When selecting a to-go coffee mug for sipping your favorite brew on the go, one of the most fundamental decisions you’ll make is what material you want the tumbler made from. There are three main options: plastic, metal and ceramic. The material you settle on will have an impact on your coffee’s flavor. Here’s a look at how plastic, stainless steel and ceramic coffee mugs impact a brew’s taste.
(Taste is just one factor you’ll want to consider when selecting a mug. This post, however, will focus solely on taste.)
Over time, plastic absorbs odors and flavors. To see just how much a plastic mug can absorb, fill an old plastic mug up with coffee and drink it. Then, wash the mug out and put tea in it. When you try the tea, you’ll likely notice hints of coffee that give the tea an off-flavor. (You also may not want a plastic French press for this reason.)
If you only drink coffee from your mug, the flavors that the plastic absorbs won’t be as noticeable as when you had tea in the mug. Over time, however, flavors can aromas can collect that make identifying finer notes of coffees difficult, if not impossible.
Stainless steel doesn’t absorb flavors, but it sometimes imparts off flavors into coffee. Whether this happens because of poor construction (e.g. finishes that leech into beverages) or is due to a reaction between one of coffee’s 1,000-plus compounds and the metal isn’t always clear. It also doesn’t always happen. Coffee drinkers sometimes report that metal tumblers give their brews odd notes, though.
For flavor, ceramic is the best choice. It neither absorbs nor imparts flavors, leaving coffee to taste just as it should.
No matter what kind of mug you select, a double-walled one will keep your coffee hotter longer than a single-walled one. The difference is especially noticeable during winter with stainless steel and ceramic mugs, which are susceptible to heat loss. (Ceramic does keep coffee hotter longer than glass, but we’ve yet to see someone make a travel mug out of glass, anyways.)
Since coffee changes as it cools, keeping it as hot as possible as long as possible can let you enjoy all the fine notes in a brew.
You can find double-walled versions of plastic, metal and ceramic mugs, although you may have to look around a little to find one you like.
Do you have a favorite coffee mug? What’s it made from? What’s it look like? Send us an image on Facebook, and we might just post it. We love all things coffee, after all.