Travel mug that's barista-friendly?
January 3, 2017 9:00 AM   Subscribe

I need to replace my annoying old plastic travel mug. Can you recommend a travel mug that's friendly to baristas/coffeeshop servers/other hot liquid handling people? Also, I would love to hear any travel mug etiquette tips or best practices for handing them back and forth between customer and server.

My current travel mug is a Whirley 16oz plastic mug. I want to replace it.

The main reason is the lid. It's a pain to snap on and off, so I hand the baristas just the mug with no lid. Then they have to wobble around carefully and not spill the hot liquid. It's an accident waiting to happen.

Other reasons for replacing it:
- The mouth/drinking hole has no protective cover. I can't just chuck the mug in my backpack without putting a small bag around its top first.
- It's old plastic.
- The graphics on the exterior are scratched and shabby. I bring this mug to work meetings, and I want to look less shabby.

Here are my travel mug habits:
- I get coffee and other hot/cold drinks from Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and my local indie coffeeshop.
- I don't have a dishwasher. I dissemble and clean my travel mug by hand.

Can you recommend a 12-16oz travel mug for hot liquids that baristas would be OK with? I would especially value input from baristas/coffee servers about your preferences.

Also, please chime in if you have tips, recommendations, or other best practices for using travel mugs at coffeeshops! How can I make the interaction smooth and accident-free?
posted by cadge to Shopping (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Make sure it's clean: they will rinse it out with hot water so your coffee doesn't instantly chill, but they don't want to handle your dirty dishes.

My local sells a mug so I use that -- but they have so far accepted every single vessel I have ever handed them. My Zojirushi is my favorite FWIW.

And I suggest that if you get a discount for reusing your own mug, tip on the full price.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:02 AM on January 3, 2017

I have a KeepCup and I love it. I've gotten many compliments on it from baristas and others.

I prefer to just hand the cup to the barista and snap on the lid afterward. But I'm sure you could hand it over with the lid and it wouldn't be a problem. Also, while there is a cover for the mouth/drinking hole, I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable chucking the cup full of hot liquid into my bag. I just carry it.
posted by tango! at 9:08 AM on January 3, 2017

I used to find that coffee mugs bought from Starbucks were the best quality for keeping beverages warm. The logo or workmark occasionally elicited wry or snarky comments from baristas at independent coffee shops, but whatever. Still, I found that Starbucks lids weren't always the best quality; they either dripped, needed the flap to often be re-snapped on, or weren't that comfortable to drink with.

Now I've been using the Contigo brand. You can find them at your typical retailers and Amazon, or Costco sells two-packs with slightly stripped down features but still good quality.

I don't think there's much to worry about etiquette besides handing the mug to the barista with the top off. I found that some coffee shops in airports or fast food restaurants that sell coffee aren't used to handling coffee travel mugs, and the cashiers will make up some excuse about why they need to give you a disposable cup.
posted by Leontine at 9:13 AM on January 3, 2017

The main reason is the lid. It's a pain to snap on and off, so I hand the baristas just the mug with no lid.

Huh. Most cafes I go to won't accept an own mug unless the customer takes the lid off, since they (very sensibly) don't want to touch anything that's been in contact with your laughing gear.

I have a KeepCup and I love it. I've gotten many compliments on it from baristas and others.

Same here- one of the Originals. It's light, and fits in a coat pocket. It's not insulated, but neither are disposable cups. Here's my take on a MeFi coloured KeepCup.

The mouth/drinking hole has no protective cover. I can't just chuck the mug in my backpack without putting a small bag around its top first.

Empty or full? For leakproof mugs, ourobouros has some good advice here. For insulated mugs, try Klean Kanteen, Zojirushi.
posted by zamboni at 9:25 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I briefly worked as a barista and am also a coffee fiend.

