After a busy day kicking shins, let’s get down to the important stuff


The secret to a better cup of morning joe might simply be choosing the right coloured coffee mug.

The colour of a coffee mug can alter the way coffee tastes, according to a recent study, which was conducted in Australia and tested the influence that three different coloured mugs – one white, one blue and one clear glass – had on the perception of different flavour points. The researchers served 18 participants the same cup of coffee, in one of the three similarly shaped but differently coloured vessels, and then asked them to rate their sweetness, aroma, bitterness, quality and acceptability.

What they found is that the coffee-drinkers tended to experience the same cup of coffee differently depending on the colour of the glassware they drank it from.

You have to pity the Australian tax payers that paid for this important research.

“The colour of the mug really does seem to have an impact,” said Charles Spence, head of the crossmodal research laboratory at Oxford University and one of the study’s authors. “We found a particularly significant difference between the white mug and the clear one.”

Specifically, the white mug was associated with a more “intense” (or bitter) tasting cup of coffee, and the clear glass mug was not. The blue mug, meanwhile, proved to be “kind of an intermediate.”

The opposite was true for perceived sweetness – participants noted less sweetness when drinking from the white mug than they did when drinking from both the blue and clear glass mugs. Differences observed in the rest of the flavour points were statistically insignificant, because of the small scale of the experiment. But Spence plans to extend it to a larger group, and expects to find a similar pattern.

“I have been working for more than a decade studying the impact colours can have on the experience of food,” he said. “It doesn’t just happen in laboratories – it happens in restaurants, too.”

Oh my.  Decade of troughing over food taste depending on what colour plate it is served on.

The world must have run out of real problems to solve.

In the case of coffee, specifically, the researchers have a hunch. The colour brown, they believe, might be something people associate with bitterness.

“The white mug may have influenced the perceived brownness of the coffee and this, in turn, may have influenced the perceived intensity (and sweetness) of the coffee,” the researchers wrote. That would help explain why clear, glass coffee mugs, which dilute the colour, tended to have the opposite effect.

Well, there you go.  Money well spent.

Do you have a need for a coffee mug to be a certain colour?   Please share below.


– Roberto A Ferdman, The Washington Post, via Stuff


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  • STAG

    My fundamental need in a coffee cup is that it contains coffee.

  • Platinum Fox

    Perhaps the research needs to switch to a darker roast? I don’t think the colour of the mug is anywhere near as important as the skill of the barista and I can’t see the cafes which use white mugs rushing to change, not even those which have brown mugs and cups with white interiors.

  • Isherman

    Have you ever had to try and say “Bollocks” while your rolled up in fit of laughter?, that was my predicament after reading this earlier today. Now coffee is a topic close to my heart, and I have a question for these wannabe clever buggers..what if your coffee cup or mug features several or many colours, ie with a print of some sort? What would that do to the flavour..confuse it? Now go do something useful you ninny’s.

  • MaryLou

    My favourite coffee usually comes from my favourite mug – my husbands green “farter” mug, presented to him by the kids. Does that say something about me, or the colour green?

    Wish I could get paid for researching something like that…

  • Nige.

    They didnt do a test for takeaway cups, the preferred cup for high flying troughing government employees of Canbera? For shame. Go back and do the test again.


    • MaryLou

      This is true. Always tastes better when some one else makes it. Just like dinner

    • oldmanNZ

      Then there’s a black lid or white lid? so many variations.
      then there sugar in a brown sachet or white sachet..

      But the reason is really simple,
      Coffee in a white mug will have a perception of being “darker” hence more bitter, than coffee in a darker mug.

      I drink coffee in white, brown or black mug. I put in same amount so I taste no difference as I made it and not expect it to be different.

      if someone else made it, you dont know, so only judge by its colour.

      your really didn’t need to spend $$ to work this out.

  • dgrogan

    Do any of these startling revelations for white, blue and clear mugs apply to tea drinkers? I’d hate to be left out.

    • MaryLou

      No – that’s not a REAL drink…

  • timemagazine

    These taxpayer spending academics should get out of their red and green bubbles and start living like the rest of us under the blue sky. What a waist of money, time and energy.

  • caochladh

    So, your’e out god knows where in the ulu, cold, wet and tired. You have a tin cup, sachet’s of instant coffee, powdered milk, sugar and some freshly boiled water. I defy any researcher to tell me that doesn’t taste good.

  • Dave

    The perfect coffee at home every morning, perhaps two (Pic 1)
    The perfect coffee at work, every few hours (Pic 2)

    Frankly, i dont care much for the cup, or George Clooney !

  • D.Dave

    How can this be true for blind people?

  • Time For Accountability

    A true wine connoisseur can tell the vineyard, year and grape type in each bottle.

    A true flat white and latte connoisseur can tell the farm, paddock, year and grass type of the milk.

    They are not fooled by color of the cup.

    • Citizen

      But wine does taste different from a coffee mug!

  • Guest

    Fifteen years ago if you said there was going to be a craze in coffee I would have laughed it off.
    PS: I think red, brown, teddy bear mugs are best.