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Coffee can quickly turn tepid in a traditional mug. Could a smart mug that promises to keep it hot solve that problem?
Published Aug. 10, 2020. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 22: Breakfast with a Kick
What You Need To Know
Every morning I pour myself a cup of hot coffee. Then I go about my usual routine of feeding our dog and reading through emails, and when I return to take a sip of my coffee, it’s often tepid. At this point, I usually choose between reheating the coffee in my microwave (which will likely result in bitter, astringent coffee) or quickly drinking down the lukewarm brew before it gets any cooler. Neither is very appealing. Enter smart mugs. These devices, which often work with a smartphone app, can reportedly keep a hot beverage at a specific temperature for an extended period of time. My team and I were intrigued, so we purchased three models to test. Two models were made of ceramic-coated stainless steel and one was made of bone china. All were priced from about $79 to about $165. In addition to evaluating their ability to keep our coffee at the perfect temperature, we considered how easy the mugs were to set up and noted if they were comfortable to hold, pleasant to drink from, durable, and easy to clean.
How Smart Mugs Work
From the outside, these mugs look similar to a regular mug, but their thick bases house internal heating components, a high-capacity battery, microprocessors, and various temperature sensors. To charge their batteries, you place them on an electronic charging coaster. Once the mugs are fully charged, you remove them from their coasters, fill them with your hot beverage of choice, and use them freely until their battery power runs out. You can also use two of the three models while they are sitting on their charging coasters (more on that later).
According to several studies (as well as our own preferences), most people like to drink their coffee at temperatures between 130 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. All the models in our lineup promised to keep coffee at temperatures within that range. The temperature settings on two of the models we tested were adjustable and could be set with a special smartphone app. The temperature of the third model was not adjustable. Instead, its internal heater promised to keep beverages at temperatures from 140 to 149 degrees.
Keeping Our Coffee Hot
We like having the ability to take our coffee with us as we move around our homes and offices, so we focused our first test on seeing how long the three fully charged mugs could keep coffee at 145 degrees while off their charging coasters. We checked the temperatures in 10-minute increments until their batteries died and the coffees cooled to 130 degrees. Next, we were interested in learning how adept the three mugs were at keeping coffee hot during typical use, so we repeated the first test, but this time we checked...
Everything We Tested
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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Carolyn is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She's a French-trained professional baker.