What is the best goddamn vacuum-insulated travel mug in the world?
January 19, 2016 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Show me the last word in vacuum-insulated travel mugs for coffee. Specific requirements within.

I'm a carpenter in New England. I've recently started wanting to drink coffee throughout the day at work, to keep myself warm and sharp. (Making multiple runs to Dunkin' Donuts every day is not an option.) It's wicked cold out right now, and I'm often outside all day whatever the weather. Currently I rock a large old-school Thermos which does an admirable job of keeping my brew warm all day long even in sub-freezing temperatures, but it's a hassle to have to pour myself an entire cup; I'd much rather just take gulps every so often than stop and do the little Thermos ritual several times a day. So, like I would do with any tool-buying decision, I'm researching to find the optimal coffee mug for work. Except that instead of hitting up review comparison sites, I thought I'd ask you peopleā€”I wouldn't trust this investment decision to just anyone. A skil saw is one thing, but a coffee mug is a relationship.

Here's what I need, in descending order of importance: a mug that will keep my coffee warm all day in winter weather, is durable, holds at least 24oz of coffee, is easily cleaned (handwashing is OK, and I have a bottle brush), is spill-proof when closed, allows me to take sips as desired, has an absolute minimum of plastic parts (silicone is OK, would wrestle a moose for a ceramic mouthpiece if possible), is made by a socially- and environmentally-responsible company, and fits in a standard cupholder.

As you can see, my Thermos fulfills the top five requirements quite handily, and will not be easily beat. However it fails at all the rest, so there is definitely room for improvement. The biggest missing factor is sippability, which granted I realize is partially mutually exclusive with my #1 requirement of superb heat-holding ability but that's why I'm asking the wise and attractive people of AskMe about this. Any of the other desired features would be gravy. Money is no object.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You're not getting your ceramic mouthpiece but I feel you want a Contigo. Holds heat like an absolute champ - although probably not as well as a real screw-cap thermos; absolutely cannot spill, easy to sip from, comes as 24oz, fits in cupholder. Unsure about corporate responsibility. There's some springs and seals and moving parts so I don't reckon you'll be passing it to your grandkids but mine is on a couple years of very hard use.
posted by ftm at 5:27 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Contigo Auto Seal works for me but I'm not someplace wicked cold, I'm in Florida keeping water cold.

I've dropped and banged mine around like crazy. They are awesome. I'm only retiring them because they won't fit in the cup holder on my bike. So I bought something from Contigo's Bueno line instead.

I would not buy that EXACT one, but one they offer with a locking lid. I've found the non-locking lids do leak. However, I also bought mine four years ago and they've changed the lids twice since then.
posted by tilde at 5:28 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

I really like the Zojirushi mugs. Very nicely designed!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:33 PM on January 19, 2016 [12 favorites]

The Sweethome told me to get this Zojirushi travel mug, and they did not steer me wrong. It has some plastic, though, and I have no idea whether the company is socially or environmentally responsible. It's not really cup-holder shaped, but it stays in mine ok. It keeps my coffee remarkably warm, and it absolutely does not leak at all.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:02 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

We had something along the lines of this or this that kept coffee so hot that you had to leave the lid off for 30 minutes HOURS after you made the coffee to keep from burning your tongue skin off.

As for non-spill-ability - this is the ultimate. They only make it up to 20 oz but if you filled two, and only drank from one at a time, I think the sealed one would stay hot for quite a while.
posted by raspberrE at 6:02 PM on January 19, 2016

+ing Zojirushi. Mine is leakproof, and keeps my coffee uncomfortably hot for too long, to.the point where I leave the lid open to vet it to cool down. Everything pops apart for easy cleaning, although there is some plastic.
posted by Fig at 6:04 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes a million times to the Zojirushi line. While I don't work outside, I'm a coffee sipper and after 12+ hours at work, my morning coffee is still super warm, if not hot. It has minimal parts, nice design, locking lid and a really nice spout. Mine was about 30 bucks and worth every penny.
posted by fresh-rn at 6:05 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I love my Hydro Flasks. You can buy them via Amazon if you want to, but I linked to their site so you can look into the company. It is based in my husband's hometown and generally seems like a great place to work. They have the size you need and they are definitely leak proof. The cap is the only plastic part of the bottle. I haven't given my Hydro Flasks a good test on hot liquids, though, as I generally use mine for ice water. My various sized ones fit in my cup holder and are very easy to clean!
posted by katie at 6:25 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I asked same question last May, and then did some additional research on my own. I settled on a Contigo Autoseal.