I think it's always best to hand them the cup without the lid. It's what we were taught where I worked, and it's what I've experienced at coffee shops. When I've forgotten, the baristas have asked me to take the lid off. That way, they don't have to touch something that touches your mouth, and vice versa.
posted by Eyeveex at 9:40 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the etiquette is to ALWAYS remove the lid. Their job is to serve coffee, they know how to handle drinks.

I like the ones that are ceramic with silicone toppers that look like disposable paper cups with plastic lids, like this.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:05 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

We recently had a similar question.
posted by adamrice at 10:11 AM on January 3, 2017

Yes, make sure it's clean and hand it over with no lid. I prefer drinknig coffee out of ceramic or glass over metal. These are nice looking and easy to use: Keep Cup or this Starbucks ceramic travel cup. The second one does have a Starbucks logo but it's pretty subtle; if you go in person to a Starbucks they have tons of ceramic options.
posted by JenMarie at 10:15 AM on January 3, 2017

This is fascinating so far - thanks!

Clarification: I put the empty mug in my backpack and carry it around until I need it. But I don't want the mouth-zone to rub up against whatever library books and junk I have in there too, so I put a sandwich bag over the top. It would be nice to have a mug with a lid or some other way of covering the mouth-zone between uses.
posted by cadge at 10:16 AM on January 3, 2017

The Contigo Transit has a part that slides round to cover the "mouth zone" to keep it clean. It doubles as the locking mechanism that stops the drinking hole being opened while not in use.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:31 AM on January 3, 2017

It would be nice to have a mug with a lid or some other way of covering the mouth-zone between uses.

So you're looking for a mug with a lid lid? KeepCups have a small plug that seals the lid, but it doesn't protect the entire section that comes in contact with your mouth. That Transit looks like it might be your best bet.

For other mugs, maybe you could use a stretchable silicone cover.
posted by zamboni at 10:36 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love my Zojirushi and it has a 'lid lid,' but it's also pretty tall. That's one thing to consider - many drip coffee carafes don't have enough space between the spiggot and the drip tray for the tallest mugs. If you always go to the same place you might even ask them how many inches of space there are.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:50 AM on January 3, 2017

Lid lid - yeah, some kind of cap or cover for the place where you put your mouth. Like this Zojirushi mug or this LifeSky example.
posted by cadge at 11:22 AM on January 3, 2017

That Zojirushi mug is excellent. I've had one for a few months, during which time I've gotten into a couple of conversations with the baristas at my local coffee place about "Isn't that just the best mug ever? I love mine!"

It's compact (smaller than the Contigo, which I've used before), sturdy (I accidentally dropped it six feet onto the sidewalk with only a small chip in the paint as a result), extremely effective (if anything, it keeps things too hot), and reliable (as long as the lid is latched, I feel comfortable throwing it into my pack next to electronics and library books).

Also, the lid comes apart quickly and easily for cleaning, so there's much less of a problem with the plastic bits picking up a nasty old-coffee funk the way some travel mugs do. I wash mine and leave the parts out to dry overnight and there's no problem with odor.
posted by Lexica at 11:53 AM on January 3, 2017

Oh, and (not to abuse the edit window) as far as how to do things smoothly at the coffee shop, when I get up to the counter I remove the lid and hand the empty, lidless mug to the person who's helping me. They rinse the mug out with hot water to remove the chill, then either fill it with coffee and hand it back to me or put it in position for the espresso-drink queue. I hold onto my lid until they're done, then screw it back on once they hand the mug back to me.
posted by Lexica at 11:57 AM on January 3, 2017

Long-time barista here! Keep Cups are great to work with because they are sized for espresso machines, and they also are very cute. They aren't terribly well-insulated, though, and they are a little spilly. I personally use the Zojirushi OP linked above and I love it. It keeps things very hot for a very, very long time and does not spill. It doesn't feel quite as nice to drink out of as the Keep Cup but overall it is A+.

Also, please do remove your lid! I will put it aside and forget to give it back to you!
posted by tealsocks at 12:57 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

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