Help me find my holy grail of travel coffee mugs
October 9, 2014 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Odor sensitive person seeks travel coffee mug that won't accumulate funk. Snowflakes inside.

Though I love my local coffee shop, I'd like to bring coffee to work with me a few times a week. Unfortunately I am VERY sensitive to the coffee odors that plastic mugs accumulate. I prefer plain, unlined stainless steel, and detest those mugs that look like they're steel, but have an invisible plastic liner.

Ideally this mug would also keep my coffee warm, and wouldn't be super leaky. However, it's more important that the lid be thoroughly cleanable. Even the steel mugs have plastic lids, which accumulate odors, and unfortunately that's the part next to your nose.

I had a Contigo Autoseal mug which I loved at first but I could never get the top clean enough (used denture cleaner, vinegar soaks, tiny brush) and I finally gave up and got rid of it because I just couldn't handle tasting last week's fermented coffee remnants.

I wash my mug daily but I am not superhuman and I'd like it to not be ruined if it missed a day once. A few years ago I had this one that I liked because it was unlined steel and had a very basic lid, but of course it leaked like hell and it didn't keep the coffee warm. It died when somebody put it in the dishwasher and I never got the soap taste out of the lid again.

I could live with the leaking, but I do like warm. The mug should fit in the car cupholder for transport purposes. Sensitive schnozzes of MeFi, what do you drink out of???
posted by telepanda to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I've had this Nissan Travel Mug for about 15 years. LURVE
posted by cyndigo at 9:01 AM on October 9, 2014

Oh, those Contigo mugs are horrible for coffee. Impossible to clean, and if you do manage to get the coffee taste out, you've probably replaced it with the flavor of detergent, which seems to cling to/be absorbed into the silicone (?) bit that forms the seal.

I like the Zojirushi Stainless Mug. When they say the stopper disassembles for cleaning, they mean it. The silicone seal is also completely exposed rather than hidden in the guts of the cap, so it's easy to clean and doesn't harbor unrinseable coffee scum. It also does a fairly good job of not leaking.

Tip for leaking coffee mugs: it's tough to prevent leaks when there's a head of air above the coffee. The hot water heats the air, which expands much more than an equivalent amount of water would, pressurizing the closed mug and forcing coffee around the seal if it isn't perfectly upright. If you fill the mug all the way, or burp it to release the pressure once the temperature has equalized, the mug will leak less.
posted by pullayup at 9:04 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have been on this quest for a very long time. My solution comes in two parts. First of all, This is your mug, specifically, the 12oz insulated stainless steel buddy with both the regular cap and the coffee cap. I love this thing. It's the perfect size. It's easy to clean. It's really pretty. My 3 year old can't figure out how to destroy it.

The second, is Purocaffe. I keep very few specialized cleaners in the house, but during my life as a coffee roaster I've only found that special coffee-cleaners really destroy those built up coffee oils in a travel mug (or anywhere else). A little dime-sized pile in the bottom of the mug, and some hot water will take care of it. You don't even need to scrub it. The oils just break down, and rinse out. This will allow you to be a little bit more loose with cleaning the mug; if you skip a day, it will just taste kind of off, instead of 'ohgod what coffee demon is living in there?'
posted by furnace.heart at 9:04 AM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: furnace.heart, I feel like I've spent most of my adult life exclaiming "ohgod what coffee demon is living in there?". Thank you for putting words to my problem.
posted by telepanda at 9:11 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

You might also look at ceramic double-walled travel mugs (an Amazon search turns up numerous possibilities). I bought one several years back for the same reason, and it definitely does not accumulate nasty funk the way plastic mugs do. The lid on mine is flexible silicone; easy to clean and seems to be impervious to funk as well. Being ceramic it is on the heavy side, and without a vacuum I'm not convinced that the double-wall feature provides all that much extra insulation, but I can attest that it washes out just fine if accidentally left for a day or two.
posted by usonian at 9:11 AM on October 9, 2014

We've got a couple of the ceramic cups with the silicone sleeve and lid and they don't get funky.
posted by Runes at 9:30 AM on October 9, 2014

I forgot to mention that a single jug of purocaff in a home setting lasts years. I've been regularly cleaning all my home coffee gear with a single tube for the past three years. It really doesn't take much.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:41 AM on October 9, 2014

If you work at a desk, forget the travel mug and instead get a good insulated thermos-type thing (I have the Nissan) and a small ceramic mug and just pour yourself little cups of coffee all day.

