Last Updated: Oct 19, 2021 @ 10:22 am.

What's the best disposable cup? To find out, we got out our white lab coats and did some testing. How do those fancy new aluminum cups fare against the famous red disposable cups? We did tests, spent 7 hours on research and surveyed our parent readers to find their favorites. Here are the winners!

FYI: We've been reviewing and rating products for the home and families since 1994. To keep things independent, we don't take money or freebies from brands we review! Our work is 100% reader-supported!


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Best for Beer

Great at keeping drinks cold
Wow, these cups are amazing—they keep beverages colder longer. And the look is impressive. Also nice: aluminum cups are 100% recyclable.
$19.98 ($0.67 / Count)

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Best For Beer: Ball Aluminum Cup

We discovered these cups after staying at a hotel in Miami Beach—and yes, they do keep drinks colder than plastic cups.

As the name implies, these cups are made of 100% aluminum and can be recycled many times over. (No they aren’t dishwasher safe . . . but that’s also the case for most disposable cups).

To test how much better they are at keeping drinks cold, we did a quick lab experiment. 

First, we took a couple cups of water and poured them into both a red plastic cup and a Ball aluminum cup. Then we put both cups in the fridge for 30 minutes.

After that, we took them out and put them on a table at room temperature–and did an initial temperature check, which showed both liquids were about 38 to 39 degrees:

Best Disposable Cup initial temp1

Best Disposable Cup initial temp alum

After 5 minutes, we did a temperature check.  The aluminum cup was 39.9 degrees, while the red plastic cup liquid had warmed to 41.2 degrees:

Best Disposable Cup temp after 5 min 1

Best Disposable Cup temp after 5 min 2

What happened after 10 minutes? The aluminum cup remained colder (42.2 degrees) than the plastic cup (43.5 degrees):

Best Disposable Cup temp after 10 min 1 Best Disposable Cup temp after 10 min 2

Bottom line: the aluminum cup keeps liquids colder for longer—and it also felt cooler to the touch, which is nice on a hot day. Here’s more on the pros and cons of aluminum cups:

What We Liked

• Sturdy.

• Lightweight.

• 100% recyclable = more sustainable solution for disposable cups.

• Look sharp with a retro cool vibe.

• Made in the USA.

• Keep beverages colder than other types of cups.

What Needs Work

• Pricey. Yep, these cups run 5 to 10 times more than traditional plastic cups. But since these cups can be fully recycled, the eco-friendly advantage could outweigh the costs for some folks.

• Excessive sweat in humid climates. Well, that’s the downside of keeping drinks so cold.

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Best Budget-Friendly

Squared sides = easy to hold
Yep, they are popular for a reason—they simply work! Loved the design, with four different grip areas. Caveat: #6 plastic is difficult to recycle in some areas.
$16.48 ($0.08 / Count)

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Best Budget Friendly: SOLO Cup Company Red Squared Plastic Party, 18 Ounce, 200 Count

Yes, these are the classic red party cup and are best-sellers for a reason: they are sturdy and do the job! They are also easy on the wallet.

We liked the square design with “grip areas” that do make it rather easy to grip.

What We Liked

• Sturdy.

• Lightweight

• Easy to hold.

• Durable.

• Affordable.

• Classic red color = it’s party time!

What Needs Work

• Can be difficult to recycle.  Depending on where you live, you may find it can be hard if not impossible to recycle these cups. That’s because these cups are made of #6 plastic. 

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Best For Punch

Also great to hold snacks, popcorn
Simple yet effective, these clear plastic cups have a nice design—we liked the rolled rim, for example. Also nice: they are recyclable.
$9.49

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Best For Punch: 50 Clear Plastic Cups 9 oz.

Loved these simple clear plastic cups as a good bet for punch. At 9 ounces, they are the right size.  Also great as cups to hold snacks.

What We Liked

• Clear PET plastic = nice look.

• Sturdy and resist cracks.

• Rolled rim.

• Recyclable.

• Also hold snacks.

What Needs Work

• A bit more pricey than opaque cups.

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Best for Kid Parties

Lead and BPA free
These medium weight plastic cups have two key advantages: they are easy to hold, and easy on the wallet. That makes them ideal for kids parties, snacks or craft projects.
$7.99 ($0.08 / Count)

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Best for Kids Parties: Plasticpro 7 oz. Disposable Plastic Medium Weight Clear Drinking Cups

When it comes to kids parties, you don’t need anything fancy—just a sturdy plastic cup will do. And we liked Plasticpro’s 7 ounce medium weight clear drinking cups as the best of the bunch. At seven ounces, they are just the right size for kids parties.

And these cups double as a good holder for snacks, crafts and science projects.

What We Liked

• Lead and PBA free.

• Recyclable. 

• Ribbed plastic sides = easy to hold.

• Right size for kid parties.

• Affordable.

What Needs Work

• Thinner design probably not as ideal for adult beverages.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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