The perfect travel mug

The perfect travel mug

The travel mug I use for my morning ritual is perfect. I didn’t realize it when I bought it. I was just lucky, I guess. If you’re in the market for a travel mug, here are some factors you might want to keep in mind:1I’ve tried to put them in order of importance to me, with the most important ones first.

  • Insulated. I don’t know if you can even get a non-insulated travel mug, but having one has been such a noticeable improvement over the disposable paper cups at Starbucks that I have to mention it. Brewed coffee, even with creamer added, stays hot for longer than I want to sit on the couch.2And I’ve been known to sit on the couch for more than an hour. Give me my mug, my computer, and some regulars to talk to — it’s a good morning. :-)
  • External threads. So many mugs have their threads on the inside of the mug. That means the bottom of the threaded portion of the cap, the part that comes in contact with your coffee, will sit on the counter while you add your sugar and cream. Or, if you invert the cap, the part that comes in contact with your mouth rests on the counter. Either way, it doesn’t sound hygienic to me. With external threading, this isn’t a problem.3Or rest it on a napkin or something you brought in. A lot of times, I’ll rest my cap on my computer (yeah, as though that’s clean?).
  • Simple closure. We have some travel mugs with narrow passageways or sliding closures. Some mugs have spring-loaded valves that open when you squeeze them. Interestingly, these tend to be those mugs with internal threads. Good luck getting them clean if something dries up in there. My perfect mug has a cap that snaps down and pivots back and snaps out of the way.4Okay, it’s not perfect. Coffee can get on a mall portion of the underside of the cap, which is then exposed when it pivots back for drinking. I wipe it dry so I don’t get coffee on my nose. ;-) It has no hidden or narrow passageways. I know it’s clean because I can see any gunk and can get to it to remove it.
  • Volume. I don’t know what volume you want but I always get a 16-oz coffee with room.5Yes, that’s a “grande” for the Starbucks drinkers among us. If you’re on Starbuck’s gold card program with free coffee refills, you might want to consider a smaller mug. Starbucks buddy Rich gets a tall coffee that he refills on his way out the door — 24 ounces of coffee is probably enough to start the day. YMMV. That means I get less than 16 ounces of coffee. When I saw an 18-oz mug in the store, I thought that would be perfect: I would get 16 ounces of coffee, even with room. Then I realized that I would be adding cream up to 18 ounces — more than I paid for. To be able to sleep at night, I want a mug that matches what I’m buying.6If you’re making your own coffee, this isn’t much of a problem.
  • Height. If you add sugar and cream and use stirrers, you’ll want your mug not to be too tall for the stirrers to reach the bottom. My mug is perfect.
  • Width. It needs to fit in your car’s cupholders — and your hand.
  • Dishwasher safe. Yeah, this isn’t mandatory, but it’s surprising how few insulated mugs can go in the dishwasher. Mine can.
  • Non-slip bottom? I saw a mug advertised as having a nonslip bottom. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. Instead of sliding, a mug might just tip over. Mine will slide and maybe fall off. Which is better? Both options sound ugly.

Mine ended up costing only about $11, pretty inexpensive for a metal travel mug with a stainless steel interior. Even so, it’s going to take a while for the 10-cent discount I get for using my own mug to pay for the mug.7Coincidentally, I transitioned to brewed coffee at the same time I got the reusable mug. Considering that, the mug was paid for in less than a week. That’s okay. I feel better not throwing out a paper cup that doesn’t work as well.

Using a travel mug is new for me. I like it. Maybe you will too. c[_]

By Brent Logan

Engineer. Lawyer. WordPress geek. Longboarder. Blood donor. Photographer. More about Brent.


  1. what an awesome post, some very handsome details. will have to definitely re-appraise our travel coffee mug portfolio.

    my OC cycles have tended recently to turn on the economics of coffee stirrers — every time i use a disposable coffee stirrer i get a little sad thinking about what the likely real cost (not the $ cost) of those things..

  2. Thanks! I suspect if these factors are important to you, your coffee mugs are already pretty good. I think these are reasons why I never consistently used the mugs I got previously. ;-) c[_]

    My Starbucks provides wooden stirrers (as I suppose probably all of them do). So off to Google to see what I could learn. First, the stirrers look like they’re sourced from Solo, imported from China. In the upcoming trade wars, expect tariffs or worse. ;-)

    (Btw, I was intrigued by the quantity “discount” on the stirrers. At the volumes Starbucks buys, I can’t imagine how expensive they must be.)

    It turns out someone already did the work of comparing the environmental impacts of wooden and plastic coffee stirrers — wood wins by a factor of two!

    I guess I could bring a spoon I already own (no additional mining or manufacturing impact) and throw it in the existing dishwasher load when I get back home (no additional electricity, water, or chemical usage). I’d likely wipe it with a single napkin before returning it to my pocket, so there’d be that environmental impact. I guess nothing’s free… Though, rethinking the situation, about half the time, I already use a napkin to wipe up any spills at the cream and sugar station, so the incremental cost could be zero for about half of my visits.

    If you’re interested in the environmental impact of coffee production, sales, etc., you’re in good company. Starbucks is, too. You can view Starbuck’s Global Responsibility Reports for the past 15 years or so. I did a quick search for “napkin” and “stirrer” in their most recent report and didn’t find anything. I suspect these are issues they considered in prior years and don’t feel the need to address each year (but I could be wrong–it’s happened before).

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting! :-)

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