Like many people, I’ve tried to save a little money by making coffee at home and bringing it to work, avoiding the stops along the way where I spent easily three times more than I do on home-brewed coffee. Especially since I rarely buy just a cup of coffee! My biggest struggle, however, is that I want my first cup in the morning to be hot; if my coffee is cold by the time I get to work, there’s no point.
I went through a lot of thermos options until I found the best one for my morning commute.
What do you want in a coffee thermos?
My primary concern for a thermos is simple: I want my coffee to stay hot all the way to work. Since I have a half hour walk to public transportation in my town, and winter here often descends into sub-zero temperatures, that’s no easy task. Many of the thermos options I’ve tried just do not retain heat well enough to be worthwhile.
Next, I want a thermos that is stainless steel inside, not plastic. Although BPA is a concern, especially when I’m pouring hot liquid into it, my bigger frustration is taste. If you’re particular about coffee or tea, plastic changes the flavor noticeably. It’s also more difficult to clean flavor “stains,” for lack of a better work, out of plastic, meaning that if you make a cup of hazelnut coffee once, your thermos will taste like hazelnut forever.
After that, I want a thermos that is leakproof. Most of the time I can make sure that my cup is going to stay upright in a side pouch of my bag, but walking on the bus, or jouncing on public transportation, can make lesser thermos options leak and mess up my bag. Not a fan.
Finally, I want a thermos that will fit in my car’s cup holders, on the occasions where I take it out for a drive.
The Best Thermos to Keep Your Coffee
I’ve tried several different popular coffee thermos options; here’s how they measured up.
I love the entire line of Contigo water bottles and travel mugs, but it was their travel mugs that got me completely obsessed with the product, several years ago. They’ve just continued to get better and better, with the newest AUTOSEAL West Loop keeping hot liquid hot for about five hours. And let me tell you: they mean it. The first time I used this mug for tea, the water burned the roof of my mouth after waiting an hour for me to have time to drink it.
This mug holds 16 ozs, comes in a variety of colors, and is double walled, so that it will keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold. The lid is dishwasher safe and easy to clean, but the body of the mug needs to be hand washed. (This is standard for double-walled mugs).
If you’ve ever been on any kind of job site, you’ve probably seen this Stanley thermos kicking around. My father, a contractor, has been using the same one for the past twenty years, and still loves it. He’s always juggling a lot of things – tools, measuring tape, a notebook, pencils, and more – so having a handle on the thermos is key for him to make sure it’s easy to grab.
This thermos can take a beating. Fishers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts also love this well-constructed thermos, which can keep hot drinks hot all day, and iced drinks cold for 120 hours. The lid doubles as a cup, letting you share. For coffee for your entire hiking trip, choose the 2 QT size; for the same styling that travels to work, consider the 16oz.
This mug is fantastic for those of us who struggle with getting liquid from our mugs to our mouths without spilling it on our clothes. I love the super slim design of the Zojirushi mug, meaning that it neatly fits into the cupholders in my car, and the way its wide mouth lid makes adding ice to cold drinks easy. Lots of fun colors again, including a bunch of different shades of pink. There are also larger sizes, and mugs which come with tea leaf filters, great for making sure that your morning cuppa doesn’t come with extra detritus.
My friends who are devoted to the Zojirushi swear by its finish; they’ve managed, after repeated droppings and accidents, to occasionally ding the paint, but it’s never chipped or peeled beyond the initial damage. All the lid pieces come apart, so if you’ve ever accidentally left coffee in your mug over the weekend this will be easy to clean out. I’ve heard rumors of very slight leak problems, so this would be a car mug for me, not one I would toss into my backpack and forget about.
One of my best friends loves her Vibrant All in One deeply, though she will admit when pressed that it has more to do with how the Vibrant manages loose leaf tea, rather than coffee. You see, a lot of thermos options say that they include a tea steeping basket, but it works poorly, if at all. You end up with leaves in your hot water, and everything tastes awful.
Vibrant’s stainless steel travel mug keeps everything hot or cold for hours, and also manages to use a steep basket that actually steeps tea well. You can also use the infuser basket to create fruit infusions, which can be great if you’re on a special diet or focusing on certain cleanses.
Personally, I don’t love that the Vibrant doesn’t include any kind of sippy lid; I’m just not talented enough to drink very hot liquids from an open mug without burning myself, which is a large part of why I’ve tried so many thermoses over time. But if you’re looking for a way to make your loose leaf tea on your way out the door, this should work well for you.
Which one is the best?
My favorite coffee thermos is still the Contigo Autoseal. I love that my kids can’t figure out how to open it, which means they aren’t going to burn themselves, and I love that still the Contigo just keeps making the lid better and easier to clean. Super helpful and super convenient!