Cup (unit)

The cup is a cooking measure of volume, commonly associated with cooking and serving sizes. It is traditionally equal to half a liquid pint in US customary units, or between 200 ml and 250 ml (15 and 14 of a litre) in the metric system. Because actual drinking cups may differ greatly from the size of this unit, standard measuring cups are usually used instead.

United States

The cup currently used in the United States for nutrition labelling is defined in United States law as 240 mL.[1][2][3]

1 U.S. "legal" cup = 240millilitres
= 16international tablespoons
= 12Australian tablespoons
= 8U.S. nutritional fluid ounces (30 mL each)
8.12U.S. customary fluid ounces
8.45imperial fluid ounces

Customary cup

In the United States, the customary cup is half of a liquid pint.

1 U.S. customary cup = 116U.S. customary gallon
= 14U.S. customary quart
= 12U.S. customary pint
= 8U.S. customary fluid ounces
= 16U.S. customary tablespoons
= 48U.S. customary teaspoons
= 236.5882365millilitres exactly
= 15.7725491international tablespoons
= 11.829411825Australian tablespoons
56imperial cups
8 13imperial fluid ounces

A customary "cup" of coffee in the U.S. is usually 4 fluid ounces (118 mL), brewed using 5 fluid ounces (148 mL) of water. Coffee carafes used with drip coffee makers, e.g. Black and Decker models, have markings for both water and brewed coffee as the carafe is also used for measuring water prior to brewing.[4] A 12-cup carafe, for example, has markings for 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 cups of water or coffee, which correspond to 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 US fluid ounces (0.59, 0.89, 1.18, 1.48, and 1.77 l) of water or 16, 24, 32, 40, and 48 US fluid ounces (0.47, 0.71, 0.95, 1.18, and 1.42 l) of brewed coffee respectively, the difference being the volume absorbed by the coffee grounds and lost to evaporation during brewing.

Commonwealth of Nations

Metric cup

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and some other members of the Commonwealth of Nations, being former British colonies that have since metricated, employ a "metric cup" of 250 millilitres.[5] Although derived from the metric system, it is not an SI unit.[6]

1 cup = 250millilitres
= 1623international tablespoons (15 mL each)
= 12.5Australian tablespoons (20 mL each)
= 25dessertspoons (10 mL each)
8.80imperial fluid ounces
8.45U.S. customary fluid ounces

A "coffee cup" is 1.5 dL (i.e. 150 millilitres or 5.07 US customary fluid ounces), and is occasionally used in recipes; in older recipes, cup may mean "coffee cup". It is also used in the US to specify coffeemaker sizes (what can be referred to as a Tasse à café). A "12-cup" US coffeemaker makes 57.6 US customary fluid ounces of coffee, which is equal to 6.8 metric cups of coffee.

Canadian cup

Canada now usually employs the metric cup of 250 mL, but its conventional cup was somewhat smaller than both American and imperial units.[7]

1 Canadian cup = 8 imperial fluid ounces = 1/20 imperial gallon = 227.3045 ml

1 tablespoon = 12 imperial fluid ounce (14.2065 ml)

1 teaspoon = 16 imperial fluid ounce (4.7355 ml)

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom the standard cup was set at 10 imperial fluid ounces, or half an imperial pint. The cup was rarely used in practice, as historically most kitchens tended to be equipped with scales and ingredients were measured by weight, rather than volume.[8]


Similar units in other languages and cultures are sometimes translated "cup", usually with various values around 15 to 14 of a liter.

Latin American cup

In Latin America, the amount of a "cup" (Spanish: taza or vaso) varies from country to country, using a cup of 200 mL, 250 mL, and the US legal or customary amount.

Japanese cup

The traditional Japanese unit equated with a "cup" size is the , legally equated with 2401/13310 liters (≈180.4 mL) in 1891, and is still used for reckoning amounts of rice and sake. The Japanese later defined a "cup" as 200 mL.

