Morning routines: you’ve got to love them! Some people are frantically trying to bundle kids in the car, others like to go for a run or walk the dog. The lucky few can roll out of bed and they are ready. The one thing almost everyone has in common is that the last thing they grab is their travel mug. That’s why you need to know what is the best travel mug to buy.
Caffeine is the key ingredient to turn a zombie-like creature into a highly functioning human being in just a short journey.
In terms of inventions, travel mugs are relatively young. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that they started popping up. During that time if you saw a person on the street with one it was hard not to stare. You would marvel at their luck to be able to carry around their hot drink.
The popularity of the travel mug grew quickly. Now you can now find a massive range of styles, shapes, and materials.
The most significant advancement is probably the ability to keep hot drinks hot but also cold drinks cold. We are going to try and draw the focus away from just coffee.
While you are reading this article, think about soups, iced teas, smoothies. Any liquid can go in a travel mug. Depending on the size, you might fit a baby bottle inside to keep it warm too!
Travel Mug Buying Guide
There are a number of features that you should take into consideration before buying a travel mug. We have put together an extensive list to help you.
Travel Mug’s Construction
Travel mug’s come in a range of forms and materials. Let’s take a look at the most common.
Stainless steel is a common favorite in the kitchen and more so for travel mugs. It is an incredibly durable material. With your hands full in the mornings, there is the awful possibility of dropping your morning brew. It is extremely difficult to break stainless steel.
It is also very easy to clean and stainless steel doesn’t rust. On the downside, while it is resistant to absorbing taste it can leave a slightly metallic taste in the drinks.
It makes sense considering normal cups are made from ceramic. You will often find they come with silicone lids. Ceramic mugs won’t have any effect on the taste and they are fantastic for keeping the heat in.
They are easy to clean but they are not as stain-resistant as stainless steel. Many people prefer ceramic for their appearance. They come in a bigger range of colors, designs, and patterns.
Plastic is a cheap option, which makes it popular for travel mugs. They generally last longer than ceramic travel mugs. But they aren’t quite as durable as stainless steel.
The main problem with plastic travel mugs is that they can absorb tastes. So if you switch to tea after coffee, you might notice a hint of coffee in your tea.
Fairly new to the market are bamboo travel mugs. Bamboo can be grown easily and without pesticides. Because it is a plant it is biodegradable. Bamboo is mixed with cornstarch and resin to make it suitable for taking hot and cold drinks with you.
While it isn’t going to last as long as a stainless steel mug, it is bar far the best option for the environment.
Double-walled (Vacuum travel mug)
By far the best option for keeping drinks hot. Double-walled travel mugs usually have an inner wall of plastic. Then there is an outer layer of stainless steel. You will find other material combinations.
There is a thin space between the two walls. This space is necessary to prevent burning your hands. It also helps to keep the drink hotter for longer.
BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.
Make sure your travel mug is BPA free. BPA stands for bisphenol A, and BPA free means it doesn’t contain bisphenol-A.
BPA is a chemical found in some plastics and resins for decades. It has various negative effects on our health so it is best to avoid it at all costs.
To know more about BPA concerns check this article by MayoClinic.org.
Other options to consider
There are glass options but we wouldn’t recommend them. They are great for not absorbing tastes but they don’t keep your drinks hot and they are heavier.
Although it’s very difficult to break stainless steel, the same can’t be said of glass. A small accident can leave your glass mug in a thousand pieces. That can be a hassle so we don’t recommend glass.
It is also really important that we do our part for the environment. Try to make sure the travel mug you choose is environmentally friendly.
Features of a Travel Mug
Now let’s go over the main characteristics a travel mug should have. It’s necessary to check these to make sure the product fulfills your needs.
This is a no brainer but the whole point of a travel mug is to keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold.
As we have mentioned, the material you choose will have an effect on the temperature of your drinks. A double-walled travel mug should be able to keep drinks hot for up to 5 hours and cold for up to 9 hours.
We do have a good tip to help keep your drinks at the right temperature for longer. Fill the travel mug up with hot or cold water (depending on whether you want a hot or cold drink). Leave it for 3 minutes before you make your drink!
Ease of use
First thing first- does it fit in your car cup holder? Most have a standard-sized base to fit in a standard-sized car cup holder. However, it is worth double-checking.
You will be gutted if you buy the perfect mug and you can’t take it anywhere in your car. And we are talking from experience here. Some may come with a handle. So again, check it will fit in your car cup holder.
You also want to make sure the travel mug doesn’t leak. Again, talking from experience, it’s not nice when your hot drink spills all over your hand or dribbles down your clean work shirt! Lids can be clip-on or screw-on.
