How do you hold a coffee mug? Don’t… (Research)

How do you hold a coffee mug?

This is a research claims to have found the most efficient way to hold a coffee mug without making a mess.


Author: Jiwon Han

Title: A Study on the Coffee Spilling Phenomena in the Low Impulse Regime

Issue: “Rarely do we manage to carry coffee around without spilling it once. In fact, due to the very commonness of the phenomenon, we tend to dismiss questioning it beyond simply exclaiming: ‘Jenkins! You have too much coffee in your cup!'”

Main idea:

the research looked at the movement of fluids and how they are affected by a human holding a coffee mug. Ultimately, the goal was to find out why coffee in a mug has the tendency to “splash aggressively against the cup,” as opposed to, wine in a wine glass which moves more like “calm waves… gently [rippling].”

Method: detailed calculations and graphs

By measuring the frequency of oscillations in coffee mugs, Han was able to detect a significant difference in spillage between using the handle and the claw model. The study then goes into a nauseating amount of mathematical detail to explain why this is the case and comes up with an added solution that sounds like a Monty Python bit.


“Since the magnitude of acceleration in the claw-hand model is significantly smaller, the claw-hand posture is less likely to spill coffee,” Han found, adding that walking backwards may also lessen the chances of spilling coffee. “Since we are not accustomed to backwards walking, our motion in the walking direction becomes irregular, and our body starts to heavily rely on sideways swinging motion in order to keep balance.”

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