Understanding the coffee pot cup size

Why don’t I have twelve cups of coffee from my 12-cup coffee maker?

It’s the holidays and the extended family stays at your house. You make a full pot in your new 12-cup Cuisinart. Family members compete for their morning joe, but only the first five in line are satiated. The pot is empty. Urgh! You knew you’d have a full house, that’s why you bought the great brewery. What went wrong?

A “cup” of coffee does not mean 8 ounces

Cup sizes for coffee makers are not standardized. The number of ounces that make up a “cup” varies by manufacturer. The same company may even have models that differ from each other.

For example, in a 3-cup Bodum French press, a “cup” is 4 oz. But if you’re using the Bodum 8-Cup French Press, a “mug” costs 4.25 oz. But wait! Bodum also brews sous vide beers and a “mug” in one of them weighs about 5.7 oz. Confused yet?

The experts even disagree when they try to name most commonly used cup measure. Votes are divided between 4 oz., 5 oz. And 6 oz.

One thing is for sure: a “cup” of coffee does not fill the typical 12 oz. cup of coffee found in most American homes.

Ounces per cup in popular coffee maker brands

  • Bunn: 5 oz
  • Bodum (French press): 4 oz to 4.25 oz
  • Bodum (empty): 5.7 oz
  • Coffee: 5 oz
  • Cona: 5.5 oz to 5.7 oz
  • Cuisinart: 5 oz
  • Krups: 5 oz
  • Proctor Silex: 4.5 oz
  • Technivorm: 4.2 oz
  • Zojirushi: 5.1 oz

To further complicate matters, coffee-making instructions often tell you how much ground coffee to add for each 6 ounces of water. You’ll see this metric on the back of a Maxwell House can, as well as published by coffee authorities like the National Coffee Association of America, Inc. Further proof of the lack of standardization.

Metric conversion

So what about the people of Zojirushi? Did you sit down and decide that a cup of coffee should be 5.1 oz (5.0721, to be exact)?

Coffeemakers designed and marketed outside of the US typically start with metric measurements. The capacity of the coffee maker will be in liters and the corresponding number of cups will be a nice round figure in milliliters.

When these breweries are sold in the US, the cup capacity remains the same, but the milliliters are converted to ounces and often end up in fractions of ounces. That they look weird.

Zojirushi is a Japanese household goods company. Your Fresh Brew 10-Cup Thermal Coffee Maker has a 1.5 liter capacity. That equates to 150 ml per cup. But when we convert Fresh Brew to ounces, the 1.5 liters turns into a total capacity of 50,721 ounces, or 5,721 ounces per cup. It is still strange, but understandable.

Increase it

Another thing to consider when realizing that your 12-cup coffee maker serves fewer than six people, is the tendency of Americans to increase in size. We love our SUVs and our Big Gulps. Coffee is no exception, as evidenced by the recently introduced “Trenta” size at Starbucks. The Trenta has a whopping 31oz, a total of 11oz more than Starbuck’s already huge “Venti” size.

“Bigger” is a trend in our society and skews our expectations. Instinctively, we want a “mug” of coffee to fill our favorite ceramic mug or insulated travel mug. And those everyday items are BIG.

Our domestic coffee makers have not lived up to these expectations. Cup volume is more in line with historically smaller serving sizes and in line with a global perspective. (You won’t find a Trenta size anything in a traditional European cafe).

Divide to conquer

The fact that the number of cups you can fill with a cup of brewed coffee differs so much from the number advertised on the box is actually a common source of consumer dissatisfaction with a coffee maker purchase.

But a little division is all it takes to manage expectations when it comes to the size of the coffee pot.

When buying a coffee maker, I recommend completely ignoring the number of cups advertised.

Instead, pay attention to the maximum number of ounces the water tank can hold. Then measure the capacity in ounces of the cup or mug of coffee that you normally use. Divide the tank capacity by the cup capacity. This tells you how many times you can fill your favorite cup or how many real-life servings you can expect.


  1. The number of “cups” advertised by a brewer refers to the size of a serving and not to a unit of measure.
  2. The portion sizes of the coffee makers are much smaller than we expected

When you need to feed a crowd or fill travel mugs for a long trip, keep these things in mind and everyone will be filled.

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