Mugs Contain Lead?

mugs contain lead

A report published in 2010 by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) found that lead may be present in the glazes or decorations covering the surface of some traditional pottery. This means traces of lead can leach into the food or drink served in this dishware.

But don't freak out just yet! Not all ceramic mugs and dinnerware contains lead. It just depends on how it's made. A majority of today's manufacturers use non-lead glazes to make their mugs, plates, slow cookers, and bowls.

So how do you know which mugs are safe and which ones are risky? The FDA suggests to proceed with caution when using any of the following:

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Handmade mugs

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Mugs with a crude appearance or weird shape

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Damaged mugs

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Any mug purchased from a flea market or garage sale

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Earthenware with labels that say "contains lead" or "not safe for food"

Knowledge is power, and it's your job as a consumer to do your research. You don't have to be scared every time you sip from a mug, but it's worth keeping the FDA's guidelines in mind!

How Ceramic Mugs Are Made

The process of making coffee mugs is kind of like baking cookies. You need all the right ingredients and an oven to make your masterpiece!

Ceramic mugs are mass produced in the following steps:

  • Step One: Clay powder, feldspar, and water are churned together in a giant mixer for 15 hours. They're then molded into long clay logs.
  • Step Two: To form the base of the mug, the clay logs are fed into separate molds that are shaped like cylindrical coffee mugs.
  • Step Three: The handle is attached to the mug's base using a mixture of clay and water known as the slip.
  • Step Four: It's now time to clean up the mugs. A factory worker removes excess clay and dusts off any debris or dirt.
  • Step Five: The mugs are painted in the desired color. This is either automated and done by machines, or painted by hand for more elegant, one-of-a-kind mugs.
  • Step Six: Once the mugs are completely dry, they are put on a conveyor belt and fed through a giant kiln.
  • Step Seven (Optional): Each mug is customized with a text or image via screen printing or dye sublimation.
  • Step Eight: The mugs are packaged and shipped to retailers.
Step 1
Mill

Mix the Materials

The process begins with raw material being fed into a grinder and crushed into clay powder. This is known as milling. The powder is then added into a mixer with quartz, feldspar, and water for 15 hours and later fed into molding tubes that turn them into clay logs.

Step 2
Mug bases

Form the Mug's Base

The clay logs are cut into portions, placed into a single use mold, and formed into the shape of a mug. Once the mold is dry, the mug is removed by hand to prepare for the next step.

Step 3
Adding the handle

Add the Handle

At this point, the handles have already gone through the first two steps and just need to be attached. To accomplish this, they are dipped into a mixture of clay and water known as the slip. The slip acts as an adhesive binding for the handle to adhere to the mug.

Step 4
clean clay

Remove Excess Clay

Any excess clay is removed and any rough surfaces are smoothed down. The mug is then rinsed of any dust or debris.

Step 5
Glaze

Glaze With Color

The mugs are ready to receive their color and glaze. Every coffee cup is either painted via an automated process, or painted by hand to ensure quality coating. They're then set aside to dry for at least 12 hours.

Step 6
Kiln

Fire in the Kiln

Once the mugs are completely dry, they are ready to go into the kiln, which is basically a giant oven. Rows and rows of mugs are put onto a conveyor belt and ran through a kiln that's about 2,200°F.

Step 7 (Optional)
Cups

Print a Design

While this isn't always the case, some mugs are customized with a saying or an image. Take for example the picture here, which shows Allstate's logo printed on one side of the mug, and their slogan printed on the other.

Step 8
Boxes

Package the Mugs

The mugs are finally ready! They're wrapped in cellophane or bubble wrap, packaged in cardboard boxes, and shipped to online or brick-and-mortar retailers.

Grab your popcorn and watch this video to see how ceramic mugs are made step by step!

How to Print on Coffee Mugs

Plain mugs are fine, but it's much more fun to sip from coffee cups that have been custom printed. Often times, these can be a bright way to start your morning!

Mugs are printed with a design, image, or logo via one of the following processes:

Coffee cup

Screen Printing

Screen printing is very common in the customization world. It's a good technique to use if you only need 1 or 2 ink colors in your design.

Coffee cup

Digital or Sublimation Printing

You can print a colorful graphic or even a family photo using dye sublimation! This printing technique includes an unlimited amount of ink colors in the price.

Coffee cup

Deboss

Add some texture to your mugs by using debossing. Your design or text is seared into the material, resulting in an elegant, professional look.

Coffee cup

Engraving

Engraving is another great technique to use if you need professional coffee cups. The design is etched into the walls using a high-powered laser, which is a lot more permanent than ink.

Coffee cup

Paint or Sharpies

Mugs decorated with paint or Sharpies can't be washed, but they're great as home décor. You can use one to hold the pens on your desk, or as a little accent pieces on the shelves in your kitchen.

Did you know?

Did you wait too long to eat your soup or drink your coffee? A majority of ceramic mugs are microwave-safe! Make sure you remove the lid, and you're good to reheat your food and drinks.

Do Ceramic Mugs Break Easily?

Coffee mug

Ceramic mugs won't break easily. The only risk is dropping one on the floor, which could shatter the mug into a bunch of pieces.

The handle is the most sensitive area of a ceramic mug. For this reason, you want to be careful when you load your mugs into the dishwasher. Keep the handles from knocking into each other, and always be sure to put your drinkware on the top rack.

