Coffee Time 101 Proper Etiquette

Coffee time is highly anticipated by coffee aficionados. If you are a coffee lover, then you understand completely. Sometimes waiting for that aromatic liquid to finish brewing is more than some people can stand and they blow it; they pour a cup before the coffee is actually done. Those people are now being subjected to the tongue cluck and the finger wag. Just to clarify, it is bad manners to sneak a cup in front of your guests.

There are proper rules of etiquette regarding coffee time. For now, most of those rules are going to be ignored and the focus will be on the basics of coffee time manners and etiquette. The fancy rules apply to extremely formal gatherings and will be discussed at a later date.

The setting

It is important to have everything you and your guests will need to thoroughly enjoy your coffee time together. There is nothing more embarrassing than having a guest ask for something like cream, and you realize that you are out! 

Start with the obvious, mugs and spoons. It is important to have enough mugs and spoons for your guests. You never want to have an awkward moment where guests are forced to share a spoon!

Next be sure to set out napkins. You can dress up the occasion a little by wrapping each spoon in a napkin and stacking them neatly. The main idea for the napkin is to place the mug on it, creating a napkin saucer, to catch any accidental spills.

Next you want to set out the powdered creamer, cream, milk and flavored creamer. Do this step shortly before the guests arrive to keep the liquids cold as long as possible. At this time also set out the sweetener(s). Sugar cubes are a good choice because they are less messy. If you are offering other sweeteners, consider the packet forms. 

The coffee

Coffee is the focal point of the table and at least a partial reason for the gathering. If you are going for a semi-formal gathering then be sure to serve the freshest coffee possible and that means grinding the beans yourself before brewing. Once the coffee is brewed, pour it into a thermal pot and set it on the table. If the gathering is large enough, you will want to make a couple of pots of coffee. You may want to consider offering a couple of different types of coffee; this gives your guests some variety. 


It is good hosting etiquette to offer guests some sort of treats like cookies or brownies. Pastries also go very well with coffee. You can make the snacks yourself or pick something up at the market. It is a good idea to store the snacks in a container that has an airtight lid to keep the items fresh until you serve them.


It is good hosting to pour each guest’s first cup of coffee and hand it to him/her. Also, remember to serve your guests before yourself. After the first cup, everyone can refill their mugs at leisure, rather than wait for you to notice that the mug is empty. The other reason you want to allow guests to serve themselves after the first cup is that you want to avoid “coffee logging” (giving them too much) them. 

Most of the time, drinking a cup of java is not a fancy social affair with white gloves and pristine linens. You pour a cup of coffee and enjoy it. However, once in a while it is rather nice to dress things up a bit and invite some friends over for a coffee party.