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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best stainless steel travel mugs

Enjoying your morning coffee at tea at home is a relaxing way to ease into the day, but sometimes you’re running short on time and need to get moving. A travel mug offers a way to enjoy your drink at the ideal temperature while on the go or any time you’re outdoors.

Travel mugs are made of a few different materials, but stainless steel is the most common and popular. It's terrific at maintaining the temperature inside, and its durability can stand up to regular use and occasional drops. Stainless steel travel mugs are relatively inexpensive, making one ideal for anybody who regularly commutes to work or travels a lot.

Travel mugs are simple, but their few components are incredibly important in determining a mug's effectiveness. You want one that fits your lifestyle and works for your drink of choice.

stainless steel travel mugs
Most users look for mugs with impressive insulation, but it does come with a downside. If the liquid is piping hot, it will take quite a while for it to cool enough to safely enjoy.

Key considerations

Stainless steel pros and cons

Stainless steel travel mugs offer myriad benefits, including durability and portability. They are relatively light yet strong to resist shattering, which means you don’t need to worry so much about breaking one the way you do with a ceramic or glass mug. A stainless steel mug should last a long time with proper care.

Stainless steel travel mugs are also well insulated to keep the contents at the perfect temperature. These mugs have a modern aesthetic, but they come in many designs and colors so you can personalize your mug to your taste.

There are a few downsides of stainless steel to keep in mind, however. While basic stainless steel travel mugs are reasonably priced, high-quality mugs can be quite expensive, especially those that incorporate advanced insulation technology. Some stainless steel mugs can absorb odors as well, interfering with the taste of your beverage. And some mugs have a metallic smell or taste that can affect more sensitive users.

Size

The size of the stainless steel travel mug reflects its capacity. Most hold around 16 ounces, but 12- and 20-ounce mugs are also common.

You also want to consider the height of the mug. If you want to fill the mug at home, make sure that it will fit in your coffee maker or espresso machine for a direct pour. Some coffee makers accommodate mugs directly under the dispenser, while others pour the coffee into a carafe that you would then need to use to pour coffee into your mug.

Insulation

The quality of the mug’s insulation determines how long it can maintain the temperature of the contents, whether it's keeping coffee hot on chilly days or iced tea cold when it’s warm outside. Most mugs indicate in the listing the length of time that the beverage will stay hot or cold.

Most travel mugs have double-walled insulation, with two layers between the contents and your hand. This eliminates the transfer of heat, so your hand doesn't warm up the cold beverage and the hot beverage doesn’t burn your hand. Stainless steel travel mugs range in the quality of insulation because typically there is some air trapped between the two layers, which affects heat transfer.

Vacuum-insulated mugs solve this problem by removing almost all of the air from between the layers to do a better job of keeping the beverage at its original temperature. Mugs that use this technology cost more, however.

Just because a travel mug can maintain extreme heat or cold doesn’t mean you have to drink hot coffee or iced tea. Your mug can be used for juice, water, and sports drinks too.

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Features

Lid

It’s important to find a stainless steel travel mug with a secure lid that doesn’t leak or come off easily when moved or bumped, especially if you carry your mug in a backpack or tote bag. Most lids screw on tightly and include a rubber or silicone seal to prevent leaks.

There are also a variety of ways in which the lid enables you to drink. Some have a button that opens and closes quickly and easily, which is ideal for when you only have one free hand to hold and open the drink. Other mugs have a turning mechanism.

Note the shape and size of the lid as well. A flat lid is ideal because it won’t bump your nose when you sip, especially when going after the last few drops. What’s more, it won't affect your line of sight, which is important if you drink from your mug while walking or driving.

Grip

Some stainless steel travel mugs have a handle like ceramic or glass coffee mugs. The handle may be open or closed, though some consumers find the closed handle feels a bit cramped after a while. If you opt for a mug with a handle, be sure it’s insulated so it doesn’t become uncomfortably hot or cold.

Most stainless steel travel mugs have no handle, but since stainless steel can get slippery or sticky when wet, some mugs have a rubberized exterior that offers a comfortable and convenient grip. A rubbery grip is easier to hold if you’re using the mug in inclement weather or if you’re wearing gloves.

Finish

Stainless steel mugs come in a variety of finishes, colors, and designs. Stainless steel may be coated with metallic copper or gold colors, as well as every color of the rainbow for something more eye-catching. Many companies also offer personalization with team logos, patterns, or slogans.

Tea

For those who prefer tea over coffee, some stainless steel travel mugs have a tiny hook on the underside of the lid to hold a tea bag so you can easily remove it once the tea has steeped. Other options include a tea infuser for those who enjoy loose leaf tea.

stainless steel travel mugs
DID YOU KNOW?
Rinse out your new mug before you use it to remove any residue or manufacturing odor. If a smell lingers, you can remove it with a little vinegar.
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Pricing

Inexpensive: Basic stainless steel travel mugs cost $15 or less. These have decent insulation but may leak if dropped or bumped.

Mid-range: Most stainless steel travel mugs cost between $15 and $25 and come in a variety of choices in terms of color, lid, and insulation.

Expensive: The best stainless steel travel mugs cost $25 and more. These mugs feature impressive insulation as well as secure lids that prevent leaks and drips.

With regular use, stainless steel mugs are bound to get scuffed and maybe even dented. They’re designed to withstand such wear and tear, and exterior blemishes won’t affect the quality or insulation.

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Tips

  • Keep the lid closed. These mugs keep the contents hot or cold longer when the lid is kept closed. Only open the lid to drink.
  • Check the cup holders in your vehicle. If you plan to use your travel mug in your car, it’s worth checking the depth and diameter of the cup holders. You want a mug that fits but isn’t so top heavy that it’s liable to tip over.
  • Test the lid with water. It’s worth experimenting with the security of the lid by tipping, tossing, and flipping your water-filled mug to check for leaks.
stainless steel travel mugs
Silicone is often used to seal the lids, but over time it tends to absorb odors. Remove any lingering smells by leaving the seal in baking soda for a couple days.

FAQ

Q. How do I clean a stainless steel travel mug?

A. Stainless steel travel mugs can be washed by hand in warm water with gentle soap. Scrub the inside and carefully wash and rinse the lid. Some mugs are dishwasher safe, but while this is convenient, some users worry about long-term damage to the insulation or dents and scuffs to the exterior. Some dish detergents and dishwashers may also leave behind a residue or odor, which can affect the taste of your beverage.

For convenience, use a slender bottle brush to clean the inside of your travel mug. These have bristles on the end of a long, thin wand that can get into the hard-to-reach corners and edges at the bottom of the mug. The small bristles are also ideal for cleaning the lid.

Q. Are stainless steel travel mugs environmentally friendly?

A. Stainless steel travel mugs are environmentally friendly because they are reusable and cut down on single-use products that just get thrown away. They do consume a lot of energy in the manufacturing process, so to be the most environmentally beneficial, use your mug often.

Q. Are tumblers and thermoses the same as travel mugs?

A. While tumblers and thermoses are used for enjoying beverages on the go, high-quality travel mugs boast a variety of safety and convenience features that typically aren’t found in other options. Tumblers may be insulated and easy to drink from, but the seal might not hold up to lots of movement and jostling.

Many thermoses boast a large capacity and impressive insulation, but they are less portable than travel mugs, especially those with a handle. However, some companies use these terms interchangeably, so it’s important to inspect the lid quality and insulation.

 

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