Whether you’re enjoying a few sips at your local coffeehouse in your spare time or pouring a pitch-black roast to prep for an evening of work, there are few things like a strong, mild, or nutty cup of joe to get your gears going. But after brewing and just before sipping, there comes the mug, and it’s important that you’re drinking from a mug that does the job right.
Since there are hundreds, if not thousands, of coffee mugs out on the market, we started off by researching several dozen of the highest-rated products. This involved looking over manufacturer claims, product listings, and brand reputation. After that, we turned to user reviews from actual customers. This gave us a better idea of how the coffee mugs worked and looked in real life, what consumers looked for from their coffee mugs, and what the benefits and drawbacks were of each.
We narrowed down our selection to fewer than 10 coffee mugs before seeking out expert opinions. We talked directly to several former baristas to see what they had to say about different types and styles of coffee mugs. We also read reviews and articles written by several other former baristas. With their input, we picked the five best coffee mugs to review.
Why buy a coffee mug?
A good coffee mug is an absolute must for a coffee lover. They’re specially made for holding and serving hot coffee and other hot beverages. Coffee mugs are usually made of ceramic, glass, or metal and are thus washable and reusable. They’re not only much more eco-friendly than paper and plastic cups but are better insulated, won’t make your coffee smell or taste funny, and don’t leach chemicals into your drink. And since coffee mugs have handles, they’re easier to grip and protect your hand from the hot liquid inside. They come in various shapes and sizes to better suit your coffee-drinking habits.
There are even specialty travel coffee mugs specifically made for taking your coffee on the go. These types of coffee mugs are lidded to prevent your morning cup of java from spilling while you’re on your daily commute to work, and they often possess superior insulation properties to keep your coffee hot for hours at a time.
Coffee mugs can have sentimental or personal value as well. There are plenty of customizable options out there that you can tailor to a specific event, holiday, vacation, or memory, or even add your personal photos or phrases to; these make great gifts for loved ones.
Coffee mugs may even be used for more than holding and drinking hot beverages. “Mug food,” aka single portions of foods like cake, omelets, or even pizza cooked in a mug in the microwave, are increasingly popular. Many people sometimes use their coffee mugs in place of bowls for things like soup or ice cream.
What should you look for in a coffee mug?
- Capacity: A standard coffee mug will hold somewhere between 8 and 12 ounces of liquid. For on-the-go purposes, you may want a mug that can fit a little extra. A slightly larger mug, for home or travel, may also be a boon if you like to add extra ingredients to your coffee; an 8-ounce mug may perfectly hold 8 ounces of coffee, but if you add an ounce of cream and an ounce of sugar, it’s going to overflow.
- Insulation: It happens entirely too often: another good cup of joe gone cold. While you can warm your coffee in the microwave, assuming you have access to one, your coffee inevitably loses some of its taste during reheating. However, some of the best coffee mugs can keep your beverage warm throughout the day. Seek out mugs that utilize built-in heating methods like vacuum insulation, double walls, thick frames, or other heating options like a hot plate to keep your coffee toasty.
- Protection: Of course, with all of that heat, you’re going to want some protection for your hands, too. A coffee mug won’t do you much good if the handle is too hot to touch. Look to mugs that offer some exterior insulation properties to keep your hands and mouth away from potential burns, like wrap-around silicone rubber, protective lid caps, and handles that offer a comfortable distance away from the surface when heated. Features like these are especially crucial in travel mugs.
Should you buy a ceramic or glass coffee mug?
It comes down to personal preference, as both materials have their own benefits and drawbacks. Ceramic coffee mugs are considered the standard, so they’ll be the most widespread option on the market. Ceramic is even less porous and often thicker than glass, so it retains heat better and is less fragile. (Though it will likely still shatter if dropped onto a hard surface.) They come in a wider range of colors, patterns, and styles than glass mugs, too.
Glass mugs are pretty and show off the contents inside. Creamy, frothy drinks like lattes will look especially attractive inside a glass mug. Their transparency makes them a great choice for tea as well since you can monitor the tea steeping process more easily. They’re also recyclable and thus even more eco-friendly than most reusable coffee mugs. However, they may be too hot to the touch when your coffee is first poured inside, and they tend to be a bit more expensive.
Overall, ceramic coffee mugs are considered the slightly more practical option, while glass is the more aesthetic option.
What about metal mugs?
Metal mugs are a bit more of a mixed bag. Stainless steel is the most common metal used to make coffee mugs. Unlike glass or ceramic, metal won’t shatter if dropped by mistake, and metal mugs retain heat for longer. However, they’re not microwave safe, and, depending on the type of metal used, they may rust over time after extended exposure to water and liquid. And unlike ceramic or glass, a metal mug could potentially add a metallic taste to your coffee and other drinks. Without some sort of sleeve or a handle made out of a non-conducting material like silicone, a metal mug will often be too hot to touch as well.
