Coffee Upsizing — How Big Does Your Coffee Go?

How big is your morning coffee cup? When doctors and medical researchers talk about drinking a cup of coffee, they’re usually referring to an actual 8 ounce cup of coffee, a size few people ever even see, let alone drink. The typical coffee mug, for example, holds 12 ounces of liquid, so chances are that your usual “cup of coffee” is closer to a cup and a half of coffee. The typical thermal foam coffee cup holds 8 ounces, but few coffee shops sell coffee in cups of that size.

Tim Horton’s, one of the few that sold an 8 ounce small coffee, is test marketing new sizes in two of their Montreal locations, and if sales go well, chances are that the 8-oz. coffee will go the way of the dodo in Canada — it’s already non-existent in their U.S. stores.

Tim Horton’s isn’t alone in upgrading its serving sizes. It’s all part of the great upsizing of coffee. On the U.S. East Coast, Dunkin Donuts has been serving coffee in the Extra Large — 24 ounces of hot, sweet stimulation — for years. Starbucks just introduced its newest size, and, following its usual naming convention, calls it a Trenta, Italian for 30, because it holds 31 ounces of your favorite iced Starbucks coffee blend. Dunkin Donuts, it should be noted, has been selling 32-ounce “large” iced coffee for years as well. And of course, you can always buy a 30-ounce extra large iced coffee at Mickey D’s, so Starbucks’ move isn’t exactly breaking new ground.

Starbucks announced that the new Trenta would only be available for cold drinks, which typically hold a large volume of ice. The coffee giant also announced that their coffee offerings would top out at 230 calories in a 31-ounce cup. That didn’t stop a number of media outlets from howling about the obscenity of selling iced coffee drinks in those large amounts. It does make one stop to consider just what you’re adding to your diet when you choose a larger coffee drink. Here’s a quick rundown of calories you might find in these typical iced coffee drink additions.

Calories in Iced Coffee Drink Add-Ins

A 31-ounce coffee has about 3 calories if you drink it straight and black. When you start adding things to flavor it, however, you can quickly pile up the calories. This is especially true with larger sizes — the teaspoon of sugar that’s just right for a regular cup of coffee doesn’t do much sweetening in a larger cup. You need to go two to three teaspoons to get it to the same sweetness. The same holds true for the cream, syrups and other flavoring agents that get added to turn your coffee into a super-duper icee-slurpee cup of coffee dessert decadence.

If you add one tablespoon of cream to your coffee, add 52 calories, and keep in mind that one tablespoon is about the amount you get in one of those tiny cups of coffee creamer. That’s barely enough to lighten an 8-ounce coffee. If you like your coffee light, you could be adding a few hundred calories to your coffee cup.

Half-and-half is a little less damaging to your waistline at 20 calories per tablespoon, and fat-free milk is the least damaging of all at just 5 calories per tablespoon. Don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors by choosing one of those non-dairy creamers, either. They just replace dairy fat with vegetable fat, and barely dent the calories. In fact, many of them also include sugar to make the taste of the oil less noticeable. Always check the nutrition label to find out how many calories you’re adding before you pour it into your coffee.

If you drink your coffee with sugar, you’re adding 49 calories per tablespoon to your morning drink. Couple that with cream, and you’re looking at some serious calorie consumption — over 100 calories for the minimum amount of cream and sugar you need to make it even worth adding.

How about Torani syrups, the classic add-ins for flavored coffees at coffee shops around the country? Unless you choose the sugar-free varieties, you’re adding 75 to 90 calories per ounce of syrup to your coffee.

The bottom line is this: If you indulge in larger coffees, be sure to consider the calories and fat added by things like milk, cream, sugar and syrups. It’s easy to overdo it when you’re only having ONE cup of coffee, especially if that cup holds the equivalent of five drinks.


  1. How much coffee do I need to add to make a single serve. They keep talking about large coffee machines and all I NEED to KNOW is HOW MUCH FOR ONE CUP!!!

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