What to consider when designing takeaway cups

Tori Taylor
January 12, 2022
disposable coffee cups

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020, takeaway coffee orders have skyrocketed.

Extended lockdowns and enforced social distancing measures meant many roasters and coffee shops have relied on takeaway orders as a lifeline over the last two years. And the lingering effects of the pandemic mean that most will continue to offer them for the foreseeable future.

However, catering to takeaway orders means having a ready supply of takeaway cups. To do so, businesses need to consider a number of factors, from the materials and size to the branding and lids.

For example, do you need single or double-wall cups? Are your cups recyclable, compostable, or both? Is your branding consistent with your other packaging or are you planning to design something altogether different?

All these questions – and more – will need to be answered before you choose the best cups for your coffee.

Read on to find out more about designing takeaway coffee cups for your business.

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An image of a custom-printed takeaway coffee cup in an article on What to consider when designing takeaway cups


As a roaster or coffee shop owner, you’ll know that one of the things that makes your business stand out is branding.

While the quality of coffee and customer service will improve the likelihood of repeat customers, it’s the branding that will help get them through the door.

Key to branding is consistency. According to recent statistics, presenting a brand consistently across all products can increase revenue by up to 23%.

This is important not only for building a cohesive brand identity, but unifying the customer experience.

Furthermore, it can help boost brand recognition and familiarity. This means that when customers see your branding, whether on a bag, a mug, or a tshirt, they know immediately what it is.

However, this is especially important for takeaway cups, which serve as a “walking advertisement” for your brand.

Specialty brands such as Norwich-based Kofra Coffee do this exceedingly well.

Although they regularly release new cup designs to mark occasions such as Halloween and Christmas, Kofra ensures that several key brand elements remain consistent. These include the typography of their name and the distinctive yellow colour.

Therefore, when it comes to choosing a cup, businesses should consider the branding aspects by which customers recognise them – and ensure these go into any designs.

An image of takeaway coffee cups in a coffee cup tray in an article on What to consider when designing takeaway cups

Cup size

The size of takeaway cups has a considerable bearing on both functionality and customer experience.

Various factors can influence the size of the cup you use for different coffee orders. If your coffee shop allows customers to customise their drinks, you could end up using smaller or larger than normal cups for a certain drink.

Your customers’ individual preferences also matter as if they rarely order a certain drink, you might not use that cup size at all. This includes whether or not your drinks involve latte art.

It’s important to note that when preparing drinks for takeaway versus dine in, proportions can change. This is not only to ensure the cup fits under group heads on espresso machines, but also to maintain milk-to-coffee ratios.

According to Australian Specialty Coffee Association Barista Guild representative Michaela Gerard, if a standard dine-in serving size is smaller than the standard takeaway cup order size the drink could be “too milky or weak”.

It’s therefore important to ensure your takeaway cup sizes for each drink align with their dine-in sizes or, if not, that the recipe is adjusted accordingly.

An image of a takeaway coffee cup made from recyclable plastics, in an article on What to consider when designing takeaway cups


Not long ago, styrofoam was the preferred material for disposable cups. Cheap, widely accessible, and offering good insulating properties, it served as the perfect vessel for hot drinks.

However, concerns over the environmental impact of styrofoam meant that it gradually fell out of favour.

Today, recyclable and compostable materials are the go-to choice for roasters and coffee shops. Not only are they kinder on the environment, they also appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

Indeed, a recent study by Deloitte shows that 28% of consumers have stopped buying certain products due to ethical or environmental concerns.

Hence, when it comes to finding a takeaway cup, choosing recyclable or compostable materials should be a top priority.

The type of drinks served should also be factored in. For example, iced coffee performs considerably better in a bioplastic cup than a cardboard (or kraft paper) cup.

This is because when iced drinks are placed in paper cups, the paper acts like a sponge, soaking up the cold and weakening the cup’s structural integrity.

An image of a ripple wall takeaway coffee cup, a double wall takeaway coffee cup in an article on What to consider when designing takeaway cups

Double and single wall

One of the biggest decisions when choosing takeaway cups is whether to go for single or double wall cups.

Single wall cups consist of a single layer of material. Typically made from uncoated paperboard, they offer a convenient, lightweight, and cost-effective option for roasters and coffee shops.

Thanks to their simple design, they tend to be the most sustainable choice. However, unlike double walls, single wall cups offer little protection when filled with hot liquids, making them difficult to carry without scolding your hand.

Studies indicate that the maximum liquid temperature at which a single wall cup can be comfortably held without a sleeve is between 65C (150°F) and 70°C (160°F).

Double wall cups, on the other hand, are made up of two layers of material with a thin insulating layer of air between them.

Not only does this maintain the heat of the coffee by acting like “double glazing”, it also allows consumers to carry it around without the need for an additional sleeve.

Double wall cups also tend to be more robust, protecting the integrity of the cup for longer than single wall designs.

Choosing the right-sized disposable cups for your business – and ensuring they are made from sustainable materials, are affordably priced, and are attractively branded – can feel like a major task.

However, working with a full-service coffee packaging expert can make the process easier. At MTPak Coffee, we have years of expertise in creating bespoke takeaway coffee cups for specialty coffee shops and roasters around the world.

We offer cups in three different sizes: 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz. Each one is available to order as either single or double wall, while we also sell sleeves for all three sizes.

For information on our sustainable takeaway cups, contact our team.

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