I say settled because I also wanted no plastic on the cap/mouthpiece, but was unable to find any options offering that. In every other respect, I'm very happy with it - it's the first coffee mug I've owned (and I've been through a bunch) that is 100% reliable when it comes to spills/drips.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:30 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

nth-ing Zojirushi mugs. Mine has a lid that latches shut - great for my commute if i need to toss it in a bag. Fits in a cup holder. Keeps beverages piping hot amazingly well. Cons: plastic mouthpiece, no idea about the company's social and environmental responsibility.
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:33 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding a hydroflask. Will keep your coffee piping hot all day even in freezing weather.
posted by Giailh at 7:15 PM on January 19, 2016

Zojirushi is great, but they don't make mugs bigger than 20 oz.
posted by caek at 7:18 PM on January 19, 2016

Thirding Hydroflask. I got a branded one from work and that things holds heat like nothing I've ever seen plus it hits your corporate responsibility requirement.
posted by jasbet07 at 7:20 PM on January 19, 2016

Nthing Contigo. Mine keeps the coffee hot forever and has never spilled, even when turned upside down in my bag.
posted by holborne at 8:53 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check out the Yeti Rambler. People went apeshit for them at Christmas this year and they are supposed to be incredible.
posted by gatorae at 8:56 PM on January 19, 2016

I bought my wife a Zojirushi and she loves it. Her drinks stay remarkably hot for hours!
posted by pwb503 at 9:08 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a Zojirushi and a Contigo. The Zojirushi keeps coffee hot longer, and I like the idea of it better, but the heat is often a drag because I burn my tongue on it. (Others on the internet complain about this. I laughed at them before I had my own.) Also, the Zojirushi is too skinny for my cup holder in my car and in my bike rack. In the bike rack it's really annoying because it rattles or even falls through the side. I like the feel of drinking out the Zojirushi spout better than the Contigo, which is a little weird and lippy. But I prefer my Contigo, ultimately.

Neither of these meet your environmental standards, which is a bummer.
posted by latkes at 9:38 PM on January 19, 2016

Hydroflasks are amazing. I used to teach hot yoga (100 degreees) in Houston in the summer. My hydro would keep things so cold during a 90-minute class that I'd get an ice cream headache if I drank it too fast. One friend left hers in her car all afternoon in the Houston summer and there was still ice in it when she got back. Oh yeah they keep things hot too. :)

I balked at paying the price for one, but I bought it and fell in love. Now I have like five. They have a lifetime warranty too.
posted by Brittanie at 1:09 AM on January 20, 2016

Nthing the. Contigo. For all the reasons others have listed and is just nice to drink from a it feels a more natural action to me.
posted by wwax at 6:06 AM on January 20, 2016

Best answer: The Kleen Kanteen vacuum insulated might work for you. They make a metal cap which is not a sip-top cap (meaning you would end up un-latching the cap and drinking off the thermos lip itself), but would fulfill your requirement of no plastic and leak-proof.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:20 AM on January 20, 2016

AskMe pointed me to the Zojirushi mug and everyone who recommended it was SO RIGHT. It simply does not leak, and keeps drinks hot 12hrs+. A little bit pricey for a coffee cup but totally worth the extra $10.
posted by vignettist at 11:25 AM on January 20, 2016

Another vote for Hydroflask. Got one in a monthly "camping box" subscription and immediately ordered a second for my husband.
posted by thebrokedown at 11:47 AM on January 20, 2016

Nthing Zojirushi. I can have coffee left after an eight-hour workday and it's still warm.
posted by anotheraccount at 12:27 PM on January 20, 2016

Yeti Rambler: built with a small hole (for drinking) in the clear plastic lid that can't be closed. Spills ahoy. Poorly designed lid makes for one messy travel mug.

