The thermos — the original everyday carry item that (nearly) everyone can agree on. If you commute more than the distance from your bedroom to your home office, you likely carry coffee or tea along with you. Manufacturers, for the most part, have got the leak-proof thing down. Thus, we felt the factors to consider when looking at the best thermos for coffee or other hot liquids is the weight of the product, the length of time the product will keep your beverage hot, and the ease of use.
All of our options are excellent choices — our choice for the best merely represents what we feel is the product that best balances all of the above three factors in a way that is most useful to the average consumer. We will quickly run down the contenders, along with some useful information for choosing between them, and then get in to our choice.
The Zojirushi SM-KHE48AG 16-ounce stainless steel mug balances the above-mentioned factors well (albeit with a short 6-hour keep-hot time). It is not the best bet if you need to keep a beverage hot for longer than 6 hours — but we felt that, for the vast majority of consumers, a 6 hour hot window is enough to make a cup of coffee, take it to work, and have it remain hot for you through lunch time. If you are in need of a product that will keep your beverage hot for the longest possible time, we suggest you look at the Klean Kanteen with the screw-out top — not ideal for ease of use, but boasting an impressive 20 hour keep-hot time.
The Zojirushi is stainless steel and comes in a variety of color finishes. Additionally, it is tall and thin as opposed to the more tradition mug shape of our other choices. We found this made sliding it in a car cup holder, or the water bottle-pouch of a backpack that much easier. The top disassembles for easy dishwasher cleaning.
What We Looked At
Back in the day, every travel mug or thermos leaked. There was simply no such thing, short of a mason jar, as something you could close and throw in a bag without fear of leaks. In choosing our best bets, we opted only for those products that are widely regarded as leak-proof. Obviously, the odd manufacturing error or freak occurrence may lead your mileage to vary. As with anything, there are trade-offs to each of our picks.
Length of time kept hot vs. ease of use. We noted right away that, generally, the more convenient the lid mechanism, the less time the thermos or travel mug would keep your beverage hot. This seems like a strange correlation until you realize that the Platonic ideal of a well-insulated travel mug would be an unbroken sphere of double-walled insulated material with no opening. Obviously, sealing up your coffee at the factory, never to be accessed again, is sacrificing convenience for insulation at an absurd level. The next-best option is an opening with a thick screw-in top, like the Klean Kanteen. This prioritizes insulation time for ease of use, while remaining a viable option. We considered what we thought was a reasonable trade-off in choosing our best bet.
Weight. As is almost always the case, ideally a lighter travel mug or thermos is better. Few people actively seek heavier gear to lug with them to and from the office. However, as you might expect, with reduced weight can come sacrifices — specifically in the form of ease of use. A screw-in cap can be insulated and add very little weight, which makes the Hydro Flask our best-ratio (higher is better in the table) choice. We also tried to strike a compromise between ease of use and weight in choosing our best bet.