For these reasons, it’s usually better to look to a ceramic or glass mug for a home or office mug. However, due to their heat retention abilities and durability, metal mugs (preferably stainless steel or aluminum) are often considered the superior choice for travel mugs; both ceramic and glass are too likely to break to be safely portable. Just make sure that the model you purchase is rustproof, has a durable liner, and has a sleeve or handle that will protect your hand from the hot liquid inside.
|Our Reviews of the Best Coffee Makers|
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Gibson Elite Soho Café 21-Ounce Mugs
This mug set balances the traditional with the new age to create a unique cup of morning coffee.
Pros: Buying mugs in sets is almost always the more cost-effective option, even more so with this set of four stoneware coffee mugs. You receive the four mugs for the same price as a pair of mugs might run you elsewhere. Each mug has a large 21-ounce capacity, is thick and durable, and is safe for both the microwave and the dishwasher. The inside of each mug has a double reactive coating that allows the colors within the mug’s glaze to blend and create dreamlike hues while you take your swigs.
Cons: This may not be the most comfortable mug set for people with larger hands. The smaller handles are harder and more awkward for people with big hands to grip properly. Like other stoneware mugs, they are extremely hot to the touch right out of the microwave, so be careful.
Bottom Line: The classic coffee mug gets a modern makeover with this bundle from Gibson Elite. In each set comes four black 21-ounce mugs with shades of red, blue, green, and taupe lining the interior of the cup. They’re suited to hold hot liquids thanks to their thick build from a mix of all-natural clay materials. You get reliable heft and a lot of charm with this mug set. Unless you want more color variety or mugs with better protection for your hands, you, your family, and your guests will get a lot of mileage out of these coffee mugs.
SUNWILL Coffee Mug with Handle
This stainless steel mug is rustproof, sweatproof, and crafted with vacuum insulation to keep your drinks as hot or cold as need be.
Pros: A key feature of travel mugs is their ability to keep drinks warm for hours at a time, and this stainless steel model lives up to the standard. Not only is the high-quality, rustproof stainless steel interior a naturally superior insulator, but this coffee mug is also vacuum-insulated for an extra boost. This coffee mug will keep your coffee warm for at least three hours, possibly more. And if you ever decide to switch it up and have iced coffee, it’ll keep that coffee cold for even longer, possibly up to nine hours or more. The exterior finish of the mug not only protects your hands and adds a lovely pearlescent sheen for a more aesthetic cup but adds to the coffee mug’s durability. The finish is anti-sweat, anti-scratch, anti-peeling, and anti-fading to keep your mug’s appearance in tip-top shape for that much longer. This coffee mug is available in 15 color options.
Cons: You’ll have to clean it by hand with non-scratch sponges under warm water. While the mug’s lid is great for portability and protection from spills, it’s not 100% leakproof. Due to the stainless steel body, this coffee mug isn’t microwave safe, either.
Bottom Line: For the coffee lover who enjoys some warm joe on the go, this highly durable and insulated coffee mug from SUNWILL should be your go-to. Crafted with double-wall vacuum insulated technology, this mug can keep hot liquids hot for around three hours and cold liquids cold for nine. It doesn’t sweat or burn your hands. It’s just a top-of-the-line, pearlized, stainless steel mug that can easily make the trip to work alongside you. Its capacity may be too small for some, but it’s perfect for someone on the go who only drinks a cup or two a day.
InFLOATables Orange Cat Mug & Coaster Set
Enjoy coffee, tea, hot chocolate, juice, or any other drink you love in this cute ceramic mug and its matching coaster.
Pros: This orange tabby cat mug is a cute design that can put a smile on your face every morning. The cat tail handle is convenient and easy to grab and use, while the whole mug is made with high-quality ceramic material that is built to last. A matching coaster comes included, which not only gives you a better bang for your buck but makes it easy to protect your table from any coffee spills. And it’s not just for cat lovers; there are six other design options from which to choose, five of which feature other (but equally cute) animals.
Cons: The mug only holds up to 12 ounces, so for some people, it might be not big enough for their usual morning coffee or tea intake. Despite the quality of the ceramic material is is a bit fragile if not handled with care and may not be suitable for people who are prone to knocking things over. And the mug may be not dishwasher safe, and thus needs to be cleaned by hand.
Bottom Line: This orange tabby cat mug is a ridiculously cute option that can put a smile on your face every morning—and there are plenty more designs to choose from if you’re not a cat lover. As long as you don’t mind handwashing it after every use, this cat mug can be a fun and adorable way to sip your morning coffee. Or you can give it as a gift or use it as decoration or pencil holder.
Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug
This coffee mug and its matching charging plate offer a new, modern spin on coffee mugs.
Pros: While coffee warmers are nothing new, the design of this warming mug certainly is. Instead of setting this mug down on a hot plate-like device, the battery is built into the bottom of the mug, which heats the entire cup. Since the 10-ounce mug itself is the warmer, you can set it down wherever you want or need to without worrying about your coffee cooling down. The battery has a 1.5-hour lifespan on a full charge. If it ever runs low, simply place the mug down on the included charging plate for a while. There’s also an auto-sleep function; the mug powers down automatically after 2 hours of inactivity or when empty. Picking it up or pouring more liquid in will ensure it starts up again right away. It comes with an optional smartphone app that allows you to control the temperature, customize and preset the temperature, and more.