Coffee mug

Can a Ceramic Mug Be Fixed?

Oh no! Your favorite coffee mug fell on the kitchen floor. The good news is hairline cracks can be easily repaired. Just try any of the following:

Epxoy glue Source: homedepot.com

Super or Epoxy Glue

Brands like Gorilla Glue make super glue or epoxy glue that are great for general repairs. Use these adhesives to attach the handle back to your mug.

Broken china Source: designmuseumshop.com

Kintsugi Repair Kit

An old Japanese tradition called kintsugi involves using a mixture of gold, silver, or platinum to fix ceramics. You can buy repair kits inspired by this technique online through Etsy.

Glass of milk

Milk

It might sound crazy, but you can fix a cracked piece in a ceramic mug by covering it with milk and warming it on a low heat for over an hour. The crack should reseal itself like magic!

Once your coffee cup is repaired, you should no longer use it to drink your coffee! You might cut your lip on the rim, and if that's not enough, the FDA warns against using broken mugs. It's much better to repurpose your patched up mug into something new instead!

How Can You Reuse an Old Mug?

You don't have to donate old or broken mugs to your local Goodwill, or worse, throw them in the recycling bin. There are plenty of ways you can repurpose them into something new instead!

Cups with pens mykarmastream.com

Hold Pens

The pens on your desk are rolling around all over the place! Keep them organized by placing them inside of an old coffee mug. The more decorative, the better.

Cups with makeup brushes mykarmastream.com

Store Makeup

Your prettiest coffee mugs can be part of your beauty routine! Simply put one on your vanity. and use it to hold your makeup brushes, lipstick, and eyeliner.

Cup with plants hometalk.com

Plant a Garden

Create your very own Zen garden! All you need is a few rocks, good natural lighting, and coffee mugs to use as the planters.

Cup Chandelier diyspins.com

Create a Chandelier

Are you hosting an Alice in Wonderland themed party? Create a coffee mug chandelier to put over the food table!

Organize Clutter architectureartdesigns.com

Organize Clutter

Hang a few coffee mugs onto a wooden plank, and you can use the handles as makeshift hooks. This helps you organize clutter in messy areas like your mudroom or garage.

Cup lamp diyspins.com

Build a Lamp

If you know a thing or two about electricity, you can use your skills to create a whimsical table lamp. Simply fit an old tea cup or coffee mug around the bulb, and let it shine!

Cup candle diyspins.com

Turn It Into a Candle

You can make cute DIY candles using old coffee mugs. These make excellent holiday gifts for your family and friends!

cup with cake diys.com

Serve Cake

Why buy a cake stand when you can make one instead? All you need to do is set a plate on top of an upside down mug!

Why Do We Love Coffee Mugs?

WOman with coffee cups

An article in Psychology Today reports that 60% of people have an emotional attachment to their favorite mug. Our mugs help us get the day started and make us feel at ease.

If they're printed with a cute picture, funny saying, or movie character, they can also be a reflection of our personalities. It's never a bad idea to have a ton of coffee cups in your kitchen at home!

WOman with coffee cups

Stats for Success

Stats 1 icon

64% of Americans drink coffee, whether it's picked up at Starbucks or brewed at home.

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400 million cups of coffee are consumed per day in the United States.

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On average, we drink about 3 cups of coffee per day.

The Bottom Line

It's not like coffee mugs grow on trees! Whether they're made from ceramic, porcelain, or some other material like glass or plastic, it takes hard work and craftsmanship to make them from scratch. Treat your mugs with care, and you can use them for your coffee for years to come!

Quality Logo Products are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!

4 random promtional products 4 random promotional products tablet
Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

Deneen, N. (2019, February 18). Coffee Statistics 2020 U.S. | How Many People Drink Coffee? Retrieved from, https://deneenpottery.com/coffee-statistics-2018/

E-Imports. Coffee Statistics 2020. Retrieved from, https://www.e-importz.com/coffee-statistics.php

Peterson, B. (2020, August 13). Slip Definition for Pottery and Ceramics. Retrieved from, https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/slip-in-pottery-making-2746010

Science Learning Hub. (2020 April 27). What Are Ceramics? Retrieved from, https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/1769-what-are-ceramics

Arneberg, B. (2018, March 6). Why Copper Mugs Are Essential for Every home Bar and Kitchen. Retrieved from, https://willowandeverett.com/blogs/blog/why-copper-mugs-are-essential-for-every-home-bar-and-kitchen

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Questions and Answers on Lead-Glazed Traditional Pottery. Retrieved from, https://www.fda.gov/food/metals-and-your-food/questions-and-answers-lead-glazed-traditional-pottery

Jacewicz, N. (2017, December 8). Can Your Ceramic Cookware Give You Lead Poisoning? Retrieved from, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/12/08/563808879/can-your-ceramic-cookware-give-you-lead-poisoning

Architectural Digest. (2018, August 19). The Most Glamorous Way to Fix a Broken Ceramic. Retrieved from, https://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/article/the-most-glamorous-way-to-fix-a-broken-ceramic

Smith, S. (2011, January 10). Repair Cracked China With Milk! Retrieved from, https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/what-does-milk-have-to-do-witc-136442

Andrews, L. (2016, February 2). 6 Reasons Were Emotionally Attached to Our Favorite Mugs. Retrieved from, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201602/6-reasons-were-emotionally-attached-our-favorite-mugs