Also, Nissan vs Zojirushi: Both are very good but Zojirushi wins heat retention.
posted by artdrectr at 4:35 PM on January 20, 2016

I read this Ask yesterday,
I saw this today: http://www.gearinstitute.com/gear-news/gear-spotter/item/stanley-unveils-new-24-oz-classic-vacuum-stein
I decided it was a perfect excuse to sign up so I could share it with you. This is my first post!
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 5:34 PM on January 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Zojirushi is great, but they don't make mugs bigger than 20 oz

Just get 2. They are that good.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:51 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Zojirushi really can keep your coffee too hot to drink. We have taken to leaving ours open after filling to let the coffee cool. But they don't leak, and mine survived with only scratches after being knocked off the top of a car. Be warned: the "red" one is pretty much a rose/pink color and not really red. The black one is a nice satin finish and looks really sleek.
posted by fedward at 8:09 PM on January 20, 2016

The zojirushi travel thermoses are the best mug I've ever owned.
posted by zug at 8:53 PM on January 20, 2016

Yeah if heat is #1, n-thing zojirushi. I had to stop using mine because my tea would take hours to get cool enough to drink. I literally bought a crappier thermos on purpose because my zojirushi did too good a job keeping my tea hot .
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 10:51 PM on January 23, 2016

Response by poster: OK, so a little followup to let future readers know what I ended up doing and how it's worked out. I actually ended up totally disregarding everybody's extremely thoughtful advice (sorry) and buying this Klean Kanteen 32 oz insulated growler, and I'm pretty darn happy with it. More info below.

Here's why I didn't take up any of the suggestions above: almost none of them came in a 24 oz or bigger size (24 oz was my absolute minimum; I wasn't interested in bringing two mugs) and none of them came with a non-plastic mouthpiece. Also as far as I could tell none of the companies making the recommended mugs had any social responsibility cred to speak of. Given that my existing thermos was already pretty good, I didn't feel that they would be a net improvement.

Here's why I bought the Klean Kanteen growler: it's solid stainless steel except for one silicone gasket, holds plenty of coffee, and is made by a certified B Corporation. The swing-lock cap gives a very tight seal while allowing the vessel to be opened and drank from directly.

Here's what I think of it after using it for a while: I am very pleased! It is not perfect but I'm quite happy with the purchase overall. Positives: It keeps my coffee warm all day, holds enough coffee, is durable, is very easy to clean, is spill-proof when closed, allows me to sip, has no plastic, and is made by a socially-responsible company. (It does not fit in a cupholder, but that was my least important criterion.) So it satisfies all of my desires except one, which was not very important anyway.

There are some negatives, however. It does not insulate quite as well as my Thermos; the neck gets noticeably warm and if literally left in the snow all day the coffee can get cold by the end of the afternoon. However this is solvable by pre-heating the container with boiling water before adding the coffee, and by also heating the milk in the microwave before adding it, and by trying not to use actual snow as a cupholder. (With the Thermos, these steps were not necessary. They are also not necessary with the new container on days when I am working indoors.) Also, on one occasion I dropped the growler onto a driveway and the lid popped open, causing me to lose most of that day's coffee; I have solved this by being more careful. Furthermore, it takes some care to get very small sips out of it as one needs to do in the morning when the coffee is still very hot. Lastly, the gasket does a funny thing sometimes where when the cap is opened it will be sealed against the cap, but will then "pop" slightly while I'm drinking and spray droplets of coffee on my face; I deal with this by making sure to unstick it from the cap before drinking. However, none of these flaws are deal-breakers for me, and even when added together are still better to me than drinking hot coffee from a plastic spout or from a little plastic cup (as with the Thermos) especially when weighed against all of the advantages listed above.

Hopefully this followup will be useful to somebody someday. I do appreciate all the advice given, and if I am ever in the market for a more conventional travel mug will probably try a Zojirushi.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:47 PM on January 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Glad my recommendation worked! I love Klean Kanteen!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:49 AM on January 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wha? I somehow missed your recommendation there, Porcine! Great minds think alike, I guess. Retroactive Best Answer and high fives all around.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:21 AM on January 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

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