Why is a Cup of Coffee 6 Ounces Instead of 8 Ounces?

cup of coffee that's smaller than 8 ounces

QUESTION: Why is a cup of coffee 6 ounces instead of 8 ounces? I’m sitting here looking at my measuring cup and it clearly says 8 ounces, so I don’t get it. – Devin E.  

ANSWER: Though the standard liquid measuring cup is measured at eight ounces, the customary us cup of coffee, as well as tea, is always six fl oz instead of eight. This two ounce difference can cause a lot of confusion when it comes to accurate measurements for how much ground coffee to add when brewing. For the best results, the most common recommendation for coffee brewing is one to two tablespoons for every six ounces of coffee. The simple question is, how much coffee should you use for an eight ounce serving or for other different sizes to ensure you make the perfect cup of coffee?

The universal serving size for a standard cup of coffee or tea is six ounces, even though coffee mug size can range from eight ounces all the way up to a large mug or travel mug with 24 ounces. But why are coffee drinks different? Why is a cup of coffee a 6-ounce measurement when a cup of water, or any other cold beverage is measured at eight fluid ounces? For nutritional purposes, folks in the medical industry suggested six ounce servings as the recommended serving size. Medical professionals decided on these standard cup sizes because they believe that six ounces is the ideal serving size for the majority of people. 

Also, due to differences in the metric system which vary depending on the country in question, conversion issues for a metric cup can easily arise. However, the six ounce serving size is the number of ounces that is universally applicable, and has little variation from country to country. As six ounce servings have become universally accepted over time, many companies that manufacture coffee makers have adapted to use the six ounce serving size as their cup measurement for their coffee makers. 

Not all of the coffee maker manufacturers have adapted to the 6-ounce cup standard, many opting for a four or five ounce serving size. The reason for this is to pad the numbers of their products a bit. Instead of offering you a coffee maker that makes eight cups of coffee, they choose to reduce their cup size and call the same sized machine with the same sized carafe a 12 cup coffee maker to sell more units. 

Wouldn’t you be more apt to purchase a 12 cup coffee maker before you would purchase an eight cup coffee maker for the same price? Well, if you do your research, you might be able to spot a coffee maker or two that offers a carafe which claims to hold more cups without actually holding more coffee. There is a lot of competition when it comes to coffee makers, and companies will do whatever they think will give them an edge on the market. 

Though six ounces is the standard size serving for coffee, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the cup sizes that people use, especially in the United States, where the standard coffee cup size ranges from 12 and 24 ounces. That’s right, the regular cup size in America is double the recommended serving size. 

The National Coffee Association recommends the golden ratio of one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water you use. As many coffee machines measure their cups between four and five ounces apiece, the amount of coffee you should add starts to become confusing. One way to circumvent that confusion is to ignore the cup markings on the side of your coffee maker and add an amount of water that is a multiple of six ounces. 

So, if you have a drip coffee maker that makes 96 ounces of coffee, you will need 16-32 tablespoons of coffee grounds depending on how strong you like your brew in order to make the full 96 ounces. You can figure out the math by dividing 96 by 6. The result is 16, so there are 16 six-ounce servings in a 96 ounce carafe. Therefore, you will need 16 to 32 tablespoons to equal one to two tablespoons for each cup. 

If your coffee pot holds 92 us fluid ounces, you may want to only pour in 90 ounces of water, or 84 ounces of water instead of filling it up, so that you are using a multiple of 6, instead of a number that is not divisible by six, and therefore complicates the measurements. 

Drinking coffee comes with a lot of health benefits, but consuming too much coffee can have a negative effect on your health. Coffee is a strong source of caffeine, a stimulant that can increase focus and keep you awake, but when consumed in large amounts, it can cause nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia. 

It’s no wonder the National Coffee Association, and medical professionals recommend a six ounce serving size instead of eight. At the end of the day it’s in the best interest of the consumer to keep the number of cups of coffee to two to three cups per day. The recommended daily coffee intake for adults is 18 ounces per day, which is equivalent to three six-ounce servings. 

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