How Deneen Pottery creates their mugs

By Death Wish Coffee — / Death Wish Coffee Blog


By Angela Garrity, Guest Blogger

The most beloved mugs from Death Wish Coffee fans begin their journey entrusted in the hands of artists at Deneen Pottery. In this episode of Fueled by Death Cast, Jeff has a heart to heart with Niles Deneen, owner of Deneen Pottery to uncover a few secrets about the highly coveted mugs. 

These mugs do not come from molds, so let’s dispel any notion of that nonsense right now. Deneen explains how this process for his mugs starts. 

It all starts with clay.

“We start with logs of clay that we extrude because we process our own clay in house. We cut them up into perfect bite-size pieces. Our potters will stack up like 200-300 pieces, so in the morning, when you walk past Potter’s Lane, everyone has huge piles of clay. Halfway through the day, halfway gone. At the end of the day, all gone. So that transformation is amazing.” 

This is where the clay undergoes some serious changes.  

“Once a pot is thrown, we let it set for a day. When it comes up the next day, we apply a handle. We put a medallion on it, we let it air dry for three days. Then we bisque fire it at 1600 degrees, which takes about 16 hours. It comes out, we do a quality inspection. We’ll paint the medallion to pop out the detail, then it moves through and glaze is applied, which is done through suction, so we’ll take a mug and dip it into a bucket, pull it out if it’s solid. If its marble, you have to wait for the glaze to dry and you’ll dip just the top in one or two more dips. Then, remove the glaze off the front of the medallion and glaze is covering the whole thing, so you got to wipe off the foot. Stack it in the kiln to fire for another 24 hours.”  

Deneen gives a serious word of warning about the heat. 

“You never want to touch a mug right after it comes out of a kiln. You can crack the doors at 800 (degrees), if you were to open the doors at full temp, the thermal shock would ripple through. At 400 degrees, if you touch a pot, you’ll have no fingerprints. Not a good thing.” 

We hear you loud and clear. Let’s leave the art-making to the artists. 

“After it cools, you take it back to the shipping department where it gets inspected again, grind the bottom to make sure it’s super soft, pack into a box and ship it out. So all in all, from start to finish, the time it takes is about 21 business days.” 

Please take your time, Deneen Pottery. Your mugs are definitely worth the wait. 

Yearly Death Wish Coffee Mugs aside, those fortunate to receive even numbers at each even 100 can find mugs signed by Dad Deneen himself. Autographs are applied “Right before the first firing”, Deneen explains. 

“If you’ve got a hand-signed one, post them up, share them up. We want to see them!” Deneen says enthusiastically. 

It may come as a surprise to learn how the mug handles are applied. They are added later. 

“We extrude handles so if you’ve ever played with Playdough and they have the little kind of deal that you put the template you want you to squish it down and it comes out, we have one of those that produce the handles themselves. We cut them into 6-inch lengths. “ 

Want to know more secrets about the fan-favorite mugs that contain the World’s Strongest Coffee? While Deneen can’t tell us every detail about the family business, you can shape form to the fact regarding the medallion facing mugs and more in Fueled By Death Cast Episode #144 – Niles Deneen.  

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