What is considered 1 cup of coffee?

When it comes to coffee, most people have a general sense of what a “cup” entails – typically around 8 ounces or so. However, the exact amount that constitutes a cup can vary depending on who you ask and how it’s being measured.

Standard Coffee Cup Sizes

There are a few standard coffee cup sizes that are commonly used as reference points:

  • 8 oz – This is generally considered one “cup” of coffee and is the most standard reference size.
  • 12 oz – Larger than 8 oz, this is typically used for a “tall” or “small” coffee cup at coffee shops.
  • 16 oz – This extra large cup size is used for a “grande” or “medium” coffee.
  • 20 oz – An extra extra large cup size used for coffee shop “venti” or “large” coffees.

So in most cases, if someone refers to a “cup” of coffee without specifying further, they typically mean 8 fluid ounces. The other sizes would usually be qualified, like a “12 oz cup” or “16 oz cup.”

Variables That Affect Cup Size

However, the exact amount in a “cup” of coffee can vary beyond those standard sizes depending on a few factors:

  • Type of Cup – An 8 oz ceramic coffee mug will hold a different amount than an 8 oz paper to-go cup due to differences in shape and dimensions.
  • How It’s Measured – Coffee can be measured by weight (mass) instead of fluid volume, which changes the amount considerably.
  • Coffee Brewing Method – Things like espresso shots and coffee pods have their own cup measurement conventions.
  • Recipes and Nutritional Info – Some recipes or nutritional guidelines may specify slightly different cup amounts.

So while the standard 8 oz cup is a good rule of thumb, the actual quantity can vary.

Measuring Cup Containers

When physically measuring out coffee, either when brewing or for recipes, most people use a dedicated measuring cup that is marked with cup measurements:

  • 1 cup
  • 3/4 cup
  • 2/3 cup
  • 1/2 cup
  • 1/3 cup
  • 1/4 cup

A standard US measuring cup is 8 fluid ounces at the 1 cup line. So if you use an actual measuring cup marked with cup measurements, you can precisely measure out different coffee amounts.

Other Types of Measuring Cups

Besides the standard US measuring cups, there are some other types of cups that are used specifically for coffee:

  • Small Espresso Cups – Usually 1.5-2 oz capacity.
  • Small Demitasse Cups – Typically 3-4 oz for espresso.
  • Coffee Scoops – Specialized scoops equivalent to 1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons.
  • Espresso Machine Portafilters – Built-in 1 oz and 2 oz cup measurements.

So if you’re measuring coffee for making espresso or using a specialty brewing method, the “cup” may be one of these smaller, more specialized cups.

Coffee Measurement By Weight

While fluid volume is the most common way to measure coffee, it can also be measured by weight or mass. This is especially common with high-end or commercial coffee brewing equipment.

When measured by weight, the standard for a 6 oz “cup” of coffee is:

  • 2 level tablespoons ground coffee = ~6 oz by weight

This equates to roughly:

  • 1/4 cup ground coffee = 6-7 grams
  • 1/3 cup ground coffee = 9-10 grams
  • 1/2 cup ground coffee = 14 grams
  • 2/3 cup ground coffee = 20 grams
  • 3/4 cup ground coffee = 24 grams
  • 1 cup ground coffee = 33 grams

However, this can vary based on how coarse or finely ground the coffee beans are.

Why Measure Coffee by Weight?

There are a few key reasons why coffee professionals often measure by weight instead of volume:

  • More precise and consistent amounts.
  • Easier to replicate the same brew every time.
  • Different beans have different densities so weight is consistent.
  • Compensates for how coarse the grind is.
  • Standard for competition brewing.

So while less common for everyday coffee drinkers, weight is preferred by connoisseurs looking for precision and consistency.

Cup Measurement By Coffee Brewing Method

The amount considered a “cup” of coffee can also vary based on the specific brewing method used. Here are some of the conventions for different brewing methods:

Drip Coffee

  • 1 cup brewed coffee = 8 oz coffee
  • Uses 6 oz water for every 1 level tbsp ground coffee
  • A typical 10-12 cup drip coffee maker uses ~2 tbsp per 6 oz cup

French Press

  • 1 cup ground coffee = 4 cups brewed coffee
  • Standard ratio is 1:4, coffee to water
  • So 1 cup of ground coffee makes 4 cups brewed


  • 1 single espresso shot = ~1 oz
  • 1 double shot = ~2 oz
  • Uses 7-14 grams of ground coffee per shot

Cold Brew

  • 1 cup ground coffee = 4 cups brewed
  • Typically a 1:4 ratio similar to French press
  • But often brewed more concentrated

Pour Over

  • 1 cup ground coffee = 16 oz brewed
  • Uses a ratio around 1:16 coffee to water
  • The exact ratio varies by recipes, beans, grind size, etc.

