Travel Mugs

Life is full of choices. As in all things, what may be right for you may not be right for some. With this in mind, we will take the good, take the bad, and then we’ll have…  A guide that breaks down the things to consider when buying a reusable coffee mug.

Note: The following links bring you to the Canadian Amazon, and by purchasing items through the links, I get a small cut. To be clear, I’ve tried to find the best offers available on Amazon, the cut comes out of Jeff Bezos’ pocket, and it helps support the site. However, if you’d like to support the site directly, consider joining our Coffee Club over on Patreon and letting us send you some great coffee.

Summary / Best in class

I hate when pages force you to scroll through a bunch of crap to get to the one summary you are looking for. In the following sections I will elaborate and justify below, but here is your summary!

Lingering Taste

Ceramic // glass + non-rubber lid

Insulation and leak-proof

Double-walled stainless steel or ceramic

All-rounder

Ceramic body, screw-on lid with flip-mouth. Nice.

The Details

Lingering Taste

Unfortunately, your coffee is going to have to be in contact with the cup. My experiences lead me to believe that glass/ceramic are best, stainless steel is ok, plastic is bad, rubberized parts are horrible.

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A ceramic-lined travel mug I would recommend.

This kind of makes sense. Plastic and rubbers, no matter how good, will leach a bit of material into your drink – at least at first (trust me, I am a polymer physicist). This, however, is a small effect compared to plastic and rubber’s ability to hold on to flavors. I have a bunch of travel mugs I would love to use, but no matter how much I wash them, I can’t get the taste of stale coffee out of them. Coffee is composed of many different molecules, including some pretty difficult to remove oils. If you reuse Ziplocks and Tupperware, you are likely familiar with the anguish of washing an oily bag.

While keeping plastic out of the body of the cup is most important, the lid also plays a roll. Keeping plastic out of the lid, though, is very difficult, so you may have to bite the bullet. On the other hand, my lovely sister managed to find a cup with a bamboo lid (with minimal rubber, only for the gaskets). I have been very impressed with this type of lid so far, and would consider it your best bet.

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Glass walls will minimize taste retention. This is your best choice.

As far as body material goes, stainless steel is better than plastic, but only by a bit. The majority of cups will be made of stainless steel and these will range in prices greatly. The flavor retention, however, will not. If you end up going with steel, it is very important that you rinse your cup (or better yet, wash with soap) as soon as you are done with your coffee.

Insulation

While the flavor retention of a cup is absolutely critical, the importance of insulation will depend from person to person.

The best insulation will come from a double-walled cup, and the best material here will be ceramic. That said, I’ve used some extremely impressive stainless-steel cups that keep your coffee hot for hours, and the glass/wood cup I recommended above will stay warm for a good hour or so. That’s more than enough for me, since I finish my drinks fairly quickly.

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Great for insulation, not so great for lingering taste.

As with the above discussion, body is the most important, but the lid will also play a roll. This almost completely rules out glass since the only lids you tend to see with these are friction-fit, gasket varieties. These are fine, but you will lose a lot of heat here. If insulation is critical, you will want to look at screw-on lids. If insulation is the most important thing to you, I would highly recommend the Contigo double-walled stainless steel.

Leak-proof

The best lid is a lid with no holes at all. But if you plan to drink through the lid, you will have to accept the possibility of leaks. Fortunately, most cups have reasonable lids for basic-use situations. Where it gets dicey is when you want to throw the cup in a backpack or purse. The above guideline for insulation also doubles for leaky lids. Friction-fit lids are going to be the least reliable, since they only need to be pulled at to be removed. Your best option will be a screw-on lid with rubber gaskets.

 

A flip lid is a nice compromise between leak-proof and cleanability

The mouth of the lid will also be important here, and again, this is where the Contigo (see above) does a great job. It has a “vacuum sealed” button valve that lets you drink from the top. Unfortunately, these can be difficult to clean. Other options (like the ceramic mug) will have a slide-mouth. This is going to be the worst option for leaking, since you are now introducing more moving, sliding parts that can easily open with an accidental bump. A nice compromise is the snap-on, flip-style opening. It will be both fairly secure and very easy to clean.

 

Conclusion

Like most things, your choice of cup will come down to what you value most. In this guide I’ve tried to direct you to the best, most cost-effective options available. There are a lot of other options that you can choose from, and those might be the correct choice for you. I encourage you to use this guide as, well, a guide, and predominately a tool for identifying what qualities to look for in a cup that suits you best.

How to Brew the Best Office Coffee (Manual Edition)

We have gathered here today to brew the best coffee possible with limited time and resources. In a perfect world we would all have a personal barista pulling the cherriest of espresso shots right at our desk. Most of us can’t finance that, and that’s oh-kay. In this guide we will go through your options for brewing the best office coffee, manually. That means no electric moka pots, no Keurig cups, no generic office coffee pots. Just some good ole’ hands-on, DIY, pour-some-water-on-some-beans techniques today.

