A cup, a cup, and a cup…

My favorite coffee mug in it's natural habitat: a bookshelf within reach of my favorite chair.

My favorite coffee mug in it’s natural habitat: a bookshelf within reach of my favorite chair.

So I drink a lot of coffee. And when I’m at home on a work-from-home day or a weekend, I typically make a pot in the morning, fill up my mug, drink only some of it before I decide it needs a warmup, so I top it off. How many cups of coffee do I drink, then? Is it one long cup, or is it twelve? Except my cup is rather large, so how do we count by the cup or by the cup?

It has long amused me that coffee pots still measure the amount of coffee in the carafe by a measuring cup. One cup of liquid equals half a pint, which means 1/16th of a gallon. But at no time when I have own a coffee maker, have I ever drank coffee from a drinking cup that holds just one measuring cup’s worth of coffee. Most people drink from a coffee mug that holds nearly two measuring cup’s worth of coffee in a single serving.

l to r: A coffee mug of the size most people seem to use, a classic teacup, and then my favorite coffee mug.

l to r: A coffee mug of the size most people seem to use, a classic teacup, and then my favorite coffee mug. (Click to embiggen)

My current favorite home mug is bigger still. It’s the purple one in this picture. The little teacup in the middle is the kind of cup that the coffee pot manufacturers seem to think that people still use for drinking coffee. The mug on the left is one of my old favorites. At one time it was my office mug. I brought it home because a co-worker was weirded out that a man liked to drink coffee from a mug that said “The Queen of Everything.” Never mind that I was an openly gay man, it still freaked at least one person out. So it was a mug I often drank coffee or tea from at home for years after that. Until I found the large purple one.

The coffee pot right after making a full put. Not that the liquid goes up the the 12 mark.

The coffee pot right after making a full put. Not that the liquid goes up the the 12 mark.

My current coffee maker includes a carafe which claims to hold 12 cups of liquid. And it certainly looks like a huge amount of coffee when I first make a pot in the morning. Twelve measuring cups is three quarts, and three quarts of coffee seems like a lot. Right?

You would expect that anyone who would drink 12 cups of coffee in a single day would be vibrating, I suppose. Maybe even vibrate so fast that I open a portal to an alternate universe and pass right through. All that caffeine in one person is bound to make one at least a bit manic. I remember a historian once mentioning that one of the prominent figures of the Enlightenment recorded in his journals (in which among other things he kept careful account of his household expenditures) of some weeks drinking 40 cups of tea a day. The historian said, “No wonder all those guys wrote so much and discovered so much. You try drinking 40 cups of tea and see whether you’re up all night having all sorts of exiting ideas bouncing around your head!”

I filled up my favorite mug exactly once, and look how the coffee level has dropped!

I filled up my favorite mug exactly once, and look how the coffee level has dropped!

However, when I pour coffee out of the carafe to fill my favorite mug, note that the coffee level has dropped down to just below the 9 mark. So my favorite coffee cup holds three cups of coffee. Which means that if I drink the whole pot, while one could say that I drank 12 measuring cups of coffee, it’s only actually four refills of my coffee mug. So, do I drink 12 or 4 cups in a single day?

Well, there’s at least one more complication I haven’t told you. Periodically over the course of the day, whenever I notice that the carafe is less than half full, I pour about three cups of water (using an aluminum pitcher I keep nearby for reasons) into the reservoir and kick-off a new percolation cycle, letting the machine top off the pot. I confess that when I do this, I don’t grind fresh coffee beans, I just let the new hot water go through the grounds that I put in in the morning. This probably makes me a freak or a loon in the opinions of some hard-care coffee fanatics. I usually only do this twice in a day.

So, that would indicate that I actually drink about 18 measuring cup’s worth of coffee a day, right?

Well… the truth is, I usually stop in the early evening, and there is usually still coffee in the pot at least up to the 4 cup line when I do. So let’s call it 14 measuring cups again. That’s enough to completely fill my bit mug four times, and nearly a fifth afterward.

I’ve left out one more wrinkle that applies to work-from-home days. When I first get up on a work-from-home day, I do my meds and some of the other morning routines quickly, including making coffee, so I can drive my husband in to his place of work. As a treat for myself, I grab a small can of coffee drink, either a Starbucks Double-shot Lite, or there’s another brand that has a Salted Caramel flavored coffee drink in a small aluminum can. Both types claim to have the equivalent of two shots of espresso in the drink.

I pour one of these cans into a travel mug, which fills it a bit over half full, then top it off with coffee from the pot. That’s my β€œlatte” for the drive in. I usually drink about half of it in the trip. When I get back home, I pour the remainder into my big purple mug, and top it off with hot coffee. The Starbucks’ can holds 6.5 ounces. The other brand’s can holds 7 ounces. Let’s just call it one more cup. Except it’s supposed to be two shots of espresso, so should we call it two cups?

Just how much coffee do I actually drink?

P.S. Please don’t chime it to say that coffee isn’t good for your health. The studies that most people think showed that were all conducted over 50 years ago, and newer studies show no correlation between coffee drinking and any of the health effects people attribute to them. None. Deeper analysis of the raw data from the earlier studies has revealed that the researchers completely failed to notice that there was an extremely strong correlation between being a heavy coffee drinker and being a heavy smoker. There was also a very strong statistical tendency for men to drink more coffee per day than women. And oddly enough, all the health issues that people now blame on coffee because of these badly quoted studies are also illnesses that one is more likely to have if one is either male or a smoker.

When the data from the old studies is re-analyzed to compare only smokers to smokers, non-smokers to non-smokers, men to men, and women to women, all statistical correlation between the amount of coffee someone drinks and any negative health effects vanished.

It ain’t the coffee that you need to be worrying about.

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. For more than 20 years I edited and published an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live near Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

4 responses to “A cup, a cup, and a cup…”

  1. amusedreams says :

    This post reminds me so much of my father. Except he’d dump out the filter holder and put in a new filter and new grounds for each pot. And he’d drink the syrup-y goop that coffee dehydrates down to if the burner is a little too hot. Sometimes he’d add new coffee to that goop. It was always very strong, and he drank it black. It smelled amazing. He’d have a couple pots (in strategic locations) at his work at the theater building, and only one pot at the dean’s office and one at home. And SO MANY CUPS.

    He’d misplace those cups in various parts of the building (usually atop filing cabinets, the spiral stair back stage near the fly rail, or the work bench near the tools in the shop, and sometimes even up in the gel and gobo space above the light/sound box back of the audience); and so when I read the title and saw the photo of the cup on the bookshelf, I suspected you were going to mention having several cups running at once (which he often did). But you make very good points about measurement as well!

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