They can come with a flip opening or a slide opening. If you are planning to drink (from your travel mug) and drive, you must make sure you can open the lid with one hand.
One tiny feature we really liked was a little slit to wrap your teabag string around. This will save you digging around in your hot tea to catch a string.
Liquid Capacity and Size
A travel mug can come with a great range of capacities. You can normally choose between 12oz (354ml), 16oz (473ml), 20oz (591ml), 30oz (887ml), or 40oz (1.18lt). To put this in perspective, a normal mug is approximately 12oz (354ml).
A 30oz or 40oz travel mug is great if you want to keep your water cool all day. If you are carrying a 40oz travel mug of coffee, there will be plenty to share around the office. 12oz might seem a little small but they are ideal if you just want an extra burst of your favorite beverage throughout the morning.
Travel mugs come in a range of sizes. Some are tall and thin and others have a wider top half. Most will have a standard base size of around 2.75 inches (7cm). While the size is more of personal preference, you do want your travel mug to be lightweight.
Ease to clean
Stainless steel, ceramic and some plastic travel mugs can go in the dishwasher. It is always best to check for a dishwasher safe symbol before you put it in the dishwasher. You should never put a double-walled travel mug in the dishwasher. It can destroy the insulation.
Hand washing is the best way to go. Coffee and tea are known to stain. If you start to notice stains in your mug, try rubbing a little baking soda around the inside before you wash it. Vinegar will also do the trick but wash the travel mug well before using it again.
If you haven’t used your travel mug for a while, you should also rinse it out or give it a quick wash before you use it. In each case, it is worth washing the travel mug off with hot water so you don’t get a dish soap taste in your drink.
Smart Travel Mugs
Almost anything can be made Smart these days, including travel mugs. Some brands will allow you to sync your travel mug with your Smartwatch or phone via an app. Here are some features you can expect with a Smart travel mug:
- Temperature setting
- LCD display to show the temperature and brewing time
- Rapid cooling system
- Track your drink consumption
- Set Hydration reminders
- Charging alert
It’s a rather posh and elegant way to drink but there are advantages if you are monitoring your health. Some might feel it is extreme that we need Smart technology to help us drink a hot beverage! Whatever your opinions are on these intelligent travel mugs, be prepared to pay more.
Self-Stirring Travel Mugs
While they might seem a bit gimmicky at first, we can almost see the benefit. It would definitely help with brewing tea or mixing sugar into drinks.
It might even out a smoothie if some ingredients are heavier than others. All you need to do is press a button and your drink will start to swirl.
Remember these kinds of travel mugs will need batteries. So definitely don’t put them in the dishwasher.
Electrically heated mugs
Similarly to the Smart travel mugs, we have a bit of a love-hate relationship with electric travel mugs. There is no doubt an advantage when you re on the road for a long time and you need to heat some water.
You can plug the travel mug into your car charger to heat liquids. They are brilliant for making fresh hot drinks. But, any avid tea or coffee drinker will tell you that you can’t reheat tea or coffee and expect the same taste!
Top Brands for Travel Mugs
Thermos is probably the most well-known brand of travel mugs. Other names to look out from are Yeti, Contigo, and KleanKanteen.
That being said, there are plenty of options so don’t feel you need to buy one of these brands. Each travel mug will have its pros and cons depending on the person using it.
As you can imagine there is a price to suit everybody. There will be a huge difference depending on the size and material. Prices can be between $10 and $50 or even higher.
If you are looking at a Smart travel Mug with many features, you could be looking for products with prices over $100 or even $150.
A reminder of the features to consider
Whether you are looking for your first travel mug, a replacement or a gift for someone, there are some things you should keep in mind:
- Retaining the temperature for hot and cold drinks
- The material it is made of- stainless steel, plastic, ceramic, bamboo
- Is it BPA free?
- The ease of use- handles, lid type
- Liquid capacity- from 12oz (354ml) to 40oz (1.18lt)
- Dishwasher safe- not for double-walled travel mugs
- Your impact on the environment
You might want an electric or Smart travel mug. Our advice here is to look closely at the features to decide if they are necessary for you.
Wrap-up on the best travel mug
While searching online for a travel mug, you might have been more drawn to one with funky right colors. Hopefully, after reading this, you will have more idea of the type of travel mug for you.
Run through the summary features one more time and tick the ones that are most important to you. Try not to be tempted to buy gimmicky travel mugs because of one cool feature. You might find they are lacking other important features.
Finally, there is a travel mug for everyone who needs to get out of the door in the morning with their favorite beverage. We hope we have helped take a little bit of stress out of the morning routine!
Check out our article on how to clean coffee stains from stainless steel mug to keep your travel mug as new.