If you like your early-morning brew to be a certain brand, black, white, no sugar or with sweeteners, the only way is to do it yourself, and keep it hot (or cold) with a travel mug. James Scoltock tests three of the best
Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug 470ml
A well-known and trusted name in the market, Thermos has been producing travel mugs for decades, and its vacuum insulation should help retain a drink’s temperature, whether hot or cold, for as long as you need it.
As with the other mugs on test, this one uses vacuum insulation to create an airless space between two walls, helping to minimise temperature changes of the contents.
But unlike other manufacturers Thermos doesn’t give buyers the temperatures it expects drinks to remain at, only that it’ll keep drinks hot for seven hours and cold for 18 hours.
That said, this mug holds 470ml of liquid, and the chances are that you will have finished your beverage before it has a chance to cool down or heat up anyway.
The mug’s narrower bottom should allow it to fit into most vehicle cup holders, but at 20cm high, it could roll around or tip over if it isn’t a snug fit.
But the lid design means nothing is likely to escape when you’re on the move; the weighty lid has a lip and an incredibly sturdy open and close switch. Having said that, the well-sealed design of the lid does make it more difficult to open or close.
One simple touch to the Thermos is the built-in tea hook, so if you use tea bags or most loose leaf infusers, you can get a drink at the strength you like. Hot drinks are, after all, a very personal thing.
Camelbak Forge Vacuum Insulated Travel Mug 340ml
Possibly the most travel-orientated mug on test; whether you’re eating up the motorway miles in the car or hiking down a trail, the Camelbak travel mug is simplicity itself.
The double-walled, vacuum-insulated steel mug is available in two variants, with capacities of 340ml or 450ml, and should theoretically keep your beverage of choice hot for up to six hours.
The Forge is designed to fit in most cup holders. The self-sealing cap lets you grab a quick drink when safe to do so, then snaps back into place to prevent leaks or spills. And that’s where the Camelbak’s main advantage lies.
Press the big orange button and the top opens so you can take a drink, and because it’s spring-loaded it snaps shut again when you’ve finished. That means no messing around to check your drink isn’t going to spill all over you or your interior. Should you prefer, you can lock the cap open – just don’t expect your drink to stay hot for long.
The Forge is sold as a hot drinks container, and there’s no mention of cold drinks on the packaging, but as it’s vacuum-insulated, it should do the trick no matter what you put inside.
However, it was the worst of the three mugs on test in terms of maintaining the heat of a drink, because even after a relatively paltry two hours, boiling water was noticeably cooler.
Still, everyone’s favourite job of washing it up is easy because it can be thrown in the dishwasher if you have one.
Zojirushi Stainless Steel Non-Stick Vacuum Travel Mug 360ml
Designed in the UK and manufactured in Thailand for the Japanese company, this stainless steel mug features a slimline and lightweight design that makes it extremely portable.
The one-touch flip-open lid with safety lock makes drinking from the mug very easy indeed and prevents beverages from spilling.
Zojirushi claims that the steel vacuum insulation keeps beverages hot or cold for up to six hours.
In the firm’s official tests, the mug was filled with 95°C water. After one hour the temperature was still a claimed 86°C and after six hours it had fallen to a still-warm 67°C. And those on-paper results hold true in the real world too; tested side by side, it kept drinks hotter for longer than the other two travel mugs here.
There are a variety of sizes: 360ml, 480ml and 600ml, so you can either take enough drink with you just for a single trip or enough to last you until you get home, but what size you chose could depend as much on your car’s cupholder size as how much drink you want to take with you. The 360ml version we tested did rattle around a little on the move.
Although not the most interesting aspect of the mug, cleaning it is less of a fuss because the stopper disassembles to keep things simple, and the interior is coated with a non-stick layer so it doesn’t hold odours. In theory you don’t need to soak it, a simple rinse and you’re done, but how long the non-stick layer lasts would be an interesting test.
We’re constantly being told that plastic cups from coffee shops aren’t recyclable and we need to start using reusable mugs so we stop adding to the mountains of waste that go to landfill sites.
Travel mugs may seem to be relatively expensive, (even though it’s easy to spend more in a week at a coffee shop than all of the mugs on test cost), but longer term they more than pay for themselves, and they’ll keep your drinks hotter, or colder, for longer anyway.
And it’s the length of time that they can maintain a drinks temperature that ultimately makes them a success or a failure, which is exactly why the Zojirushi stainless steel non-stick vacuum travel mug comes out on top in this test.
Yes, it has a sleek design and an easy-to-open lid, but it also keeps drinks hot and cold for longer than the Thermos and Camelbak.
Both of those mugs have some nice features – the teabag hook and self-closing lid for example – which Zojirushi could learn from, but at the end of the day, when you take a sip you want your drink to be a similar temperature to when you first poured it.
The Zojirushi is also available in a variety of sizes so you can choose which best suits your lifestyle, and if you shop around you can get it at below the recommended retail price, which begins to make it somewhat of a bargain.