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Double Wall Coffee Cups vs Cup Sleeves

Double Wall Coffee Cups vs Cup Sleeves

There are few things better than playing with a laser thermometer, and drinking a lot of coffee while getting paid for it.

Today we’re testing the claims that double wall insulated hot cups are better than using recycled cup sleeves with traditional single wall hot cups. Double wall hot cups are made by manufacturing two paper walls with an insulating air pocket between them. Some manufacturers have claimed using a double wall cup avoids the need for a sleeve and keeps drinks hotter longer.

Since these cups tend to cost about $.06 more than a regular hot cup, we wanted to make sure the value was worth it- after all, a sleeve is about $.05.So we made some coffee in our headquarters Test Kitchen to find out.

Lab Equipment

compostable coffee cups

The cup on the right (cup # 1) is the single wall cup while the cup on the left (cup #2) is the double wall cup. As you can see, we started the test with 180 degree coffee in both cups.

coffee cup heat testing

After pouring the coffee in and letting it sit for a minute, the laser thermometer showed the outside temperature of cup #1 to be 179 degrees, virtually the same as the inside. This makes sense; paper is a poor insulator. This cup was very uncomfortable to hold; we found that a temperature of 150-160 degrees is about the maximum temperature at which one could comfortably hold a cup of coffee without using a sleeve. The surface area of a sleeve on a cup is a comfortable 130 degrees by comparison so the sleeve helped considerably.

Coffee Cup Temperatures

The surface area of the double wall cup was exactly 10 degrees less than the single wall cup.This was actually bearable to hold but we had hoped for a lower temperature.

Coffee Cup Temperatures

After 10 minutes, both cups had cooled to a nearly identical 160 degrees inside, indicating that the double wall cup wasn’t really making a difference in maintaining temperature over time.So for those of you who like to savor your coffee for a long time, we hope you’re okay with luke-warm because the double wall didn’t seem to keep it hotter.


  • Our test results didn’t seem to show a compelling reason to use double wall cups over single wall either for maintaining temperatures or negating the need for a sleeve. However, many cafes now serve coffee approaching 200 degrees so the double wall may offer a higher variance in temperature and therefore more compelling value over a single wall cup in that scenario.
  • Some people prefer using a sleeve even though it requires more behind the counter labor because sleeves do make it easier to hold a very hot coffee. For beverages that are not served very hot, the customer doesn’t need a sleeve, which saves this additional cost of $.05.If a cafe uses double wall cups for every transaction, it would obviously not see this potential savings on some transactions and therefore would be “overpaying” for this added insulation.
  • Other people prefer the clean aesthetic that not having a sleeve provides. In addition, sleeves may make a cup more difficult to fit in car cup holders, which is a big consideration for take-out customers. In addition, sleeves cover up logos and other valuable branding for shops that have invested in custom printing on their cups. On the other hand, custom printed cup sleeves provide a way around this.


The final decision relies on your end use, serving temperature, your preference, and your customers preference. As mentioned there are some slight savings using single wall if customers opt not to use a cup sleeve.

So, what do you think? Take a look at our collection of compostable coffee cups, insulated cups and sleeves. We also offer custom printed coffee cups and custom cup sleeves.