Every working parent knows that coffee (or tea) on the go is imperative. I need my coffee before I leave the house. I never was that interested in adding a stop to buy coffee into my morning routine – I wanted to be fully caffeinated before arriving at work!
Traveling with a hot beverage is tricky. I started my quest for the very best travel mug many years ago, and I’m going to share my experience with you.
First, some disclaimers: These reviews are exclusively of ceramic/porcelain mugs. Early on, I tried plastic and stainless mugs, but I always found that they acquired a funky taste/smell after the first dishwashing. I even tried to only hand wash them, but it still added a weird taste. I should point out that I drink my coffee black, so I don’t have cream or sweetener to help mask that taste. I actually gave up on the travel mug for awhile, then I found a ceramic mug, and it didn’t acquire the weird taste, so now my goal was to find the perfect ceramic/porcelain travel mug.
Although these mugs can be used for a cold beverage, these reviews are specifically about holding a hot beverage. There are so many good options for cold beverages, that I feel like you really don’t need reviews – am I wrong about that? Let me know . . .
These reviews are hardly scientific, but I did go through a process for determining the thermal performance of the mugs. I filled them with water the temperature of hot coffee (172 degrees, the temp it is straight from my coffee maker), then I checked the temperature after 10 minutes and 20 minutes and recorded the results.
In order of least favorite to most favorite:
I bought this mug at TJ Max or Marshalls for $4.99. It holds 12 oz. and has a rubber cover that fits over the top and has a small opening from which you can drink your coffee. It’s a lot like a coffee shop cover. Pros: inexpensive, dishwasher and microwave safe; Cons: rubber cover, no handle.
Leak/spill rating: 2 (scale is 0-10) The rubber cover is easy to knock off the lid, and the opening for your mouth allows for liquid to flow freely. “Going back home to change my shirt!”
Thermal rating: About 15% heat loss (150) after 10min, 24% (136) after 20 minutes.
This is another 12oz mug that I bought at Marshalls for $6.99, but is also available at Bed Bath & Beyond for $14.99. A big part of a successful travel mug is the lip of the mug. A lot of the covers end up being too bulky – you have to get your lips around the lid and the lip of the mug, and the steam from the hot coffee can accumulate and burn your mouth. What I liked about the “Coffee Is Love” mug is that instead of a bulky lid, it’s a ceramic disk that sits inside the mug. It’s not perfect though – although the lip of the mug is exposed, your lip still gets mashed up against the lid.
Pros: Lid/lip of mug; Cons: not microwavable due to metal decoration, no handle
Leak/Spill Rating: 2, no way to close off opening. The lid will not easily detach, but also does not affix to the mug.
Thermal Rating: slightly better than “Life is Good” with 151 degrees after 10 minutes, and 138 after 20.
This mug holds a generous 16oz, and is the type of mug that works well both on the go as well as at home. This mug’s lid is a simple plastic disk that clips into the inner edge of the opening. This design leaves the lip of the lid exposed for a very comfortable sip. This is the first mug in the list that has a handle. It may be a effect of my cup holder, but I find having a handle is very helpful to grab the mug when taking it in and out of the cup holder. I don’t recall where I bought this mug, but a good guess would be at Marshalls/TJ Maxx/Homegoods.
Pros: Handle, good lip design, dishwasher/microwave safe; Cons: chips easily, nose hits lid when sipping, not a great fit in cup holder.
Leak/Spill rating: 0, this mug’s lid has a hole for drinking, and the edges does not seal against the mug. If it were to tip over, the contents would spill.
Thermal rating: Despite not having a cover that seals in the heat completely, this mug performed slightly better that the first two with 152 degrees after 10 minutes and 139 degrees after 20 minutes.
This is a mug with a 15oz capacity (but it looks bigger, right?). I bought this at TJMaxx for $6.99. This is another mug of the type with the ceramic disk for a lid. I have a confession, though, I never used this mug because when I took it out of the package, it already had a hairline crack in it. This is a good time as any to point out one of the major cons of all ceramic/porcelain mugs – they break. This is the one universal drawback of these mugs – a simple tipping over in the sink can cause a crack and make the mug unusable. Although, I will say that most of my breakage has been the result of much more violent circumstances – dropped on the garage concrete floor, tipped on the soapstone counter, and frozen and cracked to name a few.
Pros: price, dishwasher safe (except lid); Cons: heavy, no handle, chips/cracks easily
Leak/Spill rating: 2 – same as the other ceramic disk lid
Thermal Rating: n/a due to crack
I was so excited when I found this 13 oz ceramic mug at Homegoods (seeing a pattern here?). The lid design included a nice thin lip, and the access hole has a flip-top cover. Then I broke it 🙁 Then I found another on Groupon – actually 2 for $12, making the price $6. I don’t love the color – I’m not a fan of dark/black mugs because you can’t tell what you are drinking – coffee and water look the same. But, this mug also comes in white.
Leak/Spill rating: 5 – not leak or spill proof, but due to the lid design, spills would be minimal. The only thing that I have found is that when you lift it out of your cup holder, it is awkward. I tend to grab it from the top, and then end up pulling the top off. I wish it had a handle.
Thermal Rating: Significantly lower than the other mugs with 133 degrees after 10 minutes, and 122 degrees after 20 minutes.
I was so excited when I saw this travel mug at Target. It was a little pricy at $14.99, but I just loved the way it looked, and it had a handle! Doing research for this post, I found it on Amazon for $12.60, and it’s down to $9.56 now. This mug holds 16 oz of beverage, and it has a great lid/lip design. The lid is a plastic disk that is sunk into the opening of the mug. This leaves the lip of the mug unencumbered, so it feels like sipping out of a regular mug.
Pros: Very stylish, has a handle, excellent lid/lip design, dishwasher (top rack) safe; Cons: price, can’t put in the microwave due to metal.
Leak/Spill rating: 3, this mug is slightly better than the other mugs that have no covering for the opening because the liquid does not come out of the opening as quickly.
Thermal Rating: This mug had the best thermal rating of them all with 149 degrees after 10 minutes, and 134 degrees after 20 minutes.
My sister bought this mug for me as a birthday present. She bought it in a seaside gift shop for $19.95, by far the priciest, but I did find it on Amazon for $14.95. This mug is also the largest with a 17oz capacity. The Dahlia wins the best mug not only because of its great lid/lip design, but also its beauty. This mug checks all my requirements: comfortable lip/lid? Yes. Cover for lid opening? Yes, flip top. Handle? Yup. Dishwasher/microwave safe? Yes
Cons: the only one I can think of is the price.
Leak/Spill rating: 5, the flip top has a plug for the hold in the lid. While not leak proof, this mug has minimal leakage/spillage when tipped over.
Thermal Rating: This mug tied with the Fulton with 149 degrees after 10 minutes, but was slightly cooler at 131 degrees after 20 minutes.
What’s your favorite travel mug?