The thing that makes coffee mugs different from a lot of consumer products is that they have so many different uses. There are travel mugs, and mugs for using in your kitchen. There are ugly mugs that provide delicious coffee, and beautiful mugs that leech off flavors into your brew.
Depending on your needs, the best coffee mug for you can be wildly different than the best coffee mug for somebody else. So how do you choose?
We’ve checked out some of the most popular mugs online to find a selection of various types. No matter what your needs are, one of these should work well for you.
When it comes to comfort, material, design, and ability to keep your coffee hot or cold – there isn’t a travel mug more suitable than the Contigo. This mug offers the perfect balance between plastic, rubber and stainles steel.
The Contigo mug is available in 2 sizes – 16 and 20 ounces – and in 6 colors: Grayed Jade, Gunmetal, Matte Black, Monaco, Stormy Weather, and Vivacious. This makes the choice a bit harder, but the quality remains regardless of the color you choose!
What to Consider When Buying a Coffee Mug
Before we review the mugs, let’s go over the basics. We’ll explain what you need to know about different materials, designs, and sizes. Ready? Let’s get started!
The material used in your mug can affect your coffee’s flavor, as well as the durability and usefulness of your mug. Here’s what you need to know about the four most commonly used materials.
- Glass mugs are generally considered the highest quality. Glass is easy to wash and non-porous, so it won’t retain flavors from your last drink. Most glass mugs are also microwavable, so you can give yourself a warm-up without damaging your favorite mug. On the other hand, as we all know, glass is fragile. For this reason, it’s not suitable for travel mugs, although some travel mugs and thermoses have glass inner shells.
- Stainless steel mugs are also non-porous, and won’t hold on to old flavors. They’re also tough and durable, which makes stainless steel a great choice for travel mugs. Unfortunately, microwaving a stainless steel mug will damage your microwave. If you need a warm-up, you’ll need to pour your coffee into another container to reheat it.
- Ceramic and porcelain mugs are porous. They can retain flavors from previous beverages, so you won’t want to use these mugs for anything other than coffee – unless you want your cup of Joe to taste like the white Russian you made last night. Because ceramic is fragile, it’s not generally used for travel mugs. That said, most of these mugs are microwavable, and ceramic is colorfast if it’s been properly tinted. This makes ceramic and porcelain ideal for everyday household use, as well as for novelty mugs.
- Plastic mugs can retain flavors as much as ceramic ones. Depending on the exact plastic used, they don’t usually microwave safe. They can also leech toxic chemicals into hot beverages like coffee and hot chocolate. On the other hand, plastic is generally durable and cheap. Because of this, plastic is the most popular material for travel mugs.
Design & Size
The next thing you’ll want to consider is what style of mug you want. Travel mugs will tend to be taller and thinner, with venting lids. They’re made to fit in your car’s cup holder, but not all cup holders are the same. Be careful of travel mugs with handles in particular, since the handles can get in the way of deeper cup holders.
Standard mugs will tend to be shorter and wider, and will almost always have a handle. Most of these mugs are made of ceramic or glass.
Most mugs will hold around 16 ounces, although smaller mugs may only hold 12. Large travel mugs can hold as much as 24 ounces. Remember, bigger isn’t always better. A huge, 24-ounce mug may hold enough coffee to get you through the afternoon, but it’s liable to get cold if it’s sitting around for hours on end. If you prefer to sip your coffee slowly over time, consider using a smaller mug and getting refills. Your coffee will be hotter and fresher.
The 10 Best Coffee Mugs Compared
Contigo Autoseal Transit Stainless Steel Travel Mug
The Contigo Autoseal is the self-proclaimed “Holy Grail of Travel Mugs”, and it’s easy to see why. This 16-ounce mug will keep hot drinks hot for at least five hours. If you prefer iced coffee, it will do even better, keeping your brew cold for twelve hours.
Most of this mug is manufactured from stainless steel, including the inner and outer shell. The only plastic parts are the lid and the rubber grip sleeve. It’s available in four colors: matte black, white with a periwinkle grip, white with a greyed jade grip, and bare stainless with a black grip and blue accents.
The lid on the Contigo Autoseal is 100 percent spill-proof. It clicks into place and has a button on the side that you press with your thumb to take a sip. Unless you’re holding the button down, no coffee will come out. You can knock this mug over on your laptop, let it sit for a day, and not have any problems.
The RTIC tumbler has a barebones appearance, but don’t let that fool you. This stainless steel mug is a beast. It comes in three sizes: 20-ounce, 30-ounce, and 40-ounce. That’s large enough to hold almost a full carafe of coffee, assuming you drink it hot. If you drink it cold, you’ll want to leave room for ice. The bottom is tapered to 2.75 inches, so even the largest size will fit most cup holders.
This mug is available in eighteen different colors, so you’re sure to find one that appeals to you. It will keep hot coffee hot for 6 hours, and iced coffee will stay cold for up to 24 hours.
Le Creuset Stoneware Mug
As the name implies, this 12-ounce mug is stoneware. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s ceramic, coated with hardened enamel. In practice, this makes it as good as a glass mug in terms of stain resistance, and it won’t retain flavors. It’s available in ten colors and has a retro, curved handle with a ribbed base.