1 Japanese cup = 200millilitres
7.04imperial fluid ounces
6.76U.S. customary fluid ounces

Russian cup

The traditional Russian measurement system included two cup sizes, one of which, the "charka" (cup proper), was usually used for alcoholic drinks and measured 123 mL (4.16 US fl. oz. or 4.33 imp fl. oz.), while another, "stakan" ("glass") was twice as big at 246 mL (8.32 US fl. oz. or 8.65 imp fl. oz.) and used for other liquids.

Since metrication, the charka was informally redefined as 100 mL, acquiring a new name of "stopka" (from the Russian word for 100, "sto"), while there are currently two widely used glass sizes of 250 and 200 mL.

Dry measure

In Europe, recipes normally weigh non-liquid ingredients in grams rather than measuring volume. For example, where an American recipe might specify "1 cup of sugar and 2 cups of milk", a European recipe might specify "200 g sugar and 500 ml of milk" (or 0.5 litre or 5 decilitres). A precise conversion between the two measures takes into account the density of the ingredients, and some recipes specify both weight and volume to facilitate this conversion. Many European measuring cups have markings that indicate the weight of common ingredients for a given volume.

Volume to mass conversions for some common cooking ingredients
ingredient density
g/ml[lower-alpha 1]
metric cup imperial cup U.S. customary cup
g oz g oz g oz
water[9] 1[lower-alpha 2] 249–250 8.8 283–284 10 236.5882 8.3[lower-alpha 3]
granulated sugar 0.8[12] 200 7.0 230 8.0 190 6.7
wheat flour 0.5–0.6[12] 120–150 4.4–5.3 140–170 5.0–6.0 120–140 4.2–5.0
table salt 1.2[12] 300 10.6 340 12.0 280 10.0

See also


  1. One gram per millilitre is very close to one avoirdupois ounce per fluid ounce: 1 g/ml ≈ 1.002 av oz/imp fl oz This is not a numerical coincidence, but comes from the original definition of the kilogram as the mass of one litre of water, and the imperial gallon as the volume occupied by ten avoirdupois pounds of water. The slight difference is due to water at 4 °C (39 °F) being used for the kilogram, and at 62 °F (17 °C) for the imperial gallon. The U.S. fluid ounce is slightly larger.
    1 g/ml ≈ 1.043 av oz/U.S. fl oz.
  2. The density of water ranges from about 0.96 to 1.00 g/ml dependent on temperature and pressure. The table above assumes a temperature range 0–30 °C (32–86 °F). The variation is too small to make any difference in cooking.[10][11]
  3. Since an imperial cup of water weighs approximately 10 avoirdupois ounces and five imperial cups are approximately equal to six U.S. cups, one U.S. cup of water weighs approximately 813 avoirdupois ounces.


  1. (21 CFR 101.9 (b) (5) (viii)
  2. U.S. Government Printing Office—Electronic Code of Federal Regulations Archived 2009-08-13 at the Wayback Machine
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration—Guidelines for Determining Metric Equivalents of Household Measures
  4. "Black and Decker Replacement Carafe". Retrieved 2016-12-30.
  5. "Standard Australian Cooking Measurements". Retrieved 2014-09-24.
  6. "coherent units". BIPM. Retrieved 2014-05-26.
  7. "How Many Tablespoons in a Cup - Easy Conversions". First Health Mag. 2016-04-28. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
  8. Stobart, Tom (1981).The Cook's Encyclopedia, Harper & Row, p.524
  9. 1 g/ml is a good rough guide for water-based liquids such as milk (the density of milk is about 1.03–1.04 g/ml).
  10. Water density calculator
  11. Ma, Allen (2007). Elert, Glenn (ed.). "Density of water". The Physics Factbook. Retrieved 2018-07-06.
  12. L. Fulton, E. Matthews, C. Davis: Average weight of a measured cup of various foods. Home Economics Research Report No. 41, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC, 1977.
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