So you can see there are some conventions for cup measurements for certain coffee brewing methods, although there is still variability in exact amounts.

Standard Cup Sizes For Coffee Shops

Large coffee shop chains generally use standard cup size terminology, although sizes can vary slightly by location:

Coffee Shop Small Medium Large Extra Large
Starbucks 12 oz 16 oz 20 oz 24 oz
Dunkin’ 10 oz 14 oz 18 oz N/A
Tim Hortons 10 oz 14 oz 18 oz 20 oz
Peet’s 12 oz 16 oz 20 oz N/A
Caribou 12 oz 16 oz 20 oz N/A

Independent coffee shops may use different naming and sizing for their cups. But when ordering at a coffee shop, you can use the standard chain sizes like “small” and “large” to estimate how many ounces you’ll receive.

Cup Sizes For Home Brewing

For common at-home coffee brewing methods, these cup size definitions are typical:

Single Serve Coffee Maker

  • K-Cups, Nespresso capsules = ~4-6 oz per pod
  • Usually have 6-12 oz brew size options

Drip Coffee Maker

  • Usually branded by how many cups it brews
  • A 10 cup machine = Ten 6 oz cups
  • A 12 cup machine = Twelve 5 oz cups

French Press

  • Typically come in 3 cup, 4 cup, 6 cup, 8 cup sizes
  • But cup amounts can vary, check product details
  • Name reflects ~4 oz per “cup”

Pour Over

  • Brewer size usually 1-4 cups
  • Reflects ~4 oz per “cup”
  • But recipes can brew as individual cups

So when brewing coffee at home, check your appliance or equipment for how it defines cup sizes. Approximating 4-6 ounces per “cup” is a safe guess.

Cup Measurement in Coffee Recipes

When it comes to coffee recipes or ingredients listings, a “cup” of coffee refers to the ground beans, not brewed coffee. Some standard measurements:

  • 1 cup ground coffee = 5-6 oz by weight
  • 2 tablespoons ground coffee = 1/8 cup
  • Tablespoons can be leveled or loosely packed
  • Recipes may specify volume or weight

For example, a recipe for a coffee cake or dessert may call for “1 cup brewed coffee” as an ingredient. This would mean around 8 ounces of brewed coffee, not the ground beans.

But a recipe for a coffee rub or marinade would specify “1 cup ground coffee” referring to the dry coffee beans measured by volume, not the brewed liquid coffee.

Cup Measurement on Nutrition Labels

When looking at nutrition information and dietary guidelines involving coffee, pay close attention to whether it refers to brewed coffee or ground coffee:

  • “Coffee brewed from grounds” = brewed coffee by volume
  • “Coffee grounds” = dry ground beans by weight

For example:

  • 1 cup (8 oz) brewed coffee = 2 calories
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) ground coffee = 4 calories

So be aware that “1 cup” has a very different meaning between wet brewed coffee vs dry ground coffee beans when it comes to nutrition data.

Standard Coffee Cup Weights

When measuring coffee by weight instead of volume, here are some standard weights for a “cup” depending on the coffee brewing method:

  • Drip coffee – 1 cup (6 oz brewed) = 10-15g ground coffee
  • Espresso – 1 single shot (1 oz) = 7-12g ground coffee
  • Pour over – 1 cup (16 oz brewed) = 28-42g ground coffee
  • French press – 1 cup (4 oz brewed) = 15-20g ground coffee

However, these can vary based on your specific coffee beans, grind size, equipment, and recipes. But it provides a ballpark estimate when converting cup measurements to weights.


While most people consider a “cup” of coffee to be around 8 ounces, there are many variables that affect cup measurements:

  • Type and size of cup used
  • Brewing equipment and method
  • Measuring by volume vs weight
  • Coffee shop naming conventions
  • Recipes and nutrition labeling

So the exact amount of coffee in a “cup” depends greatly on the context. But using standard cup sizes like 8 oz and following specific coffee brewing ratios will give you a good approximation. Knowing that a “cup” of ground beans does not equal a cup of brewed coffee is also important. And being aware of how coffee shops and commercial coffee makers define cup sizes helps you estimate portion sizes. While not an exact science, these general guidelines provide a good understanding of the typical amount of coffee in a “cup.”

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