It’s microwave safe, and can also be used in the oven – up to 500 degrees – so you can use it for small pastries as well. Be careful when taking it out of the microwave, though. The handle can get very hot, very quickly, even if the coffee is cool enough to drink.
Hydro Flask Stainless Steel Travel Coffee Mug
The Hydro Flask is a well-designed stainless steel travel mug that’s available in three sizes: 12-ounce, 16-ounce, and 20-ounce. The 12-ounce version is small enough to fit under a single-cup dispenser, while the larger sizes are the same as the medium and large servings from everybody’s favorite Seattle-based coffee chain. It keeps hot drinks hot for up to 6 hours, and your iced coffee will stay cold for up to 24 hours.
Check out our guide on how to make cold coffee brew like a barista, and you will find more uses for this wonderful mug.
This mug is available in eighteen vibrant colors. You can get the durability and quality of stainless steel, without making any sacrifices in the looks department. The lid isn’t leak-proof, but it’s soft and comfortable and opens and closes easily. Like other stainless steel mugs, the Hydro Flask is not microwave-safe.
Ello Jane Ceramic Mug
This 18-ounce ceramic mug works equally well at home or on the go. The lid seals like a cork, with a silicon ring to reduce leaking. The advantage of this is that there aren’t any screw threads, so the rim is comfortable to sip from if you’re going lidless around the house. The disadvantage is that the lid isn’t terribly secure. It will resist splashing, but a serious drop will dislodge the lid if it doesn’t shatter the mug altogether.
The Ello Jane is available in six different colors, and also has a silicon base that works as a built-in coaster. The base can be removed easily for cleaning, although you’ll want to let it dry thoroughly before reattaching it.
Heat Sensitive Color Changing Coffee Mug
This mug is made from ceramic, coated with special heat-sensitive paint. Since this is special paint, you won’t be able to microwave it or put it in the dishwasher or it will become damaged. It only holds 11 ounces, so serious coffee drinkers will probably want something larger. That said, it’s small enough to fit under a Keurig dispenser.
The main selling point is, of course, the adorable little face that changes from sleepy to happy when you fill the mug with hot coffee. The sleepy face is always black and white, but the happy face can be either blue or pink depending on your color selection. This is a great gift for the coffee lover in your life.
Zyliss Travel French Press and Coffee Mug
The Zyliss is a 12-ounce plastic travel mug that doubles as a French press. To use it, simply put a scoop of your favorite coarse-ground coffee in the mug, and top it off with hot water. Put the lid on, but leave the plunger up. Wait ten minutes, and press the plunger down, which will force the mesh filter to the bottom of the mug. There’s no need to remove the grounds since the filter will hold them in place.
Because it’s made from double-walled plastic and has a metal filter, this mug is not microwave-safe. Since it’s well-insulated – and only holds 12 ounce, to begin with – you probably won’t need to warm your coffee up anyway.
Avito Stainless Steel Coffee Mug
This 14-ounce mug is made from 100 percent stainless steel. It’s insulated, so your coffee can stay warm, and the wide base makes it difficult to spill. The lid is BPA-free, although you probably won’t be using it much since the Avito is too wide to fit in most cup holders.
This mug has four color options: bare stainless steel, matte black, and light blue. The handle is welded on instead of being soldered, so it’s as durable a mug as you’re going to find. The body itself is heavy, 8-gauge steel, which won’t dent even if you drop it on a ceramic floor. This is a tough mug that’s easy on your wallet.
Stojo Collapsible Coffee Mug
This 12-ounce silicon mug is collapsible enough to fit in your pocket, purse, glove compartment, or laptop bag. It’s also a great choice for campers. When you’re ready to use it, simply unscrew the lid and pull the bottom down to expand the mug. It’s BPA-free for your health, but keep in mind that it’s still made of plastic, so you may get some off flavors.
The silicone sleeve makes the Stojo as cool to the touch as a paper cup with a cardboard sleeve. It’s also available in six colors: black, blue, green, orange, pink and red. It’s microwavable, but be careful when taking it out; the sleeve can get very hot when it’s microwaved.
BigMouth Inc Toilet Coffee Mug
We had to include this mug because it’s a hoot! Basically, this mug looks like a toilet, which makes it a great gag gift for friends or coworkers. Use this for your morning brew, and your cup of Joe will quickly become a cup of John. It’s also surprisingly ergonomic if you have large hands; the toilet tank is right over the handle, so it makes a great thumb rest.
This mug is made of ceramic and holds up to 12 ounces. Because it’s a novelty item, BigMouth doesn’t mention whether it’s microwave safe or dishwasher safe. Presumably, they assume people aren’t going to drink out of a toilet. My dog lover friends tell me that’s a bad assumption.
Contigo SnapSeal Byron Mug
The Contigo SnapSeal is the most affordable on our list, but don’t underestimate it. This stainless steel mug is insulated to keep hot drinks hot for up to 7 hours. Iced coffee will stay cold for up to 18 hours. The plastic lid is BPA-free and is leak-proof when it’s closed.
This mug is available in 16 and 20-ounce sizes, and also comes in six colors: grayed jade, gunmetal, matte black, Monaco (dark metallic blue), stormy weather (light metallic blue), and vivacious (metallic red). It’s sized for standard 3-inch cup holders and has a black, rubberized grip for ease of use.
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.