The thermos insulates better than any travel mug so your coffee is hot all day, the little cupfuls you pour cool off quickly so you don't burn yourself, no plastic lid to accumulate smells, your coworkers are jealous if you bring it to meetings. This has been my coffee system for three years and it is the best.
posted by in a dark glassly at 9:42 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Which Contigo Autoseal were you using? There are three kinds, the original with impossible-to-clean lid, the second generation with "open access" lid which wasn't much better, and the newer "easy clean" lid which is still not perfect, but combined with that cleaner that furnace.heart linked to, should be perfect for you.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:46 AM on October 9, 2014

I personally found the ceramic/silicone mugs got too hot to handle, but my new ceramic/stainless version has been a game changer as far a taste and keeping my coffee hot. I have this one because I need something I won't knock over, but Starbucks has one that fits cups holders. I'm also over lids that have nooks and crannies I can't clean (I don't have a dishwasher) and the Starbucks mug looks like it's a plain lid, too.

They're not microwave safe, of course, if that matters.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:47 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Klean kanteen stainless steel with two lids, one cafe plastic lid which fully disassembles and then a screw on cap for transport. Genius.
posted by arnicae at 9:58 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I got a Timolino icon after America's test kitchen recommended it. Does have plastic lid, but interior is stainless steel, and it keeps coffee super hot for super long.
posted by Diablevert at 10:02 AM on October 9, 2014

I was recently gifted one of the Kleen Canteen mugs with two lids and it's really great. It's actually this exact one with the NPR logo and everything. Stylish and functional.

All our stainless bottles get cleaned with these every so often. We drink mostly tea which also can leave some crazy hard to remove stains but these do a good job of cleaning the heck out of stainless containers.
posted by GuyZero at 10:09 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

My favorite travel hot beverage container are the porcelain ones from Vessel. I run mine through the dishwasher all the time. They say it may wear the ink of the designs off faster, I have had mine over 3 years and had no issues. Occasionally the rubber lid smells like dishwasher soap, but a good cleaning with plain water usually solves that for me. I am also very sensitive to the old coffee smell and I have found these to be perfect for me.
posted by DireCareBear at 10:28 AM on October 9, 2014

I cannot favorite the comments about the Klean Kanteens enough; they're exactly what I came here to recommend. The regular cap has a stainless steel liner, and lets you just toss the mug into your bag (though make sure that cap is on good!) The coffee cap is "BPA-free polypropylene" (whatever the heck that is), and I've never had funk issues. Rinse out the mug with hot water (and if you forget for a day, no big deal), and soap and hot water the caps occasionally, and you'll be fine. I have a 12 oz and a 16 oz and use them constantly. :)
posted by joycehealy at 10:29 AM on October 9, 2014

I love the stainless steel travel mugs from Starbucks. I buy the ones with the very easy flip-top lid. I never buy a mug that has a handle or button to push to open. Those have way too many small moving parts that get gamey and gross. The flip tops are easy to clean and don't leak for me.
posted by quince at 11:46 AM on October 9, 2014

As for cleaning, I'm surprised no one mentioned bleach. A half-teaspoon in a mug full of water overnight will remove most stains and ALL imbedded flavors, in my experience. And at that level of dilution, you don't even need to be uber-cautious emptying it - minor splashes won't bleach your clothes.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:12 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just want to add my own love for the insulated Klean Kanteens to the pile of recommendations.
posted by pemberkins at 12:19 PM on October 9, 2014

Why does every travel mug have a sliiiightly different-sized lid? Lose the lid, and you might as well pitch the mug. grrrarrrr.
posted by theora55 at 2:28 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

nthing the klean kanteen insulated mugs. The cafe lid separates into two pieces which means you can actually clean all its surfaces. It will also keep your coffee hot for the entire day, especially if you pre-heat it with some hot tap water (or boiling water) before you pour your coffee in.
posted by amelliferae at 5:55 PM on October 9, 2014

Yes to the insulated stainless bottles. I prefer HydroFlask myself (an alternative to Kleen Kanteen). They have an 18oz bottle specifically for coffee/tea, but I've been using the 12oz model with standard screw-top lid for years. It never leaks, has no funky odors, and will keep your coffee HOT for hours. I usually rinse it out daily with hot water and give it a good washing once a week. I only ever put coffee in it.
posted by geeky at 10:10 AM on October 10, 2014

The only thing I've really been happy with, smell-wise, is the ceramic travel mugs with silicone lid. They come double-walled, but I have a fabric re-usable mug cosy thing for my single-wall. Haven't found a way to make it leak-proof, but the Zojirushi mug is legit leak-proof. Silicone and ceramic seem to me to be the only things that genuinely do not absorb smell (although crud can accumulate in some of the nooks of the lids so they can be fussy to clean). Steel (I know this can't be right, but in my experience) retains some smell/taste, and any kind of plastic retains smell/taste. Possibly this is variable based on quality of material and manufacture. I've actually been afraid to really try the Zojirushi mugs properly for coffee, but it seemed fine once or twice, and the lids come apart for really thorough cleaning. And they haven't retained any smell from anything else I've used them for (juice, margaritas...).
posted by you must supply a verb at 4:23 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh for cleaning? Denture cleaners (which also are great for night guards and retainers) and Luke warm water ftw
posted by arnicae at 5:10 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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