Cons: As convenient and useful as this mug-style coffee warmer is, it’s more high maintenance than most other mugs. It’s not safe to use in the microwave nor to wash in the dishwasher since the bottom half of the cup (where the battery is stored) can’t get wet. You’ll have to hand wash the mug carefully. Since it’s a premium mug, it’s much more expensive than most coffee mugs.
Bottom Line: This Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug adds a convenient, modern feature to a classic coffee cup. The built-in battery towards the bottom ensures your coffee stays hot for longer, while the cordless charger is extremely convenient. The mug itself is a bit high maintenance to care for, and the price tag may be too high for some, but as long as these factors aren’t deterrents, you’ll love your new futuristic mug and its built-in warmer!
JoyJolt Declan Coffee Mugs
These glass mugs offer coffee lovers a new look alongside sturdy reliability.
Pros: If you’re in the market for some glass coffee mugs, this is a great bang for your buck. You get six of these mugs for one reasonable price. Each is 16 ounces in size with an ergonomic handle. They’re all safe to wash in the dishwasher and use and drink in the microwave, too, so cleaning the mugs and reheating your coffee won’t be an issue. And while you might think that “glass” is synonymous with “fragile,” these mugs prove that isn’t always the case. They’re deceptively lightweight, but they’re made out of thick, lead-free glass that holds up better than many similar glass models.
Cons: Note that since these mugs are made of non-borosilicate glass, you will have to be careful about the temperature of the liquid inside. 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit is considered the ideal temperature, though they can withstand up to 295 degrees Fahrenheit if need be. In the same vein, rapid temperature fluctuation can cause the glass to crack. And if you only want a single glass coffee mug, you’ll have to look elsewhere, as these mugs are only sold in this set of six.
Bottom Line: This JoyJolt Declan Coffee Mug Set is a great way to switch up how you enjoy your brew. They feature easy-to-hold handles that offer ample space away from the hot sides. In addition to being crafted from a thick, shatterproof glass material, these mugs can withstand beverage temperatures as high as 295 degrees Fahrenheit, though it’s recommended that drinks not exceed 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Best of all, a purchase here means you get six mugs in total.
ALOUFEA Stainless Steel Coffee Mug with Lid
This colorful, lidded, and budget-friendly travel mug is perfectly insulated for hot and cold drinks alike.
Pros: Whether you’re looking for a single coffee mug to keep at home or take on the go, this 12-ounce stainless steel number is up to the task. The thick, double-walled metal body ensures excellent insulation, while the outer wall protects your fingers from the hot liquid inside. The finish of the outer wall ensures this coffee mug won’t form condensation, and the stainless steel prevents corrosion and rust. It comes in a bunch of colors, has a lid and handle, and works great for cold drinks as well as hot ones. To top it off, this mug comes with a nice low price tag that makes it affordable on just about any budget.
Cons: Since this coffee mug is made of stainless steel, it’s not safe to use in the microwave. The double walls, lid, and metal body should keep your coffee hot long enough for this to not be an issue, but if you ever find yourself needing to reheat a drink in the microwave, be sure to transfer your beverage to another mug first.
Bottom Line: This ALOUFEA Stainless Steel Coffee Mug is the ideal choice for those on a budget or looking to purchase a single mug. It’s inexpensive without sacrificing quality and has plenty of valuable features. It has a wide selection of colors available, and its lighter weight will put less strain on your hands and wrists than most metal mugs. The lightweight aspect coupled with its handy lid makes this a highly portable coffee mug, ideal for bringing to the office on your daily commute or your weekend camping trip.
Should you buy coffee mugs as a set or individually?
From a pure cost standpoint, buying in bulk or a set is usually the way to go. Even though you spend more money upfront, the price per item often amounts to less. Sets are also great for larger families and households that run through them quicker. If you ever have company over, you’ll have a mug available for those who want coffee, tea, or any other hot drink. Plus, a cohesive set can feel more organized and aesthetically pleasing, especially if you have them set up on a mug holder.
However, if you’re someone who doesn’t drink a lot of coffee or hot beverages, buying an occasional mug one at a time might be the better choice. If you drink coffee occasionally and rarely host or have guests over, the mugs will likely just take up extra storage room in your cupboard or cabinet. Some people also like to purchase individual mugs to build a unique collection.
How do you know which size of coffee mug is right for you?
Consider how many cups of coffee you drink per day and if you drink them all in the same sitting or space them out throughout the day. If you only drink one cup a day or drink, say, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening, a standard 8- to 12-ounce coffee mug is probably going to serve you just fine. Especially if you make a different batch of coffee each time (you may want regular coffee in the morning but decaf in the evening, for instance).
If you drink several cups a day, you may want something bigger, so you don’t have to refill your mug as often. Since a single serving of coffee usually amounts to 8 ounces, multiply the number of cups of coffee you drink each day by eight. The resulting number should be roughly the right size for your needs.
Coffee mugs are a drinkware staple in most households for a reason. Whether you drink coffee with regularity or not, coffee mugs are still a useful and practical item to keep in your kitchen. Our top picks can serve you well through many morning coffee fixes.