Note: The following links bring you to the Canadian Amazon, and by purchasing items through the links, I get a small cut. To be clear, I’ve tried to find the best offers available on Amazon, the cut comes out of Jeff Bezos’ pocket, and it helps support the site. However, if you’d like to support the site directly, consider joining our Coffee Club over on Patreon and letting us send you some great coffee.

The manual-brew office coffee guide summary

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The details

The intricacies of each process are fascinating and something we will cover in later articles. This guide will only briefly describe what goes into each technique, and propose a few “starter packs” to get you brewing right away. This review should help you to decide which best fits your needs.

French press ($25-$60, no disposable parts)

Simply drop your grounds in the press, add some water and wait. After four minutes, press the plunger to force the grounds to the bottom of the vessel. Pour and enjoy.

Bodom french press – a classic choice

I’ve attached a few links to some very reasonable french presses, though pretty much any you find locally will get the job done. I recommend a press with an easy to clean plunger and screen, since getting old coffee stuck in there will compromise your brew.

Le Creuset – far too fancy for a peasant like me

The major benefit of this devise is that it is one of the easiest processes to get right, and has no disposable filters. The downside is that it’s easy to get

the right water-coffee ratio without using a scale, and this can easily give you over or under-extracted coffee. Another downside is that it’s easy to accidentally leave your coffee steeping too long.

Note: I would recommend against products that combine cup and press, where you brew and drink in one cup. Yes, you press the grounds to the bottom, but your coffee is still in contact, and will slowly over-extract as you drink. No bueno.

Aeropress ($45, disposable paper filter but metal exist)

Like a tiny, thin french press, except when you push the plunger, you press the coffee into your cup, away from the grounds.

While it is easy to experiment with lots of brewing parameters, this method requires nearly constant attention, benefits greatly from the use of a scale, and if you use it as directed, brews only one cup at a time (stay tuned for my Aeropress guide, I have a work-around). On the other hand, the process is done in about 3 minutes.

The AeroPress

Note: the price of these devices seems to have gone up quite a bit since I last bought one. For what it’s worth, this is my personal favorite technique and would happily buy a replacement if I had to. That said, I find my pour-over devices a bit simpler, easier to clean, and less expensive.

Pour-over ($0 – $70, the most DIY, as sustainable as you’d like)

This category really ought to be subdivided, since there are an insane number of devices that are similar but distinct. For the purposes of this review, I will describe what I use at home (metal filter + vessel) and what I use at school (V60-style single-cup with paper filter).

Metal filter pour-over. It sits on top of your cup while you brew

In all cases, the grounds are placed in a basket above the vessel where you will collect the finished coffee. The basket has some sort of filter (some are reusable, most are paper), and the water is poured directly over the grounds. The water will work its way thought the grounds, pass through the filter, and drain into your serving vessel.

At home I use a metal filter I found at a local “this just fell off a truck” junk shop in Hamilton ($5) and a vase from the Dollar Store ($1.50). These were lucky finds, but an equivalent system would be something like the Chemex (which I lust after).

The very popular Hario V60

I like this for my home system because it allows for larger batches to be brewed than the Aeropress, and you don’t need a timer – it will pour through at its own pace. My metal filter and vase are also very easy to clean and produce no waste besides ground coffee. One thing to keep in mind is the size of the basket+filter where the grounds sit. You need to make sure it is large enough to accommodate the number of servings you hope to brew at a time.

Behold, the Chemex

 

At work, I opt for a smaller, single-cup style like the Hario V60 (featured above). I only brew for myself, and I only drink one cup at a time. This system lets me brew directly into my cup, and if I use a paper filter, the number of things I need to wash is exactly one. The V60 is a beautiful device, but there are also cheaper options. I would stay away from plastic or rubbery versions as those tend to be harder to clean and have the potential for leaching flavors.

As simple as the pour-over is, you still need to add water periodically as the coffee drains. The ideal technique is not to pour all of the water right away, but to add it a several intervals. This means the french press still wins in terms of simplicity.

“Cowboy” Coffee (rad as hell)

Imagine a french press, but you lost the plunger. This is by far the simplest method,  and seriously, a totally fine way of going about it. Just put some grounds in a pot and pour some boiling water. Wait a few minutes and slowly pour your coffee into a cup, trying to keep as much of the solid matter in the pot as possible. Or just drink out of the pot. You do you.

Maybe this sounds silly, but it’s actually pretty decent. Yes, you are going to be chewing your coffee, but you can still brew a delicious cup. I unexpectedly ran out of filters at the office recently**, and was pleasantly surprised. I even considered ditching the V60 and filters in favor of the rustic approach. At the very least, I can confidently say I preferred this to the ancient pot in the break room.

**I also didn’t have a pot to brew in, so I dug around in the break room and found an old flower vase. I cleaned out the dirt and have been using it since. So for those keeping score, I exclusively use vases for brewing my pour-over coffee.**

Concluding Remarks

There really is no right or wrong way to brew your coffee. I like manual techniques because they give me an opportunity to really take a break from work and focus on the task at hand. This isn’t what everyone is looking for from their meditation coffee practice, but it’s something I value. If you are looking for a more hands-off, efficient way to make your coffee, stay tuned for our guide to electric and automatic brew methods.

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