How to Choose the Right Mug

  • Apr 10, 2013

It used to be that when you thought of mugs, you meant ceramic coffee mugs. Nowadays, there are many other materials use for mugs. Each serves a particular purpose. As always, we recommend that you start with defining the promotion. Who is your target audience? What problem are you trying to solve? What action would you like your target audience to take? These must be answered before you decide that a mug - any mug - is the right vehicle for your message. We've written before that there are more than 100 uses for a mug.

I had a request the other day for porcelain mugs, and that led me to doing some research. Porcelain is actually a type of ceramic. Ceramic is basically any kind of clay-like material that is fired at a high temperature. There are several sub-categories: pottery, earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. Pottery is quite porous. When used for potted plants, you would expect excess moisture to be absorbed. That's a good thing. Earthenware is the next step up, a little harder. It is generally used for decorative purposes, and since it is nearly as porous as pottery, it must be glazed to hold liquid. Some of the types of glazes are actually toxic so they cannot be used for food or drink. But the most common types of earthenware are indeed used for food and drink, and the generic term “ceramic” tends to mean earthenware if further description is not given.

Stoneware is fired at temperatures exceeding 2100 degrees fahrenheit, which creates a surface that is no longer porous. Nevertheless, a food-grade glaze or paint is often applied for decorative effect. Stoneware is very dense and often has a darker appearance before decorating. It is considerably more durable than earthenware, owing partly to the higher density.

Porcelain is the next one up the temperature ladder. This material has been fired at temperatures of 2300 to 2600 degrees. The result is a very white ceramic with a translucent quality to it. Porcelain mugs tend to be thinner, with a smooth texture and attractive luster. This also means that they can be delicate and fragile. Porcelain was developed hundreds of years ago in China and has been referred to as “china” rather than its correct name. It developed a reputation as rare and exclusive. This association, along with the naturally non-porous surface, has led to their use for the finest coffee and tea.

Any one of these materials can be the right one for your situation. Beyond the ceramic family, there is glass, metal and plastic of all kinds. The environment where the mug will be used may be obvious, and that will influence the choice. Or it may not be so obvious, and the choice of material may drive where the promotional message on the mug will be seen. In some cases, a fine porcelain will be perfect. In others, you'll want something durable. Or portability may be the key, so one with a lid that fits an auto cupholder is perfect.

Porcelain mugs can be made with a double wall for greater insulation 

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